Ruth Graham knows what it is like to have a pregnant unwed daughter.
Not only did her daughter get pregnant once, but twice.
The third child of evangelist Billy Graham and the late Ruth Bell Graham, she will tell her story at the annual Precious Life spring banquet to be held at 7 p.m. March 23 at the Jaffa Shrine Center. Precious Life is a multi-service ministry that addresses the needs of women in crisis pregnancies in Blair, Cambria and Bedford counties.
(Courtesy photo) Ruth Graham will share about her daughter’s pregnancies during adolescence at the Precious Life banquet to be held at the Jaffa Shrine Center.
Graham said her daughter's pregnancies "changed her forever."
"When your daughter sits down with you and tells you she thinks she might be pregnant, those are words that no mother ever wants to hear," she said. "You lose the hopes and dreams you had for her."
But Graham also called it a " hiccup in life, not the end of the world."
If you go
Who: Ruth Graham
What: Precious Life annual
When: 7 p.m. March 23
Where: Jaffa Shrine Center
For tickets: Call Precious Life at 944-2669
Graham was divorced and a single mother herself during her teenage daughter's crisis.
She said at the time, her daughter was on her own faith journey and their two journeys did not mesh.
"Then, there was added pressure because of who we are," said Graham referring to her father's internationally known ministry.
"It was really tough," Graham said.
Her daughter went to live with a woman in Philadelphia who counseled and tutored her so she could graduate from high school.
The baby was adopted.
Graham's daughter returned home, only to become pregnant again.
"It was a difficult time," Graham said, "but God got us through it. He redeemed it. He weaves it into the tapestry of life," she said.
That same daughter is now in her 30s and is doing well, Graham said. She went on to college, got married and had another child with the awareness that it could be born with birth defects. It was.
"She chose life," Graham said. "She is committed to life."
Graham said the majority of unwed mothers today are no longer in their teens but their 20s.
"It is not a good trend," she said. "Babies need two parents."
"Being a single mom is tough," she said, noting that she watched her daughter struggle.
And although some unwed mothers have partners, she said, "we still need families to be committed to one another and committed for life. But it is far better to have babies out of wedlock that to have an abortion."
Graham called unwed pregnant women very brave. They give up school, careers or even family support despite the culture saying they don't have to maintain the pregnancy, she said.
Precious Life, with offices in Altoona, Johnstown and Bedford, supports "those brave women" by offering free pregnancy testing, emotional support, counseling, adoption counseling, maternity and baby clothes, diapers and sometimes limited financial support.
A maternity home is available in Hollidaysburg where new mothers can stay for up to 30 days after delivery. Long-term housing is available in apartments in Altoona or Johnstown if the new mother meets certain criteria.
Scott Manganella, director of Precious Life for 26 years, said about 400 young women are served in Altoona, 300 to 400 in Johnstown and 50 in Bedford a year.
"The need is obviously there. Not a day goes by when we are not busy with clients," he said.
Precious Life also has an abstinence program in private schools and makes two trips to Romania annually to care for abandoned babies, visit a youth camp and a gypsy village.
Manganella said the abortion rate is going down in Blair County so the ministry seems to be having some success. He called the annual banquet fundraiser "the pro-life event in central Pennsylvania."
"I don't think there is another one as large as this one," he said with a crowd of between 500 and 700 people expected.
In addition to Graham's talk, guitarist Marty Walters and The Men of Zion from Mount Zion Baptist Church are part of the program.
Tickets are available by calling 944-2669