“You are not alone” – Heartbeat to international pregnancy help workers

International pregnancy help workers gathered for Heartbeat International's 53 Annual Pregnancy Help Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah.

In a room set apart in the Hyatt Regency of Salt Lake City, Utah, dozens of early attendees of the 53rd Annual Heartbeat International Conference gathered last Tuesday evening to get acquainted with pregnancy help workers from around the globe before the Conference launched fully the following day.

Ellen Foell, international program specialist for Heartbeat, opened the meet-and-greet by asking how many guests from overseas represented the only pregnancy help organization in their countries or regions. Hands went up in every row.

Heartbeat International Program Specialist Ellen Foell/Karen Ingle

“Now, look around the room,” Foell said. “You’re not alone. You’re not alone in what you do, you’re not alone in what you believe, you’re not alone in the way you want to serve women and their families, you’re not alone in the way you want to change the culture.”

During the next hour, individuals from as far away as New Zealand and as near as Canada and Mexico took turns at the microphone describing their ministry experiences—their joys and their challenges. And as Foell predicted, participants recognized they were indeed not alone in their work.

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Similarities outnumber differences

A statement by Jacinta McGorian and Kate Lawlor, first-time attendees from Ireland, resonated with Marie-Eve Vaillant of Quebec, Canada. Both historically Catholic and pro-life homelands have recently taken strongly progressive positions on abortion.

Kate Lawlor and Jacinta McGorian - Ireland/Karen Ingle
Marie-Eve Vaillant - Canada/Karen Ingle

Artur Nabaldyan of Armenia and Edward Mwansa of Zambia are both pastors whose wives also actively work in life-affirming ministry. Others at the meet-up, including Demetrio Chavez of Pregnancy Support Services of Asia, Daniele Gradwell of Africa Cares for Life (now Pregnancy Help Network) in South Africa, and Svetlana Jovanova of the Balkan Network, lead entire networks of pregnancy help organizations in their own regions.

Artur Nabaldyan - Armenia/Karen Ingle
Edward Mwansa - Zambia/Karen Ingle

Xanthi Palachantsidou, leader of Hope Center in Greece, shared commonality with Gladys Mudukuti of Life Choices Zimbabwe and Christine Balle of St. Gianna’s Home in New Zealand: all three know that people can find a way around any abortion restrictions that exist in their countries.

Xanthi Palachantsidou - Greece/Karen Ingle
Christine Balle_Barbara Lee - New Zealand/Karen Ingle

Several nations’ pregnancy help ministries are powered completely by volunteers, just like the 10,000-strong Italian network of 337 pregnancy centers Movimento Per la Vita. A growing number, particularly centers in Germany, Macedonia, and British Columbia, Canada, find success providing online counseling services, with or without a physical location to call home.

Gladys Mudukuti, Susan Makusa, and Daniele Gradwell - southern Africa/Karen Ingle

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“You’re not alone in the way you want to serve women and their families, you’re not alone in the way you want to change the culture.”


Angela Rooke - Canada/Karen Ingle
Celeste MacInnes_Norma Cody - Canada/Karen Ingle

Hope despite obstacles

Many representatives shared signs of hope. In Taiwan, Charles Lin of ProFemina is gaining an influential voice as the governments of several Asian nations seek to turn around their low fertility rates. Lourdes Delgado of VIFAC in Mexico reported success in helping underprivileged women recognize their own dignity, defeat anxiety, and gain valuable job skills.

Charles Lin - Taiwan/Karen Ingle
Teresa Eguiluz and Lourdes Delgado - Mexico/Karen Ingle

Susan Masuka of Life Choices Zimbabwe shared the story of a woman who said she planned to name her baby “Mistake.” But after studying Psalm 127 with Masuka’s group, she came to realize that children are a gift from the Lord no matter the means of their conception. She decided to name her baby boy Matthew.

Demetrio Chavez - Philippines/Karen Ingle
Elizabeth Kendrick - Germany/Karen Ingle

The evening closed with U.S.-based affiliates praying alongside their international colleagues, spurred on by an African proverb shared by Edward Mwansa: “In Africa, there’s a saying, ‘If you want to run fast, go alone. If you want to run far, go together.’”

Helen deLuna - Canada/Karen Ingle
Svetlana Jovanova - Macedonia/Karen Ingle


With about 1300 affiliates in 96 countries outside the United States, Heartbeat International is the largest network of life-affirming organizations in the world. In addition to its Annual Conference, Heartbeat unites centers worldwide through additional trainings, networking, and connection to resources and partnerships.

Editor's note: Heartbeat International manages Pregnancy Help News.

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