I have been wrestling with a couple of questions for the past week or so. Are we issue driven or people driven? Is our work in the life movement focused on how we can programmatically win a debate on the life issue or how we can reach people?

I realize that for some this is just semantics. We fight for the issue of life and we do not apologize for that. I absolutely believe that the life issue is the defining issue of my generation. One, however, can have these opinions and still champion people over issues.

I am simply cautioning us, myself included, to check our motives. Are we so caught up in the issue that we fail to recognize the actual people involved in the issue?

In our work at HOPE, we cannot focus solely on an issue when we have a different patient with a different story stepping in our doors every hour or so. We must be willing to see our patients as people in need of love, service, and care and not simply an issue that can be solved with a creative program.

We are entering into our 20th year as an organization, serving thousands during this time. We have served the young woman, not yet in high school, facing a pregnancy; the young man who just started his college career and now finds his life in disarray as he has contracted an STD; the young college student that realizes that her “friend” has become her rapist as he slipped something into her drink; the heterosexual, the homosexual, the Christian family struggling with infidelity; or the young man struggling with his gender identity.

This only scratches the surface of the different types of people we have seen since 1997. We have programs, policies, and procedures that we adhere to in our work, but these programmatic structures must always recognize the humanness of our patients. We must recognize their stories and meet them there as we serve them and point them to a greater truth.

Many of these patients believe their circumstances define them or determine their identity. We know this to be a false conclusion, but that doesn’t change the reality for a patient who is struggling.

Many of us have issues that move us to get engaged and seek change. I champion this mindset. There are many issues that need addressing in our society. I am simply encouraging us to understand that behind every issue are real people with real needs.

Our advocacy and work in pregnancy centers will go much further when we elevate people over issues. This elevation does not water down our work or our desire to see change in the courts or legislation. This, instead, allows us to recognize the stories and struggles of those we serve and their need of assistance.

This mindset of people over issues will ultimately, I believe, allow us to reach the goals we have all set before us. This will force us to hear people, see people, and love people better as we seek to see life celebrated!

There has been tremendous work done in the life movement from different areas over the years. I am grateful for the consistent advocacy of so many. I would never want to detract from that work, for it is that work that moved me to get involved myself. Great movements, however, must always spend time in reflection and look for ways to be better. Let’s start 2017 off with our eyes not fixed on an issue, but instead on those people directly involved in the issue we care so deeply about.

posted by Andrew Wood, Executive Director of Hope Resource Center