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Four Life Lessons from My Summer “Vacation”

I’m a fortunate guy, because not only do I enjoy a family getaway each year, I am also granted a second vacation. Please, however, keep the following to yourself: The second vacation is paid for by Heartbeat International.

Yep, you read it right. I’ve found a way to sneak one by our President, Jor-El Godsey, and the rest of the wonderful staff at HBI. 

At about this time each year, they fly me to beautiful Columbus, Ohio, put me up in a nice hotel, then give me the joy of teaching the Development Track at Heartbeat’s Pregnancy Help Institute. Last week, I was with more than 100 friends (including the 21 in my group) as we shared visions for the future, talked about practical ways of changing the world and in general, had a blast.

Some may think this is a “work week,” but they have no idea. For me, this is vacay, baby. The only thing I miss is my wonderful family, but what I gain makes me a better husband and dad when I get back home at the end of the week.

Here’s the thing. Pregnancy Help Institute isn’t special just because of its four tracks (New Director, Leadership, Development and Ultrasound). Certainly, a lot of learning goes on.

But what sets Institute apart is that it is both a time of spiritual renewal and growth for many of us, and a time when a bunch of people from different backgrounds and expertise come together and bond in a new way. Knowing that even when we’re alone, we’re not alone . . . is powerful.

And, I walked away with four life lessons. Here we go . . .

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1-Teachable Makes us Strong

Institute provides a unique atmosphere where questions and dialogue on key issues is not only permitted but encouraged. Though limiting our number of attendees can be frustrating when so many want to attend, hearing so many offer help and ideas to each other reminds me that a smaller number brings strength.

At Institute, the culture is, “I’m here to learn,” and this makes a huge difference. When we are teachable, the limits disappear. 

2-Keeping it Real Allows Others to Share the Burden

Whether over a meal or during a break between sessions, we had opportunities to share challenges and struggles. Come to think of it, this took place during sessions, too. And that’s okay.

This reminded me that whether at Institute or during our work week, we must take the time to be transparent with each other. When appropriate, we can take off the hat of “I have it all together” so we can share our burdens with each other.

In this work, we often move from crisis to crisis. Stress is part of almost every day. Wherever we are, we need to find a few people in our lives we encourage, and a few who encourage us--people with whom we can be “real.” When we do, we can save ourselves a lot of pain, and avoid burnout, too.

3-The Life-Affirming Community is Together

Running through the roster from Institute, 33 states and Ireland were represented. Some came from ministries not yet open. Others had budgets of more than $1 million. Some were nurses. Others executive directors, development directors and more.

Some have been involved in this work for more than 20 years, seeking to be better leaders. Others were so new they had no idea which questions to ask. 

Faith backgrounds? You name it, we had it.

It worked because deep down, we’re a united group. We know what is most important, and once we understand why we do what we do, the rest is easy. It is why long-time leaders took time to encourage the newbies. And why those representing ministries with seven-figure budgets and multiple locations jumped in to help those preparing to open.

During Institute week, I see this played out over and over. So, for this week, I watch unity take place from the front row. Yet, it’s happening every day—outside of a special weekas we encourage each other over the phone, through texts and in conversations in the office. Our unity is incredible, and only growing.

4-Oh, and We’re Winning

At some point during Institute week, it once again struck me, “We’re winning.” One piece of evidence of course, is the increased attacks from that other industry, crumbling even as Planned Parenthood plays musical presidents in a last-ditch effort to save its place at the public trough.

Other evidence? The number of brand new ministries represented, several of them through Heartbeat’s Life Launch initiative. Fact is, we’re growing like crazy. Those who offer a different option? Not so much.

Looking around the room on the final day, it was easy to smile and say, “With people like this, those other folks don’t stand a chance.”

Truth is, whether at a gathering like Institute or looking around our own offices, each of these four life lessons is true. Because if each of us is Teachable and Transparent, and if we stick Together . . . We Win.

Sometimes, it’s that simple. That’s what I learned on my summer vacation.

Kirk Walden

Kirk Walden is a senior writer with Pregnancy Help News, an Advancement Specialist with Heartbeat International and author of The Wall. For banquet speaking engagements, contact Gloria Leyda at Ambassador Speakers Bureau. His new Faith Revolution Podcast is online at