Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness. At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” Matthew 9:35-38
This passage tells of Jesus’ compassion. He is deeply moved because every life is important, and every life is sacred, regardless of race, religion, or social standing. He knew people needed both physical and spiritual healing. The passage ends with Jesus calling for more disciples.
This scripture resonates with me because it highlights the discipleship aspect of the pro-life ministry and the need to reflect Christ’s compassion.
Over the course of the 40 Days for Life campaign in Granite City during 2019, I prayed at Hope Clinic filling in the open time slots on many occasions, and each time I found a joyful community of prayer partners. Compassionate and generous men, women and youth from surrounding towns, parishes, and religious belief – all united for the pre-eminent cause of supporting women, babies and life.
Our prayer groups received a lot of positive support: a honk of the horn, a thumbs up, people waving and smiling. I remember delivery drivers saying you guys rock, you’re doing the right thing”. One driver said he didn’t want to deliver food to this place, but it was his job. All these things made me smile and feel good. They reaffirmed that our sidewalk presence was important.
But what touched me most deeply was the sadness on the women’s faces as they left the facility. It haunted me. It still haunts me. The physical and emotional pain of abortion was clearly visible. They wore it heavily on their shoulders, on their faces but most obviously in their eyes. For the first time I understood the physical, emotional, and spiritual pain of abortion.
My heart ached for them. It truly ached for them and it changed me. It started something moving in me, a swirling in my soul. I felt a strong urge to do more, but at that time I didn’t know what the “more” was.
Not long afterwards, while praying there, we received word that a new “mega” abortion facility opened in Fairview Heights. My heart jumped. I immediately knew what the “more” was. I knew what Jesus was asking of me. He was asking me to be a sidewalk counselor. So I prayed on it. After a week of prayer, I reached out to my dear friend Joan and with her advice and encouragement, I gave Jesus my “yes”.
In November 2019, I attended “Sidewalk Counselor Training” offered by Coalition for Life St. Louis at Holy Trinity Church, in Fairview Heights. Initially I worked and learned from Coalition staffers along with a couple other trainees. Then on December 3, I was ready for more and began working with another counselor. Just two of us taking turns wearing the vest and stopping cars.
I began volunteer every Monday from 8-12, counseling moms in need, offering choices, and providing resources other than Planned Parenthood. We ask questions and we point to resources that address their needs: free STD testing, free pregnancy testing, free Ultrasound, financial aid, safe housing, medical, and baby items. All our options are pro-woman and pro-life. I now sidewalk counsel at Hope Clinic in Granite City.
It’s very tempting for us in the sidewalk ministry to gauge our success by the number of “saves” we record and to believe that babies are saved and souls healed through our efforts. In reality, this is God’s mission. We simply make ourselves available to Him and participate in Jesus’ ministry of love.
On the sidewalk, I learned, that moms are very aware of Planned Parenthood and Hope Clinic and what they offer, but aren’t aware of the variety of other resources available to them. And that needs to change.
That’s the call I heard. A calling to offer help and to share Jesus’s message of hope, love and forgiveness to the women in need.
Jesus is calling each of us to discipleship. How we answer, if we answer, he leaves entirely up to us and our hearts to decide.
I’m reminded of a quote that is often attributed to St. Francis.
“All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.”
You can be that “candle in the darkness” to the moms in need.
“Come and you will see.” John 1:39