ATHENS, Tenn. (BP)–When Cindy came to the older brick house in downtown Athens which houses Full Circle Pregnancy Resources, she was homeless, pregnant, and considering an abortion.
The workers helped her and her other child get into temporary housing, then permanent housing, and encouraged her to have the baby, which Cindy did. She regularly attends support groups at the Full Circle center so the workers have provided many of the items she needed for her child.
Full Circle Pregnancy Resources began about two years ago by First Baptist Church, Athens, Tenn. Soon after, the McMinn-Meigs Baptist Association, became a sponsor along with the Tennessee Baptist Convention through its Golden State Missions Offering and churches and individuals from the community.
The North American Mission Board, Alpharetta, Ga.; Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, Colo.; and Heartbeat International, Columbus, Ohio; are used as resources.
The Full Circle center is located in a former parsonage of the church located across the street from First Church. It is open three days a week and relies on about 20 volunteers from 11 area churches, most of which are Baptist.
About 12 women a month visit the center for the first time. Workers offer them confidential and free services, said Freda Crews, direct of the ministry and a member of First Baptist, Athens.
Those services include free pregnancy tests, information on pregnancy and prenatal development, peer counseling, placement in temporary and long-term housing during pregnancy, and referral services for adoption and education/vocation opportunities.
The center also offers maternity and infant clothing, formula and baby food, counseling, Bible studies, and support groups for women following abortion, for mothers, and on finances.
Cindy, an African American woman, has gained from these experiences some understanding of God’s love for her for the first time, Crews said.
Jane Zortman, assistant to the director of Full Circle and member of Westwood Baptist Church, Cleveland, Tenn., said many of their clients endure difficult times.
Zortman recalled another client, Susan. She asked First Baptist Church Athens, Tenn., for help when the ministry was first started. Susan, who had been sleeping in her car, asked for $10 for gas. When Carlos Peterson, the church’s pastor, learned Susan was pregnant, he called Zortman for help.
Although Susan only stayed in Athens for a couple of weeks, she recommitted her life to God during a service at a local Baptist church. Peterson said he didn’t recognize her when she arrived at the front of the sanctuary. She had a different appearance after getting cleaned up and putting on new clothes and she had a transformed attitude, explained Peterson.
Part of the reason for the changes was that Zortman, along with Full Circle worker Meta Carriker also a member of FBC Athens, helped Susan. They helped her find a temporary home, wash her clothes, deal with a traffic ticket, correct her vision to prevent another traffic offense, and find a home at the residence for unwed mothers of Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes in East Tennessee.
Susan left the home to travel to California, but she regularly calls Zortman and others she met at Full Circle, Zortman reported.
The experience was the first time FBC Athens could do more for someone in Susan’s situation than give them money, said Peterson.
The goal of all of the activities is to share the Gospel, workers emphasized. For example, during counseling with clients, counselors ask if they can share their faith with them. As far as Crews and Zortman know, no client has refused to listen to such a witness.
One result of the emphasis is that two women became Christians last year through the ministry.
Freda Crews said she does a lot of praying and she often feels emotionally and physically drained, but the results “are better than chocolate.”
Zortman agreed, recalling a meeting with a woman and her husband who came in because they feared she was pregnant. The woman was undergoing treatment for breast cancer that would negatively affect the baby so the couple felt she should seek an abortion.
Zortman said while waiting on the pregnancy test she told the couple she didn’t believe in abortion. But as she went to check on the test she felt she “was more on pins and needles,” she said, than they were. When they learned of the negative result, “they all cried” with joy, said Zortman.
Crews does the work despite many other responsibilities. She and her husband have three children, ages 17, 19, and 21, and they operate several businesses. She has interrupted an educational program to direct Full Circle. Zortman and her husband also have three children, ages 18, 15, and 4, and she operates a dressmaking and alterations business.
God has provided everything the ministry has needed in amazing ways, reported Crews and Zortman. Workers have been willing to be trained and serve. Often they arrive to serve just when they are needed.
And items have been given miraculously. For example, an IBM employee in New York gave a new computer designated for a charity although the company resisted giving the machine to the ministry.
Physicians in the community place materials from Full Circle in their offices. School counselors share materials and refer women to the center. And many others help such as professionals in social and legal services.
“The sin of abortion is hush hush,” said Zortman, but one in four women in the United States has had one by the age of 45 and one in five U.S. Baptist women has had one.
However, no sin is worse than any other sin, Zortman and Crews agreed.
“We try very much to speak the truth in love,” said Zortman. “The truth is what sets you free and the love is what gets them [clients] to listen to us,” explained Crews.