A Look Back at 2016 and What We’re Doing Next!

It has been a transformative year at Equal Rights Institute.

In our second full year as an organization we gave 27 speeches in Illinois, California, Missouri, Massachusetts, Michigan, Virginia, Colorado, North Carolina, Texas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York, and Washington, DC! Thanks to some great logistical planning from Jacob Nels, we also did five full-day seminars in California, Michigan, and Virginia. All in all we trained approximately 1,377 people!

It’s easy to think of these people as statistics. We have gotten fantastic responses from the students we have spoken to. Here’s just one testimonial from Anthony Jones, the Vice President of Robinson Rams for Life, a high school Students for Life club that I spoke to recently while in the DC area:

Mr. Brahm brought clarity, enthusiasm, and a fresh perspective to our club in regards to the pro-life position. Although some of us had previous experience in defending life, the presentation enhanced everyone’s knowledge and gave us greater confidence to dialogue persuasively. Students came into the event with varying beliefs about abortion, but they all left with the common knowledge of a logical and charitable approach that championed equal rights. Once Mr. Brahm had concluded, one student exclaimed: ‘That was the best pro-life argument I’ve ever heard,’ already confirming that the presentation had made a tangible difference in equipping our club to accomplish its mission more effectively than ever before.

While in 2014 and 2015 I did the bulk of our public speaking, this last year Timothy really stepped up, giving 11 speeches on seven speaking trips.

I’ve really seen Timothy grow as a speaker this year. He’s great at experimenting with ideas and ways to interact with the audience on the spot. He’s come up with some fantastic ideas for our pro-life apologetics talks that I’ve incorporated into my own lectures. Jillian Ferguson, the Southwest Regional Coordinator for Students for Life of America, had this to say about the lecture Timothy gave at her Leadership Summit in October:

Tim was one of the most highly rated speakers at my Southwest Leadership Summit. He had the largest chunk of time and the students still wanted more. Tim takes the time and care to articulate clear and thorough answers to all the students’ questions. This, combined with his humor and fun scenario-building, helps to build a unique rapport with the audience that allows the students to feel comfortable asking questions and engaging in a productive exchange of ideas and challenges.

Tim has an incredible capacity to find the perfect balance between practicality, philosophy, and amusement that allows students to learn a lot in a short amount of time without feeling overwhelmed. I cannot wait to have him back to future events and summits!

We continue to train pro-life advocates to be more gracious and persuasive through our blog. We purposefully redirected a lot of our creative writing energy from the blog to creating the Equipped for Life Course, which involved writing scripts for 39 video lessons. We still published 12 original articles on our blog this year though, and we will be getting back to more frequent blog posts next year! Even though we published fewer pieces this year than we did last year, we still had 20,976 people visit our blog in the year 2016 to date. Most of these people are from America, although we had a significant number of visits from Russia, Canada, the United Kingdom, India, and Australia.

I get emails and comments online virtually every week from people who say they’ve been helped by our work. Here’s just one reflection from Andreea, the leader of a pro-life group in Romania!

I represent Pro-Vita Bucharest, the first and most active pro-life association in Romania. I myself am a pro-life activist working with high school and university students. I have trained myself extensively as a pro-life apologist and you have always been a source of inspiration for me. Pro-life apologetics was almost non-existent when I first started training others in 2013. Now we have a pretty well developed network of activists and I am looking to improve and extend our team. I just wanted to thank you for your activity and let you know that we are looking forward to your online training course.

Ever since we hired Jacob Nels, we made sure that sidewalk counseling remained a priority for him. Not only is he saving lives, but he’s also trying different techniques out and now he’s in the process of writing a series of articles and training videos for the Equipped for Life Course on effective sidewalk counseling practices.

I asked Jacob to describe what his last year of sidewalk counseling has been like. Here’s what he said:

Sidewalk counseling is a roller coaster. Any of the other volunteers that I regularly work with will tell you the same thing. There is a thrill of joy when you meet a woman or man you can help, and even more so when a child is rescued from the brink of death. But most of the time you stand on the clinic’s property line with this gut-wrenching, slightly queasy feeling of riding a beast that you cannot control. I have been cussed out and screamed at, but I have also had the privilege of being the only person some men and women in desperate situations have felt like they could talk to. I’ve shared tears of pain and joy with complete strangers, and seen the miracle of salvation that only God is capable of. This year I have had the privilege of seeing God’s hand in the saving of twelve babies, sometimes working through me, sometimes through other volunteers. I was also able to train a group of people in sidewalk counseling and taught at several churches over the year.

By far our biggest accomplishment this year was shooting, editing, and launching the Equipped for Life Course. Not only are the 29 high-resolution video lessons finished, but we also started the Equipped for Life podcast. As of now, we’ve recorded nine episodes, and we release one every other Tuesday. We are really pleased with how the podcast has been going and we have gotten really great responses so far.

This next spring will be very busy. Not only has Students for Life of America (SFLA) asked me to give two speeches at both of their national conferences, they have again asked Timothy and I to speak at nearly every one of their Leadership Summits this next semester. Here’s what our schedule looks like already:

1/22: I’m speaking at SFLA’s National West Coast Conference in San Francisco, CA
1/28: I’m speaking at SFLA’s National East Coast Conference in Upper Marlboro, Maryland
3/18: I’m speaking at SFLA’s Leadership Summit in Boston, Massachusetts
3/18: At the same time Timothy will be speaking at SFLA’s Leadership Summit in Omaha, Nebraska
3/25: Timothy is speaking at SFLA’s Leadership Summit in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
4/8: I am speaking at SFLA’s Leadership Summit in Seattle, Washington
4/22: Timothy is speaking at SFLA’s Leadership Summit in Phoenix, Arizona

If you are excited by how we are training pro-life advocates, or if you’ve found our content to be personally encouraging or helpful to you, would you consider partnering with us through financial support? Our work is made possible by the faithful support of individuals just like you.

Beyond supporting the work of ERI staff, we now have a new, exciting way that you can help train clubs!

Here’s the problem we want to solve: We’ve received a lot of feedback that there are clubs who really want to take the course, but are only being held back by funding. They can’t usually apply for funding from the administration to buy the course in the way they can to bring a public speaker onto campus, and many club leaders are overwhelmed by the thought of fundraising or perhaps are just too busy to add that to their list. So they’re settling for whatever free resources they can find online, resources that will be less helpful to their club because they don’t cover much of what we cover in our course.

Next month I’m going to begin asking clubs that want to take the course but can’t afford it to apply for a sponsorship. These sponsorships will be paid for by our donors who are excited about helping a club grow and become more effective and motivated to do outreach on their campus.

Remember what we recently reported about the impact the course had on the Students for Life club at the University of Michigan? Their most timid members were begging for weekly outreaches as soon as they finished part of the course! This is exactly the effect we were hoping for, and early reports are that that is exactly what is happening.

You could make that difference possible for one or more clubs! Here’s how it will work.

If you want to sponsor a club, call our office at 559-593-8700 or visit EqualRightsInstitute.com/Sponsorships. You’ll be guided through two steps. First, you’ll fill out a quick survey that tells us about YOUR preferences. (For example, would you prefer to sponsor a high school club or a college club? Would you prefer to sponsor a club at your alma mater?) The second step is making the $197 donation that pays for each club you want to sponsor.

Meanwhile, we’ll be going through student applications for sponsorships and matching clubs with donors. If the pro-life club at Biola applies for a sponsorship and we approve their sponsorship, and a donor has paid for a sponsorship and said they’d love to support a club at Biola if possible, we’ll match them up!

One of my favorite parts of this plan is that your connection to the club doesn’t end there. We’re not just going to give a sponsorship to any club that asks for one, or else they may not take it seriously. This isn’t a free course. It’s a high-quality production that you bought for them. But they still need to have some skin in the game, so in the application we’ll make it very clear that some strings are attached. I want the donor to be able to follow this group’s progress, so the club leader will commit to:

  1. Send a thank you note and picture of their group to the donor;
  2. Get the club through the course and have at least one outreach within three months;
  3. Send a second note after they’ve concluded their first outreach along with reflections from some of the students about their experiences talking with pro-choice people.

This way you, as the donor, can actually see the impact that you made, just by making it possible for them to take our course!

I want to announce to club leaders about the sponsorships next month, and I want to be able to tell them exactly how many sponsorships we already have available. That is more likely to motivate them to go through the application process and commit to leading their club through outreach on their campus.

There is one additional way that you can sponsor a club, that we’re launching this spring. We would like to be able to help as many clubs with outreach as we can. We won’t charge for our time, we just need some of the travel expenses covered. So while a $197 donation will cover a sponsorship that gets the course to a club, a $500 donation will cover a sponsorship AND ERI-facilitated outreach with the club. Our goal is to raise six of these course + outreach sponsorships.

As you are deciding where to put your end-of-year giving, please consider making a special gift to help us accomplish our goal of training thousands of pro-life advocates next year.

On behalf of Tim, Jacob, Christina, and Kim, thank you so much for partnering with us. Your prayers and financial support mean the world to us.

Josh Brahm, for the ERI staff

 

President

Josh Brahm is the President of Equal Rights Institute, an organization that trains pro-life advocates to think clearly, reason honestly and argue persuasively.

Josh uses speaking, writing and campus outreach to emphasize practical dialogue tips, pro-life philosophy, and relational apologetics.

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