For 18 years, Jan Cranford dreamed of a time when Gate Pregnancy Resource Center could meet medical needs through a mobile ministry. At a gathering last week celebrating the donation of a new ultrasound machine through N.C. Baptists and the Psalm 139 Project, she finally got to see that dream become reality.

When Jan Cranford began the process of founding Gate Pregnancy Resource Center (PRC) back in 2006, she had two dreams in mind.

First, she wanted the ministry to “go medical,” providing physical care to expectant mothers throughout the community. Second, Cranford hoped the center would one day have a functional mobile unit, so that Gate PRC’s ministry could expand throughout and beyond the town of Harrisburg, N.C., where Gate PRC is located.  

On Wednesday, March 13 — two days before Cranford’s retirement — she got to see that dream become reality as N.C. Baptists gathered in Harrisburg to celebrate the dedication of an ultrasound machine placed in Gate PRC’s new mobile unit. The ultrasound machine was the final piece needed to make the mobile unit fully operational.

“It was a dream come true,” Cranford said.

The ultrasound placement came about as a result of cooperative efforts between N.C. Baptists and the Psalm 139 Project, a pro-life ministry of the Ethics & Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention. This dedication marked the sixth ultrasound placement in North Carolina in the last two years as a result of their partnership.

The dedication took place at Providence Baptist Church in Harrisburg, where Cranford and John Cashwell, senior pastor of Providence, founded the ministry 18 years before. Cranford had been serving in a part-time role with Gate for two years before her retirement on Friday, March 15.

“She told me from the beginning her dream was two things — she wanted to go medical and she wanted to have a mobile unit,” said Kathy Bridge, executive director of Gate PRC. “So as she goes out, the mobile unit goes on the road.”

Seeing the needs

For Cranford, the vision for founding Gate PRC came from deeply personal experiences working as a high school substitute teacher in Harrisburg. 

While working in the public school system, Cranford would encounter teenagers dealing with unexpected pregnancies. Having been a single mother — and having had an abortion earlier in her life — Cranford understood the realities these teenagers were facing better than most. 

“That really put me in a place where I could talk to people,” Cranford said. “You don’t forget it. I don’t care what you go through — you don’t forget it.”

She began to wonder what kind of care these teenagers were receiving amid these difficult circumstances. As she asked students and parents about their health care options, she realized that very few of them knew where to go for help.

“I started asking girls I saw at church, at school … ‘Do you know where the health department is?’” Cranford said. “None of them. None of them knew.”

As she was learning more about these families’ situations, she began to devise plans with Cashwell to develop a pregnancy resource center to help meet the needs of the Harrisburg community. They spent over a year researching, interviewing other PRC directors and learning from members of the community.

“That was a thing that hit me,” Cranford said. “This is needed, bad.” 

Meeting the needs

With Cranford as its founding director, Gate PRC was officially established in 2010, with a special emphasis on providing material and educational resources for those experiencing unexpected pregnancies. 

“We were resource givers,” Cranford said. “If it was given to us, we gave it away.”

And they had plenty to give. As soon as churches and families across Harrisburg learned of the center’s existence, donations began to roll in. When Gate PRC needed to move locations and renovate its building, members across the community volunteered to paint, install carpet, put up drywall, set up electricity, clean toilets and more — all at no cost. 

“We’ve done this for 18 years, and they’ve always had something to give,” Cranford said. “Churches would do a baby shower, anything like that. We’ve never been without. Never.”

As the pregnancy resource center grew and transitioned to new locations, however, Cranford envisioned a day when Gate PRC had the capacity to also provide medical services, such as ultrasounds.

Cranford was not alone in this vision. In 2020, when Bridge stepped into the role as director, she and Cranford both felt God was leading Gate PRC in a new direction — to provide medical benefits to women in need. During this time, Cranford had previously retired from the director position and took a staff role shortly after Bridge’s installation as director. 

Under her leadership, Bridge directed the focus of the center to meeting medical needs, transitioning Gate PRC into a medical clinic. After opening a second location in Concord, N.C., Gate PRC began to offer pregnancy testing, prenatal vitamins and ultrasounds — made possible at one location through coordination with the Psalm 139 Project.

By the end of 2023, the center saw more than 400 women visit their two locations. They are projected to see more than 600 by the end of 2024.

“(We’ve) gotten to see a lot of incredible growth,” Bridge said. “And I can’t give anybody other than God the praise for it. His hand of favor has been on us.”

Ready for the road

In December 2023, Cranford’s vision for Gate PRC started to come to fruition when the center acquired a mobile unit.

Now with the new ultrasound machine donated by N.C. Baptists, the mobile unit is ready for the road. Services from the mobile unit are expected to begin this week.

“The staff, volunteers and supporters of Gate PRC are shining a gospel light into their community, sharing the love of Jesus with vulnerable mothers and saving preborn children,” said Seth Brown, director of convention relations for N.C. Baptists. “I couldn’t be more grateful for the partnership we have with Gate, Providence Baptist Church and the Psalm 139 Project.”

As the mobile unit deploys into the community, Cranford is confident God will use these gifts to advance His purposes for life. 

“God bless everything,” Cranford said. “This thing is gonna be big.”

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