ST. LOUIS—Bridget VanMeans did not come to St. Louis from Chicago to play around.
A businesswoman who is driven by a Christ-centered sense of immediacy, her goal is to crush the abortion-mill worldview of Planned Parenthood and close down all of the killing centers.
“We want it now,” said VanMeans, president of St. Louis Thrive, a network of Pregnancy Resource Centers that is attempting to change the conversation about sex by pointing to God as the owner of it all.
“We believe that God is a now God. We believe that ‘now faith’ is the substance of things hoped for, not ‘in our lifetime.’ I believe I’m being obedient to what the Lord’s putting on our heart. I feel like we’ve got some really provable, defendable strategies that we have already seen beta-tested in smaller settings. Why wouldn’t they work here?”
A former professional model, VanMeans was president of a multi-million dollar company at age 22 and was a regional manager for Nutri-System with 300 employees and a $25 million budget. Now she runs a $1.6 million pro-life organization (20 staff, 100 volunteers) that could easily grow to $2.5 million next year. The Thrive economy has never been better. The future is very robust.
Business projections are rosy based on what Best-Selling Christian Author Bruce Wilkinson saw happen through him at the Sheraton Westport in mid-September during a fundraising event/miracle. That night they took in around $2.8 million in pledges. The key to it, according to the Thrive faithful, was VanMeans daring to share her vision. Now her “new normal” is to ride the tsunami.
On Nov. 15, she received a call from a curious Wilkinson in the middle of a Pathway interview. He wanted an update on the miracle. Thrive insiders call it “that Thursday night” when Wilkinson asked for $5 million; based on what has come in so far, and the promise of more to come, there are many true believers.
VanMeans is using the money to fund a comprehensive strategy of empowerment that pits the Thrive brand squarely against the Planned Parenthood brand in a city where a large Planned Parenthood abortion clinic sits just a few blocks from Thrive headquarters. Thrive is battling the abortion giant on computer screens that deliver social media, on the streets of St. Louis where services are desperately needed, and in the classrooms of public schools where health is taught. Churches are also being engaged as centers of spiritual renewal.
“We feel that we don’t really have neutral interactions,” VanMeans said. “When we have a dinner, people walk out feeling refreshed—touched by God in a fresh way.
“We’re not going to mission-drift. God has called us to lead people to Christ. We’re not a social service agency. While we provide many social services and are actually quite robust in that part of it, we’re not going to apologize for the fact that we are purely pro-life and purely evangelical in our efforts.”
Branding is at the heart of her visionary methodology. Truth is being offered in a fresh way to consumers who typically, in years gone by, have followed the Planned Parenthood brand. Words like “attractive” and “appealing” are now being associated with Thrive, which is emerging as a different type of pro-life force to be reckoned with in a metropolitan area that is known for—particularly at the notorious Granite City, Ill., location – its propensity to kill babies.
“We find ourselves wooing people to the cause,” VanMeans said.
“There is a cunning aspect to what we’re doing, and yet saying that with this razor’s edge of uncompromising.”
VanMeans has been quoted as saying that she thinks that abortion facilities can be driven out of St. Louis in 3-5 years. She said she is able to say that, and will continue to say that, because she serves a big God.
“I mean three years? He made the world in seven days.”
The Thrive worldview is simple. God made sex. Sex is good. Planned Parenthood is a poser when it comes to the ownership of sex. Truthfully, God owns sex. Sex is a circle that ought to be traced by God’s people. We will trace it well.
“Sex is a gift that has been given to be enjoyed within the parameters of marriage and not outside it,” VanMeans said.
She is troubled by the decision by President Obama to cut off faith-based funding for abstinence programs such as the Best Choice curriculum presented by Thrive. She wants the president to give back what amounts to around $500,000 so that more students in the St. Louis metropolitan area can be serviced. Best Choice uplifts the truth that sexual integrity expresses the gift of sexuality throughout life in a true, excellent, honest and pure way—through protection in childhood, direction in adolescence, and celebration in adulthood.
The sense of urgency and immediacy that VanMeans carries into her vocation every day is tied to the hundreds of thousands of people in St. Louis city and county neighborhoods that used to be easy pickings for the subtly destructive worldview of Planned Parenthood. They are “severely underserved, abortion-rich communities,” she said. “Basically abandoned territories.”
A Thrive Mobile Medical Unit offering free Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) tests, free pregnancy tests, and free ultrasounds is expected to begin rolling through these neighborhoods in January. Service to these areas in 2011 can be quadrupled, VanMeans said, if God’s people were to get behind a clear and common vision that is meant to carry more of the Gospel light into the darkness.
“I would like people to pray for unity,” she said.
ALLEN PALMERI/associate editor