The Center for Disease and Control and Prevention reported in 2014 that there are 186 abortions for every 1,000 live births in the United States. In Texas alone, there were 55,287 documented terminations in 2015.
Many women do not feel equipped with the necessary financial support and resources to support a child. As a result, abortion is often viewed as a way out of financial hardship.
Two Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) alumni are driven to bring these numbers down through providing resources to families in urban communities. Jamie Stanley and Chariti Lough, work at Southwest Pregnancy Services (SPS) to help expecting mothers who feel like they either can’t parent their child or don’t have the resources to do so.
The city of Dallas is home to an alarming number of poverty-stricken citizens. In the past decade alone, poverty has skyrocketed in the city, especially with single mothers and children. According to a biennial study conducted by Children's Health and the University of Texas at Dallas, one in five children in North Texas lives in poverty.
“We’re able to serve them (SPS clients) and share the love of God with them, and equip them with medical resources, social resources, and spiritual resources so that they can be successful parents,” says Jamie Stanley.
Jamie’s call to urban ministry started in her adolescence while she was growing up in Friendswood, Texas – just south of Houston.
“I felt a passion for ministry to urban communities since I was a teenager because of a mission trip I went on into the Fourth Ward of Houston,” she says.
Jamie attended SAGU and graduated in 2004 with a Church Ministries degree. She was ordained in 2006 and graduated with her master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2012. She is especially grateful for her time at SAGU because it gave her the opportunity to grow and lead in a number of ways.
“One of those ways was in leading student mission teams on a spring break trip. I took a team of, I believe it was 26 women, to the Los Angeles Dream Center,” she says.
Not only did she lead a group of women in the slums of Los Angeles, but she was a leader of women’s accountability groups on the SAGU campus at the time. During her junior and senior years, she volunteered off campus to lead a ministry group in Deep Ellum to work with a church there.
Jamie has had an incredible amount of experience in urban communities beyond her time at SAGU as well. She worked for an arts education nonprofit called Big Thought and a domestic violence shelter, Bay Area Turning Point, in Houston. Additionally, she has directed after-school programs in low-income communities.
“I’ve done development in those communities with different types of programs such as food, education, spiritual services, and church planting,” she says.
This coming April marks Jamie’s third year as the Executive Director at Southwest Pregnancy Services. She enjoys her job, and heading up the organization comes with a lot of responsibilities.
“I champion the mission of the organization and lead the staff and volunteers and work with the board of directors,” she says.
She also reaches out into the communities around southwest Dallas to find new clients, does fundraising, and works with individual and corporate donors to obtain money for the nonprofit organization.
Though Jamie has felt the call of urban ministry very strongly for the majority of her life, one specific instance really inspired her to couple that passion with pregnant women and motherhood – the birth of her first child.
“I was hit by a drunk driver when I was 34 weeks pregnant,” she says. As a result of the accident, her son, Elliot, was born by an emergency Cesarean section. She broke both her arms and injured her leg, and had to have help caring for her new baby during those first few months of motherhood. Elliot was in NICU for 17 days, but is now a healthy seven-year-old.
Through this experience, she learned how important it was to trust the Lord with her life and her kids. It also made her realize the importance of motherhood for shaping women, and how much more difficult the struggle is to raise a child amidst poverty or relational issues.
The startling number of women, especially single or expecting mothers, in need touched Jamie’s heart and directed her to this ministry in the DFW area. She loves being able to help her clients and considers it very rewarding.
Over the course of her career, one of the clients that stuck out to Jamie is a woman named Jessica. Jamie first met this woman standing in the education classroom holding four shopping bags-each full of baby clothes, diapers, and bottles. As Jessica began to open up to Jamie, she shared with her how she ended up in the clinic that day.
Jessica had previously come to the clinic to receive a tubal ligation to prevent having any more children. During the visit, she learned she was pregnant. "With all the mouths to feed at home and her and her husband struggling with work, she said to me, 'We are just too poor, we are just too poor. We did not feel we could keep this baby'," said Jamie. Jessica and her husband were leaning towards having an abortion when God interrupted their plans. Jessica went to Southwest Pregnancy Services and received a pregnancy test and options counseling. It was during this time, she also received a free ultrasound. When she saw her baby, Jessica was unable to follow through with their initial plan. "When I saw the baby, I knew it was mine and I had to keep it," Jessica said to Jamie.
Jessica enrolled in education courses in which she earned "baby bucks" to spend in the boutique filled with donated baby items which is what brought Jessica into the clinic that day.
"From fear to the decision for life," said Jamie. "From life to preparing herself for parenting and from preparation to provision as the items filling those bags and others she would earn in the next months filled her home with hope that in the midst of poverty she could care for her baby. We are so proud of her and her husband because they are now parents of a new sweet baby girl and both working. They have been able to join a housing program that enabled them to buy their first home."
While Jamie came to college with the intent of ministry, Chariti Lough didn't plan to pursue missions when she arrived at SAGU. She had always had a passion for ministry, but while growing up as a missionary kid in Paraguay, Chariti saw some difficult things in the field. She tried to distance herself from her calling. God, however, had other plans.
"During my time at SAGU, God led me back to it and reminded me of the love he had placed in my heart for missions," she says.
Chariti credits much of her knowledge of mission work to her time at SAGU.
"I had lived missions prior to coming here, and I thought I knew a lot about missions, and then I came here and I learned a lot more that I didn’t know before," she says.
As a student, Chariti led a missions trip to Ethiopia and was the Vice President of World Outreach, which is a part of the Southwestern Missions Association (SMA). Later, during her internship, she worked with an organization called Arms of Refuge – a ministry geared towards helping refugees in the Dallas area.
“Just being in SMA and Arms of Refuge, that’s taught me to look beyond me and see someone else for who they are and what they’re going through,” Chariti says.
This valuable experience equipped Chariti to care for women at SPS. After graduation this past December, Chariti was in need of a job between now and when she goes into international mission work. She wanted a job that could help people and make an impact in the lives of others. She was drawn to SPS because it gave her an opportunity to provide women with the option to choose life.
She applied, interviewed, and started working there just two weeks ago. She believes that God gave her this job for a purpose.
“Even though I’ve never had anything to do with abortion or unplanned pregnancy, He’s led me to this moment. I think it’s preparing me for whatever He has for the future,” she says.
Chariti and her husband plan to evangelize in Eastern Europe one day. Her love for school inspires her to continue in her academia, and she plans on pursuing a degree in philosophy to minister to atheists. For the time being, she’s growing in her ministry to women at SPS.
“I think what I’m looking forward to is just giving women hope, specifically in this job, giving them hope that they have options besides abortion.”
When it comes to the future of SPS as a whole, Jamie Stanley has a few goals that she hopes to accomplish with her team. The urgent need to serve pregnant women considering abortion is daily motivation to take the work further. In this recent year, the clinic clients served has grown 77% and the education program has grown 135%.
SPS also has its share of challenges. It is located within three miles of Planned Parenthood-South Dallas Surgical Health Services Center, which only provides abortion procedures. "We know thousands of women enter their doors pregnant and leave having had an abortion," says Jamie. "We desire to capture these women before they make an abortion decision, though culture and opportunity so near them leads towards going to Planned Parenthood." However, SPS has experienced success through effective marketing campaigns to help direct women searching for abortion and pregnancy information to the SPS website. "We hope to expand our targeting campaigns as funds allow," said Jamie.
“I’m excited for us to be the preferred place for women facing unplanned pregnancy throughout southwest Dallas county to come and receive help."
Jamie believes that SPS will continue to grow and reach women all over the area with the possibility of opening more clinics in neighborhoods. In addition, they also plan on expanding their medical services to impact women’s health.
“My other goal with this would really be to unite the capacity of churches throughout our region to respond to the crisis of abortion in a loving and compassionate way that will save lives.”