It feels like a race to the finish line. Prior to our family departing to the United States for a one-year furlough, we sought to squeeze in some important events on the FLORECE calendar. I am so grateful for God's goodness in allowing each detail to come together!
Friday, March 31 and Saturday, April 1 were dates long highlighted on the FLORECE calendar. We were looking forward to a visit from Melissa Heiland, founder and president of the Florida-based ministry Beautiful Feet International. Accompanying Melissa was Andrea Krazeise, a veteran pregnancy center director. Melissa and I had met very briefly a few years prior at a conference in Peru. I had yet to meet Andrea, but over the course of the weekend her story blessed and encouraged us. It was truly a "shot in the arm" to have these lovely ladies teach our first "Conferencia de Capacitación" in Iquique!
As is typical for Chile, it was last minute when some final arrangements shot into high gear but resulted in a beautiful transformation of our conference room for the weekend's events. Four rectangular tables were loaned by our newest volunteer, Ilse, while Catalina whipped out tablecloths and runners in the FLORECE colors. Maria shopped for Friday's teatime and prepared her own signature creamy chicken with red pepper for delicious sandwiches accompanied by Kim's chocolate brownies. No one went away hungry from the conference on either day, as Saturday we purchased homemade meals in support of a Christian friend whose husband is currently unemployed. The fellowship around the table proved to be a sweet side blessing of the conference, since not all of our volunteers serve on the same shifts nor have the chance to spend time regularly with one another.
On Friday night, we had three visitors from a new church who were interested in learning about the pregnancy center ministry. An ongoing prayer request is always the recruitment of new volunteers, so we were thankful for their presence! The first session of our time together focused on the parable of the Good Samaritan and how it serves as an example for us as we seek to minister to the hurting women who enter FLORECE.
Saturday's sessions were practical and motivational, as we learned two different ways of sharing the Gospel with others. One focused on our own personal testimonies of salvation, while the other provided a small evangelistic booklet to guide the conversation step by step. The volunteers divided into pairs to practice the latter and I believe each was encouraged through this hands-on application of what we were learning.
As this picture demonstrates, an unexpected blessing of having Melissa and Andrea fly down to Iquique was their willingness to transport nearly 200 pounds of printed materials to us! Many were gifts from Melissa and the Beautiful Feet ministry, including devotional booklets for the nine months of pregnancy and the first year of a baby's life, and a colorful children's board book with a Biblical message (all three authored by Melissa.) In addition, they kindly brought us 2,500 booklets we purchased online in anticipation of our upcoming ministry in local schools! And even more gifts were poured out on FLORECE in the form of fetal models, earrings for each volunteer in the shape of tiny unborn baby feet, reproducible pamphlets and multiple evangelistic tracts to use with our clients. Because the country of Chile taxes printed materials by nearly 20% and the cost of shipping to our "stringbean" nation is high, anytime someone can transport materials personally to us it is a tremendous encouragement. Thank you, Melissa and Andrea, for your sacrifice!
Interestingly, rather than running short on time during the conference we found ourselves with time to spare. This allowed us the privilege of having Andrea share firsthand stories of lives she has seen changed during her years as a pregnancy center director. She also revealed her own testimony as a child born from an unplanned pregnancy and rescued by two sisters willing to do the work of a crisis pregnancy center before such a ministry existed! Because FLORECE is the first ministry of its kind that we know of in Chile, hearing about other women with the same calling and passion around the world was a special blessing for our ladies to know we are not alone in this.
The final session of our conference was entitled, "Human trafficking and the prenatal center." While not a comfortable topic, it was an important one in light of the world in which we live. Every day in Iquique, the local newspaper carries multiple pages of personal prostitution ads. It is not a stretch to consider that human trafficking could take place in our small city. Iquique is in a constant state of immigration and a complicated struggle against illicit substances and activities. There are tremendous needs all around us!
The weekend of our conference was a time of learning, growing, applying, and sharing what it means to a be a woman of conscience and compassion in the area of pro-life ministry. It was a testimony to the Body of Christ which is worldwide and reaches across country limits and communication barriers. There was rejoicing over what our Heavenly Father has done and growing expectation for what He will do. All glory and praise to GOD!
(And so ended Week One ... with Week Two yet to come!)