Kingdom Choices a haven for unwed mothers

May 03, 2001

Kingdom Choices a haven for unwed mothers

By RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

Kingdom ChoicesPhoto: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer

Having been there herself, Elena Bain Murphy knows the desperation and loneliness a woman can feel when she finds herself single, pregnant, broke and with no place to go.

Murphy, 35, had a child out of wedlock when she was 16.

Three years ago, Murphy started Kingdom Choices, a home for unwed mothers, in her two-story farmhouse off Pa. 416 south of Mercersburg.

Since then, she said this week, 11 pregnant girls and women have had babies there.

"I usually go to the hospital with them when the time comes," Murphy said.

Currently, three women are there waiting to have babies.

Among them is 22-year-old Shanika Williams from York, Pa. Two weeks ago, she had Emmanuel, her fourth child fathered by a different man. She has no idea what she'll do or where she'll go when it's time to leave the shelter.


Murphy said she tries to steer the women who come to her in a new direction. Kingdom Choices is Christian-based. She hopes the women find not only comfort in faith, but a better path in life.

"The choices are theirs," Murphy said. "I don't want to see these girls go back on the street, but some make some pretty wrong choices when they leave here. Some go back into drugs, prostitution and have more babies."

Sharon Baughman also lives at Kingdom Choices. She's 37, also from the York area, and has two children, a 7-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl. Their father lives in Florida and does not provide child support.

Baughman is pregnant with twins. She doesn't speak of the man responsible other than to say that she has "made some bad choices."

Murphy doesn't judge the women who come to the shelter. "This is a refuge, a safe place to have their babies," she said.

Kingdom Choices gets help from area churches and service organizations. They donate diapers, toiletries and enough food to keep the pantry well-stocked, Murphy said. They also help with the shelter's operating expenses.

Murphy wants to build cottages on the property where women can live while they find a new direction, education, training, child care and a job.

The average stay at the shelter is about six months.

Discipline is strict, especially during the first 30 days, said the Rev. James Murphy, pastor of the New Life Assembly in Mercersburg and, since August, Elena Bain Murphy's husband.

Rev. Murphy often left boxes of food on the shelter's front steps. "I saw him out there one day and didn't know who he was," Elena Murphy said. They run the shelter together, she said.

Girls and women are not allowed phone calls or personal contact with anyone, especially boyfriends. They also cannot watch television or listen to the radio for the first month, according to Kingdom Choice rules.

Women are referred by churches, physicians, advocacy agencies, and even police departments, Murphy said.

They also learn the responsibilities of motherhood. They see their babies as someone to love, which is something they desperately need, Murphy said, but they don't understand what being a mother means.

"It's about dirty diapers and not having money to buy what you want and having no place to live," Murphy said. "I teach them how to be a mother. I do what their mothers should be doing."

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