Getting pregnant at 15 hadn’t been part of Anong’s plans. The young Thai teenager ran away from home to live with her boyfriend’s family, and though they helped a little, the young couple still felt at a loss about how to navigate their situation.
What hospital should she go to? How would she get insurance? How would she take care of a child? Questions like these piled up and threatened to overwhelm Anong.
Should she just abort? That would be easier, she confided in a friend.
Months before Anong’s dilemma, International Mission Board missionary Beth Hipps began building a network of believers and healthcare professionals in Chiang Mai, Thailand, who desired to walk alongside those experiencing unexpected pregnancies.
One of those believers heard Anong’s story and called Hipps.
“Can you come help her?” Hipps remembers hearing through the phone. All she could think was that Anong was the same age as her own daughter.
That day, Hipps and her believing partner were able to take Anong to a clinic for an ultrasound. Over the next few weeks, they talked through her questions and problems and helped her see she wouldn’t be alone if she decided to give birth.
‘Equip and empower’
Four months later, Anong gave birth to a healthy baby girl. As she settled into motherhood, she continued to have support from Hipps and other believers. She heard the gospel and knew her family was prayed for.
This was a life-changing experience, not only for Anong and her family but also for Hipps. She’d been praying and hoping to establish Chiang Mai’s first crisis pregnancy center but had no idea how to start outside of building a network of connections.
Working with Anong clarified for Hipps that helping didn’t have to be complicated. More than anything, those in crisis needed prayer, support and encouragement.
Now, several years later, Hipps has helped found a crisis pregnancy center called the ELM Pregnancy Center that has seven care teams throughout Thailand.
These teams show pregnant women and teens what their alternative options are while walking alongside them, step by step, so that they have support at each stage of the pregnancy and for up to two years after the child is born. Care teams help women get ultrasounds and prenatal checkups. They teach them using a booklet that explains what they’ll face during each trimester and how their babies are developing. This information gives women knowledge on how to prepare and what to expect in that phase of pregnancy. Care teams, made up only of believers, also seek opportunities to share their testimonies and the gospel.
“We want to equip and empower women to choose life,” Hipps said.
ELM is filling a crucial role that is necessary in Thailand, now more than ever, by meeting the physical and, most importantly, spiritual needs of pregnant women. In recent years, Thailand decriminalized abortion, and in 2022 the country expanded abortion access from 12 weeks up to the 20th week of pregnancy. ELM’s ministry meets a need for a specific and overlooked community and provides another alternative to pro-choice organizations with strong influence in the country.
Additionally, in a culture where shame is the driving force behind people’s decisions, abortion tends to be the go-to option for women who see their pregnancy as a mistake. Their only goal is to get rid of the shame before anyone knows about it, and as a result, many women, Christians included, are ignorant to the realities of abortion.
ELM seeks to not only care for pregnant women but also to educate Thais about the growth and development of babies in the womb, so they truly understand the blessing it is. Though the challenges are great, Hipps is hopeful they are slowly making progress.
“We are, I believe, on the cusp of writing the pro-life narrative in Thailand,” Hipps said.
She said her favorite part over the years has been to see how lives, including hers, have been changed by God’s incredible provision every step of the way. From graphic designers when the center needed a logo, to doctors for the women in need, and most recently a physical space for the center to meet in, God has never failed to meet their needs.
“I think that part is the best,” Hipps said, “to see how God transforms lives, not only of unplanned pregnant women but women who are just willing to answer the call.”
Pray for Hipps and the rest of the believers who partner with the ELM Pregnancy Center to have unity, wisdom and love as they serve women in need. Pray for hearts to be open and more lives to be transformed through this ministry.