The coronavirus challenged compassion-providing ministries in new ways
Since 2013 we’ve followed Megan Dancisak’s journey as a single mom: Ethan during that time has grown from a 16-month-old to a talkative toddler who will soon be 3. Here’s a recap of how Megan’s decision to keep Ethan saved one life, changed her own, and touched others (see also wng.org/topic/pro_life_reality).
Megan, now 28, is the daughter of a single mom who was pregnant at age 19. Young Megan grew up watching her mom work long hours and bounce from one relationship to another. She walked home from school alone and fixed dinner for herself. In college she fell into a promiscuous, booze-filled party lifestyle that led her to the precipice of suicide.
Still single in 2011, she became pregnant at age 25 without even knowing the identity of the father—and she decided to keep her baby. She had professed faith in Christ several years earlier and was determined not to do unto others what her mother had done unto her. She decided to give her child a happy, healthy home. Angela Dancisak, Megan’s aunt, told me how impressed she was that her niece had become responsible and accountable: “She’s a very hands-on mom, but I also think it’s her faith that’s brought her a long way and helped her.”
That transformation didn’t happen in isolation. Through a mentoring program initiated by a local pregnancy center, Lesley Hoff met an excited, “freaked out,” six-months-pregnant Megan. Hoff, a mother of three, saw some of her own fears in Megan but others she had not experienced: Who was Ethan’s dad? How could she both work and raise a son alone? Hoff rushed to Megan’s hospital bedside the day Ethan was born, then invited her to stay with Hoff’s family for a few days to help calm panicky first-time-mother fears. She coached Megan on feeding and changing Ethan.
Megan bared her fears to the 30 people gathered around the living room: How do I raise a child on my own? Will other Christians judge me for the sin that I wear on my sleeve? How can I afford to feed another mouth?
Megan also found parenting support at church. She had feared that her church community group would take the news badly. Her attendance had been spotty at best, and she worried that others would judge her growing belly and ringless left hand. Yet when she told the group’s leader, Nick Tortorici, he enveloped her in a hug, reminding her that Jesus still loved her. “That could have been a turning point if she experienced any type of judgment … but people were loving and encouraging,” said friend Anna Lutz.
Weekly, Megan bared her fears to the 30 people gathered around the living room: How do I raise a child on my own? Will other Christians judge me for the sin that I wear on my sleeve? How can I afford to feed another mouth? The church group listened, prayed, and mobilized. Members attended Megan’s baby shower—and provided baby supplies. They pooled donations to take care of some of her needs. On the day of Ethan’s birth, more than a dozen of her church friends crowded the hospital hallway to hear Ethan’s first cries. They formed a big circle around her bed and passed baby Ethan around. One woman filled up Megan’s gas tank. Another, Chaundra Kennedy, drove her home and spent the night to make sure she wasn’t alone.
As Megan returned to work at T-Mobile, she couldn’t afford day care, so she sent out her work schedule to the community, frantically seeking willing baby sitters. Friends stepped up to watch Ethan, sometimes splitting one work shift between two people. Megan has never had to take a day off work due to the lack of childcare. Finances were another source of constant stress as she struggled to pay bills and keep food on the table. Two members of Dancisak’s women’s Bible study started meeting with her monthly to help her budget. Although at times she would spend money unwisely or resist change, she’d always come back to the women a few days later, expressing humility and taking their advice. With an accountability structure in place, others in the group became even more generous in their giving.
Rachel Lander, whose daughter Ava is merely three weeks younger than Ethan, bonded with Megan over the difficulties of parenting. “Because she’s so honest, it encourages me to open up,” Lander said. When Megan works weekends and can’t afford child care, the Landers watch Ethan and bring him to church. The two blond toddlers are now best friends, chasing each other around and sharing a mutual love for Mickey Mouse.
Today, Megan is able to support herself and pay her bills on time. Abandonment and insecurity still linger in her life, but she’s finding contentment in Christ. She’s also helping others in similar situations. When church friends introduced her to another woman surprised by pregnancy, Megan met with her, this time taking on the mentoring role, and encouraged her to trust God.
Recently, at Megan’s apartment, toys lay strewn over a glass coffee table as Ethan, with his big blue eyes and a toothy smile, stood gleefully banging on a plastic drum slung around his neck. This was not how Megan had pictured spending her nights after work: It was better.