By Connie Beckman
For years, I’ve felt a call to raise awareness of the tragedy of abortion, and to offer hope to those tempted to make that deadly choice and those wounded by doing so. Sometimes, I’ve felt alone in the fight. At times, I’ve pictured myself on the battlefield for life all by myself, completely encompassed by the enemy. But even though I felt alone, I knew Jesus was by my side as I continued to trudge forward. It seemed no one wanted to talk about the big “A-word” from the pulpit, or in conversations with my sisters and brothers in Christ. It made people uncomfortable to talk about it. But Jesus shared truth— which sometimes made people uncomfortable. Doesn’t Jesus call us to do the same?
One day, during my prayer time, I began to ponder the times that Jesus felt alone and abandoned during His ministry. This gave me courage to continue to share my message of hope with others when the opportunity presented itself—even though it took courage to stand up and speak out. Meditating on how Jesus conveyed His message of truth, I realized He always offered His mercy, love and forgiveness. Each day, I ask the Holy Spirit to help me be honest, gentle, kind and merciful when I share with others. It has been said that we should be gentle and kind to one another, because we are all fighting a difficult battle.
40 days of real hope and change
If we persevere in prayer, God is sure to answer the desires of our hearts. When the 40 Days for Life campaign first came to Helena (Montana’s state capital) in the fall of 2008, I felt a sense of renewed hope, and I’m sure many others praying for the end of abortion did also.
According to the organization’s web site,
40 Days for Life is a community-based campaign that draws attention to the evil of abortion through the use of a three-point program:
• Prayer and fasting
• Constant vigil
• Community outreach
40 Days for Life takes a determined, peaceful approach to showing local communities the consequences of abortion in their own neighborhoods, for their own friends and families. …
40 Days for Life is a focused pro-life campaign with a vision to access God’s power through prayer, fasting, and peaceful vigil to end abortion in America. The mission of the campaign is to bring together the body of Christ in a spirit of unity during a focused 40-day campaign of prayer, fasting and peaceful activism, with the purpose of repentance, to seek God’s favor to turn hearts and minds from a culture of death to a culture of life, thus bringing an end to abortion in America.
If there is no abortion mill in your town, you can still pray and fast in solidarity with other 40 Days participants, knowing that God will use your commitment somehow. The 40-day duration is significant because it reflects biblical history, which is replete with accounts of significant events and transformations occurring during periods of 40 days or 40 years in both the Old and New Testaments.
Montana’s first-ever 40 Days for Life campaign took place in Great Falls in the spring of 2008. Kalispell hosted its first in the spring of 2009. The fall of 2009 campaign was a time of great rejoicing for pro-lifers nationwide because Kalispell’s Planned Parenthood facility closed its doors for good, as did an abortion mill in Pensacola, Florida; and Abby Johnson, Planned Parenthood’s director in Bryan/College Station, Texas, quit her job. Proof that praying, fasting and standing up for life works!
This year’s spring 40 Days for Life campaign will be the largest 40 Days event thus far. It will take place from March 9, Ash Wednesday, through April 17, Palm Sunday, in the United States, Canada, Belize, Australia, England, Ireland, Spain, Georgia and Armenia. In the United States, 247 cities from coast to coast will participate. We are particularly joyful and hopeful in Montana because, for the first time, there will be a 40 Days campaign in every city where there is an abortion mill: Helena, Great Falls, Billings, Missoula and Livingston. The first campaign in Billings took place last fall. Missoula and Livingston will be hosting their first campaigns.
Hope for the wounded
The 40 Days for Life campaign has given me hope that those wounded by abortion, whether directly or indirectly, can begin to heal and come to know the love of a forgiving and merciful Father. If one member of the body of Christ is wounded, we are all wounded. And if one member of the body of Christ begins to heal, we all begin to heal.
40 Days has opened my heart to the deep brokenness of those who are post-abortive. Rachel’s Vineyard and other post-abortion ministries offer them hope and healing. It is heart-wrenching to know that, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, currently “[t]wenty-two percent of all pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) end in abortion.” (And this statistic doesn’t include very early abortions caused by hormonal contraceptives.)
Hope for moms to choose life
Catholic social service organizations, pregnancy resource centers and other pro-life outreaches throughout the U.S. and Canada are beacons of hope for women and men facing unplanned pregnancies, because they offer them the counseling and support they need to give their babies life, and they explore with them the options of parenting their children themselves or placing them for adoption.
Real hope for victory
Participating in 40 Days has given me a sense of hope that God’s love and mercy will triumph over the evil in our land. It has also opened my eyes to see how God is working through all these wonderful ministries to bring hope and healing to His people. As I was reading from the book Full of Grace by Johnnette S. Benkovic, her words touched my heart deeply when she said,
[A]t the moment of the Annunciation, the Blessed Virgin Mary was uniquely commissioned to bring Jesus into the world. ... And yet, in a certain sense, God extends the call He issued to Mary to each of us. God the Father is asking each of us: “Will you bring my Son into the world? Will you carry Him in the womb of your heart as Mary carried Him in the womb of her body? Will you birth Him into the lives of others, that all might come to experience the grace of redemption and eternal life?
God has shown me that, through these 40 days of prayer, fasting and vigils, I’m not alone in this battle and He is equipping each of us with the tools to fight. This life-giving campaign has given me real hope that we, as a people of faith, can change the culture of death into a culture of life—one soul, one prayer at a time. Find out how you can become involved by visiting www.40daysforlife.com.
Connie Beckman resides in Helena, Montana, with her husband, Cliff. They have two sons, Chris and David (David died at age 17); two grandchildren, Alex and Josh; and one great-granddaughter, Madisyn Renae. Employed by the state and also a freelance writer, Connie is a member of the Cathedral of Saint Helena and has been active in the pro-life movement for many years.
With Connie’s kind permission and assistance, this article has been adapted from her article with the same title in the July-August 2010 issue of Celebrate Life.