Thursday, September 15, 2011


Searching. I was searching. But I didn’t know for what. God was calling me to do something; I just didn’t know what it was.

I had always believed in the pro-life movement. I could state plainly “I am pro-life.” But years and years went by without any action on my part. I didn’t give any money to a pro-life organization. I didn’t volunteer. I was not involved. I was not engaged.

Soon after overcoming the wear and tear of the “young children” phase of parenting, I began to become more involved at church. I began to spend more of my time on church projects, more time volunteering, more time teaching. I grew in my faith, but something was still lacking. Eventually, one of my good friends convinced me to go on a mission trip to Honduras. Reluctantly I went along. As is often the case, I was changed forever. “Church” for me was no longer a building; “church” was people. God’s work no longer took place on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights; His work was going on continuously. I had finally realized that fact and decided to join Him.

Around that time, I was playing around on the Internet (as I am prone to do). Something (or someone?) led me to search for “pro-life Birmingham.” There were many results, but the one that caught my eye was Sav-A-Life, Vestavia. I didn’t even know this ministry was a few short miles from my house. I found that they offered free pregnancy tests as well as basic medical services. As a physician radiologist, my specialty deals with images, not people. I tend to shy away from medical clinics feeling that I have nothing to offer. But then I read that Sav-A-Life offered free prenatal ultrasounds. What?!? Ultrasound was something I did. I was good at it. But could they use me?

When I first called to inquire about volunteering at Sav-A-Life, the person who answered the phone was cautiously optimistic. She couldn’t believe that a radiologist was calling to offer his services. They had only one nurse who performed the prenatal ultrasounds. They were looking to expand their services but didn’t know how they were going to train more nurses. It was a perfect match.

And perfect timing. Shortly after I began volunteering, the nurse who performed most of the ultrasounds had to resign. Had I not offered my services, Sav-A-Life would have been very limited in its ability to offer prenatal ultrasound, a very important service in the crisis pregnancy ministry. Do not mistake me: my timing was late. Years late, even. But God’s timing was perfect.

I had found my place of service -- outside the walls of my church, in my own town. Most Tuesday afternoons you can find me at the Sav-A-Life clinic helping with prenatal ultrasounds. I have been training the nurses at the clinic to perform ultrasounds so that exams can be performed almost any time the center is open. I cannot overemphasize the power of moving images of an unborn baby. My favorite times are when I get to share in the joy of excited parents. My most rewarding times are when we help a struggling mother grapple with the difficult decisions that lay before her. The good times are good; the bad times are hard. That’s life. And that’s my mission.

Dean Thornton, MD