COLUMBUS, Ohio (BP) — The donation of an ultrasound machine to Southern Baptists in Columbus will help pregnant women in Ohio’s largest city to hear the heartbeat of their unborn child and choose to give birth, said area leaders.
“For mothers who have this unintended pregnancy, once you have the ultrasound and hear the heartbeat, the Lord does a lot — it helps connect for the women that what’s inside of you is real,” said Cindy Irizarry, development director of the Stowe Mission of Central Ohio and executive director of its pregnancy medical clinic.
“It’s a [window] to the soul for mothers to see and hear,” she noted.
As part of its Psalm 139 Project, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission presented the gift of the portable machine to the Stowe Mission Center, an outreach of the Metro Columbus Baptist Association (MCBA), June 14. The presentation was made during morning worship services at Southern Baptist church plant Veritas Community Church, where ERLC President Russell Moore preached on the Gospel and racial reconciliation.
ERLC’s communications director Dan Darling made the presentation with Irizarry and Michael Brooks, Stowe’s president and CEO. See [http://bpnews.net/44923/gift-of-ultrasound-to-open-up-ministry-in-columbus]related story[/URL].
“One of the things that impressed us about Stowe is the sense of mission and holistic health services they’re providing to low-income and underprivileged people,” Darling said, referencing Stowe’s urgent care, dental clinic, eye clinic, HIV/STD testing and mental health screening. “They have a great mission not only to apply the Gospel to the soul but also the body. We’re very proud to partner with them.”
According to the ERLC, 78 percent of women who see and hear their unborn child carry their pregnancy to term. The donation of the ultrasound to Stowe is important, because the city of Columbus provides few alternatives to abortion for unplanned pregnancies, resulting in staggering rates of infant morality and abortion.
For the first quarter of 2015, the infant mortality rate in Columbus is 8.8 per 1,000 live births, a 44 percent increase from the previous quarter, according to statistics from Columbus Public Health. Infant mortality rates are calculated from the number of babies that die before their first birthday, often due to socio-economic factors, pre-term or low-weight births, and sleep-related deaths.
A great avenue of ministry
Irizarry has served as the director of Crossover, the evangelistic event prior to the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting, each of the past two years. At the request of Rich Halcombe, director of missions for MCBA and chair of the board for Stowe, Irizarry and her husband Arnaldo moved from Baltimore to Columbus in October 2014. During discussions with Halcombe and Brooks about how prostitution, fatherlessness and poverty are bringing many young pregnant women through Stowe’s doors, Irizarry and her husband decided to stay in Columbus and direct the mission’s new pregnancy clinic.
“This could be a great avenue for saving mothers and fathers spiritually and saving babies physically,” Halcombe told Baptist Press.
Prior to her work with Crossover, Irizarry opened two pregnancy centers in Miami and was the development director for a pregnancy center in Baltimore.
An unplanned pregnancy in college led Irizarry to choose an abortion, but she says the death of her unborn child later helped her find new life when she professed faith in Christ in 1995. Irizarry says she hopes Stowe’s mission will not only extend to the neighborhoods around Stowe but to students at nearby Ohio State University who think a pregnancy spells the end of their aspirations.
“We live in an era where women can do everything, but it’s kind of a conflicting message when you’re told that a child is going to limit you,” Irizarry said. “There’s hope; a baby doesn’t end your life, and that’s what I hope to share with others.”
For area pastors like Nick Nye, lead pastor at Veritas Community Church and board member for Stowe, the ERLC’s gift of the sonogram to Stowe enables churches to respond to abortion more effectively.
“The Gospel compels us to handle it on two fronts,” Nye, an alumnus of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said. “We can provide a deeper reality of what’s going on when a woman is pregnant, seeing the baby, but also we’re doing a lot more with adoption as a church and engaging with foster care.”
The MCBA has more than doubled its number of churches to 119 since 2004. In addition to its free medical services, Stowe’s ministry also served nearly 165,000 meals last year, and provides tutoring, job training and clothing distribution.
For more information on the ERLC’s Psalm 139 Project ministry go to, http://psalm139project.com/.