by Rachel Johnson
I love the verse in Proverbs 27 that says “as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Wonderfully Made women fit the bill – they create networks of support for one another, hold each other accountable to living their dreams, and encourage one another to accomplish their goals. I asked former Spotlight Sister, Meg Bourne, to recommend a friend for a future blog post. She had many to name, among them Melissa Smith. Though Meg and Melissa use their different strengths to benefit different causes, their friendship reminded me of how thankful I am for communities of women that never cease to lift each other up. So here we have the lovely Melissa – read on to learn about her involvement with LifeChoices.
Q: Melissa, we’re excited to feature you in our Spotlight Series. You work for LifeChoices, a medical clinic and resource center. Tell us about LifeChoices and what differentiates your organization from a crisis counseling facility.
LifeChoices Medical Clinic has been serving the sexual health needs of women and men in the tri-state region for over 20 years. We offer an array of services, such as referrals for material and emotional needs, lay counseling, ultrasound scanning, and the most comprehensive STI testing and treatment of any non-profit clinic. Outside of the medical realm of the clinic, we have prevention and aftercare services and resources including a 10-day program for sixth through ninth graders and free parenting and life skills classes.
Q: Give us the details about the program that you specifically run, Connection Institute. Explain the Human Connection Project and tell us how it relates to LifeChoice’s work.
Connection Institute is the prevention arm of our organization. This 10-day program geared towards sixth through ninth graders teaches students medically accurate and age appropriate material that will empower them to make healthier choices regarding dating, love, and sex. Last year we saw over 7,800 students in this program from 12 different school districts. The idea is to get teens thinking and talking about their current and future relationships, and to encourage them to have honest conversations with their parents. This is a vital part of the ministry of LifeChoices.
Q: Give us some information about LifeVoices. How are Biblical messages infused with LifeVoices’ teachings, and how does this impact LifeChoices’ work?
We are first and foremost a medical clinic and resource center but all staff members, contractual educators, and volunteers are Christians who have a passion for those who enter through our doors. We strive to meet the client’s social, physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual needs. To lead a client to the Lord would be our ultimate goal, but we meet people where they are currently and we encourage them, speak truth to them, and pray for them.
Q: What inspires you to do the work you do?
Changing lives is what I am all about. Above all, I am doing it for Kingdom growth and glory. I know many people whose lives have been ruined from unhealthy sexual relationships and I want to help prevent the problems they face. I want to educate and inspire the youth of this generation to know their worth and value.
Q: How did you get into this line of work? Was this your anticipated career path or were you expecting to do something else?
I have no idea how I stumbled into this line of work, to be honest, but I have always had a passion for people. After my sophomore year in college, I spent the summer in Cambodia with Rapha House. While I was there, I was able to love on girls between the ages of four and 18. All of them had been rescued from human trafficking. There was something impactful about seeing these girls finding their true identity in Christ and learning they could be set free from the chains that kept them emotionally and spiritually bonded. Witnessing this inspired me to tell others about their situations and experiences.
I struggled to determine how I could make an impact on behalf of those struggling with a sexual crisis. It was then that I heard about LifeChoices. I joined the LifeChoices team one year ago and I am now able to prevent sexual crises in my own community. I hope that by educating young now, they will make healthier, wiser decisions in the future that will change the culture of the next generation. I never saw God putting me in this particular career path but I have never regretted it.
Q: What has been the most difficult challenge you’ve faced in your work with LifeChoices? What growth did you experience by overcoming that obstacle?
From working with Rapha House in Cambodia, God prepared me for my time at LifeChoices. He prepared my heart to hear stories from the clients we see daily. The one thing that never changes, no matter the non-profit or ministry I have come across, is this: You cannot help, change, or fix everyone. You can only meet them where they are, give them the resources they need, speak truth in love, and pray for them. That is the one obstacle that always tugs at my heartstrings.
Q: How has your job with LifeChoices shaped your faith?
I have learned a deeper meaning of grace. I have a bigger heart for the underdogs of the world. I have a greater love for the Lord and for His ability to design each person so wonderfully and uniquely.
Q: What advice do you have for readers who are interested in getting into a similar line of work?
Pray. Pray for yourself to be mentally, physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually ready for the battlefield ahead of you. Laugh. Don’t forget to take care of yourself and have a little fun. Rest. Know your limits and know when to say no. Dream. Don’t be afraid to dream for yourself and others in ways that only God can fulfill and give you strength to accomplish. Believe. Know this: God doesn’t necessarily call the equipped; He equips the called. So believe that and trust in Him.