Raven Henson comes from a military family and has done her share of traveling. It was in Anchorage where she spent the most time and was met with an unexpected pregnancy as a teen that led her to the local Pregnancy Center. In 2010 she relocated to Texas with her first husband, and about three years ago got remarried to now husband Cole, and is a mother of two – Jayven and Faith. A series of events led her back to the Pregnancy Resource Center first as a volunteer and now as the director of donor development for the Rockwall and Mesquite centers. Another passion of hers is teaching English as a second language.
What was it like growing up in a military family and frequently moving?
I was born in Tacoma, Washington, and then from there we moved to Iceland. I've lived in California, Alabama, Ohio and Alaska. We moved a lot, but it makes you be accustomed to change. Unfortunately, I didn't grow up with the same kids in elementary school through high school. I didn't have those ties, but I can make a friend in an instant. I think it kind of makes you well-rounded and just able to adapt, but it is a challenge, too.
What has been your favorite place to have lived?
Alaska. I love Washington, too, but I feel like Alaska responds well to social issues. Alaska is one of the top states for teen pregnancies per capita. I graduated from a teen mom high school, and we could bring our babies up to six months of age and it was just for us. Classes were customized toward this change in our life that we were going through, and it just encouraged us so much. This program was amazing; it taught us to be moms and how to be adults and celebrated this new stage of life that we were going through. They encouraged me to be the best mom I can be and the best student I can be.
What brought you to Texas?
My ex-husband's job, but after we divorced I chose to stay and adapted. It was rough for a little while not having family here, but Texas is definitely home for me.
What was the biggest difference for you when you moved to Texas from Alaska?
It was a huge culture shock. Everything is big in Texas, and there's churches everywhere. The infrastructure was shocking – taxes and tolls. We didn't have sales tax in Anchorage, so getting used to paying sales tax on everything was a change. Texas also feels more friendly and welcoming compared to Alaska.
What were you doing career-wise prior to joining the center?
Marketing and advertising. I was working for an advertising agency for six months when I got laid off there, and prior to that I was at a promotional marketing firm for two years. I've dabbled as a paralegal, but mostly project management and marketing and advertising industry.
How did you get involved with the Pregnancy Resource Center?
My first interaction with the Pregnancy Center was 13 years ago in Alaska. When I was 15 I found out I was pregnant, and a classmate of mine told me about a pregnancy center that gave free pregnancy tests, and I went there and the counsel there confirmed that I was pregnant. The Pregnancy Center there and here are faith-based. I didn't grow up in a Christian home. My mother is half-Korean and born in Seoul, so she has a Buddhist background and we just weren't raised in anything.
They also told me something else that I'd never heard before – they assured me that there was a God in heaven that loved me and my baby, and they also told me that the Lord had a plan for me and my baby, and if I wanted to carry this pregnancy I wasn't alone. I remember just being amazed by that, that there was an all-knowing creator that cared about me and this baby that I was carrying. Then the comfort and encouragement that that counselor gave me at such a time that I felt completely helpless and terrified. She encouraged me and didn't judge me and just loved on me. Knowing that the center was there for me and that I could count on them.
What was your parents’ reaction?
They asked me to have an abortion. They said I couldn't live there if I'm pregnant and just shamed me. I just remembered that counselor's encouragement and I wanted this baby, and that night ended up being the first night that I prayed. I didn't know how to pray so I just said out loud, 'If you are who they say you are, you will help me get through this because I want this baby.' This calm just rushed over me and immediately assured that my plea was heard. I became a professing believer in Christ a few months later, and it's been an amazing journey since then.
How did you end up working with the center?
I was listening to a speaker from India, and after I got done I saw a man with baby bottles at a booth, approached him and asked what he was doing. He said it was a fundraiser for a Pregnancy Center and it spoke to me immediately. And I thought maybe I should get involved, maybe there's somebody I can help and I contacted the director and got involved with the Pregnancy Center in Plano as a volunteer.
Then through just a series of events I ended up losing my job in April and was able to invest more time as a volunteer. While I was job searching it just became clearer and clearer that this is where I needed to be, this is where the Lord was moving me towards.
My kid's dad moved to Rockwall last February, so in September my husband suggested we put the house up for sale and move closer to my son. We were in Carrollton at the time and the distance was getting too hard. The house sold in one day and that weekend we put an offer on a house in Rockwall and it was accepted the same day. So living in Rockwall I called the Pregnancy Center there and told them I'd like to volunteer and they offered me a job. Dec. 1 was my first day on the job, and I'm so excited and so honored to be a part of this team of people who really care about others and just want to help and serve the community. It's been an amazing ride so far.
How has it been different working for a nonprofit versus volunteering?
It's every day, whereas as a volunteer I'll come in when I can. I am fully invested in this, I am here every day doing this and that's a huge commitment. And to me it just seems more real now that I'm there from 9 to 5 and the weekend, doing whatever needs to be done.
What's it like to teach English to someone when you don't speak their language?
It's full immersion. I love the beginners; to me it's all about smiling and encouraging them and games. At the end of every class we'd play Bingo and they'd win things that are part of the lesson, like if we were on plants they can win seeds for daffodils.
Positive reinforcement is essential when you're teaching adults because they want to get it right the first time, but kids are more relaxed and know they don't have to get it right the first time. Letting them know it's OK to mess up is crucial.