Saturday, April 21, 2018

Real Conversation at CSU: The Third Person

At the end of the outreach day at Colorado State University, the area around the exhibit was quiet except for one voice. He sauntered over to the signs with an air of confidence that piqued my interest. He began to loudly abuse the exhibit pictures so I intercepted and asked him what he thought.

"It's crazy," he said. "Why is this here? What do you think?"

"I'm actually with the exhibit. We go around to college campuses talking to people about abortion. What do you think about that?"

"I think the government shouldn't have a say in our rights. And why is anyone prolife in the first place? Have you even ever heard a prolife argument that wasn't religious?"

I love this question. JFA taught us a reply that anyone from any religion can use and be consistently pro-life. I've only recently understood how to help people understand this argument, so I eagerly responded.

"Sure! You want to hear one?"

"Yes!"

I dove into the thought experiment with him. "Look around! See all these people around us on campus?" He looked all around and agreed. I continued, "Do you think we deserve equal rights?"

"Of course!"

"Good, I agree. If we deserve equal rights, isn't there something the same or equal about us that demands that we be treated equally?"

"Yes!"

"Cool. What do you think that is?"

"Our humanity. We're all humans."

"That's right! So, the conclusion is that, if the unborn are human, they must be given the same rights as the rest of us."

He backpedaled immediately to his previous statement, "The government shouldn't have a say in what we do with our bodies."

I gestured a time-out, "Follow me here. Forget the government. Say abortion will always be legal and there's nothing I can do about that. What if the unborn are humans but they are being systemically exterminated by the thousands every day? What if they are being discriminated against the same way black people and women were discriminated against? What if abortion kills a human being?"

"Then it's absolutely wrong," he said quietly. His attitude melted away and he wouldn't look at me. I waited.

After a moment, he said, "I know someone who had an abortion. She got knocked up by a douchebag on a one-night stand and she got an abortion. She had to. That baby would have screwed her over and ruined her life. She wouldn't have a degree or a career if she hadn't had that abortion. I hate that she had to do that but it was right for her."

My heart broke. This loud young man with an ego the size of a bus had just crumbled. He revealed to me in a moment the reason for his rough exterior and there was nothing I could do but sympathize with him.

"I'm so sorry about your friend. That sounds horrible."

He thanked me for talking with him and he walked away.

I was left with what felt like a gaping hole in my heart. I had forgotten the third person. I got excited by the opportunity to share such a cool, fool-proof argument for my cause and I forgot about what I was telling him. I told him what he probably already knew: that his friend had been party to taking the life of a human being. That is not information to be taken or given lightly.

JFA taught me to keep three people in mind in every conversation:
1. The unborn. As a pro-life advocate, it's my job to be a voicey for the voiceless. Usually, that means being a voice for the unborn, but they are not the only ones I need to consider.

2. The person standing in front of me. In every conversation, they are the most important person. They are just as real, just as valuable, just as beautiful as the unborn. I need to remember to respect every person I speak to and place them first.

3. The woman. The third person I must include in every conversation is the person who has a connection to abortion. Sometimes it is the person standing in front of me, but other times it is someone they know, someone who is standing nearby listening to me, someone they will talk to in the future, someone who will read my account of the conversation. Even if it seems like the person I'm talking to has no connection with abortion, statistics say they do or will. I have to keep in mind my respect, care, and love for the man or woman personally affected by abortion in every conversation.

This is just one example of how complicated these conversations can be. I've wanted to describe the third person tactic before, but such a clear example of the need for it hadn't arisen. He was my last conversation that day. In a few days, JFA will be at the University of Colorado and this time I will be more careful to look out for what I cannot see and listen to hear unspoken words and feelings.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Real Conversation at OSU: "Of Men and Of Angels"

Out of the corner of my eye by Oklahoma State's Chi-O Clock, I recognized her. When she walked past me a moment ago, I smiled and she smiled back, but she kept walking. Now, she was returning this direction slowly. I turned and smiled again, "would you like to sign our poll table?" As if noticing it for the first time, Rachel* agreed. When she finished writing on the "YES" side of the poll: "Should Abortion Remain Legal?" she waited around to talk to me about her view.


We introduced ourselves and she said abortion should be legal because of the many difficulties that people discover along the way in pregnancy. I agreed that there are many possible complications and difficulties involved in pregnancy.  Rachel then cautiously voiced a belief that the unborn isn't human. She asked me what I thought about abortion.

Gently, I said, "Before I tell you what I think, can I ask you more questions?"
She happily agreed.
"You said you don't think the unborn is human. Do you mean that in a biological sense or a philosophical sense?"
She grinned. "I just came from a human development class, and I failed philosophy, so let's talk about biology!"

Carefully and respectfully, she and I went back and forth for a few minutes while I clarified what her position was. Through five questions, we discovered that she believes the unborn is just a mass of cells in the first two weeks of pregnancy. According to her professor, "you can technically get in there and find human DNA, but it's not a human yet." She acknowledged that, after three weeks of development, the heart and brain are communicating and therefore the unborn is a human at that stage.

This is where I transitioned us. "Rachel, you asked me what I think about abortion. I was taught that the most comprehensive view of valuing human life extends to all stages of development, even the stages I am not personally attracted to. The embryo from conception to three weeks does not seem relational to me, but I would rather treat it like a human and respect life all the way through development, even to old age. That includes the two week embryo, all these students here, and you."

She paused and stared at me for a moment. When she spoke, she said, "let me just say, that is the most sensible pro-life view I've ever heard. Every other time I've had this conversation, the pro-life person just screams at me, 'd*** you, liberal!'"

I expressed sadness at the way she had been treated in the past and thanked her for sharing her experience. She went on to say how nice it was to disagree in a free way with me. She had grown up in a liberal environment, I had a conservative upbringing, and we were looking for truth together.

Thinking back on this exchange, the passage in 1 Corinthians 13 has new context for me. Even if I could speak with the tongues of men and of angels, having the most knowledge and scientific facts at my disposal, if I do not love the person I'm talking to, it's more than worthless: it is that obnoxious sound that hurts and you wish would just stop. For Rachel, I was the first person she disagreed with who had let her express her opinion without attacking her. I hope I'm not the last.

"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast;
It is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way;
it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.
For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love."

Thursday, March 1, 2018

February

After a wonderful hiatus in Virginia for family, holidays, and fundraising, I am back in Kansas for a five-month internship, ending in June. The month of February has been cold and challenging, but full of bright hours and big accomplishments.

One of my long-term tasks last semester was to scan 20 years worth of JFA response cards, volunteer agreements, debrief and reflection papers, and other papers from seminars and outreaches into the computer. It was supposed to take a year. David and I finished half of the project in the three months we were interning together in the fall of 2017. This month, I completed that project. It feels amazing to see that progress and now move on to other projects.


One of the most exciting things I was looking forward to doing with JFA was learning how to present parts of the seminar that we teach all over the country. This month, I was certified in one of those speaking sections and I'm working on memorizing a second one. I love public speaking and this material is incredibly helpful in conversations and life in general.


Adventures in February:

1/27 Meeting my host family's newest member: baby Brave
1/28 & 2/4 Swing dancing
2/11 Lunch with the Hotovys, Grace, and CK
2/15 Creating an intricate conspiracy story about the occupants of a local pub with Grace
2/18 Swing dancing

2/23 Final Friday: spending hours looking at local art with Grace
2/25 Visiting Jubilee PCA; lunch with new friends


On the 27th, Becca, Grace, and I set up a poll table at Oklahoma State University for two hours and talked to about 13 people. We were abruptly cut off by a downpour, but we had a lovely lunch and meeting with the pro-life club at OSU. I'm in the process of making another post for one of those conversations.

Looking forward to in March:
Hiking in Arkansas
Seminar and Outreach at KU
Progress in speaking certification

It's hard to close the chapter of February. I learned a lot about myself, my work, my colleagues. It was a good, hard month. March has its own adventures and I look forward to them, but I hope to remember this February for a long time.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Real Conversation at UNM: Sharpie

It was the second day of outreach at the University of New Mexico. I had been in conversation all morning, so I walked over to the Free Speech Board and sat down to read it. As I sat there, a young man walked up next to me.


"Have you written anything?" He asked.

"Not yet, but I was thinking about it," I responded.

He sat down next to me and fished a Sharpie out of his backpack. The boards have about half a dozen Sharpie markers tied to each side, but he handed me his own without a word. So I took it.

I wrote on the board a verse that had been in my head since the day before. A shortened version of 1 John 4:10 “This is love...that God first loved us." I handed his Sharpie back.

He read what I wrote and then wrote next to it, "There is no God, but there is Love."

After a moment, I asked him, "If there is no God, where does love come from?"

He considered this and said, "I don't know. I've never thought about that. Where do you think love comes from?"

I have never seen a more open door for the gospel. So I took it.

I told him about how God created the world and us and He loved us so much. But then we broke His law and He loved us so much that He came to earth and took the punishment for our sin for us so that we can live with Him forever.

He accepted this and we started to transition the conversation to the topic of abortion, but we were interrupted by another student.

"You're one of those crazy people who thinks the Bible informs every area of your life?!"

Almost everyone with JFA has a Colin* story from that day. He got around. In that moment, he stood between me and the sun, so I squinted up at him.

"Yeah, I am," I said, having no idea where he got that from, but happy that he brought it up while Sharpie guy was still around. "Have you read it?"

Colin’s confidence flared up. "No," he said, "Have you?!”

I grinned and responded, “Yes, three times.”

He then made a strange statement, “by reading and interpreting the Bible on your own, you’re going against the authority of the Pope!”

Confused, I simply answered, “I’m not Catholic.”

Colin’s attitude deflated instantly. “I know that having not read the Bible is my greatest weakness when talking about this."

"You should read it," I smiled, "It informs every area of life."

Sharpie guy had to leave then, so we said our goodbyes and Colin, now calm and respectful, dialogued with me for a little longer about God, the Bible, and how interpretation of those matters affects how we determine the morality of abortion.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

November

It's been a crazy, blessed month!

I got back from Georgia right at the beginning of the month. While in Georgia, I had a really cool conversation with a young man who approached the exhibit. We agreed that abortion should not be legal in the last two trimesters and should not be done for just any reason. He said that a good reason to have an abortion would be if an unborn was diagnosed with a disability. With permission, I shared with him the story of a baby with spina bifida who had received surgery in utero to fix part of the baby's spine. In the corner of my eye, I saw a lady in a wheelchair coming down the sidewalk in our direction. I kid you not, as we were talking, this woman approached us and interrupted our conversation. She passionately shared that she had spina bifida and was afraid for unborn babies with that diagnosis. Many of them are aborted. She said, "Never let disability be the reason you have an abortion. Never. We can have good lives too." The young man heard in awe as the woman told her story. He left an hour later saying that he had a lot to think about.

One week later I was in Oklahoma with the office team, most of our national team, and two volunteers! Outreach at OU was interesting, hard, and pretty great. I got to watch God quell some firey conversations almost as soon as they started. He opened up some doors I never would have expected in people's minds and hearts. He also set up some circumstances that were amazingly clear open doors. He guided us as we walked through the doors, minds, and fires of the students of the University of Oklahoma.

Fundraising filled the last two weeks of the internship with many letters sent and calls made. The encouragement from friends and family has been a huge blessing in this process.

Random adventures:
11/5 Called Sarah on her birthday!
Dancing!
11/18 Dinner and Blokus with Becca, her fiance Mark, and David!
11/19 Called Olivia on her birthday!
Swing dancing and eating ice cream with Deborah!
11/20 Won ImaginIf at my small group's Friendsgiving!
11/21 Workshop at Kansas For Life (I got a t-shirt!)
When I called Katrina, her sun was setting and mine was still up. It was a magical moment.
Painting Grace's living room and saving her from a self-destructing bookcase!
11/22 Bananagrams with Becca and David!
11/23 Thanksgiving with Kulases!
Coffee and walk with Grace!
The Princess Bride, online shopping, and painting with Grace!
11/25 Cosmosphere and shopping in Hutch with Grace!
11/26 Swing dancing and ice cream with Grace!
11/27 Last small group meeting!
12/1 Final day with Justice For All

I was given the honor of presenting the "I'm a miracle!" story to a Baptist church in Oklahoma. That was a very cool opportunity for me. Probably the largest crowd I've spoken to and they even laughed at my joke :)

How do I sum up? Last year, I thought I knew what I was asking God for when I asked to do pro-life work. I didn't know that that prayer would be answered in the form of sharing love and truth with college students all over the United States of America with an amazing team of God-fearing, life-affirming prayer-warriors with decades of pro-life work experience to learn from and imitate. I am blown away... and I can't wait to come back. Whether I return in the spring, or God doesn't lead me back for a long time, I hope to support and participate in this organization. Justice For All lives up to its name, placing God at the front of all their work. Thanks, team. Thank you for exemplifying to me what love and truth can do when used together.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Real Conversation at OU: Spheres of Influence

On Tuesday, I had the privilege of sitting in on a conversation on the University of Oklahoma campus.

Caleb, a high school student volunteering with JFA that day, and I were discussing a previous conversation when we were approached by an OU student named DeWayne* who asked what the exhibit was about. He seemed very pro-life. He believed life started at conception and that generally abortion should be illegal. We built common ground there and I asked questions to understand his beliefs.

At this point in the conversation, DeWayne paused in his processing of abortion and asked Caleb and me a question. He said, "Everyone has a certain amount of energy that they use to address different things in their spheres of influence. I choose not to get upset over some things because they don't affect me yet. Why do you choose to spend your energy talking about abortion?"

It was a packed question. I wanted to slow him down and address one thing at a time because I heard a lot in what he was saying. But it wasn't me who needed to speak. As I was thinking about how to unpack DeWayne's question, the volunteer spoke up. Caleb told a story about how his brother's roommate in college had said the word "super" so much that all the roommates eventually began using the word "super" in their vocabulary subconsciously. Then his brother, who was now using the word frequently, unintentionally spread the word to his Chik-fil-A coworkers. Within a year or two, the word "super" had gone from being used by one person to 95 people who did not know the original speaker. Caleb's point? Your influence goes far beyond what you will ever know.

This impacted DeWayne. We could see it in his eyes and he told us as much right away. "You're right," he said, "I hadn't thought about it that way. It's worth it to have the conversation about abortion because we have no idea who it could influence." I thanked God that this young man had connected the dots. This is a point I try to get many pro-life students to reach. I am asked at every campus, "It doesn't affect me. Why should I even have an opinion?" At every campus I want to explain to people that the topic of abortion may not seem like it affects them, but they can influence others if only they will speak up.

DeWayne got it. He is now willing to start talking to people about what he believes regarding abortion. This young man, through the conversations in his future, will make an impact he had never thought possible.

He did not think it was worth his time and energy to have the conversation, but he was willing to ask us why we thought talking about abortion was worth our energy. I did not have the words he needed to hear, but the high school senior volunteer did, and he spoke up.

Are you willing to have this uncomfortable conversation? Have you formed your opinion on abortion? Have you done the research?

If not, are you willing to start down that path?

If so, are you willing to speak up?

Your sphere of influence is larger than you can imagine.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

oPIN Your Eyes Project

Ever since watching the Paper Clips documentary on the Holocaust a few years ago, I have wanted to find a way to both commemorate and help visualize the loss of life in this country from legalized abortion. Two weeks ago, I Googled "paperclips abortion" and found Alyson: a working student who was one step ahead of me. Back in March, Alyson started the oPIN Your Eyes Project, collecting diaper or safety pins to raise national awareness for the lives lost because of abortion. To do this, she set a goal of 9 months to collect 300,000 safety pins to represent the 60 million abortions in the U.S. since Roe vs. Wade in 1973. All she needs is 10 people to send in 2,000 pins each by Thanksgiving and she will reach her goal. 

After connecting with Alyson, she agreed to do a Question and Answer post with me. I hope you enjoy getting to know this incredible young lady:

Q1. How did you get interested in Pro-Life? 
A. I have always had a passion for “the least of these."  When I was a little kid, I wanted to help the poor or those who could not help themselves.  As I grew up, that desire expanded into even wanting to help people with disabilities.  As I grew older, I learned about other people who would fall under “the least of these” category.  Now, not only do I desire to stand up for those who are killed in the womb, but my heart also breaks for the Muslim people.  (After college, I plan to become a Missionary in closed countries to reach Muslim women and children with the hope of the gospel.)  I cannot pinpoint an exact day or time when I decided to be Pro-Life.  I have grown up in a Christian home, and so I always knew abortion was wrong.  Although I knew it was wrong, I did not jump out there and get involved with Pro-Life marches or anything like that.  It was more of an understanding, but no action accompanied it.  I did hold some Pro-Life signs on the side of the road with a group of Pro-Lifers one time, but that was it.  Now, this past January is when I began to consider taking more of a public stand.  It was when I read WORLD magazine's article by Marvin Olasky, called “Incapable of Shame.”  For more on how that changed me: https://opinyoureyes.blogspot.com/2017/03/the-story-behind-opin-your-eyes.html   

__________


Q 2. What was your impression of the Paperclips movie? 
A. My first impression of the Paperclips movie was how amazing it was that those middle school kids worked hard to create such a beautiful memorial for all those who had died in the Holocaust.  It also made me cry, to just imagine what all those Holocaust survivors went through!  As I watched it, it confirmed my idea to do a project like the Holocaust Memorial for the babies who have been aborted.  I thought, “if these little middle schoolers could do this for something like the Holocaust, why can’t I, a high schooler, do something like that for abortion which is 10x worse (in amount of babies who have died)?”  I had no idea what all this project would ask of me, even after seeing that movie.  The movie did prepare me for the time and effort I would have to pour into this project, but it just scratched the surface.  
Now, after reading the WORLD magazine’s article, that is when an idea of bringing national awareness concerning abortion was birthed. The actual oPIN your eyes idea was conceived when I remembered the Children’s Memorial Display of the Paperclips that I had visited several year ago.  After considering how I could collect diaper or safety pins like those middle schoolers collected paper clips, that is when we watched the movie to see what all was involved.  

Q3. Why safety pins? 
A. Well, I associate safety/diaper pins with babies, especially diaper pins.  Plus, it was the closest thing I could think of to paper clips.  They are roughly the same size, and people (mainly ladies) seem to have plenty around the house.  It just seemed to practically fit the idea, both collecting wise and in proportion to how big these aborted babies are and how they are uniquely different. 

Q4. What is your goal with the Project? 
A. While my goal is to collect a certain number of pins, my ultimate goals are:
1. To glorify God    2. To bring awareness of what we have lost as a nation.  3. To be able to visualize this massive number.

Q5. Share a cool story since starting the Project:  
A. Oh dear, there are a lot.  I have talked to people who were almost aborted, and those are such neat stories of how God spared them and then to see how God is using them.  One of those stories was about a little girl who was at a church I was speaking at.  Her grandmother introduced us to her 3 year old granddaughter who “was a walking miracle.”  The child’s mother had been on meth when she found out that she was 32 weeks pregnant and “her tummy was flat as a board."  They didn’t know what to expect when the baby was delivered. Would she have all her fingers and toes?  What about her brain?  How would it be affected?  When we first arrived in the packed (small) sanctuary that night, this little girl was the one that stood out to me above all the rest. She was adorable!!  She was attentive and engaged in the whole service.  We overheard her grandmother prompting her to quote John 3:16 to an older woman sitting nearby.  She touched our hearts before we even met her.  Her grandmother said she was born without any problems.  Indeed, she was a walking miracle!  

Q6. What is the most encouraging part of this for you?  
A. There are two things that have been encouraging to me.  (1) When pins do not come in as quickly as they used to, God sends some form of encouragement.  Sometimes it is a person I have not met who contacts me, or sends me pins, or I get a chance to speak somewhere about my project.  (2) I have seen so clearly how God has placed a passion to stand against abortion on certain people’s hearts.  I have found that even if I present my project exactly the same to two different people, their reactions can be quite different because of how God is working in each one.  The first person might respond with an “oh that is nice” comment and move on, while the other might respond energetically, eager to help me in any way possible.  I have been so encouraged when God directs me to multiple, like-minded, and passionate people during this project.  

Q7. Why should people send you pins? 
A. These pins, at the end with the final display, will be a way to help our nation be aware of how many babies have died.  It is a way they can play a part in bringing awareness.  My prayer is that God will use this awareness and the final display of pins to help Christians realize how many babies we have lost and to stand up to change how our country views abortion.  

Q8. What was the initial response and how has that changed? 
A. When people heard about my project, they were surprised to see a young person being willing to stand up against abortion.  But as time has gone on, responses have varied.  I think that it depends on who I talk to, if God has already stirred in their heart a desire to stand up against abortion, or not.  I also think that the amount of time I spend on the project affects the amount of pins I receive and the number of responses as well.

Q9. Who has given you the most support? Pins? Emotionally? 
A. The most support in general, has been my mom.  She has been right there with me through every step, pushing me to take initiative and to do it myself, while also being there for me if I need advice or an idea.  She has been the back bone of this project, though she won’t admit it. :)  
The most support pin-wise, I would say is a church in our area.  They gave 50,000 pins after I spoke at their church.  
The most support emotionally, would be God, my mom, our prayer team, and my family.  Without all of them, I would have quit a long time ago.  At our church, there is a dear older lady who has been so sweet and supportive of my project.  When I told her about the project she hopped on board and asked how she could help.  I had no idea at the time, but she has been so passionate about it and collecting as many pins as she can for me.  She has been extremely supportive and encouraging.

Q10. What is the biggest surprise you experienced from the Project and why? 
A. Oh goodness, God sends such great surprises to me nearly every time the project begins to feel slow. I would say that the biggest surprise was when I contacted several Christian radio stations, and Chris Fabry responded, asking me if I would come on his show!  So I did, and God worked through that to send me pins from people who had heard me share about my project on the radio.  

Q11. Who is your public inspiring figure and why? 
A. Honestly, my role model is Jesus and if I had to pick an earthly one, it would be my mom.  She is always so strong and knows just how to get what needs to be taken care of, completed in the most efficient way.  She seems to be always right and gives the best advice.  Now, my dad is also my role model.  He is the most solid man you could ever find.  His counsel holds fast to God’s Word and he continually holds up God’s Word as the guidelines for our thinking and way of life at home.  Both of my parents are my role models and I hope to, one day, somehow reach at least a half of what they are!

Q12. Where do you store the pins? 
A. In Ziplock bags and in cardboard boxes in our sunroom.  My brothers help me count the pins that are not sent in counted.  (But, we do ask people to send in their pins counted.)

Q13. What is the final goal for displaying them? 
A. I have not fully created a final display.  But I want to create some sort of large container that looks like a large baby bottle.  Hopefully the container will be somewhat clear so that people can see the pins inside.  I hope to place the display in a public area.   

Thank you so much, Alyson, for taking the time to do this Q&A and especially for dedicating 9 months of your year to this cause. God bless you in the last month of your collection and in your future endeavors. 

All Alyson needs is ten people to send in 2,000 pins each by Thanksgiving and she will reach her goal. Through Amazon Prime, 2,000 safety pins can cost as little as $10, 1,000 at $5 and so on. Go to opinyoureyes.com to learn where to send the pins.

To learn more about oPIN, visit https://opinyoureyes.blogspot.com/ and follow the project on Facebook and Instagram. Alyson shares easy links to Amazon to show your support with pins, pins, and more pins.