These questions are excerpted from an interview with Larry Gadbaugh, CEO of Portland (Oregon) Pregnancy Resource Center.
You were a busy pastor back in 1984. Why did you get involved in helping a pregnancy resource center get established in Portland?
God was preparing Nanci and me back in 1980. We opened our home to a pregnant teenager who previously had a late-term saline abortion. She lived with us almost a year, had her baby and placed him up for adoption. We had the privilege of leading her to Christ and she remains today a very close friend.
Then in 1983, after Phyllis Gross and Dan Eischen started the Crisis Pregnancy Center in Portland (now Pregnancy Resource Centers of Portland), Phyllis came to our church (Good Shepherd Community Church) and told the story of her abortion. I was so touched that I became the point person to involve our church in their new ministry. I agreed to serve on the board, seeking to raise awareness and support for this new ministry among the churches of Portland. We asked pastors to recruit “shepherding homes” from within their congregations for needy pregnant women.
There are so many critical issues facing Christians today. Where does the mission of pregnancy resource centers fit in?
Very high in priority. It’s one of the ministries that combines meeting the needs of the poor, the vulnerable, and the powerless. PRC displays the heart of God for the child (fatherless) and the widow (abandoned). As the most affluent society in history, we are hard-pressed to find the truly desperately needy. But for many of the women facing unplanned pregnancies, we encounter the combination of those who haven’t heard the gospel and who need practical, life-saving counsel and resources. Pregnancy resource centers have the tremendous opportunity to both meet practical needs, and share the Gospel. It is the kind of ministry I believe God is calling many to get involved in.
What are the most significant things pregnancy resource centers have done over the last 20 years?
Quietly caring for women and the unborn. From supplying baby and maternity clothes, diapers, to peer counseling, PRC’s compassionate outreach breaks the old stereotype of only being concerned about the unborn, but not the woman or the baby after birth. PRC has also significantly provided credibility for the ministry of the Gospel.
One time outside the Lovejoy abortion clinic in Portland, a local news reporter asked me, “People say you anti-abortion people don’t really care about women—you just condemn them.” I replied: “We opened up our home to a girl facing an unplanned pregnancy. We give financially to feed hungry women and children, and provide for women in crisis pregnancies. But you should really talk to my friend Rick, here. He and his wife have adopted 19 children, many of whom are handicapped.” The reporter left to talk to someone else. We were able to silence the biggest argument against our movement. We do the Gospel by demonstrating Christ’s servanthood with sacrificial love. That has powerful impact.
What are the biggest challenges to engaging Christians and churches with the mission of pregnancy resource centers?
First of all, we need to be encouraged at what God has done through the pregnancy resource center (PRC) movement! When Portland’s PRC started over 20 years ago, there were only 12-15 PRCs in the whole country. Now there are over 2,500! It is amazing how far the movement has come.
But there is an information gap for many people who are prolife, but who don’t have first-hand exposure to PRC’s ministry. If they are asked, “Do you know what a PRC is?” they might know PRC exists, by they don’t understand the unique impact PRC is having on so many lives.
I think that this points to the need to impart PRC’s vision to a city’s pastors. As a former pastor, I know how overloaded we can get with everyone else’s agendas, how we can be threatened by the competition for our members’ stewardship of time and money, and the extra work all this creates for us. As Christian leaders we must learn that God blesses the work of our hands as we open our hearts to the ministries around us to Christ’s glory. God blesses churches that give themselves away.
Another challenge is that the church still is confused about the “non-evangelistic” part of its mission. The great commission is not restricted to evangelism. Jesus said to teach people to obey “all I have commanded you.” But even in terms of evangelistic strategy, there is no better opportunity for evangelism than compassionate care for the vulnerable. Serving and loving those who are “at risk” among us—the woman facing unplanned pregnancy and the unborn child—gives credibility to the church’s message.
What do you think is the biggest obstacle for Christians to overcome in facing the abortion issue?
We struggle to dispel the illusion that grace means that we should not talk about the hard issues. Our doctrine of grace has been distorted by the culture’s dogma of tolerance. A number of Christians have told me, “I think it’s cruel to bring up the subject of abortion.” Does that also apply to adultery? Stealing? Murder? By talking about abortion now in our churches—with grace and truth—aren’t we helping to prevent abortion and offering forgiveness and healing to women and men who are suffering in silence? We must model how to address the painful issue of abortion with grace and truth. We also must stop thinking of abortion as a side-issue. Addressing life issues has always been central to the Christian’s calling.
What is the most impactful thing a Christian can do to break the cycle of abortion?
First, make yourself aware of the need that unplanned pregnancy and abortion creates. When you give your time to learn about abortion, abstinence, adoption, and caring for needy women, you can pray for divine appointments where God can use you to make a difference in people’s lives. Next, offer your God-given resources to the Lord. Ask God to show you the unique ways He has for you to contribute to helping. He will use your God-given skills and resources to make a difference. Ask yourself: “What has God given me? How can I use that to help touch lives?”
I remember how years ago my friend Mark Kost used his carpentry skills to remodel the house that became the pregnancy resource center in my hometown of Gresham. Mark, who’s as big as an NFL lineman, might not be the first choice to counsel a pregnant woman! But the work of his hands has had eternal impact on literally thousands of women and unborn babies.