One day in late September, Craig McKown—a pastor at The Bridge Church in Spring Hill, Tenn.—called Pregnancy Centers of Middle Tennessee CEO Victoria Robinson to say his church did not want to help organize an upcoming fundraising campaign.
With that opener, Robinson had no idea that over six years of prayers were about to be answered.
“I didn’t understand,” Robinson said. “Did they just want to make a donation?”
Her two sites south of Nashville include one in Spring Hill, where The Bridge Church is located, and another in Columbia, hobbled with a $58,782.56 mortgage. For years, she and her assistant director, Stephanie Stanfill, had prayed and labored along with their staff to keep serving clients under that debt load.
What exactly did McKown have in mind?
Then the pastor explained: The Bridge Church was committing to paying off her Columbia center’s mortgage. In full. By the end of the year.
For six and a half years as CEO, Robinson had never stopped praying for precisely this kind of help.
“Anywhere I spoke, I have always mentioned that I believed someone would pay off our mortgage,” she said. “There were people who would pat me on the back and say, ‘That's such a good goal. Good for you that you have that kind of faith.’ I knew they were basically saying, ‘You're crazy.’
“I would smile and say, ‘One day you’ll see.’”
For Robinson, “one day” has finally arrived.
No More Fatherless
Josh Howerton, lead pastor at The Bridge Church, said paying off the Columbia center’s mortgage was part of his congregation’s “No More Fatherless” initiative, reflecting the character of God who calls Himself the father to the fatherless and the defender of widows.
His congregation of over 2,100 people launched that three-year initiative this fall, aimed at planting 20 churches in South and Central America, helping fund 50 more adoptions, saving 200 unborn lives, and bringing 10,000 more people to be adopted by God through expanded ministry.
“We sort of looked up one day and realized there are over 50 adopted children in our church,” Howerton said. “And there are more families wanting to adopt than are able to. What was happening? People were catching the heart of God, taking up His cry to be the father to the fatherless.”
One key reason Howerton and his leadership team were drawn to reach out to Robinson had to do with their first-hand experience of the center’s effectiveness. It wasn’t just the women who’d been to the center and were now part of the church that stood out—it was also the presence of kids in the children’s ministry whose lives were saved at Pregnancy Centers of Middle Tennessee.
“We love that little girl who would not exist today if not for that pregnancy center,” Howerton said. “So we wondered, ‘How can we create 200 more of those stories every year for the foreseeable future?’ We thought, ‘Let's pay off their mortgage so they are financially uninhibited to keep doing that.’”
No More Mortgage
For Pregnancy Centers of Middle Tennessee, going mortgage-free will empower them to meet more of the needs of the 200 clients they see each month.
“I had one girl who was going to have an abortion because she didn't have a crib, and she didn't want to put her baby in a drawer,” Robinson said. “When I told her we would get her a crib, she sobbed, ‘I don't have any money.’ We said, ‘We're going to give it to you.’ But we didn’t have one yet.”
Still constrained by the mortgage, Robinson had to hit social media to find a donor.
“Sometimes we have a waiting list for 10 cribs,” she said. “Now I can say to Heather, my office manager, ‘We've got this extra money every month; let's buy 10 cribs.’ It's going to make a huge impact on what we're doing.”
In addition, newly freed-up funds mean Robinson’s team can at last purchase updated Earn While You Learn curricula and provide better materials, like personalized—not photocopied—parenting booklets for each client. They also hope to expand the hours of a part-time staff member to serve an increasing number of Spanish-speaking clients.
A Culture That Matches Its Message
Even before offering this mortgage payoff, the people of The Bridge Church had supported Pregnancy Centers of Middle Tennessee in multiple ways.
“Two of their members are on staff,” Robinson said. “One is my nurse sonographer Joanne Coogan. And one is my right arm gal, Heather Claspell; she's my office manager. They are an incredible church. They are one of the churches that has always been a big support to us. If I called and said, ‘Hey, we're in a bind, we need this,’ I knew they would come through.”
Howerton says his congregation’s support for vulnerable neighbors, including at-risk for abortion, comes from their desire to match in deeds what they’ve said they believe.
“What has been powerful at The Bridge has been that our culture authenticates for people that we actually believe Jesus is a friend of sinners and He has a special eye for the hurting and lowly,” he said.
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His church’s gift has also refreshed Robinson as a tangible reminder that her fellow Christians—while still deeply flawed—are constantly growing to become more Christ-like in their giving.
“It's strengthened my faith, not just in my own walk, but in people,” she said. “I feel like the unborn, the widow, the single mom are at the heart of who God is. Now I can say, ‘Finally, someone is going to do what they said they would do.”
Given this momentum, Robinson expects her ongoing Project 1000 fundraising campaign to take on new life. Not counting the mortgage payoff, 400 people have already pledged at least $10 per month to the center as part of the effort. Robinson is shooting for 1,000 individuals to give $10 each month.
In her 20 years of leading pregnancy centers in North Carolina, Arizona, and now Tennessee, Robinson has seen God move people to meet needs in many ways—from the youth group that unknowingly collected $,1450 just two days after her center received notice of a $1,400 tax bill, to the folks who donated a heater two days before a client called in need of one.
“This has encouraged me to never give up, to do things to the best of my ability, as unto the Lord, no matter who's watching,” she said. “He's got my back. He knows our needs. I don't ever get frustrated with the Lord. It's people who don't realize the blessing they're missing out on.”