Bethany Jasper had barely started her role as US Affiliation Specialist at Heartbeat International’s headquarters when memories of her family’s previous visit to Costa Rica prompted her to make a return trip there this summer.
This vacation, however, would be more than simply fun in the sun in that lush Central American nation. Sure, there were jungle hikes to find waterfalls and swim in the caldrons, colorful macaws to watch in the trees, and enough adventure to keep even her youngest child asking, “What’s next?”
But bookended around the sightseeing adventures came two less-touristy stops that shed light on the Costa Rican version of Jasper’s passion: helping women and families facing unexpected pregnancies.
Idle Hands in Uvita
In the town of Uvita where small businesses and tourist attractions tuck in among the jungle greenery, the Jasper family caught up with Scott and Brigit Bogard, the founders of Uvita Christian Academy, whom they had visited three years ago. Since they last met, the Bogards have opened a second bilingual school, Victory Christian Academy for the families of San Isidro, about 20 miles away.
In the Uvita area, Jasper said, “[Public] school only goes to 6th grade and stops. So a lot of those kids are wandering around without much direction. That leads to a lot of teen pregnancy taking place.”
While the Bogards’ school can provide several dozen students with private Christian education through twelfth grade, the need for a pregnancy help ministry in Uvita remains critical.
That depth of need couldn’t fail to pierce Jasper’s heart. Once a senior financial analyst in the fast-paced world of L Brands, Jasper left that stressful position for more meaningful and family-friendly work, volunteering at Heartbeats of Licking County, a pregnancy center near her Ohio home. As a client consultant there, she also worked with the center’s jail ministry. Then another position called her name.
In March 2017 a hoped-for door opened into an administrative assistant with Heartbeat International, and four months later Jasper became U.S. Affiliation Specialist. Her background gave her the skills needed to refine processes and organize the vast amounts of data relating to Heartbeat’s over 1,500 affiliated US centers, even assisting international affiliate specialist Ellen Foell with data from overseas centers.
Then Heartbeat International acquired the Abortion Pill Reversal network this April, and Jasper tackled management of that data, too. She has just finished creating records of over 500 medical professionals and over 400 medical practices that provide the life-saving treatment.
Her goal: to put doctors’ current details in the hands of referring nurses, and to streamline client record-keeping so women can receive immediate professional and compassionate care when they call for help.
A Costa Rican Model for Compassionate Care
On vacation from her databases, Jasper saw compassionate care being offered by Centro Prenatal, one of Heartbeat’s international affiliates that now operates eight pregnancy centers across Costa Rica. The Jaspers visited their Jacó location, about eighty miles from Uvita, northwest along the coast.
Jasper's children look over a balcony while visiting Centro Prenatal's current office in Jacó. | Photo Courtesy: Bethany Jasper
Centro Prenatal, a ministry of Beautiful Feet International, receives oversight from Brandon and Jennifer Minnick, a missionary couple serving as country directors. The Minnicks moved to Costa Rica in 2017 to give full-time leadership to the centers in Tárcoles, Heredia (two offices), Guadalupe, Upala, Jacó, Grecia, and San Rafael.
When Jasper took her family to see the Jacó center, they found the volunteer staff preparing for a November move—into a dedicated space within the future home of Horizon Church, currently under construction.
“Where the center is located now is the second floor of a building—not very accessible for women,” Jasper said. “Women probably don't even know it exists. With the new build in this church, they've had lots of interest in volunteering, because people know where it's going to be located and it's on a main street, which I believe will bring a lot more clients.”
Those future volunteers will form the backbone of Centro Prenatal’s work.
“All our centers are staffed by volunteers,” the Minnicks said. “The model is to have a center connected to a local church which then can help supply the staff and donations, and the center can connect pregnancy center clients to the church.”
“The main volunteer roles are center director, counselors and secretaries,” they said. “There are other opportunities to serve through help with logistics, donations and cleaning of the facilities."
The Jaspers had the opportunity to see both a counseling room and the ultrasound room while touring Centro Prenatal in Jacó. | Photo Courtesy: Bethany Jasper
Jasper observed that the Jacó center provides ultrasounds, pregnancy tests, material aid, and Bible studies. Most impactful, however, was the spiritual help they offered.
The Minnicks noted that Costa Rica’s predominantly Catholic society upholds the sanctity of life, and abortion is illegal nationwide. At the same time, however, the culture exalts a dominating, macho male image which tends to leave a legacy of single mothers in its wake. Many lack a personal faith in Christ to sustain them, so they struggle with parenthood, even with the help of their extended families.
Tweet This: Costa Rica upholds the sanctity of life but also exalts a macho male image which leaves a legacy of single mothers in its wake.
“We offer an Earn While You Learn program for our clients that help educate our women on all things concerning motherhood from a Christian perspective,” the Minnicks said. “This combination gives the women confidence in raising their child and hope in who they are through Christ.
“The points they earn from the program allow them to receive some much-needed baby supplies and improves the overall process of becoming a mother.”
The future home of Horizon Church and Centro Prenatal | Photo Courtesy: Bethany Jasper
Someday in Uvita?
According to Jasper, the Minnicks were shocked to hear of the shortened educational opportunities for youth in Uvita, so different from Jacó. So the Jaspers’ visit brought them important insights into the country they serve, just as the Jaspers discovered a unique model for service with the Minnicks.
That kind of networking, the Minnicks said, has been one of the benefits of the affiliations Beautiful Feet has with Heartbeat International, as well as with Life Matters Worldwide and Association for Life of Africa.
“The Heartbeat affiliation is positive because it allows us to keep up with what is going on in pregnancy ministry worldwide,” they said. “It allows us to meet with others who are doing this work in the US and globally. It gives a platform to share the work we are doing with like-minded people. I believe that together we can accomplish so much more for the kingdom.”
Jasper agrees. She sees affiliates benefiting from courses offered through Heartbeat Academy, connections made at the annual conference, and having access to Option Line. She hopes to see more centers take advantage of the phone consultations and on-site trainings that Heartbeat International offers.
But what of Uvita? Both the Jaspers and the Minnicks hope to see pregnancy help come to that community as well. Perhaps the seeds of an answer are even now being planted.
Photo Courtesy: Bethany Jasper