ARKADELPHIA – Gayla Parker’s resume boasts some incredible things: an International Mission Board (IMB) missionary, Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) executive director for the Baptist Convention of Maryland and Delaware, women’s leadership trainer for LifeWay Christian Resources and author.
In the process of receiving her doctorate from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, Parker is adding one more role to her resume – executive director of the Pregnancy Resource Center for Southwest Arkansas (PRCSA).
“I was raised by a single teen mom who could have made a different decision,” said Parker. “But she didn’t.”
While leading a conference for LifeWay’s Women’s Forum several years ago, a woman approached Parker and shared her abortion story. The woman and her family had just moved to Michigan when the woman found out she was pregnant with her fourth child. Her husband threatened divorce if she did not have an abortion. With no friends in Michigan to support her, she did it and her husband still left her.
“As she told her story, she cried as if it were yesterday,” said Parker. It had been 23 years since the abortion. “She said, ‘If there had just been one person to stand with me.’
“Those words haunted me, and I knew if God ever opened a door to be a part of that ministry, I would walk through it,” said Parker.
Parker began working in the field of pregnancy resource centers with the Arkansas Baptist State Convention as a consultant. She came into contact with Beverly Hankins, the founder of PRCSA.
“She had done an amazing job of getting the center started on a firm foundation,” said Parker. “I know the center is secure and ready for the next step.”
According to Parker, the PRCSA is in a “unique” location with the two universities in Arkadelphia – Ouachita Baptist University and Henderson State University.
“The girls at these schools are the age in which so many unplanned pregnancies happen,” said Parker. “We are here to help them.”
The PRCSA offers free pregnancy testing, parenting classes and adoption counseling if that is being considered for women. The center has partnered with a local OB/GYN who does free ultrasounds. Fatherhood classes are given to men. Pre-marital counseling is offered if couples are choosing life and make the decision to get married.
“We hope to eventually add to the services we offer by providing classes such as budgeting, nutrition, cooking and more,” said Parker. “We also hope to one day become a medical resource center, providing ultrasounds on-site.”
The PRCSA patterns with Lighthouse Ministries, a ministry of the Red River Baptist Association in Arkadelphia. The center purchases baby supplies and parenting class materials through annual fundraising events and donations given by churches and individuals. The PRCSA then supplies Lighthouse Ministries with baby supplies like diapers and wet wipes. When a mom attends an hour-long parenting class, she earns credit at Lighthouse to purchase baby items.
“Without our supporters, our ministry would not be possible,” said Parker.
For Parker, the ministry isn’t just for saving babies but also for saving women.
“When counseling an abortion-minded girl, our hope is to move her past the panic an unplanned pregnancy can bring to a place where she is able to look forward with a more positive outlook,” said Parker. “Every day we can postpone an abortion decision is a day closer to saving lives. Time moves her past the panic.
“Even though pregnancy resource centers are trying to save babies, we are also trying to save women,” Parker continued. “Statistically, women who have an abortion will battle depression and post-traumatic stress syndrome the rest of her life.”
According to Parker, pregnancy resource centers lead to better communities.
“Pregnancy resource centers impact the community by providing resources that lead to healthy families,” said Parker. “Healthy families give into a community rather than take from a community.”
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