Television “reality shows” are often heavily scripted. Our goal at WORLD is to describe real reality. We want to show readers actual life in the world that God made and man often messes up. We celebrate resilience in the face of difficulty and creativity that glorifies our Creator.
This week, we’re starting something new in WORLD history: We’re beginning two reality shows, and they're real reality. Today you can read about Megan Dancisak, 26, and her 16-month-old son Ethan. She has the pleasure of raising him, and the hardship of doing so as a single mom. We don’t know what will happen to her as time goes by, but our reporter will find out and update you each month.
We’re also starting a second real reality show tomorrow. It will feature Nathanael and Christina Matanick, young filmmakers who 10 days ago won Best Film at the 168 Film Festival, earning a prize of up to $1 million to make a feature-length film through Echolight Studios. We’ll follow them as they work on their movie: God knows how it will turn out. They and we don’t. Let’s watch together, month by month. —Marvin Olasky
Golden-haired Ethan Dancisak padded across the apartment in a printed T-shirt, a huge smile on his face. The 16-month-old had discovered a treasure trove—the kitchen trash can—and was fixated on retrieving a used straw. “No,” his mother Megan said. Ethan turned to look, hand still outstretched, long eyelashes blinking.
Megan, 26, never expected herself to be here: Single, living in Los Angeles, and raising a child. But since the day Ethan was born, she would have it no other way: “How could I imagine life without Ethan?”
While most pro-life work focuses on women in crisis pregnancies and their decision to keep or abort the baby, fewer Christians seem involved with helping women after they decide to have the baby. Megan said once she had Ethan, life as she knew it really did end: She’s had to shift her focus from her career plans, social life, and dating relationships to raising her son. Her paycheck from working part-time as a sales associate at T-Mobile now has to cover two people instead of one, and many months she doesn’t have enough money to pay for rent, food, and diapers.
But with the help of her church community, she’s starting to see a new life, one in which she needs to trust in God daily to provide as she learns about Him through her role as a mom.
Megan grew up in Chicago with her single mother, who cycled through dysfunctional relationships before getting married when Megan was 14. Her mother and stepdad moved to a nice area in Indiana and had two children together. But no matter how hard Megan tried to do well in school and fit into the new family, her mom largely ignored her.
So in college, Megan decided to try a new tactic to get attention—as the party girl: “I had so much hurt and pain and I didn’t know how to do deal with it. As I became an adult, I did what the world does—numbing the pain with friendships, sex, and booze.”
After college, things got worse: Her mother had a manic bipolar breakdown, her ex-boyfriend died in a car accident, and she continued trying to fill the void with men, antidepressants, and partying. One night, she decided to commit suicide. But all of a sudden she “felt like Jesus came down, I felt an overwhelming peace I had never felt in my life” and heard Him say, “I love you, you were created for more than this.”
She started going to church and professed faith in Christ. She began dating a godly man she met at church and felt called to move to Los Angeles to pursue ministry. But once she arrived, her boyfriend broke up with her, leaving her stunned.
“I was so angry and confused about why God let that happen. … I asked ‘Why?’ for a year and a half,” she said. In anger, she went back to her old habits of partying and sleeping around. One night she got drunk and had a one-night stand with an acquaintance. Afterwards at church she felt God calling her to stop drinking.
In the following months, Megan started feeling tired. She noticed her body changing and on a whim decided to buy a pregnancy test. It was positive. In disbelief, she took more tests and even went to the emergency room where a doctor confirmed the pregnancy. A nurse came in and slipped Megan a note with Romans 8:28 scrawled on it: “All things work together for the good of those who love God and who are called according to his purposes.”
Later at her doctor’s office, Megan started laughing and sobbing at the sight of the already 3-month-old baby inside her. The doctor asked her if she wanted to abort the child right away. Having seen the fully formed baby, Megan knew she couldn’t abort, but she also knew she couldn’t raise a child. All of a sudden, the overwhelming peace washed over her again. “I heard so loud the Lord give me two promises: He was with me, it wasn’t a mistake, and that is your child. It will be hard but I’ll never leave you.” Megan said she didn’t understand what would happen, but felt enough peace to walk out of the doctor’s office without scheduling an abortion.
She was torn—she didn’t feel mentally, emotionally, or financially able to take care of a baby. She knew the child would grow up never knowing his father like she did, and she feared he would resent her for it. But she also didn’t feel at peace with placing him for adoption, especially as she started bonding with him.
She joined a community group at a local church, Reality LA, where she was surprised to find that “the community instead of backing down, stood up and surrounded Ethan and I by praying, serving, and loving us.”
Her biggest fear was being alone in the delivery room. But when the time came last April, her mentor and small group friends stood by her side. Outside the door, 20 girls waited, many having seen Megan come full term. When doctors placed baby Ethan in her arms, she was mesmerized: “Now you’re holding this little life, you finally get to see the soulmate you had inside you. … It’s pretty cool in nine months I had a change of heart from ‘What am I going to do?’ to ‘How can I live life without Ethan?’”
In the 16 months since then, Megan said it’s been a series of daily journeys, some dark days, some joyous days. She still struggles with depression and shame. Even seeing Ethan reminds her of her sin, yet she’s seeing how God has redeemed even the moments she lashed out at Him. Somedays it’s a lonely burden not having anyone to share the responsibilities of being a parent, and she has to go into work even when she would rather stay home with Ethan. While she has some help from WIC, she makes too much money to get welfare, but often doesn’t have the money to cover bills.
But through times like that, Megan’s seen God’s provision. Community group members pitch in to help with babysitting, donate baby items, and help pay for groceries. Recently when she had car trouble, a random parishioner came up to her after church and gave her a $100 bill. Later that day, the car shop told her they could fix the car for exactly $100.
The greatest joy for Megan is watching Ethan grow up. She says Ethan’s brought her a lot of love she’s never experienced. And by parenting, she understands more about God and His love for her, His wisdom in discipline. As Ethan excitedly embarks on new adventures at the park, at the zoo, or even in the kitchen, Megan is learning about child-like wonder.
When asked what churches can do to help single moms like her, Megan said they should seek Jesus: “Out of [Reality LA’s] love for Jesus and what Jesus had done, they loved Ethan. Then out of their love for Ethan and I, they did everything they could for us.”