When N.C. Baptist leaders gathered in Raleigh on Feb. 24 to celebrate the donation of a new ultrasound machine to Hand of Hope Pregnancy Centers, Tonya Baker Nelson, executive director of Hand of Hope, announced a surprise to the gathering.

During the dedication ceremony for the new ultrasound machine, Nelson told the crowd that earlier in life, she had faced a “phenomenal amount of pressure” to abort her own child, having experienced an unexpected pregnancy when she was in her early 20s. Despite pressures and challenges, however, Nelson chose to give birth to her daughter.

“The hardest three things I have done in my life is, number one, choose life for my child,” Nelson said. “Number two was open Hand of Hope Pregnancy Centers, and number three was to stand right here. It was spiritual warfare that … I have personally never experienced before.”

After sharing her testimony, Nelson revealed her surprise to the group. 

“Today, what we’re going to do on this beautiful machine that y’all have given us is we’re going to scan my grandbaby,” Nelson said. “And y’all are going to see this machine in action. And you’re going to see the benefits of doing right. Βecause I chose life for her, and it was extremely difficult, and worth every single solitary second of it.” 

Nelson’s surprise announcement came during the first of two ultrasound machine dedications held Friday (Feb. 24) at pregnancy resource centers in central North Carolina. In addition to the dedication to Hand of Hope Pregnancy Centers, a second dedication was held later in the day at Life Choices of Roxboro.

The donations were the result of a partnership between N.C. Baptists and the Psalm 139 Project, a pro-life ministry of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). Both pregnancy centers hosted ribbon-cutting dedication ceremonies to celebrate and pray over the new ultrasound machines, with leaders of N.C. Baptists and the ERLC in attendance. 

“The ultrasound machine is absolutely, positively just one of the hugest witnessing tools that we possibly could use,” Nelson said. “Because it truly is just introducing a mother to her baby and a daddy to his child. So, we’re so, so … grateful and thankful for y’all.”

Nelson founded Hand of Hope in 2004 after drawing from her own experience of facing an unexpected pregnancy. Now, as of February 2023, Hand of Hope has opened three clinics and serves 1,500 clients in Fuquay-Varina, Raleigh and Fayetteville.

“N.C. Baptists believe in protecting life, from the first heartbeat to the last,” said Todd Unzicker, executive director-treasurer for N.C. Baptists, during the dedication ceremony in Raleigh. “Our mission is to be a movement of churches on mission together, and that mission is for life, from the womb to the tomb.”

In Roxboro, N.C. Baptist leaders heard from Susan Bailey, executive director for Life Choices, as she thanked N.C. Baptists for their generosity and partnership with the Psalm 139 Project. The group ended the ceremony with a time of prayer and fellowship, celebrating the donation and the new machine.

“Receiving this brand new machine is so exciting for us at Life Choices,” Bailey said in a statement to the ERLC. “We want to thank the Psalm 139 Project, the SBC and N.C. State Convention for providing this invaluable resource.” 

Life Choices began 25 years ago as a ministry of Westwood Baptist Church in Roxboro. It has since become an independent entity, serving over 225 clients annually through pregnancy testing, pregnancy classes, post-abortion grief counseling and more.

After attending both ceremonies on Friday morning, Seth Brown, director of the Convention Relations group for N.C. Baptists, celebrated the ultrasound placements, seeing them as opportunities for God to bring about new life in Christ.

“What’s very compelling is that for us as N.C. Baptists, these donations sit at the intersection of our pro-life convictions and our missional convictions” Brown said. “We believe in the sanctity of life, but there’s also a gospel and mission component here. 

“Because a lot of the counseling conversations that happen in ministries like these, though they may be using an ultrasound machine and talking about a pregnancy, the gospel is usually shared at some point in their discussions. I think that’s a beautiful intersection of our pro-life convictions and our missional vision for N.C. Baptist churches — to be a movement of churches on mission together.”

The ultrasound placements at Life Choices and Hand of Hope mark the third and fourth donations resulting from the partnership between N.C. Baptists and the Psalm 139 Project. In 2022, N.C. Baptists partnered with the Psalm 139 Project to donate ultrasound machines to the Smoky Mountain Pregnancy Care Center in Franklin and to the Albemarle Pregnancy Resource Center in Elizabeth City.

“We know how important ultrasound is in the decision-making process, and that is why we are thrilled to be able to offer this service to our clients,” Bailey said. “To God be the glory.”