Costa Rica (MNN) — Three years ago, the Health Ministry of Costa Rica and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) launched a campaign to curb teen pregnancy.
At the time, the Costa Rican Health Ministry and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) were alarmed that teenage mothers represented 15%-20% of all childbirths in the country, with some 500 babies born to mothers under age 15. The issue, says Melissa Heiland with Beautiful Feet International, “They’ve been so sexualized from a very young age that they don’t know that God has a plan for sex within marriage and that it is His design to be a beautiful thing and not what it so often is.”
Believing that she could be part of the solution, Heiland explains that what “we really try to do is educate the girls, women, and boys, too, to some extent, in terms of abstinence and purity as it relates to their well-being–physically, spiritually, and emotionally.”
Heiland developed a comprehensive educational curriculum for pregnancy centers. Growing Together (comprised of 95 individual lessons) is designed to be used by volunteer counselors as they help clients throughout their pregnancies and beyond.
After extensive training and preparation, the doors of Centro Prenatal Tarcoles opened in 2013. Soon after, they opened another center in Jaco, a popular tourist destination. Then came the third pregnancy center in the capital city of San Jose, Costa Rica. More centers would soon come to Mexico and West Africa.
Women and girls who find themselves in unplanned pregnancies are often afraid and confused. They come to pregnancy centers seeking answers. “What we’re going to deal with is that immediate issue that [the woman] has: the pregnancy, and talking to her, helping her through that pregnancy and part of that is always evangelism and then discipleship,” says Heiland. “When she has that child and her life can be changed, her patterns of behavior and how she raises her child will be different.” Once she starts the process, it’s a nearly 2-year journey BFI walks with her, week by week.
As a result, “Most of our clients do trust Christ as Savior. We do some discipleship with them, but we always encourage them to then get involved with a local church,” Heiland confirms, stressing that none of the pregnancy centers is meant to replace the Church. In fact, Beautiful Feet is more like a gateway. “There are many girls and women that will come to a pregnancy center that wouldn’t come to a church.”
More help is needed. While progress is being made, there are many other life facets that a Beautiful Feet Pregnancy Center addresses through the local church in a community. It’s everything from eye glass clinics to Vacation Bible School. “Pray for God to call people to go and to work. We need more full-time missionaries on the field. We need more part-time missionaries to go, so also pray for that.”
There are two more trips coming up this year to Costa Rica, one in May and the other in late July. Click here for more details on trips for 2016.