Sunday, 25 July 2021
Embracing women with grace – Discipleship, mentoring program expands in Wyoming community Danilo Ćalić/Unsplash

Embracing women with grace – Discipleship, mentoring program expands in Wyoming community

Piper* was undecided regarding the outcome of her pregnancy when she visited True Care Women’s Resource Center in Casper, Wyoming, late last year. 

“I’m not sure the relationship I’m in will continue,” she told her advocate. “We haven’t been together that long, and he drinks way too much. I’m not sure I’m ready to be a mom yet, especially a single mom – the whole idea scares me.” 

True Care staff kept in touch with the 19-year-old woman, who lived out of town. After the Resource Coordinator shared information about various agencies in Casper, True Care’s various programs, and organizations within Piper’s own community that could help her, the young woman decided to continue her pregnancy. She signed up for the center’s parenting and resource programs and enrolled in Embrace Grace, a mentorship and discipleship program first started by Amy Ford in Texas nearly a decade ago.

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Taking root and flourishing

Paradise Valley Christian Church (PVCC) began the first Embrace Grace sessions in Casper just two years ago. The program is flourishing, with two additional churches taking up the mantle in a community of roughly 50,000 people. Additionally, PVCC conducts the second level of the program, Embrace Life; the first session started last fall.

“Embrace Life is like the sequel to Embrace Grace,” said Jennifer Steffenhagen, Embrace Grace coordinator at PVCC and a True Care staff member. “It focuses on, after they have their babies, how they can have their babies and their dreams, too.”

The program teaches life skills, such as budgeting, parenting, and healthy relationships, including friendships and romantic interests, Steffenhagen said. 

“They learn they can pursue their dreams while still being good moms, what to look for in a Godly husband, and how to avoid toxic relationships,” she said. 

Sarah Webb (left) and Hannah Wing (right),
  leaders of Embrace Life at Paradise Valley Christian Church/Jenn Steffenhagen

Two volunteers from the church, Sarah Webb and Hannah Wing, lead the program.

“As the church has stepped up and been getting more involved with Embrace Grace, they came to me and asked how they could volunteer,” Steffenhagen said. “I suggested we look at the next level, at Embrace Life, and they were interested.”

Expanding Embrace Grace

Steffenhagen met with women from other churches during the past year to help launch Embrace Grace among those congregations. In early 2020, Cornerstone E-Free Church offered a session; members of that church are preparing for another Embrace Grace session this spring. Additionally, Grace Reformed Church of Casper began offering the program a few months ago for the first time. Currently, three women, including Piper, are attending.

Judy Schenk and her daughter Katie Gitthens lead the program. The idea for starting Embrace Grace at their church sprouted two years ago when Schenk heard Amy Ford speak. However, unforeseen circumstances, including the church’s relocation, postponed the start-up. Last fall, the wheels began turning, and they turned quickly.

“It was like a snowball,” Schenk said. “Once the church approved offering Embrace Grace and we started the training, we learned of several girls looking to join. We had lessons to learn and lessons to prepare. I’m really excited about it all!”

Schenk and Gitthens see how Embrace Grace touches the lives of single moms-to-be and are grateful for the backing of their church. 

                                Judy Schenk (left) and her daughter Katie Gritthens,
                                  from Grace Reformed Church, are leading that church's
                                   Embrace Grace program

“I appreciate the way Embrace Grace cares for the moms,” Gitthens said. “It’s not just about the babies, it’s about the women. I love being able to come alongside them. It’s been amazing to watch these girls – they’ve stepped up to their situation, and it’s amazing to see them do what they need to do.”

“We all have a desire for these women to know it’s okay, that they’re going to be okay, and to know they’ve got people to help them,” Schenk said.

“The church is super supportive,” Gitthens explained. “They pray every Sunday during worship for the girls and for us.”

One church member volunteers to help with transportation issues, Schenk added.

The Princess Day and Baby Shower, which end the 12-week-long Embrace Grace program, is scheduled for April 24, Schenk said.

“The ladies at our church are getting geared up,” she said. “They’re very excited! Those in our layette ministry are making blankets to give to these girls, and everyone is ready to bless them with what they need when their babies come.”

Laying a foundation for a strong relationship with God is a critical component of Embrace Grace. Gitthens said the young women she and her mother meet with are “open” to talking and learning about faith.

“They listen,” she said.

With Easter just a few weeks away, a session on trust is forthcoming.

“We’ll talk about how we make decisions and who helps us in that process, and that leads into talking about trusting God,” Gitthens said.

The women attending the program at Grace Reformed Church are committed, including Piper, who drives to Casper from her home out of town. When the weather is uncooperative, she joins via Zoom. She also takes part in True Care’s Baby & Me program on Zoom; through those sessions, talking frequently with the center’s Resource Program Coordinator, and being involved with Embrace Grace, she’s experiencing strong encouragement and support, exactly what women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy need. 

Jenn Steffenhagen, True Care staff advocate and organizer of Embrace Grace in Casper

Partnership with a local pregnancy center

The connection between a pregnancy center and Embrace Grace is vital. 

“The partnership True Care has with churches here in Casper through the Embrace Grace program has been a tremendous blessing to our ministry and to those patients who have chosen to take part,” said Terry Winship, president and CEO of True Care. “I am amazed and delighted by how Embrace Grace has taken off here in Casper. What a wonderful way for the local church to join with True Care in empowering and equipping single, pregnant women—walking with them as they journey toward becoming the best parents they can be!”

Tweet This: The partnership True Care has with churches in Casper through Embrace Grace has been a tremendous blessing

Steffenhagen agreed.

“It’s really exciting to see Embrace Grace grow and now to have Embrace Life in our community also,” she said. “I know many seeds are being planted, and God will multiply those.”

*Not her real name.

Gayle Irwin

Gayle M. Irwin is human and pet life advocate and an award-winning author and freelance writer. She is a contributor to seven Chicken Soup for the Soul books and the author of many inspirational pet books and stories for children and adults. Her first novel, a clean, contemporary pet rescue romance titled Rescue Road, released November 8, 2019. She subtly weaves important life and faith lessons within the lines and pages of her stories. As Patient Resources Director for True Care Women’s Resource Center in Casper, Wyoming, for ten years, Gayle oversees the volunteer program, writes patient stories for the organization’s newsletter, creates blog and social media posts for the center, and serves as a patient advocate when needed. Learn more about her writing endeavors and read her pet blog at her website:

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