FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – Tiffany Bowman wears a silver, thumb-sized Africa pendant around her neck. In the center of the tiny continent is a heart-shaped cutout where Ethiopia would be found on a map. In that small, heart-shaped cutout is Bowman’s heart—a heart for missions she discovered while serving in Ethiopia and that has led to her current ministry at Gladney Center for Adoption in Fort Worth, Texas.
Bowman, a Master of Divinity student at Southwestern, works as a weeknight residential coordinator at Gladney’s dormitory for birth mothers. There, like in Ethiopia, she walks side-by-side with women through their hopes, triumphs, trials and tears, offering not only her ear and shoulder but also the lasting hope found in Christ.
“I have always had a heart for adoption and the beautiful picture it displays of our relationship with Christ,” Bowman says. “There are people who have not heard [about salvation through Christ], and I’ve come across that at Gladney. I start my day asking that God would give me an opportunity to share the Gospel with them, if not through words, then by actions.”
Bowman says the birth mothers who come through the adoption center’s dorm often have nowhere else to turn. No family willing to support them and their decision to deliver their baby. No friends willing to encourage them through the trying months of pregnancy. No resources to care for their unborn child. For these women, Bowman, along with staff and other women in the dorm, becomes their friend, their sister, their mother, their mentor.
“I’m there to walk alongside them through their adoption process and support them as they make their decisions,” says Bowman, who lives on site at Gladney and is available to them nearly around the clock. “For the most part, they know I am there if they ever need anything. I am able to live life with them and be a role model for them.”
Bowman says her seminary studies are helping her prepare not only for future ministry in missions but also for the ministry she currently has with the eight women and girls living in Gladney’s dorm. She says she is learning how to be prepared for whatever is thrown her way, including how to answer difficult questions, how to serve and teach, and how to live a life that reflects the message of the Gospel.
A letter framed on the “Legacy of Hope” wall, written from one birth mother to those who would come after her, explains the priceless role Gladney’s residential center and women like Bowman played in her choosing life, choosing family and choosing Christ.
“If these walls could talk, they would tell you what a real struggle is,” the letter reads in blue, cursive handwriting. “If these walls could talk, they’d tell you how I got on my knees and found Jesus.”
Gladney has always stood as a beacon of hope, connecting birth mothers with families for the past 126 years, but now that hope is beginning to take an even brighter sheen as new neighbors move in next to their Fort Worth facility. Only feet away from the adoption center, construction crews have begun building a Planned Parenthood center on the adjacent lot. The signs for the two vastly different centers stand nearly shoulder-to-shoulder. Jennifer Lanter, director of outreach and public information officer for Gladney and an adoptive mother herself, says she remembers the day news came of Planned Parenthood’s decision to build next door.
“The day we found out about it was a hard day,” Lanter recalls. “We did not expect to have Planned Parenthood as a neighbor, but also we understand that there is a bigger plan than even Gladney knows about.”
With a firm resolve to maintain their own mission and dedication to adoption, regardless of who moved in next door, Lanter says Gladney’s president chose to look at the positives in the situation. Though it would certainly be best for no abortion-promoting facilities to exist, if they are indeed going to exist, what better place for one to be located than next door to a beacon of hope?
“Our president said it would almost be worse if they were one or two miles away than right next door,” Lanter says. “What we know of women is that they are literally looking for a sign [when deciding what to do with an unplanned pregnancy].”
So, a sign they would give them. Lanter says Gladney has been working to make their mission very visible on the signs that welcome women, families and visitors to their center, boldly emblazoning their mission of “a hope and a future” on one sign and “Gladney Center for Adoption” on the other, with a secret garden-type area in the middle, offering women a quiet place to sit and think about what they really want for their unborn child.
Some of those women may even find their way into the refuge of the center’s dorm, where Lanter says Bowman’s work is critical.
“It is extremely important that we have 24-hour care for all of our clients,” Lanter said. “It is also important because Tiffany is here at night. That night can be a scary time for a woman who is going through an unplanned or crisis pregnancy.”
Bowman says the hands-on service and missions training she is garnering while working at Gladney during her time at Southwestern will equip her for whatever assignment the Lord should give her when she finishes seminary, be it Ethiopia or anywhere else.
“Having these day-to-day relationships with women and being able to pour into their lives daily and being able to just be there in all circumstances with them, whether they’re happy or sad or joyful, and just the unconditional love and support I can have for them, can be translated to settings in the future,” Bowman said.