Seasons of Faithful Sidewalk Counseling

Before I moved to my current home 21 years ago to take a university teaching position, I spent ten years going once a week to various abortion clinics in my city. It was exhausting, exhilarating work. So much of the help we offered and the exhortations we gave to mothers and fathers in hopes they would choose life for their children gave returns we could seldom see. Over so many years of doing so, I did, of course, see many women change their minds and choose life. Even one such decision would have made it worth it all. But, thankfully, there were many more than one. I know, too, that there were many we may never know about this side of heaven.

My role in the pro-life movement changed, however, when I accepted a new role in the classroom. I still saw myself as a pro-life activist but as one who was working more behind the scenes, helping to raise up (I pray) generations that will change our culture’s views of abortion.

One new avenue for the pro-life cause that my new position offered was to serve as advisor to the campus pro-life club, a post I held for several years. Student clubs ebb and wane and have different focuses as students come and go. But in 2016, a student name Kyle Eisenhuth arose from the ranks, stepped into a leadership role, and served as club president until he graduated last year.

Kyle led a band of students in faithful weekly presence at an abortion clinic in the next city over (since our own city, praise the Lord, has none). Even at a Christian university like ours it is easy to become complacent and assuming—assuming all are pro-life, complacent in thinking we need not put feet to our words and beliefs. But Kyle and the other students in the club over those years were shining examples of active faith and hands-on service. They gave a jaded, worn out old activist like me hope for not only the cause but for the future of our nation.

I asked Kyle to share a bit of what he experienced out there at that last stop before so many life-and-death decisions are made, and here is what he shared. I’m so proud of him and so thankful for this pro-life generation.

I distinctly remember my first trip sidewalk counseling as a freshman in college. Shortly after the abortion doctor arrived, several black birds began to circle above us. It was an eerie sight to see birds circling something like it was dead, except the thing they were circling was an abortion clinic. From that day forward, I went sidewalk counseling nearly every weekend, because I could not ignore what was occurring at these “healthcare centers.”

I quickly had to wrestle with why a good God would allow such evil to occur. It is devastating watching person after person enter a building to kill their children. In moments like those, one can either run to God or run away from Him.

I chose to run to God. I realized that the Lord does not desire for this evil to occur. Instead, God calls us to holiness; a life set apart from our sinful desires and in line with God’s Word.

There are few people who understand what it is like to pray every single week in front of an abortion clinic. The friendships I made in front of Planned Parenthood are ones that I will cherish the rest of my life.  

I particularly bonded with a woman named Zifea. We called her Zofie. She prayed every week outside the clinic–even more frequently during the 40 Days for Life campaigns. She became a motherly figure during a time when I was six hours away from my biological family. We spent a countless amount of time praying together for God’s mercy as we witnessed the killing of these innocent unborn babies.

When we did not pray, we talked about a wide variety of topics. Zofie is a fascinating person; she escaped from Soviet Poland many years ago. However, my favorite thing about Zofie is her thoughtfulness.

One of the moments I remember the most vividly while sidewalk counseling came during my last time on the sidewalk during college. While I was there to pray and be a presence, I was also busy saying my good-byes to my friends from the community and the students I had befriended from a university nearby.

It was quite common for me to pray for clients or workers to get a flat tire—something that would not bring them harm, but would prevent them from making it to the clinic. I asked God to work in simple ways we did not need to know about until we enter Heaven. However, that last morning I received a glimpse of Heaven.

At the clinic in Roanoke, sidewalk counselors stand on a long strip of grass that was public property next to the highway where the clinic was located. Five minutes before we were set to leave, a car began to pull into the parking lot too fast. The vehicle jumped the curb and landed on a patch of grass opposite the spot where about 20 sidewalk counselors were standing.

The young woman driving and her toddler in the back seat where unharmed but frazzled. But her car tire had popped during the ordeal. This answered years of prayer!

The pro-lifers wheeled her car into the part of the parking lot closest to where we stood and changed her tire for her.

The woman spoke little English. We eventually figured out that she spoke Farsi and that she was there for a pregnancy test, not an abortion. Sadly, Planned Parenthood uses services like pregnancy tests to lure women into scheduling an abortion, which is their main source of income.

In addition to changing her tire, sidewalk counselors also gave her information for a local pregnancy resource center that provides pregnancy tests for free. This young woman left the parking lot having never set foot into the clinic! It was an exciting cap to my time on the sidewalk in Roanoke.

As a current seminary student, I look forward to using my influence as a pastor to be a voice for the unborn. I plan to incorporate pro-life ministries in my church, including one that will help those who are post-abortive find healing. My role in the pro-life movement will probably look different once I am a pastor, but my efforts to end abortion will continue until this barbaric practice ceases to occur.

Co Authors :

Karen Swallow Prior is research professor of English and Christianity and culture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Her most recent book is On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life in Great Books.

Kyle Eisenhuth is a graduate of Liberty University, and current attends Asbury Seminary with plans to become a pastor upon graduation.

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