By Savannah Marten
There are moments as believers that define our walk with Christ in a monumental way such as the moment we receive the gift of salvation, our baptism, or our receiving a profound word from the Lord that alters the way we see a situation. All these “Ebenezer moments” stand as monuments in our walk with Christ. For me, one of these moments was in 2017. I lead the Pregnancy Center of Greater Toledo, a Christ-centered outreach to women facing unintended pregnancies. Our ministry was gifted space in a unique location, right next to our city’s last functioning abortion facility.
As we sought the vision from the Lord for this space, now called The Haven, we felt strongly prompted to consider the fact that while there were many amazing programs for individuals walking into an abortion facility, few were available for individuals who were walking out, those who had had an abortion. The Lord reminded us that He is the same God for women walking out of an abortion facility as He is for women walking in. And so we pressed into the kind of God who would stand at the back door of an abortion facility with arms wide open, ready and willing to take these women and men into His arms to receive healing, forgiveness, and restoration.
That’s not where the Lord stopped though. One day during the renovation of The Haven, I had stayed to clean after everyone else had left. One of the offices has a beautiful bay window, one that’s deserving of an amazing view, but the view out this window happened to be the back door of the abortion facility. As I was sweeping the floor, I glanced out the window and heard the Lord almost audibly say, “I brought you here to teach you how to love your neighbor as yourself.”
I froze, and He said it again, “I brought you here to teach you how to love your neighbor as yourself.” And just like that, the rug got pulled out from under me. The Lord hadn’t brought us to this place just so He could minister to women and men who had walked through abortions. He had brought us here to get our attention, and He wanted to start with me.
In the past few years of my working at The Haven my way of thinking has been unraveled. I had stepped into this work because I desperately cared about justice for the unborn, which is the heart of God. But just like anything else, we can build our ideas of love, mercy, and justice around our own humanness. It was easy to rest my pro-life convictions solely on the reality that tiny babies in the womb are easy to show up for. Those precious babies aren’t sinful or broken. But what about the mother sitting in the chair in our client room at the Pregnancy Center? Maybe she’s an addict; maybe she’s a stripper; maybe she’s wanting to have an abortion because she just doesn’t want to be inconvenienced. And what about the father of the child? Maybe he’s sitting in the car outside, high. Maybe he’s pressuring the mother of his child to have an abortion because he doesn’t want to be inconvenienced. What about men and women who have already made up their minds? What about the staff at the abortion facility? The ones by us were crude. They danced in the parking lot shouting obscenities. They showed up every day to facilitate the very thing we were fighting against. These kinds of people are a lot harder to love in our humanness.
I must admit that in 2017 when I stood in that office, I had a hierarchy of my pro-life convictions. And now the Lord had me staring at the very place and people to whom I had ascribed enemy status. He called them my neighbor and commanded me to love them. Since then, we’ve worked to build amazing relationships with the women who work at the abortion facility. I count some of them as dear friends. A few years ago, we partnered with a local church and created some pretty extravagant Christmas gifts for the women who work at the facility. We had stressed about how to deliver those gifts. How does the staff of a Pregnancy Center give Christmas gifts to the staff at an abortion facility? The Lord told us, “Take them over like you would take a gift to any neighbor.”
The biggest piece the Lord unraveled from my heart and the hearts of those who work and volunteer at the Pregnancy Center was fear. I think that Jesus knew why He needed to use the specific term, “neighbor.” Neighbor means near one, and when we get close to someone it’s a lot harder to ascribe enemy status to them, to people we interact with and get to know.
This journey has moved us from a human construct of pro-life into a Bible-based construct of “pro-creation,” and it’s this simple: God created every single person in the womb of their mother. He is crazy passionate about His creation and He commands us as His followers to be just as crazy passionate about them at every developmental stage. Traditional pro-life tends to focus on the beginning (the life in the womb) and at the end of life. Pro-creation says all the messy stuff in the middle is just as worthy of our love. Pro-creation takes on the heart of Jesus, who left His comfortable place in heaven for us. He healed on the Sabbath, and He loved not His own life even unto death. He went totally bankrupt for creation.
The really amazing thing is that we’re seeing staff leave the abortion facility. We see more people coming through the doors of The Haven, and we see 98 percent of our clients at the Pregnancy Center make life-affirming decisions. Pro-creation works. Maybe for you, you’re not working with abortion-minded women or staff at an abortion facility. Maybe for you it’s a tough co-worker. Maybe the Covid situation or the racial tension has caused you to ascribe enemy status to people. Maybe it’s someone who votes or worships differently. What does pro-creation look like for you? As cliché as it sounds, what would Jesus do? Sure, He flipped tables. He turned systems upside down. As He flipped tables though, He didn’t flip people. He usually had dinner with people, and He washed the feet of people who were the hardest to love. That, my friends, is pro-creation.
About the Author
Savannah Marten has served as the Executive Director of the Pregnancy Center of Greater Toledo in Toledo, Ohio, since 2016. The Center houses three ministries: a limited medical clinic for women and families, after-abortion care, and Soul Purpose, a national ministry raising up college-age women in their value, worth, and identity. Savannah works with pregnancy centers across the country to help them reach for God’s dream for their communities. She and her husband, Ryan, attend CityLight Church, an Open Bible church in Toledo, Ohio.
Savannah was featured in the April 20, 2020 edition of Christianity Today.