I don’t really remember how I found out about the “40 Days for Life” campaign, but I looked back through my pro-life file on my laptop this last week, and discovered that I signed up to receive the emails from Shawn Carney last fall – a year ago – on Sept. 24th. I remember reading them with great interest and I also checked my sent file for that 40 day period a year ago, and it looks like I forwarded them all to our congregation each day – asking them at the beginning of the 40 days to join in this prayer and fasting effort with me.
I never participated in the on site praying at Planned Parenthood and thus didn’t really encourage our congregation to do so either. This “40 days for life” thing was all new to us, but it grew on me with each passing day. Then I got a hold of the book, read it, was thrilled by it. And ordered some copies for our elders and wives and our church library.
In the 20 years I’ve pastored at the Los Osos Christian Fellowship we have always been a Pro-Life church. I’ve preached or had someone else preach on some aspect of the abortion issue every Roe vs Wade anniversary or Sanctity of Life Sunday in these 20 years. I’ve written some letters to the editors of the Tribune and our Bay News newspaper as well as the New Times newspaper, though most were not published. Our church has financially supported a local crisis pregnancy center on the central coast for pretty much all these 20 years. So we have not been on the sidelines of the movement necessarily, but we haven’t been on the sidewalks in front of Planned Parenthood either.
As I began to hear about the “40 Days for Life” starting back up again this past September, I knew something had to change. Reading all those emails from Shawn Carney and then reading his book and hearing all of these stories about women choosing to not abort their children primarily because of the people visibly out on the sidewalks in front of or across from the abortion clinics – – I knew there was something about physical presence that was strategic and necessary to make the greatest impact possible on the hearts and minds of men and women. And I knew I could not encourage our people to get out there if I wasn’t willing to model it.
And I knew the scriptures… Scriptures like: “Open your mouth, judge righteously, And defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.” Proverbs 31:8,9 or Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” Matthew 16:24,25 Interesting thing about this passage is it comes right after Jesus had to rebuke Peter for rebuking Jesus for thinking He had to suffer and even be killed. Jesus wanted to make sure Peter knew that not only was it absolutely necessary for Jesus to suffer and die at the hands of sinful men; but it also was absolutely necessary that Peter be willing to endure the same if He was truly going to follow Jesus and be His disciple.
I’ve preached these passages many times over the years, but all of a sudden they were causing me some significant discomfort.
When I first visited Tree of Life over on Chorro Street however long ago, I then walked over and walked by Planned Parenthood. It didn’t go unnoticed that praying in front of Planned parenthood would be a bit intimidating. We are right there next to their building. That’s quite different from being across the street from the said abortion clinic as is the case in some cities. I’m not a very confrontative, in your face kind of person. Not that this movement ever encourages that kind of behavior. But my point is – – I certainly did not relish standing or pacing in front of that building for an hour – – knowing I would inevitably come face to face with an employee or two and perhaps an angry boyfriend or father of some of these young pregnant ladies or an angry escort. I had read the daily accounts from last fall, and I knew sometimes our pro-choice fellow citizens can get ugly if not violent.
And I am very busy! Which is true. But if one of our men invites me to meet them for coffee or lunch, it would be pretty rare for me not to fit them into my busy schedule somehow. The Holy Spirit countered that thought pattern fairly quickly and decisively in the weeks leading up to this last starting day, which was September 25th I believe.
So to be clear – I only prayed in front of Planned Parenthood once a week on Thursday afternoons. Some of you – I know prayed for many more hours than that. And I salute you for your faithfulness and courage and compassion. I especially salute Sheryl and those who helped you for leading us forward so effectively and faithfully this fall.
“40 Days for Life’ has to be one of the most fruitful and encouraging things God is doing on the planet today. It has been a great privilege to be involved with it over these last 40 days. May God continue to use this powerful spiritual weapon to change the hearts and minds of our fellow citizens and even of the Planned Parenthood employees regarding the value He gives to life in the womb.