June 2016 Impact Report
CK Wisner, Training Specialist
Part I: September 2015
Things were getting out of hand. Voices were raised and the crowd was visibly upset. Gathered in front of Justice For All’s display at the University of Georgia – Athens (UGA) were several pro-life men, most notably Matthew and Isaac, engaging one pro-choice woman, “Jamie.” I joined the debate hoping to turn it into a gracious dialogue.
I started by addressing a question to Matthew. As I was beginning to understand Matthew's point of view on abortion, Jamie interrupted him. Soon after Jamie started talking, Isaac interrupted her. We weren’t getting any closer to having a productive conversation, so I laid some ground rules.
Me: Excuse me, but I don’t feel like we’re getting anywhere with this discussion. I propose that we take time to listen to each other and try to understand where everyone is coming from. If someone else is speaking and you have something you’d like to say, please raise your hand and that will signify that you get to speak next. Now, I hold to “ladies first,” so I’m going to let Jamie speak next.
Jamie: Well, I think that women are just in really difficult situations. We don’t know what any given woman is going through or why she needs an abortion…
Matthew and Isaac: But wait! There’s a baby in that situation…
At this point, Jamie was looking very angry. Trying to avoid further outbursts, I decided to help the pro-lifers out a little bit by teaching them the concept of common ground.
Me: [raising my hand] Hey guys, I think Jamie is actually saying something about which we can all agree…if I understood her correctly, she is concerned about women who are facing really difficult situations. I think we all are concerned for women in difficult circumstances. Is that right?
Matthew and Isaac: Yes. Definitely!
Me: I’m glad we agree on that. I find that making note of the things we agree on is particularly helpful.
The dynamic of the conversation then changed. Prior to introducing the concepts of listening and finding common ground, students were yelling their views and grouped together like a mob. After adding structure and kindness, the group formed into a circle, and all of us started respectfully raising our hands when we had something to say.
Even though things were going well, I was becoming concerned for Jamie. She was still highly emotional, and when I would aim to lovingly point out the flaws of her pro-choice position, she would admit that I was right, but then still cling with a passion to her views. I could sense that something was underneath the surface that she was not sharing.
The conversation carried on for about 45 more minutes. I heard the views of those who had joined our conversation. Eventually it was obvious that everyone had said what he or she had to say. As people were starting to repeat themselves, I raised my hand again.
Me: I’ve appreciated all of you sharing your views. Can I see a show of hands on who understands what Matthew believes?
All hands rose.
Me: Who understands what Jamie believes?
All hands rose for a second time. I continued asking this question about every person who had shared his view, and each time there was a complete consensus that everyone was at least beginning to understand what the others believed. I then kindly ended the conversation.
Me: Now that we understand each other, I think it would be more productive to end the group discussion here, instead of each of us repeating our stances on abortion. I think no one at this point is open to changing his or her mind in front of a group. I’m more than happy to talk to each of you one-on-one.
The group disbanded, and I took this opportunity to pull Jamie aside. I shared with her that I appreciated her sharing her view when nearly everyone had disagreed with her. She thanked me, but she was still noticeably hurting. I was becoming more and more convinced that Jamie had a personal connection with abortion.
Me: Do you know anyone who has had an abortion?
With that question, Jamie fell into my arms weeping. I held her until she gained her composure. Jamie then confirmed that she herself had an abortion in her past.
Jamie: [pointing at a photo of the aftermath of abortion] That photo condemns me to hell.
Me: Jamie, abortion is not the unforgiveable sin. Jesus is just as willing and able to forgive the sin of abortion as He would be any other sin. There is grace and healing in Jesus. I’m not trying to take away your guilt [because I did believe what Jamie did was wrong], but I want you to know that redemption for your past mistakes is completely open to you.
Jamie: I just don’t know why I feel this way, because I don’t think abortion is wrong.
Me: [very gently] You don’t have to answer this question out loud, but I want to give you something to think about. Are you sure abortion isn’t wrong, or are you just telling yourself that to justify your actions?
At this Jamie simply nodded her head. We talked for a few more minutes, and I made sure to get her contact information so that I could connect her with resources for healing from her abortion. Once I got back from Georgia, I did email Jamie. Her message back to me showed me why I do this work with Justice For All. She said,
“Thank you for this. I have been thinking a lot since we met, and I want you to know that that has been good for me. I've actually discussed the matter with my parents for the first time in several years, and it was a healing occasion for all of us. Thank you for your help.”
When I returned to UGA in February of this year (2016), I had another conversation with Jamie. (Continue reading below.) I am confident that God continues to be at work. He is at work in Jamie’s life, my life, and your life. Let’s pray for Jamie to draw near to Christ that she might fully experience Christ’s healing work in her life.
Note: Part I originally appeared in CK's December 2015 Newsletter.
Part II: February 2016
In my December 2015 newsletter, I shared with you one of my favorite stories about a dear young woman, “Jamie.” I told you about meeting Jamie at an outreach event and shared how she had opened up to me about the abortion in her past. I was able to love Jamie in the midst of the short time I had with her and share with her the hope of healing. We then exchanged a couple of emails.
But the story doesn’t end there. I returned to Jamie’s campus in February of this year. I knew that I wanted to see her again, so I sent her an email letting her know that I was going to be there. Early Monday morning on the first day of our outreach event she came by. We greeted each other with a hug of friendship and then I asked her how she had been doing. For the next several minutes, I heard more of her story. The details were heartbreaking.
After I had listened to Jamie, she said something that surprised me: “I’m the closest I’ve ever been to being pro-life, but I just have a couple of questions.” I asked Jamie to share with me what her questions were, and together we began to address them. By the end of our conversation, she recognized the truth of my answers, but understandably she still needed to think about it. I didn’t expect her to change her mind right then and there because she has been pro-choice her whole life. If I had believed something my whole life, I would need time to process a big shift in thinking, too.
Jamie came back by our outreach event the next day as well, but just to give me a hug. I had written her a letter after we had talked the day before and I was able to give it to her. In the letter, I shared with her that she is beautiful and also shared with her about the love of Jesus. I am continuing to pray for her to see the Truth. I count Jamie as a dear friend and my heart longs for her to find complete healing in Jesus. In the brief time we’ve been able to spend time together, God has used her to encourage me and to grow in me a heart to continue loving the hurting.
Stories like Jamie’s remind me why I work at Justice For All. They show me how deep the need is to reach the hurting and the great opportunity I have to share hope with them. Here is an awesome reality: God is able to work through you to love those He has placed in your life, too. If you need a little help getting started and you have not been through JFA’s training program, I strongly suggest that you attend. It has not only laid the foundation for me to communicate with those who believe differently than me regarding the value of human life, but it has also helped me learn how to communicate in general.
Thank you for your prayers, financial support, and encouragement. God is working through you to enable our team at JFA to meet more people like Jamie.
Note: Part II originally appeared in CK's May 2016 newsletter.
A woman walked up to me years ago at a JFA large exhibit event at University of Colorado (Boulder). She was crying and could hardly speak, but she said something about our exhibit and her abortion. As I attempted to show concern for her, she turned and walked away. While I think that abortion images do a great deal of good when shown in public and that this woman’s grief might very well have been precisely what she needed to begin to grapple with her abortion, my heart breaks for this woman and others who for whatever reason weren’t able to find healing during their encounter with the JFA team.
Thankfully, some women who have had abortions are able to begin to embrace healing at Justice For All outreach events, even when abortion images are shown publicly. In the story of CK Wisner and Jamie (above), we see through CK's beautiful example how a compassionate, gentle, and skillful ambassador for Christ can play a vital role in a person’s process of healing from a past abortion.
- Steve Wagner, Executive Director