Community Conversation with Dawn Tongish: Meet Susan Hulet, executive director of Mercy House Ministries a nonprofit organization based in Colleyville, dedicated to helping single, pregnant women in need of housing, counseling and childbirth services. Hulet is a veteran midwife who has delivered more than 650 babies and also the wife of a pastor. For Hulet, founding Mercy House in 1998 was like seeing a dream come true. Hulet combined her passion for helping women and children, under the roof of a Christian maternity home.
Under Hulet's guidance, the women selected to be part of the program get the medical care they need and proper parenting and educational skills, to support a growing family. We wanted to know more about this mission and Hulet was kind enough to answer a few questions:
Dawn Tongish: Can you begin by telling us about Mercy House Ministries?
Susan Hulet: Mercy House is a residential program for single pregnant women who find themselves homeless or in a situation of duress. We provide housing, counseling, childbirth services with midwives, life skills training, parenting education and Christian discipleship. Our goal is to help a woman facing pregnancy alone remove every obstacle to success and also build for a healthy and successful future. When we impact a woman’s life we are really changing the future for two lives, and ultimately for a generation to come.
DT: What are your duties at Mercy House Ministries?
SH: As the executive director my primary duty is to assure the ministry’s sustainability and success. This comes in the form of networking with our community, “friend” raising (the new term for fundraising), and working to raise awareness of the need and our ministry’s work to meet that need. My responsibilities also include oversight and training of staff, program planning and management, and working with the board of directors to assure compliance with law and to advise on the use and disbursement of funds.
DT: Why did you found the organization, and why is this mission so close to your heart?
SH: In the early 1990’s I was moved in a personal devotional time to reach out to single women facing pregnancy alone but with no support. As a midwife I had begun working with a number of single pregnant women, walking with them through their deep hurt and abandonment as well as their insecurity about the future. As a pastor’s wife I was motivated to have a deeper reach into these women’s lives than just getting a baby here safely. I knew the loss of the relationship that they had put their hopes in could only be filled by the Lord. So my husband and I shared the vision for a residential home to more deeply care for the needs of these women with our church, and in 1997 Mercy House was born. For more detail on the story we have created a video that can be viewed at www.mercyhouse.org.
I think this mission is so close to my heart because of my own journey as a mother. Although I did not go through a pregnancy alone, I have a heart for families and particularly for women to believe that with God’s help they can succeed. In 1989 I began my 20 year journey as a midwife and was able to assist about 650 women with the births of their babies. In that time I grew to appreciate the process of birth, the strength of women through that process and how profoundly birth displays the miracle of life that God has given us.
DT: There are other organizations that provide help for those seeking adoption services, but Mercy House is unique in that it provides parenting skills. Can you elaborate?
SH: We absolutely celebrate and believe in the beautiful process that adoption gives to a birth mother and to adoptive parents in providing a life giving option to an unplanned pregnancy. We have had several adoptions through our ministry for which we are so grateful to God. In our journey we have come to recognize that our society’s culture has changed and there are a great many women choosing to parent. While there are many adoption programs available, there are very few parenting programs that take a systematic approach to teaching parenting skills. We feel called to prepare the mothers choosing to parent in the most thorough way possible. We have a ten week curriculum for pregnancy and parenting that our residents work on each day. It includes hands on classes such as car seat safety and infant CPR. At the end of the class work, each woman receives a baby shower that provides everything she will need to care for her baby. This includes her layette, crib and mattress, stroller, pack and play and personal gifts as well. Any parent out there knows that so much is learned in the process of parenting and classes are not all we need to be good parents. But we believe that people who know better do better, so we want to help bring that knowledge for the best start possible.
DT: Single women must apply and be selected for the program. There is also a great deal of life skills and educational/job skills that are taught. Why did you decide to include that in the program?
SH: Many of the women we serve have lived in the cycle of poverty, loss and abuse. We want to help them see the future in a different way. By teaching life skills and providing educational opportunities we hope to raise their vision to healthy, productive living that does not rely on the goodwill of others for the rest of their lives. Self-sufficient, healthy living is the goal we encourage each woman to reach for.
DT: It can be difficult for nonprofit organizations to stay afloat. How can the citizens of Tarrant County help your organization? What are your needs?
SH: Any truthful nonprofit leader will say that financial support is the greatest need we face! I will add the “amen” to that and say that we also treasure partners that can volunteer. We have many opportunities to serve, through mentoring, driving assistance, and special skills assistance. We especially need monthly donors who will commit to longer term support by giving systematically. We also deeply appreciate onetime donations as well. To give or volunteer you can visit www.mercyhouse.org and click the How to Help button.
DT: Can you describe some of your proudest moments with Mercy House Ministries?
SH: One of my proudest moments was Bridgette. Bridgette’s life was in shambles when she came to us. She had lost her boyfriend in a car accident just prior to discovering she was pregnant. Her father was incarcerated for drug charges and she was not able to find any support from family. She made her way to Mercy House but was extremely depressed and ashamed. The church she attended while with us and our volunteers enfolded her with love and acceptance and she gradually began to look up. She decided to commit her life to Christ and was baptized the same day that her baby was dedicated to the Lord. From the Mercy House program, Bridgette moved on to another housing program in our area and continued her education. Perhaps my most joyful day with Bridgette was about a year later when she married a young man she had met at the church she attended after graduating from our program. They now have 3 beautiful boys and Bridgette’s husband Josiah is in the Army stationed in Arizona. Theirs and other stories can be seen on our website www.mercyhouse.org under the Videos button.
I can honestly say there is no greater joy than to see a woman who comes into our program broken, alone and unsure about her future leave Mercy House with her healthy baby, confident, equipped and surrounded by love and support. It is worth every bit of sacrifice because God is always ready with His love to offer us another chance to pick up the pieces and start again. We all need help at some time in our lives. When we serve these women, we are His hands extended and nothing but good comes from sowing those kind of seeds into the future. When we help change the life of a single pregnant woman in need we are really changing the future for two lives, and that can truly change a generation.
Contact Dawn Tongish at firstname.lastname@example.org or find her on Twitter at @DawnTongish.