I’ve been really encouraged by the response to our change in the name of the clinics of First Image from Pregnancy Resource Center to Ava Health. It’s a significant change, so, understandably, people have questions. We’ve addressed most of these in our frequently asked questions. There is one question, though, that I wanted to take some extra time to speak to.

For those I’ve had the chance to process this change with, the most common question I get is some version of this: is First Image still committed to keeping the Gospel at the center of our work?

First, I’m really grateful this is the thing our supporters are most concerned about. As a Christian ministry, nothing more important to us than Jesus being at the center of the work. One of our three core values is Jesus-Centered Transformation. The Good News about the work Jesus has done in his life, death, and resurrection and the resulting vision of new life, forgiveness, and the restoration of all things in King Jesus is the beating heart of our work. The centrality of the Gospel has always been part of our DNA, and that’s not changing. It’s how we operate as a staff, make decisions, and it’s the driving “why” behind everything we do in our clinics.

A History of Change

The pregnancy center movement has been changing its strategies since its earliest days. Different models have emerged over time, and the more than 3,000 pregnancy centers across the country choose to focus on different approaches depending on their unique location, capacities, and what they’ve discerned about how God is leading them. Technology changes, culture changes, and methods change to effectively reach the people we are called to serve. That kind of change is constant.

What doesn’t, and shouldn’t change, is our motivation. If that changes, we are in mission drift.

This is our mission statement: At First Image, we are compelled by the love of Jesus Christ to empower those facing an unexpected pregnancy to make life-affirming choices by offering compassionate care, information, and medically professional pregnancy and women’s health services.

For us, it all begins with a gospel motivation. We are compelled by the love of Jesus Christ. This is our unchanging “why”, and it’s not something we have any interest in hiding.

Beyond that, the “why” and the “how” should be in sync. That means each new thing we do, change, upgrade, or adjust, needs to be done thoughtfully, and with prayerful discernment, ensuring that it stays aligned with our mission, especially our core commitment to the Gospel.

Intentional and Effective

As we have been implementing some new approaches, our conversations have been about how we can be more effective and intentional with the Gospel, not less. We believe every person we serve needs care for their whole person, including their spiritual life. This is healthcare as it should be.

That means we are trying to be transparent with patients about who we are and develop longer-term approaches to opening opportunities for the Gospel with the people we serve.

The vast majority of our patients have no spiritual background. This reality is different from some other parts of the country. We have found that handing them a tract or just offering a 1-minute gospel presentation without context is not the best stewardship of the Gospel or our patients. It might make us feel better, but it doesn’t always help them enter a relationship with Jesus.

What we try to do is open a spiritual conversation, get a sense of where they are at, give them a sense of who we are, and then invite continued connection and conversation about Jesus as we follow up with our patients and offer longer-term supportive care. It’s never coercive, and we will go with them as far as they want to go with us.

To be clear, this isn’t too different from what we have been doing for many years. The main difference is that we’re working to become more intentional in the spiritual side of our follow-up. You may be surprised to learn that spiritual support is something that, in surveys, most of our patients also tell us they want. It’s amazing what happens when we simply ask the deeper questions, open space for conversation, and give the Spirit room to work.

Our Commitment

This is our commitment, to continue to let the Spirit work among us and our patients. Our why will remain constant, as we expand services, upgrade our clinical practices, change a name, or do anything else we do. Jesus is our motivation, the start and finish of our work.

We hope and pray that lives are saved and transformed through the life-affirming work of our pregnancy clinics in greater Portland. We pray that each person who walks through our doors feels the love and care of Jesus from each of our staff and volunteers. We pray that God opens the door to Gospel conversations that bear eternal fruit.

Pray also for us as we seek to be faithful to the Good News about Jesus, and do our work with the life of Christ at the very center.