Renfroe Stepping Up as Choices Director

Story by Angie Self

Faith is all about taking a risk and letting God work in His timeline and not our own, says Christy Renfroe, new executive director of Choices Pregnancy Resource Clinic, Inc. In a year that marks the 40th anniversary of the legalization of abortion in America, Mrs. Renfroe will use her love and trust in The Lord to lead the agency in its efforts to save lives and change futures.

Her passion for the program has blossomed over the past eight years since she began volunteering with the agency, says Sherry Berger, who retired from the position.

“To me, this is confirmation that Christy is a right fit for the task,” Mrs. Berger said. “Part of my ease in leaving comes because of her. I would have been a little uneasy if we had hired someone new. She and I have worked side by side, and I have seen her go through some difficult times in her life and handled them so well.”

A native of the Arkansas River Valley, Mrs. Renfroe started volunteering at the clinic a few nights a week when she was a public school teacher. She was involved when the agency changed from a center to a clinic and is familiar with what happened during that process. During this time, the thrift store was also organized as well as the “Bottles for Babies” campaign to raise funds for the agency.

“I trained to work with clients, and that was certainly where my heart was for the program,” Mrs. Renfroe recalls. “I have a heart for sharing my testimony with them, helping them grow through their situation and transitioning to the role of a mother, many who are becoming one for the first time.”

Through her connections as a school teacher, Mrs. Renfroe helped develop the Abstinence Program of the clinic that was presented at area schools including Russellville, Dardanelle and Dover. She continued this program for several years until she became a mother herself and had to limit some of her work with the agency. She continued as a client advocate for Choices PRC during this time.

“Sherry has been such a mentor for me over the years and am so grateful to have worked with her,” Mrs. Renfroe said. “She has worked tirelessly throughout 2012 to make the transition smooth and make sure staffing for the agency was adequate before she left.”

Mrs. Renfroe recalls a time when she was fairly new to the agency that Mrs. Berger gave her some advice that stuck with her and made a lasting impression on her life — one that she can share with clients.

“I was single at the time and was really going through a growth process to find out who I was with God and know his plan for relationships,” Mrs. Renfroe said. “I was a Christian and knew what God said about relationships but also knew what the world was saying about relationships. That’s when Sherry told me that I would know I had met the right person for my life when I would fall in love with him spiritually first, before the emotional or physical. I knew from that point on that I had to seriously trust God and step out in faith to let Him make the connections in my life. Before, it had always been me seeking and trying to find someone to date. The biggest thing I learned was what unconditional love meant with my relationship with God. Then, I had to know that God had a mate picked out for me, and I didn’t have to go looking for Mr. Right.”

As she grew in her relationship with the Lord, God brought Travis Renfroe into her life, she said. The two met at a Monday night Bible class and spent their first few dates developing a spiritual intimacy before speaking of marriage.

“I knew when I met him that this was who God planned for me to marry, but we grew in our relationship as fellow Christians before we fell in love emotionally,” Mrs. Renfroe explained. She uses what she learned during this time in her life about accepting herself as God’s daughter, made in His image, to talk with clients who come in to the clinic with deep hurts.

“It is awesome to talk with clients about how God is not going to fail them or hurt them,” said Mrs. Renfroe. “I can talk to them about what unconditional love looks like and how God can fill that void of wanting to be loved. We don’t have to work so hard and strive for perfection with God. A cherishing relationship is so much better than infatuation.”

Mrs. Berger shared with Mrs. Renfroe last February that she had a date in mind for retiring by the end of the year. Before Mrs. Renfroe made it out of the parking lot, she knew it was time to step forward and take the director’s position. She had been approached by Mrs. Berger a few years ago about taking the position, but had a complicated pregnancy with her youngest son and didn’t think it was time for her to take on the task. After praying for a few weeks and receiving immediate support from her husband, Mrs. Renfroe made the decision to apply for the job.

Personal difficulties and surgery with her three-year-old son, Dautry, to remove a benign tumor last summer did not side- track her from continuing to transition into the position that she felt she was called to do.

“This position came open during a time when my husband and I were seeking answers on where we needed to be serving in ministry,” she explained. “This is an answer to our prayers, and we are going to trust God to handle all the issues we are facing with our son. The surgery was a success, and you wouldn’t know by looking at him that he had developed such a rare tumor and had it removed. Our family is standing on God’s Word that the tumor is not going to regrow.”

Mrs. Renfroe said that she has over the years seen affirmations in her work that she is where God wants her to be by working with Choices. She said that adding the ultrasound machine to the clinic has had a definite impact on clients.

We had an 18-year-old client come in who was very determined to be career oriented and had her college path chosen,” Mrs. Renfroe recalls. “She already had an appointment with the abortion clinic. A friend had talked her into coming here first. We talked with her and gave her the option of making an ultrasound appointment at our clinic. When she came back for the ultrasound, she still had a lot of walls up and an indifferent attitude. The moment she saw the heartbeat fluttering on the screen, her shoulders relaxed and she began to cry. She had a God moment where she saw life in this tee-tiny little six-week-old baby inside her womb. She walked out of the clinic changed, and her ideas were completely different.”

Mrs. Renfroe said that her job is so much easier because of the amazing team of staff and volunteers that she has. A very important part of the team is prayer time. “A group of us will set aside time just to pray for a referral or a walk-in. Other clinics will call us or we will call them for prayer support. It’s not what we say or do, it’s a matter of God being completely involved in the atmosphere of the situation. Our workers pray for the clinic even when they are away from it. They donate their time, energy, efforts, homes and families to bless other people. We really mesh as a team.”

he clinic has experienced transitions in other positions this year, including nurses. In a search for replacements, Mrs. Berger and Mrs. Renfroe were able to replace and even gain nurses to work at the clinic, including a staff nurse transitioning to the nurse manager position. There was also some turnover in the volunteers, including a volunteer and an administrative assistant changing places.

Mrs. Renfroe hit the ground running when she took over as executive director. During the transition, the staff made the decision to step out in faith and organize its first 5K fund raising event to secure funds for training the new nurses on the ultra sound machine.

“We needed $5,000 to train three nurses,” Mrs. Renfroe related. “We set the date for Nov. 17 for the 5K and started working toward it. Then, we received a $5,000 donation check in the mail. I was still training with Mrs. Berger at the time and taking on a new event to raise money. It’s amazing how when you step out in faith with both feet that God blesses that and brings us exactly what we need at the right time.”

With the pressure off on raising funds for the training, the first Catch the Beat 5K was then used to raise funds for replacing the ultrasound machine. The machine is over eight years old and working fine, but there are no parts available for repairs, she explained. The first 5K was a success with 303 participants and sponsors completely paying for the costs of the event. Choices PRC now has $5,000 raised at the event to put toward a machine that costs about $25,000. This year’s second annual Catch the Beat 5K is already on the calendar for Saturday, Nov. 9.

Mrs. Renfroe is concentrating her efforts during the first part of 2013 on running the clinic as smoothly as possible with all the transitions and preparing for the annual fundraising dinner set for 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 16. The guest speaker for “Chosen” will be Henry Jernigan at the event held at First Baptist Church in Russellville.

A life verse that she has used this past year to help her through the surgery with her son and taking on the new position at Choices comes from Proverbs 3:5: “Trust in The Lord with all your heart; and lean not on your own understanding.”

“God told me, ‘You have to trust me on this.’

 

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