South Carolina megachurch Pastor Derwin Gray announced Sunday that his multicultural congregation donated $50,000 to a local pro-life pregnancy center.
Gray, the 47-year-old founder and leader of Transformation Church in Indian Land, South Carolina, and a former NFL player, recalled how his own mother was encouraged to get an abortion when she was pregnant with him at 16.
He took time during service Sunday to announce the large donation the church made to the Women’s Enrichment Center in Lancaster.
“[Women’s Enrichment Center has] the privilege of serving thousands of young women and their families facing unplanned pregnancies,” Gray told the 3,500-member congregation.
“For those of you who don’t know, my mom was pregnant with me at 16 years old in 1971 at Thomas Jefferson High School. She was bussed to a school then in the suburbs. And the school nurse said, ‘You should go to California to abort your child.’”
Gray said he and his mother have had a “complicated relationship” through the years. However, the one thing they can both agree on, he said, is that giving birth to him was the “right decision to make.”
Gray told CP through an email sent by his assistant that his mother told the nurse: "I will not abort my child."
“It was a conviction she had. She wanted me to live,” Gray was quoted as saying.
The Women’s Enrichment Center is led by Executive Director Julie Walters, a Transformation Church attendee who began working for the center seven years ago.
“Julie and her team are right on the front lines of helping women and young men just make decisions to bring forth life,” Gray said during the service as he invited Walters to the stage. “So we have partnered with her and her team for several years. Today, we the people at Transformation Church want to give you $50,000 to continue to do the great work that you are doing. We appreciate you.”
Wini Erb, who heads up Transformation Church’s “Serve” outreach ministry, told CP that Transformation Church has been in a relationship with the Women’s Enrichment Center since 2012.
Volunteers from the church regularly volunteer to assist WEC in its mission.
“TC has a desire to partner with local community organizations that are transforming lives in their area of passion,” Erb said. “WEC has a passion to serve and empower women both during and after their pregnancy.”
“Here at TC, we believe in a generous God. Because He has been so generous to us, we can’t help but want to be generous to others,” Erb added. “One of the ways we express who He is, is through being generous to our community.”
Walters told CP that she and the WEC staff are “blown away” by the donation.
Although Transformation Church has made other donations to the center in the past, Sunday’s donation was by far the most substantial.
“When I tell you we were blown away, we were so blessed,” Walters said. “I feel so humbled to be able to receive these funds. It helps us substantially with what we do. Having this kind of funds given to us is a tremendous blessing.”
WEC offers a number of services for mothers facing unplanned pregnancies and does not refer women for abortion.
The center offers prenatal and parenting classes, a vitals clinic, ultrasound, employment and skills training, health classes, nutrition classes, prenatal vitamins, and a care clinic.
By completing certain assignments and accomplishing other tasks in conjunction with the WEC classes, pregnant mothers are able to earn “baby bucks” credits allowing them to acquire things such as maternity clothes, diapers, baby clothes, formula, toys and other items families need to care for a baby after birth.
“Our thing is that if we ask them to choose life, don’t you think that Christ expects us to be His hands and feet and continue to assist them?” Walters asked. “I think that is very important. Everybody can make a split decision, but it takes education to hang in there with them. If they are willing to change their circumstances, isn’t it our responsibility? That is my thing. We are pro-life but we think we should do more and that is what we are trying to do.”
Walters said that the WEC care clinic is run by Courtney Catledge, the nursing director for the University of South Carolina Lancaster's collaborative nursing program.
“Nurses at the college come over and they donate so many hours per year because they also have to learn how to take care of different types of clients,” Walters explained. “So it is a win-win.”
WEC provides assistance to the mothers in its programs from the time they are pregnant until the time their children turn 1 year old. The group also partners with Family-Nurse Partnership to send a nurse to mothers’ homes once every two weeks. That same nurse continues to assist the same mother until her child is 2 years old, according to Walters. And WEC partners with an adoption agency for mothers who do not want to keep their children but do not want to end a human life.
“I will say there are women that do realize that this is life and they don’t want to abort and they allow us to connect them with an adoption agency,” she said. “Other women decide to keep their children. That is what we are here for — to support them. It is not just that one time making the decision, it is about helping them going forward.”