Last week I posted a brief overview of what Sufficient Grace Ministries is about.
Today, I have president and founder Kelly Gerken here to tell us more about how Sufficient Grace Ministries came into being, what they offer to those in need, and how you can help.
GW: Kelly, what inspired you to launch this ministry?
Kelly: In 1996, I lost identical twin daughters, Faith and Grace to twin-to- twin transfusion syndrome. Faith and Grace were born still at 26 1/2 weeks gestation. We had a 2 year old son at the time.
Our next pregnancy, we were apprehensive and hopeful. We held our breath until the ultrasound at the mid-way mark. Instead of relief, we were met with a devastating diagnosis. We were told our baby, a son, had a fatal condition known as Potter’s Syndrome (low amniotic fluid, kidneys do not develop, lungs do not adequately function). The doctor used the words “incompatible with life” to describe the condition. We chose to continue the pregnancy, despite the diagnosis, trusting God to carry Thomas and our family through that time…praying for a miracle and planning a funeral.
When we met our Thomas, born full term, it was evident that God’s sufficient grace was there. I was blessed among women that day, as I sang to my sweet baby boy as he went straight from my arms to the arms of Jesus, six hours after his birth. It was among the best moments of my life.
We have two living (on earth) children, 19 and 12. You can read more of our family’s story of beauty from ashes here.
Eight years later, in 2004, a friend of mine lost her daughter and I was looking for a memory book to give her. I realized there was not an adequate book to say a treasured life had been here…a place for the parents to record all the dreams they had for their child, and the details about the baby’s life, to write letters to the baby, and place keepsakes like footprints and handprints. So we created one. Included in the book are beautiful poems about the hope of heaven, and comforting scripture. We named the book Dreams of You because that is what a family loses when they say goodbye to their baby…a lifetime of dreams. That was the beginning of our efforts to reach out to grieving families, when we formed Sufficient Grace Ministries.
GW: What did you do to get through your own loss?
Kelly: I clung to my bible and poured my heart out to close friends. God’s word was literally my sustaining manna, everyday. I clung to the promises, even as I stumbled and struggled through. God used the lives of my precious children to teach me about what it really looks like to be carried by grace and that faith isn’t about not feeling doubt or fear. It’s about trusting God anyway, when you’re most afraid and filled with doubt or questions, when the answer isn’t what you hoped for or what there seems to be no answer at all. I learned about the gift of believing God without seeing. It is easy to praise God when we get the physical answer this side of heaven. And, we should praise Him. But, He is still worthy of our praise when the miracle is an eternal one. A healed marriage, a life restored, a soul saved, a broken body made whole in glory – those are all miracles worthy of our praise.
GW: What types of services and products does Sufficient Grace provide?
Kelly: Sufficient Grace Ministries offers an entire line of Dreams of You materials designed to help families who lose a baby at any age, from conception to toddlerhood. We offer the Dreams of You Memory Book, as described above for babies older than 20 weeks, a Dreams of You Memory Book for babies lost prior to 20 weeks, a beautiful ivory, soft fleece, 18 inch handmade Comfort Bear to ease a mother’s aching arms, and also beloved by siblings grieving a brother or sister. Special gowns and wraps for babies of all sizes, even those who can fit in the palm of your hand. Matching mommy and baby bracelets, and Teeny Tears diapers.
Recently, SGM expanded to offer perinatal hospice and bereavement Services for families receiving a fatal diagnosis in pregnancy. Because every life matters, we are here to answer questions and offer in-person support (or for families not local to Ohio, phone and/or online support) from the time of diagnosis to birth, loss, and beyond.
We also offer support from trained volunteers (several who have received SBD birth and bereavement doula certification), with 24-hour availability who will attend the birth, supporting the parents and help foster bonding and memory-making during baby’s brief life, to help treasure the memories through bereavement photography from trained volunteers, and training for hospital staff in compassionate care for babies with brief lives, understanding the bereaved parent’s perspective, the importance of making lasting and tangible memories with baby, and the role of the caregiver in supporting bereaved parents.
GW: You have also started Walking with You, an online support outreach. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Kelly: The concept of Walking With You began several years ago, on the Sufficient Grace Blog. The idea was to share a weekly topic relevant to the loss of a baby or child on our blog, and have other moms link up posts on the same topic. We would tell a piece of our sacred journey each week, and in so doing, moms would gather to encourage each other from many different places on this walk, some seasoned mothers who have gleaned wisdom along the way and others new to this rocky walk. Our goal was that mothers would know they were not alone and to offer a safe haven for them to share their babies and their stories. There is healing in telling each part of the story, and healing in gathering together in a safe place. At SGM, we want to equip families to grieve with hope. We still blog every once in awhile on the topics which can be found on this link.
We also meet the first Monday of each month at 7 pm in person at the SGM facility, and we have added a Walking With You Facebook group for parents to encourage one another in that forum more frequently.
GW: You are a certified SBD birth and bereavement doula. What does a birth and bereavement doula do?
Kelly: Doula is actually a term found in biblical times. At SGM, we love Thayer’s definition:
Thayer’s definition for the Greek word doulos (doula) ~ one who gives himself up to another’s will, those whose service is used by Christ in extending and advancing his cause among men, devoted to another to the disregard of one’s own interests, a servant, attendant.
At SGM, we send our perinatal hospice support volunteers to stillbirthday.com to become certified birth and bereavement doulas.
Some expectations of an SGM/SBD Birth and Bereavement Doula:
- Come alongside grieving parents in various settings: in person, on the telephone, online, at a hospital, birthing center, in a doctor’s office, and at the SGM office.
- Understand and adhere to the philosophy of care as outlined by SGM and perinatal hospice.
- Help families who receive a fatal diagnosis in pregnancy form a birth plan, help communicate their birth plan to others involved in their care, and help implement the plan according to the family’s wishes.
- Offer encouragement, support, and a listening ear.
- Foster a gentle, non-judgmental environment that helps parents experience their story, their way, creating the most optimal experience possible under the circumstances.
- Support the idea that they have a gift of time with their child and have the opportunity to embrace his/her life for as long as they are given.
- Compile and offer bereavement support services and memory-making items (SGM offers an array of suitable items for this purpose. A wealth of resources are available for the doula/support staff through SGM here.
GW: For those who have found themselves in such a place as this, how do they go about receiving help from Sufficient Grace?
Kelly: You can find a wealth of information and resources about the products and services we offer at SGM on our website: www.sufficientgraceministries.org. To place a request for materials, you can fill out a form on the Dreams of You Shop link. Parents are never asked to pay for our products or services. We provide them free of charge to families. You can also email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org. We are on Facebook and Twitter as well.
GW: What are the needs of the ministry and how can others help?
Kelly: Our outreach is worldwide. We ship more than 400 Dreams of You packages all over the world every year! So, we are always in need of donations. While we do not charge families for our products or services, it costs SGM about $50-$60 per family to provide materials, and $150 per family to provide in person services. We are also in need of supplies for Comfort Bears, office supplies, shipping supplies, resource books and volunteers to sew and crochet items. You can find a list of ways to donate specific items to donate here.
Also, because the need to offer comfort and hope to bereaved parents is so big, and this work is very sacred for those who serve at Sufficient Grace, we very much covet your prayers.
Thank you so much for allowing us to share about this work so close to our hearts. Blessings and Grace to all.
GW: Thank you for sharing what you do, Kelly!