About 8 years ago I witnessed the graduation of a young woman from a program that changed her life, brought joy to her family, and put her in a position to successfully raise her daughter – something she once considered impossible. Ellie was not expecting to get pregnant, but after learning she was she took positive steps and joined Advice & Aid Pregnancy Centers’ program for parenting education known as Bridges.
Advice & Aid is the only pregnancy center in Johnson County and the advocates there helped Ellie (not her real name) learn about and sort through her options when she was scared and had nobody else on her side. She learned accurate information about abortion, adoption, and parenting at that first visit. As one of the volunteers that works with the young women and men in the Bridges program, I got a chance to know many wonderful people who courageously chose life for their baby. Ellie and her daughter Avery were two of the regulars at Bridges. Ellie was so trusting, she asked me (the only guy in the room) to hold two-month-old Avery while she shopped in Patti’s Closet for diapers and clothes donated by our friends in the community. That quickly became the routine for her and before long, Avery was my pal. She was a sweetheart with the cutest smile.
Handling a hot potato
Working mainly with the dads, I shared some of my experiences as a father of three and touched on Christian life and the Gospel We listened to some Christian rock songs after small group and I answered questions – some that seemed to come from left field. Early on, I learned to trust the Holy Spirit with the hot potato questions from my Bridges guys. One new dad who had been deployed to Afghanistan asked if it was ok that he hadn’t bonded with his two-week-old son. I can tell you, providence is real because the answer I gave him was beyond me. That answer, which I’m sure was powered by the Holy Spirit, kept me in the game many nights when I felt like I wasn’t helping anyone or when no guys showed up. It’s not that I was a world-class mentor or a perfect father, as my kids could point out (quite accurately), it’s just that the guys were mostly fatherless or the role model they had was often absent or dealing with addictions, etc. Sometimes just showing up is a big help.
It was fun to help the younger guys get comfortable with fatherhood and talk about their work, computers, cars or anything a young dad is interested in – even one on one time with the baby. It’s great to see the dads be accountable and responsible. It’s also rewarding when you see someone like Ellie graduate the program with the skills and maturity needed to be a good parent. It is one of the many programs at Advice & Aid that helps families to choose life and get ready to live it with joy – while acknowledging there will be some difficulties as well. I met so many great people through Bridges – it was a blessing that God called me to help them. Even when I didn’t feel like I was seeing the fruits of my effort, God reminded me that in His time, the seeds we were sowing would grow into real blessings for others. Volunteering with Advice & Aid has been one of the best experiences of my life.
So, after 7 years of showing up for Bridges as a mentor for the dads, I worked myself out of a job. We trained a new group of mentors who were ready and willing to serve. We capped things off with a retreat for the dads and then I took on a new role with the board of directors. It’s been a good three years on the board helping with strategy and planning for the future. It’s nice to work toward something bigger than yourself, especially when little lives are involved.
Join us at Walk for Life
With that in mind, I’d like to offer you a chance to show up and get involved. Get the kids out to enjoy some fresh air, fun and tasty treats on Saturday, June 3rd by taking part in the 2017 Walk for Life. Sacred Heart has a team of walkers every year for the Advice & Aid celebration and you’re welcome to come out and have some fun and help celebrate how God is moving in our community and making a huge difference for young families, like Ellie’s.
This year the walk will take place at our new location at 10901 Granada Lane, Overland Park. There will be activities for the kids like face painting, a bouncy house, balloon animals and a visit from KC Wolf. The walk is two miles long and is a great celebration of the life-affirming work going on at Advice & Aid. Walkers can get sponsors for the walk if they want, or just enjoy the celebration and fresh air! There will be drinks and maybe a pancake or two.
Check out the 2017 Walk for Life website and click participate to join the Sacred Heart of Jesus team for a morning of fun. Or click donate if you want to give to the ministry. If you join us, the team might be the biggest ever. Maybe you’ll get a smile and a wave from Ellie and Avery!