When we don’t save any babies

Back in March, we celebrated the 10,000th baby saved through a 40 Days for Life campaign. We now know of 10,331 lives that have been saved through the campaign since 2007.

Each one of those saved children is a little boy or little girl who may go on to play Little League or take gymnastics lessons. These are children that will grow up and graduate from school. Maybe they’ll get married and have children of their own, ensuring that the impact of 40 Days for Life prayer warriors extends to future generations.

Every time a life is saved, the pain and destruction of abortion is averted, and limitless potential is unleashed. Every mother who turns away from abortion gives birth not only to a child created in the image and likeness of God, but also to dreams to be fulfilled by that same God.

That why it’s so encouraging to know of the 10,331 children that have celebrated (or will soon celebrate) a birthday due to answered prayers.

But what about when we don’t save any babies?

While campaigns in some cities have been blessed with astonishing numbers of saved babies, most campaigns save only one or two. In fact, many campaigns don’t record a single confirmed saved baby during a campaign. And even if your campaign did save a baby, it’s more than likely that you weren’t the one staffing the vigil site at the time.

Sometimes the lack of visible results can be a temptation to ask whether 40 Days for Life is worth it. If you face that temptation, here are four things to remember when your prayer and presence don’t save any babies.

Number 1: You probably ARE saving babies; you just don’t know it

fall2014siouxcity1We love to track and share the number of babies saved through 40 Days for Life because it’s a powerful consolation—a reminder that God answers our prayers. But we always like to emphasize that these are the saved babies that we know of.

These are the babies where there was some clear indicator that the abortion-bound mother changed her mind. Perhaps the mother provided a verbal confirmation or flashed a thumbs up while mouthing the words “thank you.” Whatever the case, there is evidence.

We don’t know how many abortion-bound mothers have come to the abortion center in your community only to see you praying in front of the building. Empowered by your presence, they opt not to turn into the parking lot and instead continue down the street. We’ll never count those babies, but their lives are just as valuable and precious as those we can count.

This scenario isn’t just wishful thinking. The abortion industry itself has admitted that when people are praying in front of their buildings, the no-show rate for abortion appointment spikes as high as 75 percent!

Number 2: No prayer ever goes unanswered

fall2014fresno2In the Book of Exodus, Moses began leading the ancient Israelites on a grueling, 40 year trek out of slavery to the Promised Land they would eventually call home. The entire time, God knew that Moses would not live to see the end of the story. In fact, Moses died just before the Israelites took possession of the Promised Land. Nevertheless, God called Moses to begin the journey and trust that God would finish it.

Sometimes God provides us with the consolation of quick and visible answers to our prayers. More frequently, He calls us—like Moses—to pray and to trust Him with the results. We don’t know when or how the Lord will answer our prayers. But we do know that no prayer is ever in vain. God will answer our prayers in His time and with His Divine Wisdom even if we don’t find out how on this side of Heaven.

One of those hidden fruits of prayer occurs when our presence helps lead post-abortive women and men to God’s Mercy.

When my wife and I led a campaign near the University of Wisconsin campus in 2010, a volunteer named Jean was confronted by an angry woman who screamed every sort of insult imaginable. Jean calmly responded, “I had my abortion in 1972. When did you have yours?” The anger gave way to tears as the woman collapsed into Jean, hugging her as she sobbed.

Our presence at a 40 Days for Life vigil can be the first sign of God’s mercy that ultimately begins the healing process for a post-abortive woman. We don’t know when that journey will begin or how long it will take. We simply help begin that journey by making ourselves available and entrusting God with the rest.

Number 3: Just because you haven’t yet doesn’t mean you won’t

fall2014fresno1Perhaps your community has held several campaigns without learning of even one saved baby. That was the case for Tina and her team in Flint, Michigan before she wrote to tell me about her campaign’s midpoint rally last year:

We have felt very discouraged this campaign. In all of the campaigns we have had in Flint, we have never had an official “save” during a 40 Days for Life campaign.

We gathered [for the midpoint rally]. One mom—who already had her deposit down—was scheduled for an abortion that day. She had a dream the night before. She saw people in her dream praying for her. Then she showed up the next day, and the dream was a reality when she saw all of us out there!

[She] saw all of us praying at the vigil and chose LIFE for her baby instead of abortion! PRAISE GOD!

Tina and her team didn’t know any of this until the mother returned to the vigil site nearly a week later to share the good news.

One of our prayer volunteers was praying outside of the abortion facility. She has also been feeling discouraged. When she called me Friday to share the news, we both cried. I was in the middle of a carpet store and just dropped to my knees to pray in thanksgiving

In an instant, years of seemingly fruitless toil all became worth it!

Number 4: There’s no such thing as a failure on the sidewalk

fall2014vabeach3Every woman who walks through the doors of your local abortion center is carrying with her a great darkness.

Maybe it’s the darkness of being a teenage girl, terrified to tell her parents she’s pregnant. Maybe it’s the darkness of the couple who has just received a very difficult and challenging prenatal diagnosis and is being tempted—even pressured—to have an abortion. Maybe it’s the darkness of the woman who is walking back out through those doors after having an abortion, and she’s quickly realizing that the promise of relief from a crisis situation was an empty promise.

Whatever darkness it is that leads a woman through those doors, we enter into it with the Light of Christ as a sign of God’s hope and of His mercy.

Will this be uncomfortable at times? Absolutely. When our prayerful presence doesn’t save a particular baby, we might be tempted to feel as though our effort failed.

But there are no failures on the sidewalk. Even if that little girl or boy is lost on your watch, he or she was loved because you were there. And your simple act of prayer and witness might very well have been the only act of love that child received in his or her short life.

To be able to offer that solitary act of love is a victory and an end in itself.

Written by
Steve Karlen, Campaign Director

Prior to joining the headquarters team, Steve directed several highly-successful 40 Days for Life campaigns in his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. As campaign director, Steve helps local 40 Days for Life leaders build and improve life-saving efforts in their communities.