"The prayers are placed by individuals knowing that this space is solely dedicated to prayer and worship," said Bill Velker, LIFE International's director of prayer mobilization. "Even when no one is present, the worship music continues to play through the sound system and I believe people have a sense that their prayer requests are ever before the Lord."
Prayer takes center stage at LIFE International, a ministry dedicated to expanding a pro-life world by stemming the tide of an annual average of 42 million abortions across the globe.
LIFE International considers itself a paracelete ministry, said Mark Stevenson, president of the ministry. Paracelete is Greek word ascribed to the Holy Spirit as called to one's aid. In LIFE International's case, it supports leaders in 83 countries to help end the assault on preborn children.
"We're not going out and doing direct ministry in these different fields," said Stevenson, who became the second president of LIFE International in February of this year. "We are always looking for people God has already chosen and we can come alongside them."
Kurt Dillinger, who was the ministry's first president, founded LIFE International in 2001. He continues to interact with leaders internationally and writes blogs. LIFE is uppercased to mean Life Initiatives For Eternity.
Prior to LIFE International, Stevenson was a leadership consultant for Christian boards, individuals and teams, helping them hone what is most important to their mission, board development and how to achieve their goals.
Stevenson met Dillinger in 2012 at a leadership conference in Hong Kong, which laid the groundwork for Stevenson to accomplish some consulting work for LIFE International.
Around that time, the ministry's board of directors was looking for help to transition Dillinger to work as an international movement leader and hire a new president. Stevenson was eventually tapped for the president's position, in part because of what he calls his "gift mix."
"Some of it's architecture kind of things, some of it is to help remove some of the bottlenecks and also to just bring a broader view of what I call evangelical Christian leadership landscape because my work up to this point has been serving a variety of evangelical organizations," Stevenson said of his role as the ministry's president.
Primarily two arenas
With an annual budget of $1.9 million, LIFE International primarily works in two arenas: Partnering with church-planting movements globally where the life message can be applied and equipping leaders to develop local life-giving ministries, such as pregnancy centers, orphan care, abstinence education and post-abortion recovery programs.
"They see abortion is really affecting the people and communities they serve and minister," said Stevenson. "We want to see the bride of Christ advancing this life movement very strongly.
"What we find is our international partners have a varied understanding in many pro-life areas. When we start talking about the life issue and abortion, it actually opens up conversations about trafficking, slavery and spousal abuse that is part of John 10:10: how Christ brings life in abundance."
It's important, said Stevenson, that LIFE International does not foist itself as an American ministry with all the answers.
No barging needed
"We're not looking to barge into somebody's culture," said Stevenson. "We're not going to be the experts. We're going to start with a partnership from the beginning. Sometimes establishing a partnership takes half a year, sometimes a year, sometimes two years. We will patiently engage as long as the partner is feeling the need to. We're trying to listen and learn as well.
"We actually have dedicated liaisons on staff who just do relationship management and gather prayer requests from around the world," added Stevenson.
It initially was a synagogue and later a Greek Orthodox Church, and then served as a theater. Before LIFE International took occupancy of the building, it was home to the largest abortion clinic in West Michigan, according to Stevenson.
"There are many stories about prayer counselors regularly praying along the sidewalk (when it was an abortion clinic)," Stevenson said.
"This building had been prayed over by so many people. We realized we could operate probably anywhere but there's something special about this place. Many people feel there's a story about restoration. It was a sacred place of life in the beginning, and then it became a place of death, where roughly 20,000 abortion procedures took place in the 10-year time span.
"And then it's back to being a life-giving ministry again."