Vulnerable moms are all around us—the park, the library, the local school, the store. They might have different concerns, worries, and privileges, but the value of their personhood and need for the gospel are the same. At Risen Motherhood, when we thought about coming alongside these women with the love of the gospel, we thought about our friend, Tamra Call. Personally, Laura, Becca, and myself have watched Tamra and her family care for vulnerable moms, spreading the gospel in home life, church life, and vocational life through intentionality and hospitality. We hope this short interview helps us all consider what it means to love vulnerable moms with the heart of Christ. —Emily
Tell us a little about yourself, your family, and your heart for vulnerable moms and children.
My name is Tamra, and I’ve been married to my husband, Luke, for 10 years. We have five children (three biological and two adopted) and enjoy living on an acreage in central Iowa. I have a Bachelor's degree from the University of Kansas in Nursing and a Master’s degree in Public Health Nursing.
Through our experience of adoption, God gave us a desire to care for orphans, vulnerable children, and their birth mothers. As we learned more about our children’s birth parents, we were heartbroken at the things they experienced. We also had a new, humble awareness that the families we were born into were not the result of anything we did, but were simply God’s grace to us. This gave us a desire to encourage our church family to engage vulnerable families with the love of Christ.
What is Obria Medical Clinics, what do you do there, and what initially interested you in the position?
Obria is a medical clinic that provides reproductive health services for women and men. Some of the services provided include pregnancy testing, limited obstetrical ultrasounds, STD risk assessment, testing, diagnosis, and treatment, cervical cancer screenings, and options counseling for women facing an unplanned pregnancy. I’m the nurse manager at one of our clinics, overseeing the daily operations of the clinic, managing our volunteers, building relationships with other organizations in the community, and providing direct client care.
As a nurse, I’m drawn to a holistic approach to health care that considers not only the physical needs but also the spiritual and emotional needs of our clients. As a faith-based clinic, we’re able to share the gospel and hope we have in Christ.
In a typical week, what type of women do you interact with at Obria, and what are some of the biggest issues they are facing, both on the surface and at the heart level?
We see a wide age-range, but the majority of our clients are college-age and young adult women. One of the biggest issues the women face is fear—either the fear they’ve contracted a STD or infection and/or the fear of an unplanned pregnancy. At a heart level, the women are looking for a sense belonging and love.
What does God’s word tell us about caring for vulnerable moms?
The Bible is full of examples of caring for the vulnerable who have been “cast off” from society.
In the Old Testament, there were laws about caring for the poor, the widows, and the orphans. The story of Ruth and Naomi provides a beautiful account of Boaz giving protection and care for Ruth, a foreigner who professed faith in the one true God, seeking refuge under the Lord’s wing. Jonah was commanded to share the good news of the gospel with the people of Nineveh, who were known for their evil deeds. The lineage of Christ includes the names of vulnerable, imperfect women like, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Mary.
In the New Testament, we see that Jesus left his place in heaven, at the right hand of God, to be born into a lineage that included men and women who were unable to follow God’s law, were cast out from society, and were foreigners among God’s covenant people. Jesus was born to a vulnerable woman who was pregnant out of wedlock. He humbled himself to dwell among strangers to show them God’s love by dying in their place, so they could be in relationship with a holy God who cannot look upon sin.
The scriptures tell a story of God bringing vulnerable strangers and foreigners into his family through redemption in Christ. Throughout the narrative of God’s word, it’s clear that we’re not brought into God’s family based on our own merit or lineage but by the saving grace of Jesus. We’re called to extend the same grace to the strangers and vulnerable people in our midst, wherever God has placed us.
We have a unique opportunity to specifically care for other women who are not yet a part of God’s family and for daughters of the King who do not have a father or husband providing for and protecting them.
What are the common misconceptions about vulnerable moms from women with traditional Christian families? How can we see ourselves in these women and have unity in the gospel?
The authors of When Helping Hurts define poverty as “the absence of shalom in all its meaning”. Those facing poverty typically describe their circumstances with psychological and social terms (i.e. shame, powerlessness, fear, depression, isolation, voicelessness) rather than describing a lack of material resources. The authors explain that it’s important to have a biblical understanding of the root cause of poverty. Often times we believe the root causes are a lack of education, oppression by other people, personal sins, or a lack of material resources. While it’s still good to acknowledge those needs and to work to neutralize those factors, if we believe them to be the root causes of poverty, we might direct our efforts solely towards “fixing” these problems. However, the authors clarify that poverty alleviation is “the ministry of reconciliation: moving people closer to glorifying God by living in right relationship with God, with self, with other, and with the rest of creation” (p. 74).
I think this explanation from the book, When Helping Hurts, is really helpful in considering what misconceptions we may have regarding the materially poor:
“Because every one of us is suffering from brokenness in our foundational relationships, all of us need ‘poverty alleviation,’ just in different ways. Our relationship to the materially poor should be one in which we recognize that both of us are broken and that both of us need the blessing of reconciliation. Our perspective should be less about how we are going to fix the materially poor and more about how we can walk together, asking God to fix both of us” (p. 75).
If we don’t have a good understanding of the perspective of the people we’re helping—along with an understanding of our own misconceptions and motives—we can hurt those we’re trying to help and ourselves. It’s important to ask God to reveal these impure motivations to us and to change our desire to see Christ’s reconciliation in our lives and in the lives of those we’re helping. This equation from When Helping Hurts is a helpful framework to consider:
Material definition of poverty + God-complexes of materially non-poor + Feelings of inferiority of materially poor = Harm to both materially poor and non-poor
What are a few practical ways that women with traditional Christian families could love and come alongside vulnerable moms in their community or church?
Start by asking God to give you eyes to see the women in your midst who don’t know Jesus as their Savior and/or are vulnerable and in need of care and protection. God will be faithful to open your eyes to see these women because no matter what stage of life we’re in, even if we’re primarily at home with little ones, there are women we’re interacting with who don’t know the saving grace of Jesus.
Also, be intentional in the activities you participate in and look for opportunities to get to know your neighbors or others in your community. This can be done through participating in activities at your public library, schools, neighborhood, community youth activities, and organizations. You could also connect with people who are actively involved in caring for the vulnerable through foster care and ask them how you can come alongside them and support them as they care for vulnerable families.
These women are in our midst. Invite them to your home for coffee or a playdate. Meet at the park or library. Invite them to share a meal with your family in your home. Simple hospitality that demonstrates the love of Christ is powerful.
What would you say to the mom in the little years (already drowning and feeling overwhelmed) who wants to care about the disadvantaged moms in her community? What can she do in her season of life? What about in later seasons of life?
In the little years it can feel challenging to have much time to engage in meaningful conversations with moms, but even as you interact in the places you naturally see other moms, remember that God can use those interactions to reveal himself to those who don’t know him.
In some seasons of life, the people we spend the majority of our time discipling are our own children. But as we disciple our children, it’s important to be intentional to teach them about our call as Christians to care for the poor, oppressed, brokenhearted, fatherless, and widows. Living the gospel out in front of our children is the best way to teach them. Pray for opportunities to share the gospel with other moms as you engage them in day-to-day relationships with your children in your midst.
Engage the women you already “rub shoulders” with as you parent your own children. Share your struggles as a mom of littles. Share the hope you have in Christ and how that impacts your perspective as a mom of young children. As I’ve engaged in relationships with women who are not a part of God’s family and/or the fellowship of an earthly family, God has revealed our mutual need for God’s saving grace and our need for Christ’s sacrifice on the cross so that we can become his children. Even though our lives may look different on the outside, we have the same need—we’re sinners in need of rescue and redemption.
What other resources would you recommend for helping us love these women as neighbors?
When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert
Befriend by Scott Sauls
Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands by Paul David Tripp
Toxic Charity by Robert D. Lupton
Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall & Denver Moore
Jason Johnson Blog
Wrapping Around Foster and Adoptive Families
Tamra Call is currently the nurse manager of an Obria Medical Clinic in central Iowa. She has a master's degree in Public Health Nursing and is passionate about sharing Christ while serving vulnerable women and children in her professional and personal life. She and her husband, Luke, reside in central Iowa, with their five children.
Photo by: Amy Vinchattle Photography