Mt. Vernon | In every room of a newly renovated building, tour guide Paula Joy stops to tell visitors the meaning behind the art on the wall. Each creation has a scriptural foundation. As Joy reads the passages, her voice breaks.
“I cry in every room,” she said, laughing while she wipes away tears.
The GraceHaven pregnancy resource clinic is literally covered in prayer, Joy said. Artist Mark Lawrence’s works were inspired by the psalmists’ dependence on God for rescue and salvation. And in the month leading up to GraceHaven’s launch, churches will surround the building to pray for the ministry that will happen inside.
When it opens this fall, the clinic will offer pregnancy testing, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, parenting classes, and information about adoption and abortion recovery. And in GraceHaven’s exam room, nurse Jana Musgrave will use a brand-new ultrasound machine to show parents their baby’s heartbeat.
“We just want to make sure they’re able to see that life on screen,” said Musgrave, citing a statistic that up to 88% of women choose life after seeing a heartbeat. The average cost for this kind of ultrasound is $200, she said, but GraceHaven clients can receive theirs for free.
“This is how we, one by one, save babies,” said Sarah Usery, director of operations for Illinois Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services (BCHFS). The agency began planning for a pregnancy resource clinic more than a year ago, after state lawmakers approved one of the nation’s least restrictive abortion laws. The Reproductive Health Act, passed in Spring 2019, repealed several long-standing restrictions on abortion in Illinois and declared the choice to have an abortion a “fundamental right.”
“We have got to do something to respond to this tragedy in our state,” said Denny Hydrick, executive director of BCHFS. A large part of the answer is GraceHaven—the only clinic of its type in Mt. Vernon.
Educate and equip
Visible from GraceHaven’s front door is another BCHFS ministry, Angels’ Cove Maternity Center. The longstanding outreach to families offers residential care for expecting and new mothers, as well as classes and support.
“We have a footprint here,” said Hydrick, describing the process of determining when and where GraceHaven would open. Plus, leaders of a nearby pregnancy clinic affirmed the need for a facility in Mt. Vernon. BCHFS trustees approved the ministry in July 2019, but the process of finding a building was lengthy. That they ended up here, Hydrick said, “Only God can be given the credit for that.”
In one of GraceHaven’s advocate rooms, Usery describes the intense conversations she expects to happen here once the facility opens. This is where clients will come to discuss test results with a GraceHaven staffer or trained volunteer. This is where they’ll discuss their options.
Usery said 40% of women who go into an abortion clinic are hoping to get more information about the abortion process. GraceHaven will offer an honest description of abortion and its effects, “not with the intent to scare,” she said, “but with the intent to be truthful.” They’ll also discuss adoption and parenting, and point clients to a variety of classes offered at GraceHaven.
For the director of operations, this work is personal. She was born to a 13-year-old in New Orleans before Illinois Baptist Children’s Home facilitated her adoption by John and Linda McNeil. Usery later served as an intern at BCHFS, where she met her husband, Bryan.
Just off of GraceHaven’s lobby is a sunny room full of baby gear, clothes, and books. The Magnolia Boutique is a way to bless expectant parents who earn “magnolia money” by attending parenting classes offered at the clinic. It’s another way to fulfill the mission of equipping and educating everyone who seeks help at GraceHaven.
This is a place where people will be open and receptive to hearing about the hope of Christ, Usery said. “We will be ready for these opportunities.”