Thursday, August 2, 2012

Encouragement from the Past

by Linda Keener Thomas

Some of us have been working in pregnancy center ministry, as my 13-year-old would say, since dirt! 

Sometimes when I want to say, “Really? Again?” it helps me to go back to a book that has been an encouragement to me for years, Third Time Around by George Grant. Come with me on a little time travel trip to meet some real people that will inspire you.

Way back in the Roman Empire there was a law called pater familias that gave every father the choice whether or not to take a baby into his family.  If he chose not to, the newborn was taken to a designated wall outside the city to die of exposure or be killed by wild animals.  It was illegal for anyone to interfere. But there were these crazy people, running for their own lives, living in the catacombs - Christians they called them - who would sneak out at night and rescue the abandoned babies, raising them as their own.

Sometimes we tend to feel we are alone in standing for the value of all life against a culture of death. But the killing of babies didn’t start with Roe V Wade. Abortion, infanticide, abandonment has been around “since dirt.”  By the end of the 1st century, we have records of the Apostles teaching, “Do not murder a child by abortion or kill a newborn infant.” This clear directive shows that the practices were a problem at that time, too. In the big picture we are part of a long and exciting line of saints standing together. Let me introduce you to a few.

Meet Basil. He was a well-liked pastor during the fourth century in Caesarea. He discovered a guild of abortionists using herbal potions and even surgical remedies. They were selling the bodies of the babies to Eygptians for beauty creams. Outraged, he preached, helped women in crisis pregnancies, educated the public, staged protests, and actually gathered a few men who with their bare hands dismantled one of the shrines where the babies were killed. As a result of his efforts, in 374 AD for the first time in history, laws were passed against abortion.

Meet Saint Nicholas (of Santa Claus fame) in Byzantium.  He also crusaded for pro-life laws which were passed and stood for 1,000 years.

Meet Dympna, a Celtic princess in the eighth century. In the Flemish lowland, she found that unwanted babies were being aborted and the handicapped were being killed.  She opened her home and at one point had sixty people living with her.  She became much loved and famous, and after her father killed her, others carried on her work which greatly impacted her culture to value all life.

Fast forward to meet Vincent DePaul, a minister in Paris during the 15th century.  After discovering midwives performing illicit abortions, he actually went undercover and exposed them. He lobbied government and set up programs to help moms and babies.

In the 1800’s as missionaries were taking the good news the world, guess what they found in lands that did not know God?  Yup - Africa, China, South America all had child killing practices. In China unwanted babies were thrown into slimy infested “baby ponds.”

Meet Anna Bowden, a proper Victorian English debutante called by God to India. She hadn’t been there long when she began to oppose the Hindu practices of abortion and infanticide. She set up rescue networks and was saving many lives. When told to stop and be content with her “missionary work,”  she replied that rescuing innocent human life was her mission work. Her work was so effective, the Hindu leaders formed an angry mob who burned her buildings, raped some of the girls she was sheltering, and tortured and killed Anna.

Meet reporter Augustus St. Clair.  In 1871 he and a lady friend were given the dangerous undercover investigative assignment for the New York Times. They went to abortion clinics - which were professional, rich, lavish offices- and posed as a couple in a crisis pregnancy. He published an article with all the shocking details titled “The Evil of the Age”. He concluded, “Thousands of human beings are thus murdered before they have seen the light of this world.” The article galvanized public concern. The American Medical Association came out with a statement that “the unborn child is human and its destruction is homicide.” Pastors began to preach against abortion. By 1880 every state had passed laws against abortion - until Roe V Wade reversed them.

You are not alone in this battle of life and death.  We are each called to be faithful in our own little field, but we stand together with the church through the ages - and we will be victorious in the end.  I am looking forward to meeting Basil, Dympna, Vincent, and Anna someday as we celebrate together the triumph of life.

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