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LifePlan is the 2022 Hope Awards grand prize winner

The pregnancy center in Michigan ministers to mothers in crisis

Rachonda Perrone browses through clothing in the baby boutique at the LifePlan office in Benton Harbor, Mich. Genesis Photos/Photo by Darrell Goemaat

LifePlan is the 2022 Hope Awards grand prize winner

About three months after my first day at WORLD, I boarded a plane for Atlanta, the first leg of a trip that would first take me to a homeless shelter and then a residential addiction rehab program in Huntsville, Ala. It was the first of several trips last spring to visit seven organizations fighting poverty across the country—programs that don’t stop at good intentions and bread lines. WORLD highlights ministries that embody key principles to break the cycle of poverty instead of shifting Christ’s call to care for the poor to the shoulders of government.

I took off from the airport in Austin, Texas, inexperienced and unsure of what lay ahead and came back with powerful stories of how God is using ordinary, obedient people to build his kingdom—work that is often unglamorous and discouraging. John Padula, director of Set Apart, and his family host nearly 70 people every week for a potluck and worship in the basement of their home in Post Falls, Idaho. Tom Reynolds has walked with many men through drug relapses at His Way, a Christian recovery center in Huntsville, Ala. LifePlan Executive Director Lyndon Azcuna rarely sees more than a few men show up for counseling in Niles, Mich., but that doesn’t stop him.

The most important principle I looked for was that they must be gospel-centered. We can complete all the right steps, but if our hearts aren’t transformed by grace, nothing really changes. We are still stuck in spiritual poverty. Our four finalists are unashamed to declare our need for Christ’s redemptive work in our hearts and in the world. From New Mexico to Idaho they challenged me to ask: What does it look like not just to live out but to proclaim the gospel in my own community?

Richard Escobar, a graduate of Next Step in Albuquerque, N.M.—a home for men transitioning from rehab or prison—summed it up well: “There was nothing outside of Jesus Christ and Him crucified that could help me. It had to be the power of the gospel. The programs that stick to that are what give me and other men a chance.”

In April, I drove up East Main Street in Niles, Mich., to a small, sage-green pregnancy center. LifePlan puts into practice another key principle of effective compassion: affiliation. Poverty is not just material. It is relational. Effective compassion strengthens an individual’s ties to his community and his family. This struck me anew when LifePlan Director of Operations Katrina Patrice quoted the very last verse in the Old Testament,“He will turn the hearts of fathers to their children,”—a prophecy of the coming Messiah (Malachi 4:6).

Fast forward a couple of months, I was sitting at my kitchen counter, waiting for the coffee to finish dripping while I refreshed Twitter. There was the notification: The U.S. Constitution does not confer a right to abortion, according to the Supreme Court. Minutes later, reactions flooded my feed, many of them accusing Christians of lacking compassion for women and children out of the womb.

Our 2022 Hope Awards winner, LifePlan pregnancy care center, our other three finalists, and each ministry WORLD has profiled since 2006 testify against this narrative. For centuries, Christians have fed and clothed the orphan, built hospitals for the sick, and provided work to the unemployed. No matter the news, we will continue to do so.

LifePlan received the most votes in our audience poll and earns the $10,000 grand prize, while the other three finalists received $2,000 each.

Addie Offereins

Addie is a WORLD reporter who often writes about poverty fighting and immigration. She is a graduate of Westmont College and the World Journalism Institute. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband, Ben.

You sure do come up with exciting stuff to read, know, and talk about. —Chad

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