Entrepreneurial Pregnancy Care Ministry serves Ugandans despite COVID setbacks
For Stephen Wabomba, executive director of Pregnancy Care Ministry in Jinja, Uganda, pregnancy may be primary in his work, but “care” is at the core.
Long before a nationwide survey by the NGO Twaweza reported escalating rates of teen pregnancy and all types of abuse during the pandemic, Wabomba and his team were already strategizing to meet their neighbors’ needs.
“Older boys and men took advantage of the COVID-19 restrictions that kept most girls around their villages and homes,” Wabomba said.
He added that as women grew desperate for money to cover basic necessities, they fell easy prey to sexual liaisons in the dense roadside sugarcane thickets.
“These risky situations…led to a high number of girls getting pregnant,” Wabomba said. “Other factors included high ignorance levels, long treks seeking domestic water, late working hours in the sugar plantation, and drug and substance abuse among the boys.”
Knowing all of this, the leaders of Pregnancy Care Ministry began tackling their neighbors’ needs, one after another.
To combat poverty, Wabomba obtained a donation from Kingsland Baptist Church in Katy, Texas.
The gift, equivalent to 803,000 Ugandan shillings, supplied food staples to 26 disadvantaged families during April and May, 2020. Two other families received fast-growing garden seeds to sustainably feed themselves.
Also, to reach women in crisis pregnancies quickly, Wabomba’s Unplanned Pregnancy Surveillance Team taught members of local Village Health Teams to identify women in need of services and connect them with Pregnancy Care Ministry right away.
At least two women they worked with chose life for their children after considering abortion.
As part of his educational efforts, Wabomba designed a research-based tool called My Natural Family Planning Card to “help women identify the fertile and infertile days in their cycle in order for them to avoid or achieve pregnancy,” he said.
Once approved by the Ministry of Health, the card will be printed and distributed in schools and other institutions.
Additionally, Pregnancy Care Ministry launched one Students for Positive Life Choices club before the pandemic and made plans to start five more as schools reopened. The student-run clubs will empower youth to support one another in practicing abstinence or in finding life-affirming solutions in the event of unplanned pregnancy.
Entrepreneurial approach key to ministry partnership
Wabomba’s initiative has earned the respect of his supporters, like Dr. Steven L. Jones, Teaching and Training Pastor at Kingsland Baptist Church.
“I was impressed with Stephen’s entrepreneurial view,” Jones said of meeting Wabomba during a mission trip in 2018.
The visitors were serving at Comforter Center in Kampala, the center that inspired Wabomba to launch his own ministry in nearby Jinja. Jones toured Wabomba’s counseling center and the printing office he used to print his own materials and to generate revenue for the ministry.
“Stephen has a vision for how he wants to do ministry, and he's trying to create those economic engines to keep ministry going on its own, like the printing business,” Jones said. “He is doing an important work—he's trying to stop abortion—but more than that,
he's trying to minister to the whole person.”
During that 2018 visit, Wabomba invited Jones and his team to present a pro-life conference, for which he gathered 200 attendees, including the local imam and his three wives.
Jones said even the imam “stayed the whole day and got to hear the truth of the God revealed in Jesus, and how that changes our identity and how we view who God is and who we are because of it and how we view life issues.”
Ellen Foell, Heartbeat International’s international program specialist, spoke respectfully of what Pregnancy Care Ministry has accomplished.
“They work with very little,” she said.
Wabomba would agree.
“My day is always tense,” he said. “Each day you expect a call or a visit by clients with various needs. Sometimes I cannot attend to them all because of my limited financial and transportation resources.”
Like many small businesses, the ministry’s printing business suffered during the pandemic. As income for the ministry dwindled, overdue rent on their small counseling center accumulated.
“Eviction threats from landlords are my greatest nightmare,” Wabomba said. “This time around the landlord wanted all the money for rent including the months when we were under total lockdown due to COVID-19.”
Then, even after Kingsland Baptist Church covered the ministry’s back rent, the property manager told Wabomba the ministry could no longer use their space.
Next home, Bugumbe?
Now Pregnancy Care Ministry stands homeless, though holding onto visionary plans to offer diagnostic medical services. Without an office, it is unclear where their promised ultrasound machine will be housed.
“We are proposing to go to Bugumbe, where there are more cases of unplanned pregnancies and abortions,” Wabomba said.
Bugumbe is an urban slum community on the eastern outskirts of Jinja.
Some of Wabomba’s teammates have personally invested in the ministry’s future by furthering their own education.
Director of volunteers Judith Taata, for instance, is working toward a bachelor’s degree in social work and social administration. Medical director Simiyu Andrew is earning a degree in biomedical laboratory technology.
“It's definitely a worthwhile ministry,” Jones said.
He added that while many groups simply serve the people who come to them, Pregnancy Care Ministry actively reaches out.
“Stephen printed up these vests that the boda boda drivers wear with an ad for PCM and the phone number,” he said. The reflective vests both protect drivers in traffic and draw attention to the ministry.
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Foell sees Wabomba’s approach to ministry as one that should resonate with those in the U.S. pregnancy help movement who desire to support overseas ministry.
“The dollar we can invest to come alongside an international affiliate really does go far,” she said. “You may never get there, you may never see the people whose lives you are going to impact, but it really makes a difference.”
She added that when like-minded ministries and individuals pool their resources, they bring every nation closer to Heartbeat International’s vision of “a world where abortion is unwanted in this generation and unthinkable in generations to come.”