Story by Tompaul Wheeler/ Photos courtesy Calhoun Photography
In February 2018, Hector and Anissa Perla, who attend several churches in the Washington, D.C., area, were equal parts shocked and thrilled to learn that they were expecting their first child. They felt God had called them to begin a ministry and a family. Throughout the first trimester, they kept the news to themselves. Then, in the twelfth week, the pregnancy ended in miscarriage.
“Two weeks later, my last living grandparent passed away,” Anissa remembers. “It was a horrible, dark time in our life. I remember thinking, I need to grieve and just let my opinions out. I wanted to take it to another level in terms of sharing with other women and men. Miscarriages happen more often than we think; it’s [approximately] 1 in 4 women. We don’t talk about it. It’s like a sad, secret society.”
Anissa candidly posted her story on her and Hector’s ministry website—project126.org—sharing about her miscarriage. “I wanted to be open and candid about how God worked in our lives, that I have hope in Christ,” she says. “I know there are many women who suffer in silence. So many people responded. A lot of Adventists [told me], ‘This is me: I’ve lost three babies. I’ve lost one. Thank you for sharing this. We need to speak about it more.’”
Anissa reflects, “There are many things we go through that we feel completely alone [in] because no one else talks about it, whether it’s a sin or a tragedy. There’s value in speaking up and offering that support to others. The silver lining is that I’ve now been invited to speak to groups of women and churches, or just a simple conversation with someone privately, offering support so they can move forward.” The Perlas also use their social media voices to educate and help organize immigration education events.
When Anissa and Hector announced that she was pregnant again, they were blessed with an outpouring of support. “Because of my being so open, when we announced we’re pregnant now, so many people have prayed for us and been there for us,” Anissa says. “I don’t think we would have received that much spiritual support if we’d just stayed quiet and suffered alone. Prayer is the best gift anyone can give you. ... When the baby is born, we’ll still have people praying for us.
“I feel like in my parents’ generation, everything was hush-hush,” Anissa explains. “We’re Latino, so I feel like people of color often feel they have to make sure everyone knows ‘we’re fine, we’re great.’ It’s all hush hush. ... But social media gives us a platform to share more widely. Sure I could have shared my story without social media, but it would be a little different. Now, there’s a wide audience. I get invited to speak, be part of a panel ... and provide comfort to women.”
She adds, “Yes, there are ugly places on the internet, but you can still choose whether to curse or bless people. I choose to bless. We need to share our struggles and how we get through them together. We’re not meant to walk this journey alone.”
Read articles from the July/August 2019 Visitor:
- Full Feature
- Quincy's Quest
- Season's Journey
- Fostering a Culture of Vulnerability
- Columbia Union Members Named Fulbright Scholars
- Students Receive Caring Heart Awards
- Dos and Don'ts of Church Social Media
- Book Release: The Anabaptist Remnant
Cover image of Jessica and Quincy Sims by Jared Wickerham/AP Images for the Columbia Union Visitor