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Church seeks to minister to expectant mothers

The First Baptist Church in Zephyrhills recently opened its Pregnancy Care Center. "Our goal is to meet their need . . . and then ultimately reach them with the Gospel," the pastor says.

By ANGELA MILLER

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 1, 2000


ZEPHYRHILLS -- Terry Luna says she has learned how to show God's love in a practical way.

She is the director of the Pregnancy Care Center, a ministry of the First Baptist Church in Zephyrhills. The center opened in May.

Prior to her work at the Pregnancy Care Center, Luna worked for 21 years at the Department of Children and Families in Dade City as a counselor in the foster care department.

She said her college degree in psychology has helped her.

Even though she enjoyed her previous job of trying to help people with their problems she witnessed many tragedies in families -- and the scars left on the children. Her objective at the Pregnancy Care Center is to give the parents education and input before their children are born. Luna says healthier people produce healthier children.

"God is the director of this place; He is the center of what we are doing so that the people's lives will be changed," Luna said.

Pastor Steve Odom of the First Baptist Church in Zephyrhills had the dream to open the Pregnancy Care Center almost seven years ago. During that time, the church opened a community outreach center called the Neighborhood Care Center, which offers clothing and food for the needy, and another center for abused women.

"Our goal is to meet their need where they are and then ultimately reach them with the Gospel of Jesus Christ," Odom said. He also refers to the book of James, chapter four in the Bible, stating "True religion is taking care of the poor and widowed."

Four years ago, Odom formed the church's strategy and started plans for the pregnancy center.

The church held a community banquet and received $5,000 from business owners and private individuals. The Home Depot on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard in Tampa held a "work-day" for the center.

Mike Florio, community affairs manager at the Home Depot, said each store has a Team Depot group of associates who donate their time to work on selected projects. The project at the Care Center consisted of installing the tile floors in the kitchen and bathroom, kitchen cabinets, shelving, carpet and roof repair. The Home Depot plans to put in new windows for the center this year.

Other blessings included large cash donations and new baby clothes, furniture and other articles.

The Care Center is a little yellow house with a cozy feel inside. It sits on church property at 5210 Fifth St. One of the church members works as an interior designer and offered decorating suggestions for the feminine-style of decor and how to buy the furnishings inexpensively. There are two rooms that have couches with a television, where visitors can view educational videos.

Luna said church leaders wanted the Care Center to have more of an "at home" feel rather than an office.

The volunteers at the center are women who work as hospital nurses, teachers, as well as senior citizens. The workers try to offer love and practical help for women of all ages. Those interested can receive free pregnancy testing, counseling, parenting education and support groups.

The Promise Program is designed to help women earn baby items and supplies. They earn coupons by a point system, by attending support groups and parenting classes, Bible studies and watching videos on a variety of subjects from parenting to Christian values. There is a little shop in the back room where the clients use their coupons to buy diapers, wipes, pacifiers, baby clothes, and some baby furniture. By attending a 1 1/2-hour class on car seat safety, they can earn a free, new car seat. Some of the volunteers knit booties and blankets. They give the expectant mothers the hand-made booties when their pregnancy test returns positive.

"If a client is considering having an abortion we give them the booties as a reminder that the baby is a real person," Luna said.

The center always needs new and hardly used baby items, maternity clothes and volunteers.

One of Luna's goals for the center is to eventually offer a life skills program, focusing on management of life, such as coping, anger and depression, and money management.

Having a personal relationship with God is more than just sitting in church, Luna said.

"The Lord calls us to minister to the community," she said. "People will be blessed by seeing how their help can make a difference."

Help for the center, from other churches, is always welcome.

"For me, there is nothing more fulfilling than seeing that person respond to your help," Luna said.

For information

The Pregnancy Care Center's phone number is (813) 780-6885; for an emergency call the church office at (813) 782-5574. The office is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Wednesday and from noon to 7 p.m. Thursdays. Fathers are welcome to come for help and to attend parenting classes.

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