When I was a senior in college, my father, a proud U.S. Air Force veteran, suggested I sign up for the military. I didn’t see myself as military material and took offense. Did he not think I was smart enough to be a collegian academic?
Though I now admire my father’s years of military service more than ever, I don’t regret the path I chose studying journalism. But being an outspoken Christian in this age, and active in pro-life sidewalk ministry, it seems that Dad got his wish.
No, it’s not exactly the life of service he’d imagined for me, but I have been engaged in a true, ongoing battle, along with my comrades who meet each week at our state’s only abortion facility, hoping to help steer a fellow human or two from the enemy’s grasp.
I have to be honest. The battle has become fiercer in recent months, and at times, I’ve grown weary. I know others feel the same. This war is not for the faint of heart.
A few months ago, before the city of Fargo’s mask mandate dictating mask use even outside where social-distancing would be difficult, some of us had deliberated whether masks would be prudent, given our short time being near the clients and our desire to make eye contact and communicate with our faces in that brief space.
In one particular incident, I was trying to talk to one of the women who had left the facility, likely post-abortive, to let her know about some resources of healing, and that we would be praying for her. As I moved in her direction, one of the escorts who is particularly aggressive began walking in front of me, backwards, to prevent me from reaching the woman, and then, getting up in my face, yelled, “You’re obviously not pro-life!”
It was stunning, yet not surprising, to hear this from someone who’d just helped around 15 women end the lives of their children. Notice the cunning of the Evil One here. You are at an abortion facility praying and trying to help these women who are broken, and yet the ones who have sided with evil—yes, Satan delights in this gruesome practice, an offense against the most vulnerable and sacred—are deeming themselves the ones who are truly pro-life.
I cannot tell you how grieved I have felt in these last months over what we have faced on the sidewalk, in addition to the usual challenges. We have not been reckless. We have chosen prudently, given the circumstances. Yet evil wins, or so it seems.
Given the increasing number of these kinds of situations, in which the escorts have become empowered to not only conduct their dirty deeds but try to shame us, I have been tempted, many times, to just hang it up. I have even fallen into the trap of thoughts like, “If people want to have abortions, I guess they will. I shouldn’t have to risk my life for that.” Because by showing up, we too are putting our lives on the line, both spiritually and physically.
But then, I recognize Satan’s ploy—in the escorts’ satisfaction in making us out to be the evildoers, and in the temptation to feel inclined to just stay home and out of the way. As I’m home praying for the women, wondering whether they really need me there, I see a note from 40 Days for Life, telling of a woman, that very morning, who seems to have changed her mind because of a prayer advocate’s gentle persuasion.
It’s then I recall 2 Tim. 4:2, and how God calls us to stand in his place and be persistent, “whether it is convenient or inconvenient.” And I renew my commitment to the sidewalk.
I know that I can’t possibly compare my few hours there each week with the days and even months that men and women have fought in physical battles to keep us free. But the spiritual battle that wages and is palpably felt in that corner of our city is also real, and brutal, and can only be won by God’s hand and our prayers.
We know who wins, but in the meantime, God calls us into the fray, promising his protection, yet also warning us it won’t be easy. And, as we continue to discover, God is right.
Please continue to pray for us, and never forget the true enemy: “And do thou, oh prince of the heavenly host, cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.”
[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 January 2021 issue.]