I wasn’t even supposed to be there that day.
For months, I’d been planning to join other presenters at a young-author conference in Thief River Falls, Minn., but predictions on departure day of a last-ditch whopper-of-a-winter-storm, a “bomb cyclone,” stopped me from even packing my bags.
“Well, Lord, here I am now on a Wednesday,” I prayed. “Since I can’t travel as planned, I offer my day to you. Surely, you have your reasons for things working out this way.”
Though lamenting the lost opportunity, I knew I had to trust God, so I made plans to join the sidewalk advocates at our state’s only abortion facility. Before leaving, I asked God to make it clear why he’d kept me back.
Not long after arriving, one of the other advocates mentioned a city ordinance that had been presented to us the week before by someone claiming to be a plain-clothed policeman. We discussed what this might mean for us, since the ordinance warned against persistently following others on sidewalks.
Often, we walk alongside prospective clients while trying to share life-giving options. Could we no longer? It seemed coercive, but we didn’t want to be arrested.
Just then, a young couple approached from around the corner about a half-block from where I stood. My heart lurched. I had to try. The next minutes passed by so quickly, but I felt God’s grace everywhere.
I tried giving the young lady a small card with a baby on it, and the words, “I heard music before I was born.” When the escort tried intercepting it, the young mother reached out and snatched it back—an indication of her willingness to pause.
I looked into her beautiful, soft eyes searching my face. When I mentioned we were there to help, her expression told me she’d been yearning to hear that very thing.
“Are you the ones who try to keep people from having abortions, and they’re the ones trying to make them have them?” she asked, attempting to distinguish advocates from escorts.
“Yes, we’re here to help you,” I said.
“She’s lying,” the older female escort snapped.
“I’m sorry,” I replied, “but they are the ones lying to you. We do want to help.” I looked at the young mom with intention and sincerity. I could tell she wanted to believe me. Her eyes were locked on mine now. The father stood nearby, quietly watching.
“I wasn’t sure I wanted to come here today,” she told me. “I didn’t want to kill my baby.”
“And you don’t have to,” I said. “There are resources we can connect you with today.”
Then, the dad motioned her away, in the opposite direction of the abortion facility, where they’d planned to end the life of their child just minutes earlier. We accompanied them to their car—the escorts had backed off now—and shared more about the help we could offer.
By the end of our time talking with them at their car, they had affirmed their decision: “We’re not coming back.”
Though they and their child were the objects of God’s compassionate mercy, I felt his kiss on my cheek, too. I pledged to keep praying for them in the vulnerable days ahead. Their rejection of the culture’s lies and refusing to go through with this tragic deed was a stunning witness to God’s pure grace. It was their victory and ours and all of heaven’s, too.
Later that day, a second “save” happened when a young lady came out of the facility, announcing to an advocate, “I’m six weeks along, and I’m keeping my baby.”
“You won’t regret this decision,” he assured her, giving her a hug.
I thought of the movie Unplanned about Abby Johnson’s departure from Planned Parenthood, and how I ached to watch what really goes on inside an abortion facility. It made me so happy to realize this couple would not experience this great heartache.
While I missed the chance to talk to aspiring young authors in northern Minnesota that day, God had something even sweeter in mind for me. He used my willingness to serve him to show me his great love. The image of these dear ones making the bravest, most loving decision possible, even against the intense pressure of the world, will remain with me forever.
Thank you, Lord, for the blessed reroute. You always know what’s best.
[Note: I write about my experiences on the sidewalk Downtown Fargo on Wednesday, the day abortions happen at our state’s only abortion facility, for New Earth magazine — the official news publication of the Fargo Diocese. I hope you find “Sidewalk Stories” helpful in understanding the truth about abortion and how it plays out tragically each week here in Fargo, N.D. The preceding ran in New Earth’s April 2019 issue.]