Are You a Good Neighbor? Or… How Could You Be a Better Neighbor in Your Community?

loveyourneighbor_final-orginal-2-broken-cityIf a reporter were to do a feature story on your PMC, interviewing local doctors’ offices, the hospital and health department, local schools and colleges or universities, what kinds of things would they likely say about you?

Would they have heard about you at all?

Do they see you as contributing positively to your community?

Are you known primarily as the place where poor women go to get diapers and baby clothes?

Or do they see you more as a pro-life organization, perhaps even a political one?

Following the heart and example of our Lord, LifeChoices in Joplin, MO, has helped to construct a neighborhood, positioning itself as the best of neighbors.

In fact, when the EF5 tornado killed 161, injuring 1,150 others, destroying 8,000 homes, and demolishing 500 businesses in 2011, LifeChoices became an even brighter beacon of hope, light, and life.

In addition to dispatching their own nurses to visit shelters, delivering diapers, formula, and water, when many of their team had suffered loss of their own, LifeChoices opened its space to seven doctors and their 23 staff members.

Hundreds of pregnant women faced uncertainty about the care of their unborn. Quickly reorganizing space in their facility, LifeChoices provided exam rooms, ultrasound machines, medical supplies, phones, and Internet…so medical service could continue for those in desperate need.”   Source:

LifeChoices didn’t begin the art of neighboring when the tornado hit, however.

“At the LifeChoices annual banquet in 2010, Christian recording artist Rebecca St. James said, ‘During the last two years, I’ve been to almost 50 crisis pregnancy centers around the nation, and I can tell you that LifeChoices is by far the most effective, most innovative, most professional, most savvy ministry of its kind. You all are leading the way.’”  Source:

Befriending individuals and collaborating with organizations has only expanded since the tempest threatened to wipe out their community.

Just last month, At the request of the FBI, LifeChoices’ mobile unit response team was honored to be part of [sex trafficking raids]… in Kansas City… Our team served from Friday through Sunday, providing essential medical services to those rescued.”

Additionally, Life Choices works with the Chamber of Commerce and One Joplin, an organization that works with city planning to create a collaborative environment in which the community can flourish.

  • Life Choices works with 16 school districts because of their sexual health services.
  • One of their big events is through a university.
  • Their mobile unit works with another university.
  • They work with two hospitals against human trafficking and have been asked to lead in medical trainings in sex trafficking identification.
  • They have an excellent working relationship with the city and the county, with their local health department and the Missouri Department of Health.
  • They have both leadership and followership positions, participating on both levels.

Sparrow Solutions Group spoke with LifeChoices Executive Director, Karolyn Schrage, to better understand how they’ve gone about building these relationships and to ask her for suggestions in how other PMCs might follow their example.

Karolyn described how her heart is that of a nurse, moving her to serve and use God’s talents in the world of medicine, which dovetails with her heart of compassion in being a Christ follower.

Drawn to show the compassion of Christ, Karolyn noted how we’re all just one step from being a client.

LifeChoices focuses on what they’re for—not what they are against.  They are for healthy relationships and good sexual health for a lifetime.  They filter their messaging….Karolyn explained that her motivation to serve has never been from a political agenda stand point but rather as a servant of the King of Kings, thus she is compelled to implement Best Practices.

Because they are focused on the heart of those who hear, the question they ask themselves is “How is my message likely to be received?”

“It doesn’t matter the gender, the sexual orientation, the disease, the symptom—there are so many symptoms that go back to systemic brokenness. If we’re only seeing the outcome of the disease or the sin, we won’t see individuals as human beings and we won’t speak to their hearts. We need to look at people through the Jesus lens.”

Therefore, LifeChoices seeks to deploy their forces to the marginalized. They seek to engage those who have not yet been engaged, some who don’t even realize they’re victims.

As Karolyn put it, “Who is not for early intervention?”

In the course of the interview Karolyn remarked how we asked things that she would not be comfortable sharing in her community. However, she was willing to answer because of who our audience is—knowing that the PMC Advisor goes to PMC leaders across the country, she understands how sharing what they’re doing can help others. But she explained how “it’s through the quiet tactical acts of love that God will change the world.”

Karolyn stressed, “You have to make sure you’re not just establishing relationships for what you can get out of it, but rather what you can bring to the table. You have to truly be relational for mutual edification. We are able to bring wholeness to healing that others discount. We’re not out there to use relationships, but to build relationships.”

“We look to the example of our Savior. We’re hanging out with bouncers and in strip clubs. We deploy from our holy huddles and GO and sit by them. This gives us the opportunity to sit at their bar and listen and when asked to pray, to go into the dressing rooms and when asked share hope. I’ve sat a bar and listened to a bartender and seen girls giving lap dances and then had a stripper asking me questions.”

“You’ve got to get a little messy if you’re going to do Jesus. A little Jesus goes a long way. The strippers know us as the “sugar mamas,” because after an evening with us, life is sweeter.”

Karolyn quoted Francis Chan who said, “Christians are like manure spread them out, and they help everything grow better, but keep them in one big pile and they stink horrifically.”

She also described the incredible partnership they have with law enforcement. They have tubes of chap stick with their helpline number printed on it that law enforcement officers can give to women involved prostitution for when a crisis happens. LifeChoices also provides law enforcement with “go-bags” for women that need a change of clothes and personal hygiene items for their immediate personal needs.

Karolyn explained that God has allowed their lighthouse to be grounded so firmly, that it is seen as an unshakeable light, and their services draw people. They focus on keeping their own wicks trimmed and their own lantern shining, focusing on building relationships and a platform of credibility with their constituents and community.

Karolyn explained, “The political climate doesn’t daunt us, we’re here to serve no matter what.” Along those lines, LIfeCHoices chooses not to picket nor dis others who provide medical services.  She said they don’t aspire to put themselves high by putting others lower.  “We’re constantly trying to be as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves.”

With the goal of being the first option, not the last resort, LifeChoices has established itself as the voice of communication when it comes to stats and information about sexual health.

So, how did LifeChoices in Joplin get started in good neighboring? Karolyn used the phrase “loitering with intent,” and “playing nice in the sandbox.” She said it was as simple as “going where the people are and pulling a chair up.” Likewise, they invited a cybercrime taskforce made up of law enforcement to pull a chair up at their table.

She said they are always asking themselves, “Who else might speak into this issue or assist in leveraging for best outcomes for the entire community? We have an open door and open-minded policy and are looking beyond the mainstream. We can’t settle for the status quo. We constantly ask, ‘What is relevant for our youth?’ With social media, apps…what do we need to educate our kids about? With pornography effecting the objectification of women and setting a new paradigm in relationships, how are we calibrating for change on every front the issues affecting the sexual health of our youth culture?”

“We’re always reinventing relevancy to meet the world of change.”

Speaking to how other PMCs can follow their example, Karolyn said that when the darkness of the world is great, they are looking for any flicker of light to shine. “What we’re doing, any PMC postured to shine brightly can do.”


Reni Bumpas
Sparrow Solutions Consultant

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