Redemption and Hope
by Heather Clark, Communications Strategist
Shanelle Whitehorn found herself in an uncertain situation when she experienced a pregnancy scare at age 16. She had been dating a boy in high school but knew the relationship would not go the distance. She never told her boyfriend or mother she might be pregnant. Shanelle says, “Abortion was not an option for me so all that was going through my head was, ‘I’m 16. What am I going to do with a baby?’” A friend told her about Hope Pregnancy Center and Shanelle made an appointment, even though she was afraid to go to Hope alone and scared they would make her feel guilty or considered to be another negative statistic about teen pregnancy. “I remember sitting in the waiting area by myself, just so scared someone I knew would walk in and judge me. All I wanted was to hurry up and get to a private room.”
At her appointment, Shanelle’s fears about visiting Hope vanished when she saw how helpful and friendly the staff and volunteers were. She was relieved to discover she was not pregnant, but through the process she discovered she was not alone, as she was also presented with the gospel. “The Hope volunteer ministered to me about Jesus and encouraged me to stay pure. She used scripture to show me how purity is a gift and what marriage is intended for in comparison to what the world tells us. I knew it was a gift to be pure but I really didn’t treasure it at that time.” She ended the relationship with her boyfriend and began seeking to learn more about Christ.
When Shanelle was 18, she gave her life to Christ. “When I was younger and going through that pregnancy scare, I didn’t see worth in myself. I was depressed and felt I had to constantly be validated by other people.” Once she began being discipled through church, Shanelle’s faith began to take root in her life. She was actively seeking what it meant to follow Christ.
At age 20, she was introduced to the man she would eventually marry. They met at church. Shanelle says, “We were friends for two years, then realized our goals, morals and priorities in life lined up.” They dated and married when she was 22 and her husband, Derrick, was 23.
Derrick’s story was a bit different. Growing up, he was active in church and understood the gospel at a young age, but as he got older, he was introduced to the negative influences of the world. From age 8-21, Derrick was introduced to adult magazines, graphic language, was sexually involved with girls, would commit crimes, get into fights and joined a gang. He says, “In the back of my mind, I told myself I would turn my life around and give it to God when I turned 30.” After one of his friends was killed by gun violence, Derrick realized he may not make it to 30. “Once I came to this realization, Christ began drawing me to Him. I surrendered my life to God and never looked back.” Derrick told his friends Christ had radically changed his life. He started attending church, which is where his path crossed with Shanelle’s.
Shanelle and Derrick’s life-changing experience with Christ propelled and strengthened their relationship as they grew closer. Shanelle says, “It was important to us to take what we had learned from our past, and focus on God.” They stayed sexually pure until marriage, and now have four beautiful children together – a life they say is attributed to the Lord’s redeeming nature in their lives. Through their first two pregnancies, they decided to attend Hope Pregnancy Center for Empowered Parenting classes. Shanelle explains, “They helped me so much in the past, and I wanted us to learn together what it meant to be good parents.” Derrick adds, “We learned about everything from a Biblical perspective and saw the parallel that Christ has reconciled us back to the father. The greatest joy was seeing how it applies to our Christian walk.”
Derrick reiterates, “We appreciate the help, advice and hospitality of Hope Pregnancy Center. They aren’t there to make a name for themselves, but to truly help those in need and make a name for Jesus and what He has done. I think in our world, people don’t know how to accept love, especially when you’ve had a tough life. It’s okay to relax and let Hope help you.”
Today, Shanelle volunteers at Hope Pregnancy Center twice a month. Why? She says, “I didn’t want to just be a recipient of help, but wanted to give back and show kindness to other women and girls who are walking in my shoes. I want to see others succeed in life and in their Christian walk.”