NOTE: Daniel and Kelly speak to this question on Episode #15 of The Abel Speaks Podcast. You can listen on Apple, Spotify, or your app of choice.
This phrase is becoming, in a lot of ways, kind of a slogan and a rally cry for us. If you’ve logged onto our website or attended our benefit concert last fall, you’re sure to have seen this three word slogan: Support Changes Stories. We believe that because we have seen it to be true.
It would sometimes be communicated to us that someone personally (or they knew someone close who) chose to carry a child with a life-limiting diagnosis and they regretted that decision and wished they would have terminated; it was a horrible experience for them. Over the years we’ve heard that in a variety of ways and it was heartbreaking that that was that woman’s (and family’s) experience. We’ve had the privilege of walking with over 145 families and we have been able to see that as people feel supported and not alone, they can have a lot of joy amidst the sorrow and suffering that comes with this journey.
As we continued to talk internally and externally with other people, “support changes stories” kind of became a mantra of ours. We have seen that as people feel supported and cared for, it really does change the trajectory of their story. When someone knows they have people in their corner, they no longer feel like they’re walking through this alone or in isolation.
A common question that comes up as people ask about Abel Speaks and our mission is: What are the ways that you support families? And to that response, another common rally cry comes up—we are rooted in relationships. These ideas are connected and, as an organization, we have said that’s where we’re going to drop anchor. We are going to try to help in a number of tangible ways and come alongside to serve families, but ultimately we’re rooted in relationships.
We believe that God’s people are a provision for us; that community is a provision for us. And through one another, it is how we are cared for, loved, supported and not alone. We feel seen, we feel heard, and we feel known—all through interacting and engaging with one another. We’ve seen the power of relationships and how one’s story does change when someone feels supported by other people. Those relationships look a myriad of ways through the ministry, but one of the main avenues in which we provide that relationship is through a mentor couple.
Initially reflecting back on our journey with Abel, we will always remember where we were sitting and who was sitting with us. We met with another couple and they didn’t say, “Hi, we’re your mentor couple.” It was just friends of friends that had walked a similar road. Getting to hear them share their hearts and experience and reflect upon their time with their daughter, Ava, created a new category in our minds of what this journey with Abel Speaks could look like. Unapologetic and not sugarcoating it, they recognized that was the most difficult thing they’ve ever walked through and not something they thought would be a part of their story. And yet, at the same time, they can say that they can look back on their time with their little girl with no regrets. They loved getting to know her, getting to meet and hold her and when they speak her name, it is primarily positive emotions that come to their minds and hearts, not the negative ones. The heart heavy ones are there and always will be, though.
We have had the honor of being in that mentor-type role for over 100 families at this point. There’s something powerful and palpable about sitting across the table from people, or even across the computer screen nowadays, who can say, “Me too. I remember that.” And so for that reason, out of the services we provide, we don’t know if there is a more valuable one than the mentor couple. We feel so passionately about it as a role and as a service because it extends and embodies the whole mission of the ministry. We are rooted in relationships because we believe that that kind of personalized and authentic relational support truly changes people’s stories.
One of the sweetest things that we’ve been privileged to see is the response we’ve had from some medical providers who’ve cared for the families that we’ve walked with. To hear them say, “Oh, I can see the difference in how this family is navigating this. Walking into that hospital room, there is true joy in their child’s life and it feels like sacred ground.” To hear a provider say that about the families that we’ve been honored to serve, and them being able to notice the difference between that family and maybe another family that wasn’t as supported, speaks to the power of having people around us that are loving us and walking with us so that we don’t feel so alone and isolated.
We have been able to step into the role of mentor couple and we are now having the honor to train and raise up additional mentor couples—families that we walked with 2-3 years ago are now getting to do exactly what we’ve been doing. The fruit that comes from these relationships, and what we felt when we were the recipients and walked away from those conversations with Abel, is feeling hopeful, comforted, refreshed, and equipped in different ways that we didn’t even know we needed and ultimately feeling like we were not alone.
So if that is you, and you are in that place, we would encourage you to reach out to Abel Speaks today and we would love to come alongside your family in that very same way.