I Embrace Grace

I embrace grace because two pink lines changed my life sooner than I could have imagined.

We were unwed and unworthy. And because some of the women in my family had a history of leaving, the thought of those genes coursing through my body made me ache for the growing baby inside me.

 

I embrace grace because on December 4th, 2013, God gave me the greatest gift I could ever imagine – Harlow Rose. My love for her was endless and I knew in that instant that He took away all of my fears about becoming her mother.

Because of her I also came to know of HIS love for ME.


I embrace grace because I can see how God has worked through her in our lives – to pull us in, to heal wounds, restore relationships, encourage prayer, give grace, and to have childlike faith. He made my heart break for other mamas who would go through unexpected pregnancies – the questioning and the feeling alone – I would go on to help lead Embrace Grace and walk alongside some of these amazing mamas and welcome their sweet babies.

 

 

I embrace grace because God has moved mountains for my family – through different states and jobs and another beautiful baby girl.

I can see all of our days and trials sewn together with His goodness and love and grace.

 

I embrace grace because God willing, I wake up to a pitter patter of footsteps each and every day. Or a ‘mama’ overheard on a monitor. I wake up knowing that no matter what the day before may have held, God’s grace comes in an abundance – and He will continue to provide for me if I lay it all down for Him.

Unplanned pregnancies aren’t easy. Motherhood is not easy.

It takes a village. Let’s BE that village.

 

I embrace grace because through the eyes of my children I have realized that

I AM worthy because I AM His.

 

 

 

 

 

Embrace Grace and Embrace Life groups are happening all over the world!  Young women with unplanned pregnancies are receiving incredible love, support, and encouragement right inside the walls of the church.  Learn more about your local Embrace Grace and Embrace Life groups at the Imagine Conference.


 

Desiree Eonta, Embrace Grace of North Way Christian Community

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share this with others!

Transformational Urban Mission

On a warm spring day, I sat outside the main entrance of the urban church where I serve as a pastor to soak in the sunshine and also soak in the sights and sounds of the neighborhood. I have been serving this vulnerable urban neighborhood in the city of Pittsburgh for more than a decade now, and it feels like I am still learning so many new things about this place. There are many challenges facing the neighborhood. There are many assets here as well. I’ve come to learn to love this place and the people who inhabit it.

As I looked around the area directly surrounding the church ministry center, I noticed many signs of need. I saw people selling and using drugs. I saw women who were walking the streets, potentially victims of human trafficking. I saw boarded up row homes. I saw a homeless camp in a vacant lot off in the distance. I heard the sirens of police, fire, and paramedics in the area. I saw and heard other signs of poverty and brokenness.

When I looked around, though, I also saw many signs of hope in what looked like such a hard place. I saw people looking out for each other, telling jokes, stories, and, in general, having a good time enjoying such a nice day. I heard people laughing and encouraging one another. I saw busses traveling up and down the main street through the neighborhood, carrying residents to and from work and other places around town. I saw dump trucks going to and from the new home construction sites that are being built for, and with, residents of the neighborhood. I saw residents from the local seniors apartment complex strolling around the outside of the building, hoping to take in some of the neighborhood. I saw resilience in the midst of difficult circumstances.

I started to walk around the block with one of the other pastors of the church, and we had a fun time praying with people, encouraging people, and inviting everyone to join us at the church for worship services, outreach events, and Bible studies. Our church throws block parties where everyone is invited to come, just as they are. Most days we meet people right where they are at—right in the middle of a marginalized urban neighborhood that residents in the other parts of the city have written off as dangerous and troublesome.

Yes, violence and struggles are heightened in the neighborhood, but those things don’t define this place. God’s presence is strong in this little church and in this little neighborhood. The Holy Spirit’s presence was in the neighborhood long before our church arrived, and the Holy Spirit will be here long after we are gone. God is on a constant mission to redeem every person and place in the neighborhood, just like everywhere else in the world.

This church does have an important purpose in this neighborhood, though. We are here strategically. This is the place to be. It’s the place we want to be. Why would it be such a priority for us to locate our church right smack in the middle of a vulnerable urban neighborhood? Surely there are easier places to plant and grow churches. What is it about this particular place?

The leaders at our church know that the world is rapidly urbanizing. More people now live in cities than in any other places around the world. Within the next 20 or 30 years, nearly 75% of the world’s population will be urban. This shift from rural to urban represents the largest migration of human beings in the history of the world. That means that the cities of the world represent a huge opportunity for Christians to reach people who are increasingly more densely congregating together. Rapid urbanization has brought many challenges with it, though, as nearly 1 in 6 people on this planet now lives in urban poverty. Most cities around the world have not been ready for urban expansion at such an explosive pace. Billions of people around the world live in urban poverty as a result.

In response, Christians must engage cities with the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Not only that, but Christians must be willing to engage urban residents living in poverty with the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Nothing could be more important for modern Christians. We must learn to participate in God’s mission in hard places; especially in urban places with people living on the margins of society. These places will be the key to the spread of Christianity throughout the remainder of the 21st century and beyond.

Furthermore, God’s mission with marginalized urban people should lead to a process of transformation that takes place over the course of time. Too often in Christian circles, calls to engage in urban mission lead to transactional, short-sighted approaches that can cause more harm than good. I believe that God is calling Hs Church to build long-term, meaningful relationships that are mutually transformational in complex urban environments.

The urban church where I serve as a pastor definitely does not have it all figured out. I have seen God do remarkable works of transformation in people’s lives and in the streets where people live. I have also witnessed painful failures while experiencing the brokenness of people’s lives and the brokenness of the city’s systems first-hand. Regardless of the signs of need and the signs of hope in the great cities of today’s modern world, God is empowering his people to engage cities in creative and meaningful ways amongst people who desperately need the hope that Jesus Christ has to offer. There is no better place to participate in God’s redemptive mission than with people on the margins of the cities of the world.

Register for the Imagine Conference


Dr. Bryan McCabe, Pastor of Transformational Urban Leadership, North Way Christian Community

Share this with others!

The Other 95%

How the Whole Church Can Live Out Christ’s Love in Foster Care and Adoption

I once heard a friend ask, “Where is the Church in foster care and adoption?” She wondered how it was possible that her family felt so alone in it’s obedience to God’s call for them to foster hurting children. The children she, and many others are serving have faced unspeakable trauma, have lost the only moms and dads they’ve ever known, and often struggle to figure out which end is up. No one living out Christ’s calling to love his neighbor in this way should be left standing alone asking, where are all the Christians?

But you say you don’t feel called to foster or adopt. But what if my friend (and Scripture) isn’t necessarily asking you to foster or adopt? Look with me at James 1:27,

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (emphasis added)

Did you see it? God’s word tells us that we should live out our worship through the tangible acts of visiting orphans.

Statistics tell us that only about 5% of the United States’ population will foster or adopt. That number isn’t much higher within the Church. And while we need many more Christian foster and adoptive homes, not every Christian should be a foster or adoptive parent. But every adoptive and foster family already engaged needs the body of Christ standing around them in this journey.

Families who are engaging on the front lines of caring for children from hard places bear a heavy weight. It’s a load they carry with humility and joy knowing that this is cross-bearing love—partnering with the Great Redeemer who wants to see healing and restoration for these children. But it’s still a front-line, spiritual, emotional, and sometimes physical battle. And like any soldier, they shouldn’t be going into battle alone.

When foster and adoptive families step into the brokenness with a child, they need to feel the arms of the other 95% of Christians wrapping around them. So practically speaking, what does this mean to you?

If you don’t know a foster or adoptive family personally:
-Connect with a ministry that is offering adoptive and foster families free childcare. Childcare and respite is one of the most requested areas of help from foster and adoptive families. This could be as simple as serving with our OrphanCare Ministry that offers free respite nights for foster and adoptive parents 6 times a year. Get your clearances, and join us as we play kickball, do crafts, or rock babies. These moms and dads desperately need a breather to reconnect and invest in their marriage.
-Sign up to be a Family Friend through the Safe Families for Children Program. This will allow you to be paired with a specific adoptive family so that you can offer ongoing respite. Just invite a child to join your family for a few hours a couple of times a month. It can make a world of difference to a mom or dad. Parenting is hard, and parenting kids who have walked through trauma is quite different than parenting kids who have always known consistency, safety, love, and food. Your commitment to come alongside a family in a consistent way could bring unspeakable hope to them in the day-to-day.
-Donate – Adoption is expensive, and foster parents are often met with unexpected and sometimes immediate needs. Organizations such as Foster Love Project or adoption funds through OrphanCare or Gregory’s Gift are meeting the tangible needs of Pittsburgh-area families.

If you do know someone who is fostering or adopting:
-Bring meals (and some for their freezer too!) Foster parents often accept children with very little notice. They have court hearings that don’t run on schedule, countless therapy appointments to help kids heal, and often are transporting the children in their home to visit with their biological families. Having someone they can call to bring a meal (even if it’s from a restaurant or frozen from a grocery store!) is a real blessing.
-Mow the grass, do a load of laundry, etc. Adding a child to your family changes everything. Sometimes the list of every-day tasks that need to be completed is daunting while you’re in the middle of a period of adjustment. Pitch in everywhere you can.
-Babysit. Foster and adoptive parents are required to attend extensive and ongoing training classes to prepare them for the realities of caring for children from hard places. They may have court hearings they need to attend, therapy appointments, and be transporting kids to visits with their mom and dad. If the family has other children in the home, they need you to show up in a big way so they can juggle it all. And quite frankly, they probably need a date night, too. Ask what clearances and training you may need, get them (it’s not hard), and then watch their kids.
-Send an encouraging note and include a gift card to a local restaurant. Some days are just hard. Blessing a foster or adoptive family with a chance to eat out, or order in, and know they are being prayed for can be a bright spot in their week.
-Celebrate them and their children (no matter how old the child is!) Imagine all the ways you’d be excited to welcome a baby into a friend’s family when she announces she is pregnant. Now do the same things for your foster and adoptive friends.

I had another conversation with a friend recently who just started her fostering journey. She received her first placement, an infant, with little notice. The first night a friend dropped off a Pack ‘n Play, a bassinette, and other baby gear. Another friend asked if she needed infant clothes. Another offered childcare for the children in their home while they were attending the court hearings for their foster baby, while another mom listened as she poured out her heart about the emotional rollercoaster of the first few days. Her response: it’s been amazing to see God meet our needs and feel the love of friends in this journey.

Church, this is living out Christ’s call to love. Let’s make my last friend’s story a reality for every foster and adoptive family in our circle. May no one ever stand on the front line, answering Christ’s call, and say, “Where’s the Church?” Let’s live out our worship in these tangible ways.

Register for the Imagine Conference


Erin Brothers, Co-Director, OrphanCare Ministry of North Way Christian Community

Share this with others!

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word!