The current time of global uncertainty is one that will further develop leaders in the pregnancy help movement, Heartbeat International’s president said, and those leaders must learn from the unique situation presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Looking forward with flexibility is also key, Jor-El Godsey said, but no matter the circumstance, it’s important to maintain faith in God.
Godsey and Heartbeat Vice President of Ministry Services Betty McDowell spoke to individuals serving in the pregnancy help movement March 19 in the concluding installment in Heartbeat’s three consecutive daily webinars presented to assist its affiliates with addressing the coronavirus.
“God knew that this moment would happen,” Godsey said. “He’s been here before.”
“And we must realize that God will love us through it,” he said.
Some 900 representatives of pregnancy help organizations (PHOs) registered for the three different webinars in the series, Coronavirus and Your Pregnancy Help Organization, resulting in wait-lists and some attendees viewing the sessions after the live broadcasts. The breaking, three-day series was a first, as Heartbeat acted to immediately meet affiliates’ needs in the current environment created by the pandemic.
A fourth webinar, Maternity Homes & Covid 19: What's Happening?, was scheduled for the following week.
The first two trainings covered pregnancy help center services during the pandemic and how pregnancy help organizations should communicate with donors at this time.
It was reaffirmed in those two sessions that the pregnancy help mission still goes forward during the pandemic, pregnancy help services are essential services, and pregnancy help center leaders must practice self-care, as well as care for their team and clients.
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More than 11,000 people have died from the COVID-19 virus worldwide, municipalities are restricting gatherings and events, schools and businesses have been closed, travel restricted, and states of emergency declared. Developments in the pandemic continue, accompanied by marked uncertainty.
With the increased restrictions, fears over the implications for the global economy loom, and the pregnancy help community is facing the question of how best to continue saving precious lives, born and unborn.
A number of Heartbeat International’s nearly 3,000 affiliate pregnancy help organizations have reported that they are temporarily closing, scaling back on service or shortening hours.
This has resulted in more traffic to Option Line, Heartbeat’s worldwide 24/7-365 bilingual pro-life contact center. Option Line reported a much higher volume of contacts due to Covid-19, specifically a 50% increase in calls in one week.
There has also been a large influx of inquiries to Heartbeat’s Extend Web Services during the pandemic, with clients seeking language to post on their websites about the virus.
By the 20th of March, the volume of Heartbeat’s communications to affiliates had begun to near that of the entire previous month as the organization worked to maintain support for its affiliates.
The third webcast in the COVID-19 webcast series, Moving Forward from These Uncertain Times, saw McDowell and Godsey discussing important components in leadership during the pandemic, including trust, commitment, accountability and results.
“Your leadership is in the process of being forged,” Godsey said. “Times like this call us out of our comfort zone.”
He encouraged pregnancy center leaders to be mindful of what they are either intentionally or unintentionally communicating to others, how they process information or fear.
“The virus of fear is as much a difficult thing to deal with,” he said, reminding that “the God of the universe is still in all of this.”
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Frequent communication is extremely important with things constantly changing during the pandemic.
“One thing about facing the unknown is that there are things to be learned,” said Godsey. “God uses some difficult times like this to show us how we can be better, how we can do better, how we can respond and adjust.”
He advised center leaders to stay tuned to proclamations related to the pandemic and to also stay mindful of any lessons to be learned for ways to serve the community.
“Whether we’re a maternity home, an adoption agency or a pregnancy center, we’re all about serving the community,” he said. “So, learn the lessons.”
One could be the need to be more innovative, he said.
“The pregnancy center is a method, it is not the mission,” said Godsey. “The mission is about meeting those who are in the valley of decision. We might have to expand beyond serving these people outside the four walls of a center.”
He emphasized learning what one can in the moment and seeing opportunities, and offered a reminder that advancement often comes from necessity.
When looking forward to what’s next, PHOs need to be thinking about what the community looks like, Godsey added, because should the pandemic persist for a long time it will result in lean times for many.
Continually tell your story, he said, even if it means that your center is temporarily closed.
Godsey summed his message up in four key points for attendees of the pregnancy help webinar:
- Leadership is forged, not forced
- We must learn the lessons that we have in front of us
- We must look forward to what’s next, what’s on the horizon, how things are changing and how can we begin to adapt to what’s coming
- We must lean into God in the lean times
“Let’s not focus on the fear,” Godsey said, “but look to God and have faith.”