March 27, 2014

Hope on the Sidewalk

I have a sister named Madison. She is a sidewalk counselor at an abortion clinic.

The summer after I graduated high school, I finally mustered the courage to ask if I could begin training as a sidewalk counselor. I began my training, mainly shadowing and going through the manual.

(She is also an awesome auntie. With 1 week old Jocelyn.)

When able to, she goes downtown to the clinic and stands on the sidewalk. She sees all types walk in.

There was one mother and daughter duo.

One man claimed his girlfriend had a heart condition.

There was another second year nursing student who “knew what she was doing.”

One girl was dancing in her car as they pulled in.

One girl said her friend didn't need us yelling at her.

(Everyone claims some type of situation they are in – they cannot care for their child, their birth control failed (54%), they were raped (1%), the baby is a danger to the mother (12%), their baby has birth defects (90% of children diagnosed with Down Syndrome while in the womb are aborted.))

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8

Madi and other sidewalk counselors experience a lot of discouragement, a lot of sadness, a lot of pain on the sidewalk at the clinic.

The mother said God would forgive her. She kept saying they were fine, and her girl “wasn't gonna have no baby.” When leaving, the girl was throwing up. The mother grabbed her daughter a barf bag and said she would probably do that a few more times.

Another girl that day threw up and her boyfriend laughed.

He denied our offer for “one last look” just in case. He began walking away when Mary started describing the abortion procedure.

{She} held her boyfriend’s hand the entire way inside while he pressed the lock button on his car keys continually so that his horn would keep sounding.

On other days, I've been sworn at, flipped off, and completely ignored.

(1 in 3 American women get an abortion by the age of 45. There have been nearly 56 million abortions in the United States since 1973. “If we took a moment of silence for every child aborted, we would be silent for over 100 years.”)

She has educated herself. She knows the pain – both physical and emotional – that these women are in for, not even close to being ready for.

(There are many methods used for an abortion: pills that "starve" the baby, sucking, scraping, poison, c-section. A variety of methods used to take a baby – dead or alive – out of their mother’s womb, up to 30 weeks pregnant.)

(There are many possible side effects of an abortion: pain, nausea, diarrhea, bleeding, infection, scarring, breast cancer, infertility, death, just to name a few.)

(And the side effects that are not just physical: guilt, anxiety, depression, trouble bonding with present and future children, eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, just to name a few.)

And she knows that all this goes on a mere 16 minutes from where she lives.

(Heritage Clinic for Women is located at 320 Fulton Street East in downtown Grand Rapids. There, women pay by the inch to abort their babies, from about $450 up to thousands of dollars. About four women are injured per year, but the ER covers for them, recording it as an “injury from pregnancy.” About 3,000 abortions are performed every year in this specific clinic. Tuesdays are for post-abortive check-ups, and Wednesday through Friday are abortion days.)

Heritage {Abortion} Clinic for Women

She is not okay with that. So she stands on the sidewalk next to the clinic, offering hope.

We basically offer help to the girls entering the clinic. We want them to know that they do have other options. We want them to know that we will be there for them...even if they do choose to have an abortion.

(There is always a sidewalk counselor outside of the clinic from 7:45-10 and 10-12:15 on Wednesday through Friday.)

And every once in awhile, a different choice is made. Life is chosen.

On only my second day at the sidewalk, I witnessed a SAVE!

Her hair was long and dark brown, but you couldn't see her face. She was wearing her hood...clearly ashamed for what she was coming downtown to 320 Fulton St E to 'take care of.' Her mom was beautiful. Curly brown hair. She waved and smiled and greeted us kindly with a 'Good morning!' before ignoring us and entering into the clinic. Assuming it was just another girl going through the abortion mill, she was almost forgotten..I continued shadowing as normal and just watched Carol do her thing. Lo and behold, about an hour later, the girl walked out with her mother. Carol shouted "is there anything we can do to help you? We have information for afterwards, too that might be helpful!"

Mother: she didn't do it!

I could NOT believe my ears. My eyes welled up and Carol asked if they would like a baby bag.

Carol sprinted inside and as they walked from the opposite side of the parking lot to 'the wall', I gave her a HUGE congratulations and said she had made the right choice and asked how far along she was. She was 13 weeks along. Her stomach was just barely showing. Her light gray sweatshirt hid most of her hair, but now it was visible how gorgeous she was! White teeth...a beautiful smile...long dark brown curled hair...and she was just glowing! Her mom beautifully said to her: you may take off your hood now. After giving her some information about a women's center and the help they could provide, they climbed into their mini van and drove away.

(Out of the 3,000 abortions per year in Grand Rapids, we maybe see 30 people change their minds. Our ministry has a 99% “failure rate.”)

“The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you...God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish.” Psalm 9

Madi knows that what she does – the energy, the compassion, the saves – is not of herself.

Tears welled up in my eyes as they left the abortion clinic parking lot. I still can't believe it...I wanted to fall at God's feet and just worship Him! I wanted to sing His praises for the world to hear!

It's funny, too... I used to think that I'd LOVE to know it was something I said that would make that girl turn around and choose life. My own pride wanted to be able to take some credit. I never understood why Mary would say that those are 'the best.'

Now I know. Seeing Him work and knowing it was NOTHING I said or did..but just Him revealing Himself and his power and His control! That was beyond humbling and EXACTLY how the first 'save' I ever witnessed needed to go.

She knows the power of prayer.

Everything I have done in the pro-life movement would not have happened if prayer were not involved. I've read so many stories of the amazing things that prayers have brought about all around the world, and even here in Grand Rapids.

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7

(With 2 month old Jocelyn.)

She understands that God uses small actions to do big things.

My freshman year of college, for my health 101 class at Davenport University, I had to do a presentation on a certain health topic. I chose abortion. I simply described each abortion procedure, and placed a picture of the developing child on each slide. At the end of all 30 PowerPoint presentations, each person had to state five things that he or she had learned from five different PowerPoint presentations on a sheet of paper, and read them out loud to all the students. Every single student mentioned something from my PowerPoint and how my PowerPoint had impacted him or her.

I knew God could use small actions to do big things, but I never thought that it would be me that He would use. I am that moody daughter that gossips at times and falls when temptation comes my way. I’m so far from perfect that it hurts to think about sometimes, but God is still using me. You may feel like your prayers are not doing anything. You might not see the fruit of your work, but I assure you, you’re making a difference.

She knows that God is still performing miracles everyday…through prayer.

On my way to the clinic that morning, I think I was rather firm and irritated with's hard to keep sidewalk counseling and be nice when you know (and you know that God knows) what is in store for the women that morning. It was the week before Thanksgiving and I was just not in the mood to watch more women walk inside a clinic and pay an overpaid man to kill their child. "S" was the first car in the parking lot that morning. I was the "main" sidewalk counselor, accompanied by my prayer partner.

S and her boyfriend got out of the car, and I immediately started blabbering. I'm used to being ignored, so I was surprised when she just stood there and listened. I really only recall saying, "Good morning! Is there anything we can do to help you today? We can help in so many different ways if you don't want to go through with this this morning. We can get you a free ultrasound" (all of that is normal)...then I started to run out of ideas. "This baby may grow up to love you and call you mommy…" the rest of what I said is a blur.

The boyfriend said he didn't want to do this today. He didn't believe it was right. "S" stood there and broke down crying. She didn't want to be alone. She didn't want to be sick. She finally agreed to wait until Alpha Women's Center opened for ultrasounds. I immediately called mom and asked her to pray...and started crying. After I called Mary, I went inside to chat with "S" and her boyfriend about some logistics. They already had a son with medical problems and expensive medications. She was scared of not being able to work, because when she was pregnant with her son, she was so incredibly sick.

I was able to reassure her that our ministry would be there for her, and we were able to meet some of her immediate needs for her son. Since then, I've gotten to bring "S" to her doctor's appointments and see her little girl on the ultrasound screen. She is due this summer and is EXTREMELY happy and excited for the arrival of her baby . ALL of this would not have been possible without prayer. I prayed (even irritably) that morning, and God still answered.

So what does Madi want you to know?

Mothers who go to abort their babies: There is ALWAYS a better way.

Families of these moms: Give them as much support as possible. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from outside sources. Do whatever you can to save that baby!

People who say they are pro-life: You won’t accomplish anything without LOVE. Casting judgment on these women because they sin differently than you is NOT OKAY. Strive to come alongside women in crisis pregnancies.

(PRAY, do a diaper drive, fund-raise for local crisis pregnancy centers, start a pro-life group at college, talk to your pastors. EDUCATE YOURSELF on the issue.)

Let’s come alongside of her, Garden of Hope Ministries which she is a part of, and the 40 Days for Life campaign going on right now. Let’s pray for more hope to come on the sidewalk.

We are capable of coming up with every excuse as to why we can’t go down to the clinic to pray on any given day, but God is using this. God is working through {40 Days for Life}, and I cannot wait to see what he has in store for his faithful prayers.

Grace and Peace,
Kendra (and Madi)

(Madi spoke at the 40 Days for Life opening ceremony in Grand Rapids in 2013, and has also taken the time to share her knowledge and experiences with the pro-life movement in schools and churches. If you are interested in more information from her or would like her to come and share with your group, you can get in contact with her at

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