Friday, 03 December 2021
A church in Togo learns “no painted benches necessary” Melissa Heiland ministers in Togo, West Africa/Beautiful Feet International

A church in Togo learns “no painted benches necessary”

Melissa Heiland, founder and president of Beautiful Feet International (BFI), has a heart for reaching people with the gospel message. She and her husband Ken formerly served as missionaries in Costa Rica. Through BFI, she now leads teams of people around the world to conduct ministry training and establish new pregnancy centers.

“We have found that bringing the gospel through pregnancy center ministries is one of the most effective ways to reach a community for Christ,” Heiland said. “Pregnancy center ministry allows us to introduce them to the Savior who will meet their deepest spiritual needs, as we minister to their earthly needs.”

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BFI now has over 35 international pregnancy centers located in 12 countries across Africa, South and Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. Each center is run by nationals and associated with a Bible-believing church.

BFI develops curriculum to help train these centers and enable clients to receive discipleship throughout their pregnancies and the first year of their babies’ development.

Heiland travels outside of the U.S. approximately three times per year to implement training. Her “Speak Life” training helps new centers get started. Follow-up instruction focuses on topics such as abstinence, in-depth post-abortion recovery, trauma healing, and ultrasound training. Occasionally, BFI provides conferences for encouragement and refreshment.

On Heiland’s last trip to Togo, West Africa, she conducted a Speak Life training that examined what the Bible says about sanctity of human life and included communication skills and evangelism training. Additionally, Heiland gave Biblical examples such as the Good Samaritan and Hagar to demonstrate how to minister to others.

During one of the class breaks, her translator whispered, “What you are teaching us is very important.”  

Beautiful Feet International
Beautiful Feet International

“All our churches have a painted bench,” the translator said. “The benches are different colors depending on the church. Some are red, some are green, some are blue. But we all have a painted bench. Women who have gotten pregnant outside of marriage must sit on these benches so that everyone will see their shame.”

During the second day of Heiland’s training, a pastor in the front row stood up and addressed the audience.

“My heart was in my throat because I couldn’t understand what he was saying as he passionately addressed the crowd,” said Heiland. “I feared that he was giving a rebuttal to all I was teaching.”

But then she looked over to her translator, who repeated the pastor’s words in English:

“What she is teaching us is very important. We have focused on the holiness of God, and we have forgotten about the love. The missionaries in the past taught us to focus on God’s holiness, but we now we see that we also must focus on the love.”

This picture of painted benches remained “burned” into Heiland’s mind.  

Beautiful Feet International

“God’s holiness and love. Our focus is both,” she said. “We speak the truth in love. We never compromise God’s truth, and we never forget the message of the cross.”

Tweet This: “God’s holiness and love- We speak the truth in love. We never compromise God’s truth, and we never forget the message of the cross”

“Jesus died for her shame, so she does not have to carry it,” said Heiland. “If she knows Jesus, her sins are on the bottom of the ocean floor. Though her sins were as scarlet, they are as white as snow when she trusts Jesus as her Savior. No painted benches necessary.”

Since Heiland’s last training in Togo, two new pregnancy centers have opened through BFI and continue to spread the good news of God’s love.

Learn more about Melissa Heiland and Beautiful Feet International at:

Sarah Bowler

Sarah is a freelance writer & editor with a passion for discipleship. She is the author of Bathsheba’s Responsibility in Light of Narrative Analysis, contributor to Vindicating the Vixens, and contributing editor for The Evangelism Study Bible. She received her Master of Theology Degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. Currently, she and her husband Ben reside in North Texas with their children and frequently find themselves daydreaming of snow and Chicago style pizza. Connect with Sarah at

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