NRL News

This is What 25 Years Spent Saving Lives Looks Like

by | Sep 6, 2018

By Karen Ingle

Editor’s note. My family and I will be on our vacation through September 7. I will occasionally add new items but for the most part we will repost “the best of the best” — the stories our readers have told us they especially liked.

Editor’s note. This is excerpted from a post at Pregnancy Help News and is reposted with permission.

Then and Now: Mom Menzaler and son Keyanu are just two of the many people Robbinsdale Women’s Center has served since 1992.
Photo Courtesy: Robbinsdale Women’s Center

For Nancy Peterson of Robbinsdale, Minnesota, some of the biggest revelations have happened on the sidewalk right outside an abortion clinic.

“I want you to open a place where these girls can go before they come here for an abortion,” Peterson heard an audible voice say. When she realized no one else praying on the sidewalk with her had spoken or heard the words, she knew she’d been given a mandate from God.

And for over 25 years, that mandate to provide an alternative to abortion has guided Robbinsdale Women’s Center, which Peterson and her husband Gordon launched in 1992, directly across the street from Minnesota’s busiest abortion clinic, Robbinsdale Clinic.

Overcoming Obstacles

Today, the Robbinsdale Women’s Center fills two buildings: the center where clients are received (left) and their administrative offices (right).
Photo Courtesy: Robbinsdale Women’s Center

When the abortion facility learned Peterson’s pro-life organization would be renting space within yards of its entrance, it took the pregnancy center to court. However, lacking any legal grounds for preventing the center from opening—or from bearing a similar name—the abortion clinic could only lobby for laws that restricted other pro-life ministries from blocking access to their building.

Robbinsdale Women’s Center launched with very humble means.

“We opened in 1992 with three rooms, a folding table, a telephone, and a couple of folding chairs.” said Peggy Benicke, who volunteered early in the center’s history and became executive director in 2000.

“We didn’t have supporters,” said Joanne Eklund, the center’s operations director. “We really relied on the Lord for every single bill being paid.”

In those early days, Eklund recalled, many churches hesitated to support pregnancy centers, leery of entering the fray of pro-choice and pro-life protests.

In addition to financial strain, the few staff, volunteers, and prayer supporters faced spiritual warfare.

“We had different kinds of opposition, lots of things that could have closed us down,” Eklund said. “But they never did. Steadily we grew into a trusted resource for women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy.”

Six years later, the center was ready to become a permanent fixture in the community. Its growing base of supporters raised enough money for the center to buy their entire three-level West Broadway building outright.

A businessman in the building next door wrote to the property owner, protesting the sale because he associated the center with the protests he had witnessed across the street at the abortion clinic. Despite his protests, Robbinsdale Women’s Center secured their purchase and soon filled all three floors.

Manzaler and her son Keyanu with Peggy Benicke and her husband at the center’s banquet this spring. Keyanu closed the event in prayer.
Photo Courtesy: Robbinsdale Women’s Center

Eventually, after 15 years of praying for still more space, the Robbinsdale Women’s Center bought the businessman’s building, too, thanks to a donation from a faithful supporter that came as a complete surprise.

“A donor came in one day and said he felt called to give big,” Benicke said. “He asked, ‘How can I bless you?’ I told him, ‘See that building next door? We want to buy it.’”

The assessed price, it turned out was exactly the amount he had felt led to give.

Through the matching donation he created, the center purchased the building and paid for all the badly-needed renovations. In April 2016, administrative staff moved into the new building, making space in the original building for twice the number of counseling and ultrasound rooms, as well as offices for client-facing staff, a volunteer coordinator and program manager who run the mentoring and material aid programs. …

Babies All Grown Up

Left: Wynona and her daughter Samantha | Right: Samantha and her daughter Ulani |
Photo Courtesy: Robbinsdale Women’s Center

Over the center’s 25 years, the babies saved in Robbinsdale have moved on toward adulthood. Some of those saved babies now have babies of their own, with more stories to tell.

Years ago a desperate woman named Wynona chose life for her fifth child, thanks to Robbinsdale Women’s Center. Last year, she spoke at the center’s banquet. At her side stood Samantha, that now-grown daughter, who had decided to preserve her own baby’s life when she saw an old newsletter from the center bearing her mother’s photo under the headline: “Your Prayers Saved My Daughter’s Life.”

Another former client named Manzaler has served a term on the board of directors. And another saved baby, Ariana, grew up to get married to a man who tearfully told Benicke, “Thanks for being there. If it weren’t for Robbinsdale Women’s Center, I would never have met the love of my life—or the son that we’re expecting soon.”

Left: Ariana as a young girl with her mother, Stephanie | Right: Peggy Benicke with Ariana and Stephanie at Ariana’s baby shower
Photo Courtesy: Robbinsdale Women’s Center