I’m Sarah Fern, Executive Director of Choices Resource Center in Oak Ridge, a CSPC missions partner. We’re a pregnancy care center empowering women to make healthy reproductive choices. God brought me to Choices two years ago. Now that I’m here, I’m realizing how He spent the past 20 years preparing me for this role. Probably the biggest way He prepared me was through what seemed, at the time, like a crisis. My sister unexpectedly got pregnant as a teenager, and I thought I was going to have to pay for her abortion. She called me at 3 in the morning with the news (I was living in New Jersey, she was back here in Knoxville, where I grew up). I wasn’t pro-choice, I considered myself pro-life- but in that moment, more than anything, I considered myself reactionary! It gave me insight into how, in those first moments of facing an unplanned pregnancy, the reactions of boyfriends or parents can be, ‘We’ve got to get rid of this problem.’ Well, the ‘problem’ is a life; one that matters to God. In that moment, He told me to say ‘no’ to my initial thinking. I realized, ‘No, God put this life here, and we’re going to need to walk through this.’ I didn’t even voice what had gone through my head to my sister. Instead, I told her, ‘I’m going to drive down to Tennessee. I’m going to help you tell Mom and Dad. God’s taken us this far- we can get through it.’ My dad was a pastor here in Knoxville and she knew he’d resign. And he tried, but some caring friends reminded him, ‘You’ve told us not to make rash changes in the midst of a crisis.’ He acknowledged that and took a 30-day leave of absence instead. During that time, he and my mom landed at CSPC and were able to just be fed. God slowly worked on his heart, and he went back and pastored again after that. My niece, the one who was born during all this, just graduated high school this year and is headed off to college. My sister is so glad she had her! That season is something I frequently go back to. I’ll occasionally hear well-meaning people say, ‘I can never imagine aborting’, and I say, ‘Oh, I can, because I imagined it, though not for very long.’ I get it. You want to try to undo something that’s undoable.
God’s prepared me to lead Choices through other experiences, too. For instance, being in a small ministry, you kind of have to do everything. Well, I learned coding almost by chance, and I had to do some of that here! I remember sitting at my desk at my previous ministry job learning it 13 years ago, thinking, ‘This is so stupid.’ But now here I am remembering html and doing it- He doesn’t waste anything. So it was little things like that, but also more big things, too. One family member revealed she’d had an abortion in 1973. She went through a post-abortion Bible study class, and I watched her as she walked through that and learned to heal. Personally, in my own life, we adopted a little boy -Judah- who was saved by a pregnancy center. The birth mom happened to be in church one Sunday and they talked about the emotional effects of abortion. She heard that and decided to deliver her baby; we were friends with the pastor, so that’s how that came together. God shaped me to serve here through all of these.
We’ve never walked through a post- Roe v. Wade world, so we’re in uncharted territory. It only takes two hours to cross state lines, so we’ll still be walking alongside women considering abortion. Our biggest prayer need is for beefing up our parenting programs. We want to remove obstacles for women who think abortion’s their only option. Yes, we want to help with their material needs, but also show them their life doesn’t have to end; it’s not ‘this baby vs. my dreams’ (They generally think one or the other must die, and that’s not true). So if we can beef up our parenting skills classes but also strengthen our ability to make mentoring available to them, that’s what I see as the future for Choices. Pray that we have a waiting list for mentors- it’s going to largely be men and women from our supporting churches. We need people with a heart for offering hope. It’s really discipling- meeting with them, sharing the Gospel and, Lord-willing, making disciples of Christ. So please pray for the effectiveness of staffers and volunteers doing the work of encouragement and mentoring, and pray God brings more of them. The hope they offer saves babies’ lives.