Christians gathered outside of the abortion clinic in Lakeland, Fla. People from various denominations converge every year to pray outside of the property around the clock for 40 days. Mike Williams caught an overnight flight to join at his oldest son’s request.
People from all over the area showed up for the last day of prayer. Enough were present to permit a human chain to be formed on the outside of the property. Williams and his son found themselves facing the back of the clinic.
Through the slats in the high barbed-wire fence rested two containers. Each bore the label “medical waste.” Williams knew what those words meant for a clinic specialized in abortions. He hoped his son did not.
Those gathered turned to leave after a final song of praise. Williams wanted to join the throng of believers making their way to the parking lot. He stopped when he felt his son’s hand on his shoulder.
Williams relayed the story to the men and women present at New Hope Pregnancy Care Center’s Banquet Tuesday night. The event was held in the sanctuary of First Baptist Church.
He told the audience in a quiet voice that he shared a moment with his son understood by any father in the building.
“He pulled me down, because he was a short little kid ... and he points to the containers inside that fence,” Williams said. “And with a brokenness in his voice he said, ‘Daddy, do you know what is in those containers?’”
The father of four answered in the affirmative. He did know what was in those containers.
“‘Daddy,’ his son said. ‘Do you know that is what [my biological mother] was going to do to me, Daddy?’” Williams said. “I looked at him and I said, ‘Yes sir, but God had a better plan for your life.’”
Although Williams touched on abortion and what would have happened if his adopted son’s birth mother had chosen abortion, the night was predominately a celebration of life.
New Hope Director Tracie Shellhouse consistently reminded the audience of this year’s slogan, “Better together for life.”
She thanked supporters, donors and volunteers for their dedication to the life-affirming ministry. In an effort to convey the community’s impact, she shared recent statistics:
- 1,345 client visits in 2013;
- reached 334 new clients last year;
- experienced 1,011 return visits over the course of 2013;
- client visits increased by 42.5 percent within the last two years;
- 42 confirmed New Hope births in 2013 brought the tally to over 500 New Hope births in the last nine years;
- the center is projected to pass the 20,000 client-visits benchmark this month;
- and the life-affirming ministry shared the message of Christ more than 170 times and added five new family members to the body of Christ in 2013.
Shellhouse reiterated the nonprofit is more than just a place to take a pregnancy test.
“Our center allows us to share the good news of Jesus Christ with those who might never attend a traditional church, at least not until we are through with them,” she said. “It is our desire to love them, and for them to understand the body of Christ is a safe place.”
She highlighted the various events hosted by the center or supporters of the cause, and always well attended by volunteers throughout the community.
According to Shellhouse, projects like the Sanctity of Life memorial, Walk for Life, Baby Bottle Boomerangs and motorcycle rides raise both money and awareness for the center.
She stressed the amount of work completed by New Hope would be significantly less if not for the volunteers.
New Hope East Center director Casey Zipperer recognized Martha Wong as the Volunteer of the Year for her efforts with the center.
She said Wong has been a volunteer staple at New Hope.
“Her dedication and heart for the cause of life and the ministry of New Hope is evident to all who know her,” Zipperer said. “As a fierce prayer warrior, she has stood by the side of many clients who have found themselves in crisis pregnancy situations sharing the message of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The Skills USA culinary arts team from Cleveland High was also recognized for their work with the nonprofit. According to Shellhouse, the students contributed to the banquet by making a box of truffles for each table host. The group also helped out at the 2013 Walk for Life event.
“These young people are the leaders. They are the next great generation. These are the ones who are making a difference today as God is instilling a desire and a heart in them to [value] the sanctity of human life,” she said. “I am not going to be here forever, but God is already preparing those who will fill our shoes.”
Names of an even younger generation flashed across the screens during Shellhouse’s presentation. She explained those listed, like Israel and Hayden, were the names of babies born within the last year. Their mothers, some abortion-minded, entered New Hope and made a decision for life based on the care they found at the pregnancy center.
Williams, who is both a comedian and missionary, joined with the center in its celebration of life through the gift of laughter. He joked with the crowd for the majority of his time on stage before settling down into a more somber tone. He shared his story and that of his son’s. He encouraged the audience to give to the center.
He asked everyone to make two prayers. First, pray to ask God to become a monthly donor. Second, ask God for permission to make New Hope a medical center complete with an ultrasound machine.
According to Shellhouse, on average, 90 percent of mothers who see their babies through an ultrasound will choose life.
More information on New Hope can be found at www.newhopepcc.org.