The day Melissa pulled into the parking lot of a small church in Bay Minette, she was at the end of herself. She was 40, and she had recently found out she was pregnant.
“My first thought was abortion,” she said.
She and her boyfriend, Michael, were on drugs, and they moved from Florida to Alabama to get help from his mom. But overall, the situation got worse, not better. Michael ended up in jail, and Melissa felt desperately alone.
“I ended up driving past this church every day,” she said. “It was God pulling me in, and finally I stopped one day.”
She walked inside the church — White House Fork Pentecostal Holiness Church — and told pastor Clark Beiler that something kept telling her to come in, even though she was an atheist.
He said she “began to unburden her life situation and the difficulties she was in the middle of.”
“She didn’t know what she was going to do,” Beiler said.
So he pointed her to Women’s Care Medical Center, a pregnancy resource center in the area.
“I told her they have people at the Women’s Care Medical Center who are well trained; they specialize in helping ladies who are in crisis pregnancy, and they will understand where you are, what you’ve been through and what you’re going through,” Beiler said.
Melissa called the center that same day, and the next day she sat and poured out her whole story to Dawn Charette, a volunteer advocate at WCMC.
“It was a mess,” Melissa said. “But she sat with me and talked, and she went over my options with me.” Things started changing then, Melissa said. “She made me feel like it was going to be OK, that I’m going to be OK.”
That Sunday, she was at the church’s worship service, Beiler said.
“One of the things that really helped her to make that trip to come back again was that when she came here to Women’s Care Medical Center, somebody loved her. Somebody cared for her,” he said. “She found there was a hope and an answer for her baby, and her whole life had begun to change from that.”
Melissa told Michael about her experience, and at first he thought it was a joke. But then he realized that she sounded like a totally different person.
He got out of jail soon after, and one of the first things they did together was go to parenting classes at WCMC.
Those classes became a safe place for them, and after their weeks there came to a close, Melissa said she didn’t want her time at the center to end. So she kept coming on Wednesdays to Bible study. Dawn Charette continued pouring into her, and at the same time, Michael was meeting with Dawn’s husband J.P., who also serves as a volunteer advocate.
“He accepted me for everything, all the flaws and everything like that,” Michael said. “It was the first time anybody had ever taken me seriously, and it changed me. … He’s one of the best people I’ve ever met.”
Over time, the couple’s lives continued to change, and they decided to get married. They asked Beiler to perform the ceremony, and they invited the Charettes to attend. Then Michael asked J.P. Charette to pray for him before the wedding — and be his best man.
“I was just blown away,” J.P. Charette said.
Michael said he asked him because “he spoke to me about so many things that I never would’ve told anybody about … he’s a real man of God, a real person.”
That influence “helped me be a better man, be a better husband,” Michael said.
Melissa said their lives — along with that of their son, Bryson — are different because God led her to the church and from there to WCMC.
“I’ve never believed in God my whole life. I was into everything but God,” she said. “Dawn and J.P. both, seeing how much they believe in God, has made it so much easier. … I’m a brand-new Christian, and I’m 40 years old, and it’s a good thing.”
Dawn Charette said she believes every appointment at WCMC is a divine appointment.
“There is a reason why God wanted Melissa to come here,” she said, noting that the reason had nothing to do with her. “God wanted this center to shine on those two people to help them, to bring them along, to disciple them and just love on them.”
The world is a “crazy, awful” place, she said, and they want people to know that they can come to WCMC and the staff and volunteers there will love them.
“We give help and hope and love to everyone who walks through that door,” Dawn Charette said.
Denise Mann, director of operations at WCMC, said the center has been doing that for one person at a time since they opened in 1990. They have locations in Robertsdale, Gulf Shores and Bay Minette.
Through all their services — from pregnancy and STD testing to men’s mentorship to abortion recovery — “our mission to reach abortion-minded women but also share Jesus Christ with everyone we see,” said Mann, a member of Bethel Baptist Church in Robertsdale.
She said Michael and Melissa’s story shows the impact of the center’s relationships with local churches.
“It was a beautiful relationship, how the church was involved in their story as well and the partnership we were able to have there,” Mann said. “It took advocates, it took that pastor and it took what we do here to bring that couple along.”