Now to the Redemption Story

Pam Pennell, Post Abortion Teaching and Healing (P.A.T.H.) Program Facilitator

April is Abortion Recovery month, and I would like to share my abortion and recovery story.

As I write this, I’m 30-something thousand feet in the air on a plane. What better than to write my story?

In 1994 I was in a relationship that was abusive, had a 7-month-old little girl, and found out that I was pregnant again. I was scared and didn’t know what to do. I knew abortion was wrong, but how could I bring another child into the mess that was already my life?

I chose abortion as my out and to make my life easier.

I didn’t tell my boyfriend at the time that I was pregnant or that I was having an abortion. The morning of my abortion, my boss drove me to the local OB gynecologist and The nurse walked me downstairs to where they do sonograms, I put a gown on, they gave me some meds and said they would make me weepy. And boy were they right. I cried the whole time.

After it was over, I went home, rested and went on with my life.

Now to the redemption story.

Sanctity of Human Life Sunday is in January and the director for then CareNet came to my church to speak about the Center and all that it does for the women of our community. At the end of her presentation, she expressed the need for volunteers.

I felt a nudge from God saying you can do this. I was very apprehensive about it volunteering because of my past abortion experience, but I filled out a volunteer application and went to meet with the Director.

In meeting, I learned that in order to be a volunteer at the center I needed to do a bible study on abortion called Forgiven and Set Free. I needed my own healing before I could talk with other women who are either abortion minded or have had an abortion.

I was scared and nervous to tell my story. To reveal my “secret” was something I definitely did not want to do.

The other women in the group were loving and supporting. Sharing their own stories helped me to share mine. I knew I was forgiven for my choice to have an abortion, however whenever the topic of abortion was brought up in church, still I felt shame and judgement even though no one knew about my abortion.

The bible study showed me that not only am I forgiven from my choice to have an abortion, but also that there is redemption. I ended that study feeling no more shame and judgment, like a weight that I carried for a very long time had been lifted.

God has now opened a door for me to facilitate our Post Abortion Teaching and Healing ministry. I am beyond blessed and thankful for God’s forgiveness and his never-ending redeeming love for me.

**If you or someone you know would like to speak with someone about their abortion story, pray, or begin to process emotions following an abortion, contact Pam at Path@branchesprc.com or by calling 802-254-6734.**


Knowing about God through His Wise Ordinances

Chris Schmidt, Board Member

“The LORD by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding He established the heavens” (Proverbs 3:19)

It would be foolish to spend any amount of time, talent and money building something that didn’t work. We expect everything to work as it should! Imagine the mayhem of trying to survive where everything behaved randomly and chaotically! Imagine having body organs that would erratically malfunction or become diseased at any moment, or using machines that would breakdown for no good reason, or attempting to grow food crops that would inexplicably turn poisonous, or coping with the sun arbitrarily moving too close or too far from us, or dealing with an aimlessly changing force of gravity? Happily, things don’t behave haphazardly in our world!

It is very easy to take our world for granted, but, if it wasn’t for the continuously dependable behaviors of everything in it, we would cease to exist. Think of these routine behaviors that we hardly ever think about but rely on – the sun’s nuclear fusion of hydrogen, our planet’s unceasing rotation and revolution movements, the dependable cycling of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, oxygen, carbon dioxide and water, the photosynthesis reactions in plants and the thousands of critical biochemical and enzyme reactions happening in our cells every second.

Our lives are sustained by the reliable behaviors of everything in and around us. This is because everything in the universe is endowed with specific behavioral attributes which all work in synchrony to produce a planet vibrant for life.

The Universe’s Precision and Balance for the Existence of Life

Isaiah penned a landmark principle about the creation.  “For thus says the LORD, Who created the heavens, Who is God, Who formed the earth and made it, Who has established it, Who did not create it in vain, Who formed it to be inhabited . . .”  (Isaiah 45:18).  The Holy Spirit made sure that we understood that there was a definite purpose behind the creation of our wonderful world.  It had not come in existence by some random accident but was deliberately created for us so that we could not only survive but thrive!  Even unbelievers have noticed this.

In 1973, astrophysicist Dr. Brandon Carter, an unbeliever, “delivered a paper called ‘Large Number of Coincidences and the Anthropic Principle in Cosmology.’  Dr. Carter coined the phrase ‘anthropic principle,’ derived from the Greek word anthropos, which means ‘man.’  Dr. Carter proposed an extraordinary theory; that the only rational way to explain the fact that the Universe existed as it does, with an incredibly precise balance between all of the multitude of forces including gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong nuclear force that made our Universe possible, can only be explained if they were fine-tuned in such a precise manner to allow human life to exist on Earth” (Creation by Grant Jeffrey).

Dr. Carter and other scientists have discovered dozens of fundamental entities that are so vital, so finely tuned and balanced that just one or two minor tweaks of difference would destroy all life forms forever.  Other examples include the existence and balance of hydrogen, oxygen, carbon and water, the unique properties of water, the vital nutrients in topsoil, the sizes of the sun and earth, the distance of the earth from the sun, the 23 degree inclination of the earth, the rotational speed of earth, the stabilizing effect of our moon, the 19 fundamental physical constants such as the speed of light and the four fundamental forces in the universe (the strong force, the weak force, the electromagnetic force and the gravitational force).

Even agnostic astronomer Robert Jastrow sees this purposeful precision in our world. He wrote, “Thus according to the physicist and the astronomer, it appears that the universe was constructed within very narrow limits, in such a way that man could dwell in it.  It is the most theistic* result ever to come out of science, in my view” (The Intellectuals Speak Out about God).  *belief in God

The Lord’s Ordinances

Scientists have since discovered things that were first described by God in His Word.  Everything He creates runs in a precise, orderly fashion as Christian astrophysicist Jason Lisle explains. “The universe obeys certain rules—laws to which all things must adhere. These laws are precise, and many of them are mathematical in nature . . . Natural laws exist because the universe has a Creator God who is logical and has imposed order on His universe, (Genesis 1:1) . . . Everything in the universe, every plant and animal, every rock, every particle of matter or light wave, is bound by laws which it has no choice but to obey . . . God’s logic is built into the universe, and so the universe is not haphazard or arbitrary” (God and Natural Law).

Science, then, is all about discovering the properties and behaviors of everything created by our very wise God.  As Christian hydrologist Henry Morris and his son, Henry Morris III explain, “Science seeks to understand and describe the nature of the universe and all its components, the processes that take therein, the nature of life and all living creatures, and especially the character and meaning of human life”  (Many Infallible Proofs).

It is not surprising, then, that scientists have discovered dozens upon dozens of laws, rules, regulations, codes and conventions of conduct that govern the activities of all the entities of the universe.  The Bible describes these natural laws as ordinances, “the ordinances of heaven and earth” (Jeremiah 33:25).  The word ordinance means something ordered, decreed, prescribed or appointed and includes statutes, laws, and enactments.  There are dozens of ordinances affecting the fields of biology, genetics, geology, hydrology, meteorology, astronomy, horology and physics described in the Bible (see appendix)

Lessons about God from His Wise Ordinances

God provides us with the knowledge of His beneficial ordinances controlling the universe to reveal His wisdom, care and lovingkindnesses.  One example of His use of these ordinances was during His personal interactions with Job.  When Job questioned the purposefulness of life, including his own existence and God’s actions, God responded with examples of His wisdom, care and sovereign control over all things in chapters 38-41 in the book of Job.  God’s lessons included His brilliance in forming earth and controlling all of its components (including the oceans, day and night, the weather and every celestial body) and caring for all creatures.

Bible teacher Theodore Epp discusses God’s lessons for Job. “God’s first question begins with the earth, man’s dwelling place.  Does Job know the history of this own abode?  Where was he when the Great Architect laid the foundations?  These were not placed upon shifting sands or sold rock but in empty space where there is apparent nothingness.  Where are these foundations?  Present-day knowledge talks learnedly about nebulas and the solar system and of the attraction of the law of gravity . . . Men speak knowingly of the laws of cohesion and of chemical affinity so that the particles of the earth cleave together.  These things science tells us as it speaks of the laws of nature, but we must remember that where there are laws there has to be a lawgiver. Who established these laws?  How is it they act so unfailingly?  . . . Yet where can the laws of nature lead us but back to God Himself?  . . . As far as the physical world and its laws and its foundation are concerned they all go back to God Himself.  He has made certain laws by which the earth hangs in space . . . God has so devised nature that an honest examination of it will cause us to look beyond it to Him” (Job, a Man Tried as Gold).

God’s Wise Ordinances Reveal a Personal God

This is the perfect place to complete the passage from Isaiah 45:18 for it reads, “For thus says the LORD, Who created the heavens, Who is God, Who formed the earth and made it, Who has established it, Who did not create it in vain, Who formed it to be inhabited: “I am the LORD, and there is no other.  Pondering the wonders of our world is a worthy enterprise but could result in one being blinded to the ultimate purpose behind them.  Their marvels should lead us to our Marvelous Maker!  The study of creation should lead us to discover more about our personal, relatable Creator who says, “I am the LORD, and there is no other.” 

Paul ties together creation and the Creator so well in his writings.  He encouraged the Colossian church to always link every aspect of creation with our Creator. They are never to be divorced from one another.  He wrote, “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. (Colossians 1:16, 17).”  The word ‘’consist” means stand together.  So, Jesus Christ not only established everything, He personally ensures that everything remains functionally united.  He does all this through His ordinances.

Theologian John Frame details this a bit more. “So the biblical view of the natural world is intensely personalistic.  Natural events come from God, the personal Lord . . .  the idea that there is some impersonal mechanism called ‘nature’ or ‘natural law’ that governs the universe is absent from the Bible.  So is the notion of an ultimate ‘randomness,’ as postulated by some exponents of quantum mechanics . . . It is plain that in the view of the biblical writers any impersonal objects or forces (gravity, electricity) are only secondary causes of the course of nature.  Behind them, as behind the rain and the hail, behind even the apparent randomness of events, stand the personal God, who controls all things by His powerful word.” (The Doctrine of God)

God can be Found and Known!

By taking time out to ponder our world and noticing its purposeful, life-sustaining precision of all things, we will discover a caring Creator God.  The apostle Paul pointed this out when he spoke to the leaders of Athens.  He directed these men to look at the big picture and they would see a wise Maker and Manager, controlling everything for mankind’s benefit.  But, more so, He can be personally found and known! 

“Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.  Therefore . . . Him I proclaim to you: God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth . . .  since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being . . .” (Acts 17:22-28).

Do you see our Lord’s personal touch in your life?  Have you found Him?  Do you know Him?  You can!   

Appendix of “the ordinances of heaven and earth” (Jeremiah 33:25)


  • Celestial Lights for Time & Night: Gen. 1:14-18
  • Constellations Described: Job 9:9, 38:31, 32
  • Different Star Energies & Accountability: 1 Cor. 15:41, Is. 40:26
  • Earth Floats in Space: Job 26:7
  • Incalculable Number of Stars: Gen. 22:17, Jer. 33:22, 25, Heb. 11:12
  • Ordinances of the Heavens & Their Rule Over Earth: Job 38:33
  • Precision or Orbits: Jeremiah 31:35-37
  • Size of the Universe: Job 9:8, 22:12, Is. 55:9, Jer. 31:37
  • Sun has a Circuit: Ps. 19:6
  • Sun’s Brilliance: Job 37:21
  • Universe Expanding: Job 9:8, 37:18, Ps. 104:2, Is. 40:22, Jer. 51:15, Zech. 12:1


  • Animal Instincts: Job 39, Prov. 6:6-8, 30:24-28, Jer. 8:7
  • Anthropic Principle: Is. 45:18
  • Biogenesis: Gen. 1:11, 12, 21, 22, 24, 25
  • Blood Circulation for Life: Lev. 17:11, 14
  • Care of All Creatures: Job 38:39 – 41:34, Ps. 147:9
  • Chemical Nature of Man: Gen. 2:7, 3:19
  • Embryonic Development: Job 10:8, 31:15, Ps. 139:13-16, Ecc. 11:5
  • Everyone Related from One Blood: Acts 17:26
  • Man as Highest Creature: Gen. 1:26-28
  • Medicines: Ez. 47:12
  • Origin of Death: Ez. 18:20, Rom. 6:23
  • Origin of Different Peoples: Gen. 11
  • Origin of Food: Gen. 1:29, 30, Ps. 104:14-15
  • Origin of Sexes: Gen. 1:27, 2:21-23
  • Personhood in Utero: Ps. 139:13-16, Jer. 1:5


  • Different Flesh: 1 Cor. 15:39
  • Like Kinds: Gen. 1:11-12, 21-22, 24-25, 29, 3:20, James 3:12
  • Seeds: Gen. 1:11, 12, 29, 1 Cor. 15:36-38


  • Catastrophism & Fossils: Gen. 7:11, 19-23, Job 14:18, Ps. 104:6-8, Amos 9:6, 2 Pet. 3:5-6
  • Earth is Round: Job 8:27, 26:10, Is. 40:22
  • Earth Rotation: Job 38:12-14, Lk. 17:34-36
  • Erosion & Run-off: Job 14:18-19, 28:10, 38:25
  • Glacial Period: Job 37:10, 38:29-30
  • Isostasy: Ps. 104:5-9, Is. 40:12
  • Nature of Ice: Job 38:29-30
  • Original One Land Mass: Gen. 1:9
  • Sea Mountains: Jonah 2:5-6
  • Uniformitarianism: 2 Pet. 3:4


  • Origin of Day, Night & the Week: Gen. 1:3-5, 14-18, 2:1-2, Job 38:12-14
  • Origin or Months: 1 Sam. 20:5, 1 Kings 8:2
  • Origin of Seasons & Year: Gen. 1:14. Ps. 104:19
  • Origin of Time: Gen. 1:1, Jn. 1:1


  • Evaporation: Ps. 135:7, Jer. 10:13
  • Ice Floats: Job 38:30
  • Ocean Currents: Ps. 8:8
  • Ocean Limits & Beaches: Job 8:29, 38:8, 10-11, Ps. 33:7, Jer. 5:22
  • Sea Springs: Job 38:16
  • Water Cycle: Job 26:8, 28:26, 36:27-28, 37:11-12, 16, 38:22, 26-29, 34, 37-38, Ps. 33:7, 65:9-10, 104:13, 147:8, 16-17, 148:4, Ecc. 1:7, Is. 40:12, 55:10, Jer. 10:13, Amos 9:6, Heb, 6:7, James 5:7


  • Air Has Weight: Job 28:25
  • Origin of Lightning, Thunder & Wind: Job 28:26, 38:24-25, 35, Ps. 135:7, 147:18, Jer. 10:13
  • Protective Atmosphere: Is. 40:22
  • Rainbow Origin: Gen. 9:13-16
  • Wind Circuits: Ecc. 1:6


  • Atomic Fission: 2 Pet. 3:10-12
  • Creation Stopped (Law of Conservation of Mass & Energy): Gen. 2:1-3, Ecc. 1:9-10, 3:14-15, Is. 40:26, Neh. 9:6, Col. 1:17, Heb. 1:3, James 1:17, 2 Pet. 3:4, 7
  • Diffusion of Light: Job 38:24
  • Energy Source: Gen. 1:16-17, Ps. 19:4-6
  • Entropy Increases: Gen. 3:17-19. Ps. 102:25-26, Is. 51:6, Rom. 8:20-22, Heb. 1:11-12
  • Fundamental Forces: Col. 1:17, Heb. 1:3
  • Gravity: Job 26:7, 38:4-6
  • Three Dimensional Universe: Gen. 1:1-3

Seeing Through God’s Lens

Laura Lewis, Relationship Education Program

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” John 1:1,14 (NKJV).

Things aren’t always what they seem, and God tells us in Isaiah 55:8 and 9 that His ways are not our ways. When Christ was born Israel was looking for a political Messiah, someone to free them from Roman rule, but God had a different plan. When questioned by Pilate before his crucifixion, Jesus tells him that His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). While man was looking for political freedom, a temporary freedom. God was offering them something better. Spiritual freedom, an eternal freedom.

Jesus wasn’t born in a palace surrounded by Israel’s most important celebrities. He wasn’t even born in an inn. No, he was born in a stable, surrounded by shepherds. Philippians 2:5-8 says: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”

It is so easy as humans to look at people and circumstances from a surface lens, instead of investigating deeper and seeing things from God’s eternal perspective. When Samuel went to Jesse’s house to anoint the next king, at first he was looking at the physical appearance, and the Lord responds to this, “[T]he Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (I Samuel 16:7b).

In this season, I have felt a strong conviction and deep desire to look beyond the
outward appearance and demeanor and see people the way God sees them. It seems like every conversation I have had with believers lately, and even situations God has been putting me in, has convicted me that it is crucial that I look at people and really see them from God’s perspective, and in every situation I need to be motivated by the love of God.

In response to Pharisees criticizing Him for eating with the tax collectors and sinners, Jesus retorts, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17, NIV). In 1 Corinthians 1:27, we see that God has chosen the foolish and weak things of this world. Jesus came to show us the Father (John 14:9), and He came “to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10).

This Christmas as we reflect on the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ may we have a greater understanding of His Love and His heart for the lost. As we start the New Year, may it be our resolution to co-labor with Christ (I Corinthians 3:9) and see each person from His perspective.



Jan Coplan, Board Member

“And it’s a boy!”

These words warmed me to my core as I stood outside on that cold, raw and rainy November afternoon. If you live in New England, you know the kind of day and how bleak it can be. The weather personified my weary soul that had been struggling through three years of infertility and coming to terms with what it means to surrender your plans to God’s will. My husband’s voice full of excitement, spilled out the details about the young birthmother who had chosen our profile (a lengthy personal story of our lives required as part of the adoption process). This young woman, just twenty two years old, wanted to meet us and see if we were a match for the baby in her womb due in just two weeks.

As my husband shared the “too good to be true” details I felt myself stiffen and put up a wall of protection. Would this, like infertility, be yet another shattered dream? But, when he said, “and it’s a boy”, that wall crumbled down like a crashing wave. His words were the answer to the quiet wish of my heart to parent a boy.

When my husband and I joined the ranks of numerous couples seeking to adopt I acutely became aware of folks like us who longed to be parents. They too were living with a void in their hearts and homes. Many of them had been waiting for years to have their profile chosen, to feel worthy and capable. My heart ached for these people, and I began to wonder, “Do mothers with unplanned pregnancies know about them?” It was here I began to see the answer to my cry that my suffering not be in vain but for God’s glory. My pro-life beliefs began to take root.

The next chapter in our story of becoming parents was a roller coaster ride of emotions, as many adoption processes can be. Four days after his birth we brought our son, who we named Eldie Isaac, home to live with us. Our Coplan family was complete. As portrayed in the Old Testament account of Abraham’s faith demonstrated when asked to sacrifice his son Isaac, our faith in the Lord required a similar surrender (although not as extreme). From the day we left the hospital to the finalization of our adoption we were called to relinquish our cherished dreams of parenting Eldie to God’s will for him and for our newly bonded family.

I’d like to explore the notion of the ~unexpected~. If we believe God ordains our lives and knows every detail, what does unexpected mean to the believer? How do we come alongside people in our lives when things happen that they did not expect or plan? Do we courageously claim Jeremiah 29:11 that our sovereign God knows the plan He has for his children, and it is not disaster?

Let’s consider Jeremiah 17:7-8.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”

How do we relinquish control to God and trust in Him even when our circumstances do not make sense to us? I clung to Jeremiah 17:7 when I grappled with this question. I longed from childhood to be married and have a family yet did not meet my husband until my forties and did not became a mom until I was 45. However, I now sing to the Lord a new song (Psalm 96:1) of his abundant blessings and acknowledge that His ways are higher than my ways (Isiah 55:8-9).

I prayed in my time of suffering that it would be used for the benefit of building God’s kingdom and comforting others. After seven months of clinging to the Lord our adoption was finalized. Eldie will be ten on December 1st. God has used our story to witness to both Christians and Non-Christians.

As a newly elected member of the Branches Board of Directors my latest prayer is that my experience in becoming an adoptive mother may be used to minister to an overwhelmed pregnant mom or a couple that faces a pregnancy they did not plan. If a couple is considering placing their baby up for adoption, might I be given the chance to share how choosing adoption, making that selfless choice, has brought abundant joy into my life? And the lives of many adoptive parents?

Our omnipotent Lord knows how He will use me. As David proclaims in Psalm 40 – God has given me an open ear, put His law within my heart and a delight to do His will. I now speak of his faithfulness. When we embrace the unexpected in our life, we enable Him to shower us with gifts.

As we enter this sacred Christmas season of giving and boldly celebrate November as Adoption Awareness Month I ask you to prayerfully consider how can you prepare your heart for the unexpected gifts that may appear as a trial. Can you share this perspective with a troubled friend?

Eldie Isaac is a thriving fourth grader. His warm spirit and dimpled smile continue to break down walls of protection in my heart. He loves basketball, baseball, and golf. More importantly, he can confidently speak about how God chose him to be our son and the selfless decision of his birth mom. He was born just eight days after my birthday and twenty-four days before Christmas. His birth was the best gift I have ever received, coming into my life for the first time on a cold, raw and rainy day, completely unexpected.



Photo by Ann H on Pexels.com

Liz Burns, Executive Director

I was speaking with a group of ladies recently about the felt reality of Romans
8:22-23 that reads: “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”

When we look around at the world surrounding us, we are truly groaning – and sometimes not just inwardly.

Sin, suffering, desperation, grief that will keep you on your knees. Read any article headline, listen to any media channel or just walk around and take note of actions, conversations or signs hanging in our community. There’s no denying that we see a clear and dividing line between the world’s definition and value of life, and God’s. While the gospel reveals a Savior who lays down his life for those who ran from him, abortion reveals humans extinguishing a life that we were meant to love and protect.

And while we are seeing abortion rates decreasing annually in the US (glory to God!), the fight for abundant life is not over. We still have plenty of work ahead of us when, according Guttemacher’s statistics, 1 in 4 women has had an abortion by the time that she is 45.

Let’s sit with that statistic for a moment. Burdensome, grievous, heartbreaking.

And yet I looked around the room at our Annual Fundraising Banquet and was also encouraged! The sheer number of individuals sitting in the room demonstrated that God is stirring within his people a desire to continue to fight, unified as ONE BODY, in the wholehearted fight for all of life.

All stages, all seasons, all people, all of life.

What we know to be true is that of those women who have had an abortion, an alarming majority have done so out of the belief that there is no other option for them. They are scared, possibly being pressured to make this decision and have countless questions swirling around in their minds.

That is why this ministry is vital.

Vital in supporting the woman or couple coming in to take a free pregnancy test in a safe and non-judgmental space where they can hear of their options and ask some of those swirling questions. Vital in supporting both mothers and fathers in their efforts to parent their children in a healthy manner. Vital in working alongside DCF to support parents seeking to learn, grow and be reunified with their children. Vital in providing free resources such as diapers, wipes, formula and gently used clothing to our community. Vital in educating teens on healthy relationships, leadership skills and boundaries to help them make informed decisions in their youth. And vital in providing a safe space for women (and Lord willing one day, men as well) to make those beginning steps toward healing as they process through emotions, questions and pains after having had an abortion.

At the beginning of the year, I felt that the Lord had brought me to a fervent prayer that the ministry that takes place in and through Branches would continue to be a wholehearted pursuit. Wholehearted in our seeking after the Lord both individually and together, and wholehearted in serving our clients unto the praise and the glory of His name!

And what I mean in wholehearted in serving our clients, I mean that we are looking at the whole person and the whole heart that stands, sits or walks in our midst. A person with a heart that was fearfully and wonderfully created by God to worship him with their whole heart.

One of the largest blessings of serving at Branches is that God has knit together a
beautiful family. A family who gathers under the truth mentioned in John 15:5 “I [Jesus] am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

I think often of Psalm 51 and how this Psalm highlights the prayer for God to create within us a clean heart and right spirit according to his steadfast love and abundant mercy in the forgiveness of our sins. In verses 15-17, David says “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

Let this truth draw you nearer with confidence to the throne of God. What God requires is that we come. Come with our whole heart and full assurance of his whole provision for all that we need to walk with him. And spoiler alert – He’s already given us EVERYTHING that we need for life and for godliness in the gift of his Son Jesus!

For every believer, God has given us a task at hand while we await the second coming of Jesus. Remember that Romans 8 groaning?

We, as the recipients of the ministry of reconciliation have been, by God’s grace, given the call to participate with the Lord in the ministry of reconciliation. We are therefore called ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us!

One faithful step of obedience to what God has called you to put your hands to the plow to TODAY could mean that you were able to play a part in preserving a life! This should make us encouraged!

It can often times feel overwhelming when we look at abortion as a whole and the very fact that it exists that we become cripple to how we can play a part in
eradicating it. But what if each day we took the time to truly engage with those around us in our regular rhythms of life?

When a coworker comes into work distressed, would you pray with them? When you encounter a woman in the community, whether it be in downtown Brattleboro,
at the grocery store, or even your favorite waitress at the restaurant that your family frequents every Friday night, who could be helped by the ministry of Branches, would you share about the services that are offered and offer to pray with her? If a friend comes to you after a Sunday service and confides in you that his girlfriend or wife is pregnant and he is worried that he won’t be able to be the father that he’d like to be for his child, would you share about services that are offered at Branches and offer to pray with him?

Jesus saw the masses through the few, and I think we can take courage in that. We pray for eyes to see the opportunities around us and we proclaim the Truth.


Compassion First

Patti Noyes, Parenting Instructor

What to write? 

When asked to write this article I thought, “Okay, how hard can it be?” Well, my brain has come up with a couple of thoughts but nothing that really seemed earth shattering. 

But think about it…life is generally not earth shattering.

I’ve been a pastor’s wife since 1972. Yes, I’m old. To say that life has been busy, complicated at times, sad, hard, but rewarding is a given. But to say because I’m a pastor’s wife it’s any easier to live a consistent Christian life would be a mistake. 

I’ve had it said to me, “It’s easier for you to be a Christian because people expect you to be spiritual.”  Sorry…but that’s not true. 

I struggle, as we all do, to share my faith, live consistently, keep my cool, etc. Just like you. Something the Lord has taught me is that He doesn’t want me to be “over-the-top”. He wants me to be real, honest, and vulnerable.  Of course, the Lord is working in my life and changing those areas that need changing. 

This summer we put our camper in a campground as a seasonal. That means we can go camping whenever we want. And yes, we do almost every week, even for just a couple of days. Very relaxing.

There are a couple of other Christians there that would like to see us change our site because the area we are in can be rather “rowdy”. We aren’t moving because we have already made some inroads into friendships with the neighboring campers. Yes, they know who we are, and they seem to have accepted us anyway. In order for us to share our faith we need to first be friendly and open. 

1 Peter 3:15-16 talks about living an example before others. Letting them see the truth but doing so in love and kindness. Colossians 3:12-13 talks about being a friend, showing kindness and love. This verse is referring to other Christians but can also refer to the unsaved. 

Yes, you can approach a complete stranger and bring up the gospel and have it received well. But in life we are more apt to share our faith with those who are constantly around us. The repair man, the mechanic, your favorite waitress, your neighbor, doctor, etc. Think about all those around you and how you interact with them. Are you thinking about them in light of sharing your faith and showing them God’s love?

Working at Branches has shown me that these women and men need our love and compassion first. Then we can share the gospel. They need to be comfortable enough to know that we will be honest and trustworthy with what we share with them. So, when we do share the gospel with them, they will be more apt to hear what we are saying. We need to show them that knowing Christ is as natural to our life as having breakfast. 

We can all be effective, vibrant, caring examples to those who need the Lord. We can also be a strong support for other believers who struggle, feel they aren’t making a difference, and just need “their arms raised” in support to make it through the battle. 

No matter where we’re at in life and faith, we just need to be real, honest, and vulnerable where we are and trust the Lord with the outcome.


Running Well

David LeBlanc, Fatherhood Program Lead

As I sit down to write this it is mid-June, and I am in the midst of my busy season at work. To state the matter like this is a bit of an understatement. I am actually in the midst of one of my busiest seasons of life. A season that started when I became a husband and father. A season that got more complicated with starting a business and serving in ministry as much as possible. A season that is not ending anytime soon but is the greatest and most rich season of my life. God has been so kind to me and sustained me so far in all these things.

As one who has a proclivity to “burnout” for never stopping, the Lord has been teaching me a lot about how His kingdom works in this area. Often showing me a better way after I foolishly exhaust myself doing a myriad of good things, but not taking time for the best! Weariness, deep soul exhaustion is not going to be fixed by a long weekend. It will take more than that, for weariness is one of the weapons Satan uses to kick us when we are down. Yet if we learn from Jesus, who is “gentle and humble of heart” (Matt. 11:29), we will find rest for our souls.

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

In the opening verse, Paul is reminding the Galatians of the need to “not grow weary.” I have often read that verse and passed over it as mere godly advice to one serving the Lord, until I grew weary! You see weariness grows! This is key in understanding Paul’s encouragement. It places the source of our weariness not merely in the external factors of serving in and standing up against the tidal wave of evil, but also on neglecting our spirit. Certainly, this can take its toll, yet I would argue from personal experience in the trenches, the weariness that weakens is the atrophy of the “inner man.” You see our opportunity to do good is not the result of evil and injurious circumstances, but because of them! In the day of adversity and evil, God’s people have tremendous opportunity to sow to the Spirit and reap a harvest.

The cause of our weariness is a growing neglect of our inner life and soul before our God!

It is very easy to look at our surroundings today and feel despair, a sense that would lead us to believe that “doing good” is not good enough. It would be wise to mention that doing good as we individually define it is not going to do much. The good we must be about is Gospel good, our Father’s business in the sphere of influence and opportunity He has placed before us. Certainly, doing good is not a generic “niceness,” but a bold and courageous witness to the truth of God’s saving work through Jesus and how this “good news” can make all things new!

Yet we grow weary…

The rest of the verse helps us in our plight, “we shall reap if we do not give up.” Great news! But how do we not “grow weary,” which leads to the temptation to give up in the first place? As mentioned in 1 Cor. 15:58, if we are going to be people that are “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord,” knowing that our labor is “not vain in the Lord,” we need to appropriate our victory daily and continuously in Jesus from Jesus!

To jars of clay Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4: 16-18, “For this cause we do not faint; but though our outward man perishes, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.  For the lightness of our present affliction works out for us a far more excellent weight of glory, we not considering the things which are seen, but the things which are not eternal seen; for the things which are seen are not lasting, but the things which are not seen are everlasting.”

We must have our “inner man” renewed day by day.

Some thoughts on renewal from the position of learning from Jesus:

  1. We need to be daily renewed, not just weekly, monthly, or once in a while. Daily abiding is the secret to sustainable and fruitful service. We can really do nothing eternal apart from Jesus! We need to love this, embrace this, and believe this. Without this our inner man will have no power.
  2. We need to understand that external trials and pressures work with and for us a people of God and not against us. Everything the world, the flesh and the devil mean for evil, God is using for our good and His glory. In all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him.
  3. We need to play the game to win, not to not lose. Many Christians are content with playing it safe and just holding on by the skin of their teeth. God has better, blood-bought assurance and victory that we are to work from. We war from victory not for it. The posture of our hearts should be to set forth rooted in Jesus anywhere and everywhere He has placed us!

In Luke 5 Jesus meets Peter for the first time on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus is teaching the crowds, and Peter is coming in from a long unproductive night of fishing. Suddenly, Jesus steps into Peter’s boat and continues to teach the people. He then asks Peter, the professional fisherman, to put out into deep water and let down his nets for a catch.

Peter puts up a little fuss but puts out anyway and finds the greatest catch of his life. When he gets back on shore, he leaves everything to follow Jesus.

I have been reflecting on this in my own life. Many times, life can feel like a long unproductive night of fishing, working hard and catching nothing, until Jesus commands our cast! You see what rejoiced Peter in his spiritual infancy was the great catch, yet I think what put joy in Jesus’ heart was to see Peter launch out when he was dead tired, a little grumpy and feeling like a failure. The posture of the disciple’s heart, the attitude that brings Jesus joy, is not trying to quantify and control the fruit of our fishing but instead the continuous cultivation of a spirit, that at the command of Jesus, sets their boat out into deep waters expecting the Lord to perform a miracle!!


By the Sound of His Voice

Jackie Plunske, Marketing Team Lead

When I was young my dad brought me to a beautiful field on the edge of a forest he often visited. It was quite a trek through the woods, but eventually you stepped out onto a small cliff overlooking a sunny meadow with lovely little towns and hills in the distance.

Many years later, I remembered that day with a sentimental fondness and thought I would like to revisit it. I had no idea how to get to the field because we took a series of connecting trails and it had simply been too long for me to remember. But still, I longed to at least see the trees.

As I took my first steps onto the path, a refreshing peace filled my spirit. I walked along the trail just to see what I could see, but unexpectedly, I felt an urge from the Holy Spirit to take a left, so I took a left. I walked on, and once again, I felt Him urge me to turn. This time cutting off the trail and through the forest, so I did. I eventually came to another trail, and He continued to send me this way and that. So on and so forth, He led me. I had never had such a concentrated lesson in listening to His voice. It was beautiful.

Suddenly, I could see a clearing up ahead. Could it be? Yes, He had brought me to that spectacular meadow I had once visited so long ago. I couldn’t believe it… I sat in awe and thanks for many moments as I breathed in the view.

He had led me, and not just by showing me how I had traveled before. He led me on totally different paths, even asking me to cut off the trail and follow paths I hadn’t walked before. I had no idea where I was at any point along the way, but with His voice to cling to, I could never be lost.

I was opened up to a new understanding of just how much God was willing to softly enter my everyday moments. A new revelation of how specifically He could guide me caused me to bring Him specific questions and, often, get specific answers. He tells us, if we are seeking, we will find Him and if we desire something, to ask Him (Matthew 7:7). In His majesty, He has chosen to kneel down next to us, caring about what we care about, feeling what we feel and gently guiding us through this journey called life. He turns fears into adventure and aloneness into peace.

He longs to cure every hope, question, or fear inside of us. What is your question or fear? What lonely place can He sit in with you? For with His guiding voice, the scenery may change, the way may look different, but that’s okay. One only has to know how to get there by the sound of His voice.


Be A Doer

Andrew George, Board Treasurer

Romans 12:1 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” (KJV)

James 1:22 “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only. ” (KJV)

I’ve had the great opportunity to serve in ministry in a few different capacities over the years. However, the last 2-3 years may be some of my favorite ones. The Lord has opened doors and opportunities that I would not have imagined. God cleared a path for me to join the Board of Directors at Branches, which has been an amazing time of service. He has also provided me with small discipleship groups to be a part of. All of these came about once I stopped trying to “force” what I thought God was asking or calling me to do. And what it took was to fully surrender my body as that living sacrifice.

These two verses for me have been commonplace in my life. The words made sense, I took them at face value. “Ya, I get it – be actionable for God, don’t just go through the motions.” But in saying that, I really was just going through the motions. We are called to “present our bodies.” This is so much deeper than what it initially appears. For my whole life I viewed Romans 12:1 as a directive to make sure I did not “desecrate” the body which God gave me – which is important. However, I missed the mark on the deeper meaning that Paul was talking about.

God wants you, all of you – all of the time. This is getting to the heart of his message here. It has been a call this entire time; and I missed it. We are called to live a life completely for God. There is a physical, surface level component in this verse; however, the spiritual aspect is so much bigger. God wants me, He wants you! Not just our work. I need to ensure that I am giving Him myself, wholly and alive.

I am so glad that God led me down the path of small group discipleship. It has been a very long time, if ever, that I’ve allowed myself to be spiritually vulnerable to others—but that is part of offering our bodies for His calling. “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend (Prov 27:17).” By acting and doing, engaging in discipleship, we are working to make our spiritual bodies more acceptable to Christ. And in the process of this discipleship, we are aiding our brothers and sisters in that same manner. Encouragement, accountability and teaching, these are just some of the many outputs we can achieve from the intimacy of our small group—especially if we allow ourselves to be spiritually (and emotionally) vulnerable. But remember, we are to sharpen each other!

“A living sacrifice” aren’t just words in the text. As I sat and reflected on this, I realized the importance of the living sacrifice. I am supposed to be bringing myself alive “spiritually” to the altar of God. I am to live a life of worship and service in accordance with God’s Word.  During these opportunities of service on the Board in addition to deeper study in my small groups, I realized that there were parts of life that I was only a hearer of the Word, deceiving myself. This is my reasonable service to God. This is a constant and continuous life of service.

Sit back, reflect, and ask yourself, “Have I been fully giving myself to God”. I wasn’t. I clearly had more to give, more to learn, and still have much more growing to do. “How can I be a doer?” “In what ways can I partner with God in sharpening a brother and sister?” It’s our reasonable service.


Just Get Started

Maria Thompson, Events Team

I’m struggling writing this post. I’m mainly struggling to write this because I’ve been approaching it with some vague expectation of receiving a burning bush moment from God about EXACTLY what he wants me to put out there. Some new, supernaturally revelatory, yet gritty, down to earth, and refreshingly relevant nugget of wisdom. Instead, I will share a couple points on what God has been, ever so gently, leading me by the nose to lately. And if he speaks to you through them, awesome! If, after reading, you merely come out of it knowing me a little bit better, then great!

Hi! My name is Maria. 😊

Don’t Martha It, Maria

“But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.’” Luke 10:41-42 (ESV)

My family are doers. Midwest, farm stock, Scot/Irish/English/German, don’t-think-too-highly-of-yourself doers. We don’t need to be in the forefront. Just tell us what needs to get done and we’ll make it happen, and leave the place looking better than we found it. Much of my childhood was spent setting up or breaking down a church gathering or family event of some sort. During and after college, when I entered the culinary world, I did much of the same. When I moved to Vermont it was probably less than 3 weeks before I had gotten myself involved in putting on a banquet at church, and only 3 months before I signed on to volunteer with Branches! Events and dinners and hospitality – these have always been my way of giving of what I have to honor God and build up his family, and they are good things! The problem, as with our dear sister Martha in the Scriptures, is that over and over again I have let the business of hospitality become a hindrance to sitting at my Master’s feet.

This is not a humble brag. You know, like answering “What’s your greatest weakness” in a job interview with “Oh, I’m just TOO much of a perfectionist.” For myself, it’s the reality. I’ve spent a huge portion of my life as a believer in Christ living out my walk with food and service instead of faith and seeking. The Spirit has been gracious to me lately. He has given me eyes to see when I’m idolizing productivity, or hiding from God behind it, and wisdom to know when to say no to the commitments he’s not asking me to make.

Just Get Started, Maria

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.” Lamentations 3:21-25 (ESV)

When I did finally come around to taking full responsibility for my own relationship with Christ, I found myself floundering. I found myself struggling to break through the familiar and grasp the big picture. I threw my hands up in defeat. “There’s so much that I should already know – how am I supposed to catch up?”

In college I would put off completing papers and assignments and procrastinate like crazy when I was unsure how to get started. I made excuses and sought out distractions time and time again. In my “finest” hour, I stayed up until 3am, fueled by a half a pot of coffee and a Mellow Yellow. All to write what was a very bad speech due at 9:00 the next morning. That went about as well as you can imagine. It never failed, though, that when I would just jump right into the writing process the words would flow, the ideas would take shape, the conclusions would follow. Things started to make sense as soon as I just GOT STARTED.  

The Lord brought this familiar truth to mind recently when I was stressing about having an incomplete picture of the Scriptures, and the doubts and insecurities that come with that. He assured me that I’m not required to have a handle on the whole story before I study it, but to simply dive in and submerge myself in the truth and goodness of Scripture. He’s been abundantly faithful to meet me in my asking, seeking, and knocking.

In the off chance that something here was exactly what you needed to be reminded of today, then praise God for all the perfectly imperfect ways he reveals himself to us daily! I am learning with you that when we are caught in procrastination, distraction, or the busyness of life, He tenderly invites us to “get started.” Even when we cannot bring praise to our mouths, the rocks around us and all of creation will sing the praise of His glorious name (Luke 19:40).


All in God’s Timing

Pastor Derek Irvine, Board Vice President
Associate Pastor at Vernon Advent Christian Church

My family and I have lived in the area for six years. We moved here from the mountains of Virginia after serving at a wonderful church for the previous five years. My wife and I, both from New England, are enjoying being back and serving the Lord here where the Gospel is needed so desperately. Over the years, I became acquainted with the work of Branches through our church’s partnership with, and support of, the Center. I attended the banquets and participated in the annual baby bottle drives. Last year I was given the opportunity to join the board. I consider it a privilege to serve the Lord, and the community, in this capacity.

Recently, in a Bible Study that I help lead, we came across Matthew 15:21-28 and the story of the faith of the Canaanite Woman.  In the story, Jesus and his disciples leave the area of Galilee and travel to the district of Tyre and Sidon for what seems to be a time of rest and to get away from the crowds. A “retreat” if you will, for Tyre and Sidon are both located on the Mediterranean Sea! When they arrive, a woman approaches Jesus and cries out to him in desperation, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon (vs. 22, ESV).” Through her persistence, Jesus commends her faith and heals her daughter.

Now, there is a lot we could glean from this text regarding persistence in prayer and crying out to Lord in our time of need. Or even the fact that we find another instance where Jesus has recognized the faith of a Gentile and shown her mercy revealing to us His message of the Kingdom was not just for the Jews. What struck me the most from this story was God’s timing.

Timing is a funny thing. Too often we go throughout our day performing seemingly mundane tasks without giving any thought to the fact that God has ordered our steps (Ps. 37:23) and is using everything, both good and bad, to bring about His glorious plan of redemption (Rom. 8:28). The amazing thing to me about this passage is this woman, who lived 40 miles from the regions in which Jesus was teaching and performing miracles, recognized Jesus as the Messiah, referred to him as “Son of David,” and knew that he could heal her daughter.  This suggests that at some point in her past, either she or somebody she knew, had seen Jesus or had heard about him. And now, in her time of need, Jesus “just so happens” to show up in her hometown. We refer to times such as these as God appointments; times when God orchestrates events in our lives in such a way that we are led to encounters with Jesus. I’m sure we can all think back on our lives and find times when God ordered our steps, lead us to himself, and continued to grow us in our relationships with Jesus.

There is truth to the saying, “Timing is everything.” As a matter of fact, I was first asked to consider joining the board of Branches a few years ago, but the “timing wasn’t right.”  And now, here I am with the opportunity to serve the Lord in this wonderful way.  What about you? What has God been putting on your heart lately that you put off the first time because the “timing wasn’t right?” Or maybe, like the Canaanite woman, God has been leading you to this very moment, putting the right people on your path, to encounter Jesus and step out in faith with him. Either way, it’s all in God’s timing.