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10/23/97 Church extends ‘Open Arms’ to pregnant single women

OWASSO, Okla. (BP)–Pregnant. Single. Two words that often ostracize a woman from family and friends.
But in Owasso, Okla., a ministry called “Open Arms” is reaching out to pregnant single women with love, understanding and practical help.
The Bethel Baptist Church outreach to unwed mothers began with a burden shared by sisters-in-law who live in the bedroom community north of Tulsa.
“My brother and his girlfriend, who was 16 at the time, discovered she was pregnant and didn’t know where or to whom to turn,” said Julie Dermody. At an agency that billed itself as Christian, they were treated with ridicule and condemnation, she said. “As a direct result, they felt they could not confide in anyone, not family, not school authorities.”
Dermody said as her family looked for needed assistance, they found alarming numbers of teens in the Owasso area in just as bad, and most times, worse situations.
Dermody and her sister-in-law, Jeri Hines, gathered a group of women at a local fast-food restaurant to discuss the problem and what they could do to help a bad situation.
This led Bethel into a ministry with a stated purpose of offering godly advice and support for Owasso’s unwed mothers through open arms of love and guidance.
Open Arms has nine women trained to assist and six others currently in the six-session training program which covers helping skills, pregnancy, fetal development, abortion, adoption, abstinence, value of two-parent families and legal issues.
In addition to a hotline phone number answered by the trainees, Open Arms ministers will go with the girls to tell their parents of their pregnancies and will serve as advocates with the school system to know what rights and opportunities the girls may have.
Also, a part of the Open Arms ministry is to do a reality check with the clients.
“There are 15-year-old pregnant girls out there who say they are going to live on their own and raise their babies,” Dermody said. “That’s not going to happen. For one thing, the new welfare laws say you have to be 18 to live on your own and get welfare.”
“These girls think their lives aren’t going to change that much, except now they’re going to have a baby to carry around,” Hines said.
The goal of Open Arms, Dermody said, is to cultivate independence, but “we will extend care as long as it is needed.”
One woman who went through the program and had her baby now wants to be trained to help others in her situation, Dermody added.
When searching out options for pregnant single women in Owasso, the Bethel women said they found some good programs but none that didn’t either condemn the women or offer abortions.
“We believe women in this situation need spiritual support whether they choose to keep their babies or decide to place them for adoption,” Dermody said. “And someone needs to speak to them against abortion. If we can save one little life, it’s worth it all.”

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  • Dana Williamson