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Pastor’s story sparks generosity for pro-life centers

WASHINGTON (BP) — No one knew what was about to happen when Southern Baptist pastor Nathan Lino stood to share at the Evangelicals for Life dinner about God’s provision for his Houston church’s pro-life pregnancy center in the wake of flooding from Hurricane Harvey.

The leaders of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Commission (ERLC) and Focus on the Family were hoping for $125,000 in donations that evening to provide ultrasound machines and training for pregnancy centers in the United States. By the end of the evening, guests at the Jan. 19 event at the Museum of the Bible had responded to Lino’s account by giving about $336,000. Three weeks later, the amount had surpassed $400,000.

As a result, at least 10 centers — not just three — that serve pregnant women in need will benefit. The heads of both the ERLC and Focus rejoiced in the outpouring of support.

“Houston reeled after the flooding, but God was at work. At Evangelicals for Life, he continued to work,” ERLC President Russell Moore told Baptist Press in a written statement. “God used Nathan Lino’s testimony about their center’s loss to advance the work of the pro-life movement far beyond the Fifth Ward of Houston.

“Satan hates babies, because they remind him of the Child born in Bethlehem who uprooted his reign and will one day crush his head,” Moore said. “The generosity among those gathered at this event is a gospel counter-proclamation, one that reminds the watching world that Jesus offers life.”

Focus President Jim Daly told BP, “Something powerful happens when people of faith and a love for the sanctity of every life gather together. The Holy Spirit inspired dozens of people at that special dinner to give generously and use their resources to save pre-born life.

“Our campaign to protect every human life carries on with enthusiasm and optimism,” Daly said in written comments. “Thanks in part to the miracle of technology, the case for life is winning. The rising generation sees it. They get it.”

Comparing the pro-life effort to William Wilberforce’s decades-long battle to end slavery, Daly said, “[S]o must we tirelessly advocate for the most vulnerable in our midst!”

Lino, pastor of Northeast Houston Baptist Church (NEHBC), described for the dinner audience gathered during the three-day Evangelicals for Life conference how Focus and the ERLC came to the aid of the congregation’s Farrington Mission. Flood waters from Hurricane Harvey in late August poured into the community center, which includes a pregnancy resource clinic. The flooding left the mission’s ultrasound machine unsalvageable.

NEHBC members, as well as volunteers from other churches, gutted the building and restored it with the help of contractors. The church could not replace the ultrasound machine, however. The ERLC — which places ultrasound machines in Gospel-focused pregnancy centers — contacted Focus, which makes grants to such centers through its Option Ultrasound Program. Focus covered 80 percent of the expense for a new machine that cost more than $50,000, and the ERLC picked up the balance.

The need at Farrington Mission called for quick action, said Robyn Chambers, director of Focus’ Sanctity of Human Life Department. She had been interviewed by a Houston radio station only the week before in response to the announcement some clinics would provide free abortions in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

In Houston, Planned Parenthood “has one of the largest abortion clinics in the United States, and I couldn’t stand the thought of that,” Chambers told BP.

After describing the support Focus and the ERLC quickly provided his church’s clinic, Lino asked dinner guests to give so women who enter other pro-life pregnancy centers can view an image of their unborn children. And they responded generously.

“The ultrasound machine is the heart and soul of our clinic,” Lino said in an email interview with BP. “At our clinic, 95 percent of abortion-minded mothers choose life for their baby once they see the clear, live image of their baby. The machine is the most effective way to expose the lies of the abortion industry.”

NEHBC’s center — which provides a wide range of services for women — schedules about 60 ultrasounds per month, but Lino has been told it could reach 100 ultrasounds per month in the future. “We realistically hope to get to 1,200 [babies saved] per year,” he said.

In addition to their individual programs, the ERLC and Focus have worked together before in ultrasound machine placement, and it appears they will continue to do so. Their programs are crucial, Lino told BP.

“There are many churches and communities of Christians willing to operate pregnancy clinics, but the vast majority cannot afford machines,” Lino said. “For most, the cost of a machine is prohibitive. If ever there was a need for a parachurch organization to come alongside churches, it’s to help provide ultrasound machines for pregnancy clinics.”

This year’s Evangelicals for Life conference was the third consecutive collaboration between the ERLC and Focus in hosting an event to accompany the annual March for Life and encourage evangelical Christians to participate in it. The dinner also included awards presentations for the third year.

The awards and their recipients this year were the:

— Pro-life Public Service Award to Benjamin Watson, tight end for the National Football League’s Baltimore Ravens, founder with his wife Kirsten of the Christ-centered charity One More and a member of the NFL Players Association’s executive committee. The award is given to an evangelical public servant who is a pro-life leader.

— Pro-life Faith-based Partnership Award to Rich Stearns, president of World Vision U.S. The award is presented to an evangelical leader who has had exceptional influence on the pro-life cause through a faith-based partnership.

— Pro-life Leadership Award to Steve and Jackie Green. Steve is chairman of the board of the Museum of the Bible and president of Hobby Lobby, the retail chain that won an important religious liberty/pro-life victory at the Supreme Court in 2014. The award goes to an evangelical leader who works in pro-life advocacy.

— Pro-life Ministry Leader Award to Joni Eareckson Tada, leading disability advocate and popular author. The award is given to a key evangelical pastor, minister or lay leader who champions the pro-life cause.

Grants from Focus’ Option Ultrasound Program go to centers for ultrasound machines and/or sonography training. It has approved 750 such grants.

The ERLC’s Psalm 139 Project — which has placed 11 ultrasound machines and collaborated with Focus on two others — funds the purchase of machines and the training of staff members to operate them. All gifts to Psalm 139 go toward machines and training, since the ERLC’s administrative costs are covered by the SBC’s Cooperative Program. Information on the Psalm 139 Project and how to donate is available at http://psalm139project.com.