Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Where is the hope?

Today is one of my favorite days out at PP. Well, I guess I say that almost every day!  :-)  Love you all! 
But today is special because of Pastor Bill, John and Richard who faithfully come EVERY Tuesday morning and stay for 4 hours! 9am to 1pm they can be counted on to be there outside Planned Parenthood! 

These days we always have our fair share of conversation in between prayer and Pastor Bill has been so kind to share much of his life experience, advice and answers to Theological questions with me! I love this opportunity to learn from him as well as get to know him and my other brothers in the Lord! 

His example today was especially neat and encouraging for me to be apart of and witness, and I wanted to try and write it out to document it. :-) 

Many times when approached by people, I'm quite unsure of what is the best way to interact and respond.  Some folks need real facts and answers in a quick and engaging way.  Some folks just need an ear that will listen and a prayer offered.  Being able to watch my dad, Pastor Bill, Pastor Dean and so many others interact with people is such a great opportunity - and whether they know it or not they are training and disciple-ing me and all who are blessed to watch-and-learn! This spring chicken is still "learning the ropes" and I'm so thankful for my "elder" and more experienced brothers and sisters!

Today was one of those awesome opportunities, and God taught me a few things too. :)

About half-way through our time at PP a blue mini van parked across the street at the auto parts store.  Out stepped a mid to late 50's man with a big ole' Duck Dynasty beard, long hair, and a fair share of mud on his pants/shirt - pretty much the poster child for a mountain man look. :-) 

I commented to Pastor Bill as the man walked across the street to meet us, "This should be interesting!" 

Immediately the man launched into about a 15 min. monologue about the evils and unfairness of child support that is "slammed" upon the children's fathers when their wives divorce them. 

I tried my best to follow along his lengthy story but I admit, my first thoughts were, "so...what does this have to do with praying to end abortion?"  I was quite confused to say the least.  :-) 

Thankfully, Pastor Bill led by example and kindly and compassionately listened to this man. (I had to keep biting my tongue, but was SO thankful to let Pastor Bill lead and have his example to follow)  Occasionally Pastor Bill would ask a question to clarify, or make a comment to let the man know he was listening. And he always had such a spirit of love, gentleness and care for him, even when our friend was less-than-respectful at times in his words and actions.
 As our friend continued to monologue about the unfairness of child support, Pastor Bill commented with gentleness and in a non-confrontational way something like, "is it better to take the child's life, than pay child support?

Our friend immediately said no. But continued to monologue. :-) 

As the man continued, it became pretty clear he had suffered a very difficult life, laced with much dis-function, betrayal and divorce. (I'm unsure how much was true, but Pastor Bill gently pointed out to me afterwards that it's not up to us to judge his story or even believe it, but just listen.)
In all this confusion, the point that I gathered from what had been said so far was that the man was hurting and angry because of the way his life had gone and he was searching for some glimpse of hope in all of it. 

Eventually, the man came up for air and Pastor Bill was able to gently share some hope with him. He agreed and understood that this life on earth can be very brutal, unfair and messed-up. He understood that life is filled with brokenness and difficult situations because of hurting and hopeless and sometimes even cruel people. He shared that we are out here to pray for people in all of these broken and difficult situations and circumstances, and that we are concerned for their well being. 

And then he shared that the only hope we have to cling to in this life, the very hope that helps us and guides us through the difficulties of life, is Jesus Christ. 

Pastor Bill then asked our friend if he would like to pray with him. 

This seemed to be exactly what our friend was looking for. With eagerness he immediately said he would like that. P. Bill asked for his name, they shook hands, and then prayed a simple yet powerful prayer for him.  

Afterwards, we genuinely thanked our friend for having the courage to come speak with us and share his side of the story. I told him with a chuckle that I was so thankful that he didn't simply drive by and shout at us, or give us the 1 finger wave, but that he was willing to take the time to communicate with us. 

We continued to stand for a few seconds, and I was expecting any minute for him to go back across the street since it seemed he had calmed down and said all he thought he needed to say. 

I was quite wrong - apparently he had more he wanted to share. 

Because of our gentleness and love expressed for him; he was able to actually open up about what was truly bothering him. 

 Paying for child support wasn't the source of the pain and anger, or even why he came out.  Abortion was. And he finally felt comfortable enough to talk about it. 

He had been affected by the tragedy of abortion in his own family. His first wife (now ex) had been abused by her father. He had driven his girlfriend (now ex wife) to the abortion clinic years ago.

It all began to make sense. I finally understood why he had come out to talk with us and why he had spent the first 15 minutes trying to justify abortion by the tragic stories he had told. 

More than anything he had been trying to convince himself, not us, that abortion was ok. 
Although he wouldn't admit it, I know he was hurting and had felt convicted as he drove by us this morning.
We continued to gently listen to our friend, offering some "uh huh"s, "that's terrible", "so sorry"s and questions now and then.  The only words I could choke out to say to him after he told of his first wife's abortion was, "I'm so sorry." 

At this point the woman he had with him in the car got out and yelled across the street to hurry up or she'd be late for her appointment. We chuckled with him, and thanked him again for taking the time to share his side of the story with us. 

As he left, I told him that no one is ever beyond the reach of God's grace and that Jesus loves him. He waved and smiled at us as he drove off. 

We hope and pray that God will work in His heart and water those seeds. Although we didn't say much, at least the man now knows there are Christians that truly love and care about Him in the name of Christ. Perhaps God will use it in his life to reach him and draw Him into a relationship with the Lord. 

Up until the past couple days when I've had the opportunity to meet a few post-abortive men, I never really knew the scars that men deal with from abortion. I knew it hurt  and affected women, but I hadn't given much thought to how it affected men up until then. 
Not only does abortion emotionally and psychologically scar women for life, it also affects men almost just as painfully. Pastor Bill pointed out to me later that the pain parents experience losing a child is the same - no matter if it was miscarried or aborted, or even if the child was born and passed away from an illness or accident. Parents should never have to bury their child, no matter the age or circumstance. 

However the pain of an abortion is even more intense because it was not an accident or illness, but a deliberate choice. The parents not only deal with the grief of their dead child, but also deal with the intense guilt of taking their child's life.  
Over 80% of post-abortive women feel "self-hatred." 
According to this study; complications of suicidal ideation, drug and alcohol abuse, PTSD, eating disorders, increased smoking, divorce and broken relationships, repeat abortions, sexual dysfunction, and child abuse become more prevalent in men and women who have experienced the tragedy of abortion. 

Pastor Bill said he's counseled MANY post-abortive parents and said it's one of the most difficult things to work through. 

It's such a lie from the Enemy that abortion will make everything better! I've read so many stories from Silent No More Awareness and they all say, "abortion doesn't fix anything, it just makes me a parent of a dead baby."
  Such a tragedy.  But there is HOPE in Christ! 

Pastor Bill and I talked about it afterwards and it was really neat hearing his thoughts on the interaction and what he had felt the Lord leading him to do and say. 

I admit, when I'm confronted in that way by a man who is less-than respectful in his words and actions - I immediately put up walls and launch into "defense mode." I honestly was running through a list of pro-life arguments for the first 10 minutes. I wasn't really listening cause I was too busy coming up with responses and judging if his story was true or not! :-) 

But watching Pastor Bill gently and genuinely listen really struck me.  Plus, the words of a friend of mine that I've been learning from were running through my mind, "I have experienced more favor with opposing people when I listened first and then spoke second.  They seemed to care about what I'm saying when I'm not speaking "down" to them. 

I realized then that this man was not "attacking" but was simply trying to justify himself.  He was hurting and he needed to know that we cared for him, and even more importantly that Jesus forgave Him and loves him.  

I tried to openly listen from then on and allow the Lord to lead. 

I and Pastor Bill both felt we could have said more, or even tried a more evangelistic approach to show him his need for a Savior and share the good news. But we both came to the conclusion that in this instance just listening and showing our love and compassion for him, as well as praying for him was what he really needed and wanted. 

It taught me a lot about myself and about real-life. Being so young and inexperienced, I honestly haven't been exposed to the dysfunction and evil of our culture all that much. I haven't experienced the pain of losing a child. I haven't ever been in a situation when I truly felt hopeless or desperate.

I think those who are so openly supporting abortion are the ones who have been hurt the most by it. I learned that I must be SO careful and gentle with how I interact with pro-choice advocates. Listening to their stories and backgrounds is so important to understand where they are coming from and what would be most helpful for them to hear or not to hear. 

I'm SO grateful for all these opportunities to grow and learn! Even if we don't see a life saved, 40 Days for Life has given us all such an opportunity to grow. And God's been teaching us about His heart for the unborn and the lost - and showing us amazing glimpses of His power and grace! Praise the Lord - great things He has done! 

John, Richard and Pastor Bill
Other than that interaction, I had a good conversation with the 3 owners of the auto parts store as well!
They've been kind enough to let us use their restroom, and so I go in every now and then to use their facilities and try to make a little small talk too. 

Well this time one of the owners eluded to his viewpoint by saying something like, "I appreciate the way you do this, but you can't really understand what it's like to be in that situation if you haven't been abused."
I agreed with him that we will probably never understand just how difficult those types of situations are and that my heart goes out to women in such crisis. It also gave me a brief opportunity to share the very words and stories of sexually abused women - that abortion only makes it twice as painful and tragic. And that raising their child helped them heal as they experienced the joy of bringing a precious, beautiful life into their lives out of something so tragic. We talked a little more until a customer walked in. :-) I thought it was a neat opportunity! 
It was interesting, as I was washing my hands in the restroom before I had even talked to them much, I felt like God was leading me to make a point of speaking with them as I left. Turned out to be a neat opportunity! God is good! 
There was also a young man and lady that parked at PP and walked up to the clinic. It's closed on Tuesdays, and so I walked over and let them know they were closed. I wish I had pointed them over to Possibilities!  But for some reason that thought didn't cross my mind just then. :-(  They thanked me though, and I think having even such a brief interaction let them know we care about them. :-) 
And the really neat thing was that a special friend Phil, the chiropractor who works about 2-3 blocks down the street, brought us pizza from Pizza Hut for lunch!  It made P. Bill, John, Richard and I so happy!  He also brought some more amazing dark chocolate for us to share too.  What a kind blessing that was!  Thank you Phil! 

Well, that about sums up the highlights of today! God is so good! 

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