“Allison” was no stranger when she came to Caldwell Pregnancy Center in Lenoir, North Carolina just before Christmas in 2016. It was her fourth pregnancy, and she’d been coming to the center for help since 2010 as she struggled to overcome a dark personal history of abuse and addiction.
The fourth time around, Caldwell’s executive director, Machelle Kirby, had a low set of expectations as Allison came back for help.
But Kirby would soon find out—much to her delight—that she’d set her bar far too low.
“I have to say, when she came back, called us to make that appointment for that fourth pregnancy, there were some things that went through my mind,” Kirby said. “It's like, you know, ‘Lord, what do we do now? She's seen all of our videos, she's done everything, we've talked to her, and we haven't seen a change.’”
One major obstacle Allison had to overcome was her inability to open up. Both of Allison’s first two pregnancies had come about as a result of rape from her own stepfather.
But while Kirby and others at the center felt they were out of ideas—and out of their depth—to truly get through to Allison, what they couldn’t see was the long-term effect their diligence and love was having on her.
“Every time that I would come here and talk with anyone here, I felt the love, the love of God,” she said. “I got the wrong picture of God before. It wasn't really what God really is. I really didn't know what God really was.”
Ultimately, watching the center staff and volunteers live out the love of God led Allison to rededicate herself to the Christian faith. Until that point, Allison said she’d felt controlled by the stress of trying to navigate life on her own.
In time, she began to learn to entrust herself and her situations to God through her interactions with Caldwell’s staff and volunteers.
“It was kind of scary at first,” Allison said. “It was all new—meeting people and getting to know them and actually talking about stuff that's happened. They were always encouraging me to give it to Him because He's the only one that can take care of it.”
The years of parenting education and mentorship through the center—which had for so long felt fruitless—are paying off in a big way for Allison. Now a mother of four, from ages 7 to 1—Allison is not the only one who has changed in the past year. Her boyfriend “Zach” was addicted to drugs and alcohol, but turned from that life and became a Christian through a nearby rehab center that Caldwell referred him to in June 2017.
Through parenting and mentorship programs—as well as the studies like Chip Ingram’s “Love, Sex and Lasting Relationships” offered by Caldwell, both Allison and Zach are learning what it means to live out their roles as parents and new Christians.
In the process, Allison has been amazed to see her children pick up on the new faith of their parents.
“When they do have a problem, they do come up and say, ‘Can we pray about this?’” Allison said. “It didn't just change mine and his life. It changed the kids' lives too, because now they know that they can just pray about it. Seeing the change in my boyfriend, the kids love him more now. They are starting to understand. They can just see the big difference of how it is when you have God in your life. We're trying to teach them now that you have to wait to have sex until you’re married.”
In hindsight, serving Allison when it felt fruitless to do so has paid off in ways Kirby never saw coming. By the time Allison came to the end of herself and put her faith in Christ this April, she had been to the center somewhere between 70 and 80 times.
To watch Allison not only profess a newfound faith, but to make such drastic, positive changes in her relationship and parenting has refreshed Kirby’s vision of the lasting value of persistent, compassionate help.
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“It was planting seeds, and it just took time, and patience, and love, and care for her to be the wonderful young lady that we're seeing here now,” Kirby said. “We feel like building that strong family bond is important, building that on Christ is the main thing. When a young family comes to us—whether they are Christian or not Christian, or whether they are struggling or they just need a little extra help—then our goal is to help them become the best parents they can be to this baby, and to build those strong family bonds.”