He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
Ephesians 4:16 NLT
My small group members and I were stumped. After completing the Making Life Disciples (MLD) training course, we felt so ready and eager to come alongside and help abortion-vulnerable families. And yet almost a year had passed since we earned our certificates and we were still waiting for referrals from the local pregnancy center (PC). In the meantime, we served at our local PC, kept in touch with the staff, and I even teamed with one of my small group members, Shaylene Burlage, to start a local non-profit aimed at alleviating the financial and practical barriers families face in choosing life.
And yet none of us had made any real connection with moms or dads facing unplanned pregnancies. It was frustrating! So we focused on prayer and just kept waiting. “Lord,” we prayed, “we’ve trained and we’re ready to receive hurting moms and dads. We do trust Your timing. But now we really need You to bring them to us.”
God’s answer took us by surprise.
“Why don’t you go to them instead? After all, I did call you to become fishers of people,” God countered.
This radical, divine direction shift came in the form of a conversation with leaders from Love Life, a life-affirming ministry based out of Charlotte, NC. Love Life Founder Justin Reeder, Pastor and Vice President Josh Kappes, and Sidewalk Missions Director Daniel Parks, had all read a Care Net blog of mine regarding our group’s MLD efforts and reached out to Shaylene and me over a Zoom call. “Hey, we read about your ministry to abortion-minded people...but where are you finding them?” Daniel asked pointedly.
Shaylene and I stammered. “Um, so far we’ve only had one referral from the pregnancy center in the past six months, so we just keep waiting for them to send us more,” we explained. Then Daniel challenged, “Well, why not go to where the abortion-minded people are?”
Shaylene and I looked at each other, stymied. “Well, where is that??” we nearly shouted back in desperation. Daniel smiled. “The abortion clinic, of course!”
And the light went on for both of us. “Oooooh. With all our efforts connecting with pregnancy centers, we’ve never even thought of the abortion clinics!” we admitted, quite dumbfounded at our own oversight.
Daniel went on to explain how abortion clinics are the darkest mission fields in our cities, the only places in the United States that we know for certain that hurting and broken people are showing up on a daily basis and where death is scheduled for nearly 900,000 innocent preborn babies each year. “Abortion clinics are mission fields ripe for harvest, but we need to send laborers into that mission field,” Daniel asserted. “When the church is absent from the abortion clinics, the darkness wins. But when we bring the light of the gospel and the love of Jesus into the scene, hearts and lives change. We’ve actually seen more than 2,000 families change their minds and choose life over the past four years since Love Life began in 2016. We’ve gotten them connected with medical mobile units, local Christian pregnancy centers and trained, evangelical church families. We’re also able to minister to those who suffer from past abortions through abortion recovery Bible studies.”
Josh Kappes agreed. “But we’re able to build missionary teams and create a network of support for those families because we also work to mobilize the evangelical church to action,” he explained. “As of right now, we have over 400 churches partnering with us to fast, pray, and provide practical resources that eliminate many of the obstacles these moms and dads face when agonizing over the decision to proceed with the pregnancy or end their baby’s life. We’ve actually had more than 80,000 people come out to pray with us since we started.”
“How on earth did you get that many churches to participate?” I asked, amazed at Love Life’s success. So Josh explained the process:
Love Life leaders go to every evangelical pastor they know and invite them to come out to the abortion clinics to see what’s going on. There they talk to them about the tragic truth of abortion in their city. If the pastors feel moved by God’s Spirit to do something about it, Love Life tells them about the 40-week Prayer Walk campaign that is held at the abortion clinics (based on the 40-week gestation period for a developing baby’s life) and invites the pastors to adopt at least one week out of the campaign. When it’s their week, the pastor agrees to preach on the topic of life on Sunday, call the church to fast and pray for the end of abortion on that Wednesday, and show up on Saturday to join the Love Life missions team in worship and directed prayer for the moms and dads, abortion workers, police and security, and for the church to wake up to the need.
“It’s not political activism or a protest,” Josh clarified, “but it is stepping out in faith and warfare prayer that makes a difference,” he affirmed.
Love Life’s walks are a powerful time of unity and obedience for church members, and many feel called to go further in life-affirming ministry. So they offer many ways to get them connected, including:
- Sidewalk Missions,
- Prayer Champion (commits to 2 prayer walks each month),
- Culture Pioneer (provides financially to grow the ministry),
- Fostering/Adoption Care, and
- Restored Life (post-abortion healing).
Once a church has just two or three people interested in serving together on a life team with a pastor who is on board, they are ready to become what Love Life calls a House of Refuge Church, or HRC. House of Refuge churches agree to read a life-affirming statement from the pulpit on a quarterly basis, adopt at least one week in the prayer campaign, and form a Life Team in their church that is trained and ready to receive and help abortion-vulnerable or post-abortive people. Love Life lists them on their website so that the PCs in their area know which churches they can safely recommend to their clients who want to get connected with a local body of believers.
Upon hearing about how Love Life operates, everything suddenly began fitting together for me and Shaylene like pieces to a puzzle we’d been trying to solve for a long time. “That’s how Making Life Disciples comes full circle!” I exclaimed in excitement. It’s the perfect training tool to get Houses of Refuge on the same page philosophically as the PCs for full continuity of care.
But it all starts with invitations. We invite women and men at abortion clinics to choose life by connecting them with PCs and the church to get the help, resources, and spiritual guidance they need to do so. And we get churches to become that network of support by inviting them to come to the abortion clinics to fast, pray, and serve.
Making Life Disciples (MLD) is a practical, non-political “basic training” to equip a group of first responders in a church or parish to offer compassion, hope, help, and discipleship to women and men facing pregnancy decisions. And it becomes the way Life Teams and entire churches can start shifting the culture in their congregations to become a House of Refuge where the hurting and hopeless run to for help instead of to the abortion clinics for answers. And PCs finally have reliable, trained churches they can trust to work with their clients. As the body of Christ, with all our different gifts and parts, unites together over the issue of life to bring help, hope, and healing to the hurting, the watching world around us will see what life-affirming faith really means.