A testimony of life
February 14, 2013 § 8 Comments
Every January, many evangelical churches use the “anniversary” of the tragic 1973 Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade to celebrate the sanctity of human life. At least one Sunday that month is given to prayer, a special message and testimonies that touch on this critical moral issue. Unfortunately, in most of these churches, when January ends, so does the pro-life emphasis until the next year.
Of course, abortion takes no year-long sabbatical; the unborn die and most of the surviving victims of abortion—mothers who have realized their actions too late—die a little more every day.
In order to remind us of the reality of this on-going tragedy—but also to offer encouragement that individual action actually makes a difference, here is the testimony of Gary and Beth Cumberland, a couple from our church.
This testimony is about a conversion but not to salvation because my husband, Gary, and I had been strong, involved church-going Christians for many years. Yet, when the subject of abortion came up we were neutral; we wouldn’t take a stand either way. Gary is a physician and I’m a nurse and we thought there were times that abortion was a logical decision based on the fact that people who don’t want a baby won’t take care of it. We both saw abuse, neglect and poverty in our medical experiences and this was the reason for our position on abortion.
When we moved to Pensacola we became involved in a church that took a very strong pro-life position. We heard a speaker one Sunday evening that was so compelling and clear in defining the truth about abortion that at the same moment we looked at each other and said we have been ignorant and wrong. Eventually I felt led to become involved in counseling at a Crisis Pregnancy Center supported by our church. I took the training and because I was a nurse felt very comfortable and secure in planning to counsel.
I worked on Fridays at the center and always with another more experienced counselor so I sort of observed and did paper work and otherwise made myself busy. It was all well and good, I was serving and yet I wasn’t being placed in any uncomfortable or challenging situation and life was good—until one Friday in September when the counselor had to leave to take care of something and I was alone.
To be completely honest, I began praying that no one would walk in the door. But God had other plans and within a few minutes the sidewalk counselor brought in a young unmarried couple. She said they needed a pregnancy test, and then she left. I was panic-stricken but I comforted myself by saying, Well, just run the test and play the video for them and the test probably won’t be positive and you can just send them on their way. You can imagine my thoughts when I got a positive result on the test and I had to go in the counseling room and give them the news. They were very upset but the young woman had already suspected that she was pregnant.
This couple was dead-set on abortion as the solution for them. I discussed how we could help them with baby supplies and counseling. She worked at Wal-Mart and I even called about her insurance and explained that most of her medical expenses would be covered. I tried to put forth every logical argument in favor of having the baby I could think of. I witnessed to them about salvation through Christ. I showed them all the prolife passages in the Scripture, but they were unmoved. I did everything short of getting down on my knees before them and begging them to keep their baby. This young lady had a wedding dress and a wedding planned for April and they didn’t want those plans altered by a baby.
Finally after my last effort the young man said to me, “Ma’am its not as if we don’t want to have children eventually, just not right now.”
All of a sudden I faced the reality that a life was in peril and this young couple out of fear and ignorance was planning on aborting, killing their child and I was powerless to keep that from happening. On the outside I was cool and calm but on the inside I was crying out to God, Help me I am losing this battle and I don’t know what to do!
We were at an impasse in the conversation and all of a sudden I felt a presence in the room, as if the room was filling with a mist. The air felt thick but there was nothing visible happening; it was just a feeling I had. Out of my mouth came words that I never remember thinking ahead of time.
“Alright. I understand you are in a very difficult situation and I know this is very hard for you but I want you to understand one thing: any child you have after this point will be your second child because your first child is present in the room with us right now.”
I sat back realizing that these words came from the Holy Spirit and not me. The young woman started crying softly and the man shifted in his chair. I thought he was going to get up and hit me, but instead he said, “I understand and thank you.” At that point everything that could be said had been said and since it was late on a Friday afternoon I asked them to take the weekend to think about this and gave them my phone number asking them to call me when they had made a decision.
I came home and spent the weekend praying for this couple and their unborn child. By Sunday night I couldn’t wait any longer so I called them. The young woman answered and said, “Oh, Beth I’m at my parent’s house and we’ve decided to do it.”
“Do what?” I asked.
“We’ve told our parents and we are going to have the baby. Everyone is supporting us!” She also said they were going to have their wedding as soon as they could. I was just amazed at the power of God.
In the next months I got together with them, called often and we had them over to our home. When her due date came closer she invited me to her baby shower and her friends and family all wanted to know who I was, but that was a secret she and I kept to ourselves. Then about 3 weeks later in late February she called me from the hospital and told me she had delivered the baby and it was a little girl. We talked about the labor and the baby and then she said, “Beth I just want to thank you for being there at a time when I could have made a terrible mistake.” I said, “ Oh, Honey do you really think you could have had an abortion?” She said, “Yes; I was so scared and it seemed like the only answer until you talked to me.”
I have continued to counsel at the center and have had many wonderful experiences with women facing unplanned pregnancies. Not every counseling experience ends in saving the life of the baby, but still it is rewarding to serve. Many times the women leave the center and you never really know what happens, but as a counselor those women remain in your heart and they are prayed for.
The counseling was also helping me fill a void in my personal life. Gary and I had a daughter Sarah but were never able to have another child and the constant prayer on my heart was to have a baby. We had been hoping to adopt a baby for several months and had written a letter to all the OB/GYN doctors in the area, letting them know our desire. Most of them had already told Gary that they rarely had adoptions.
In early June on a Thursday night Gary called me from the hospital to tell me that there was a baby available for adoption. I will never forget that phone call, my joy was overflowing at just the possibility of a baby. We wanted to say, “Yes, we want the baby right away”—but the doctor wanted us to take the weekend to think about it and get back with him. We were leaving to go to a family reunion on Sunday and at that point I really didn’t want to leave town but the plans were made.
We called the doctor on Monday from Minnesota and told him we wanted the baby. Gary came back a week later and contacted an attorney regarding the adoption, while I went to visit my parents in Nebraska. We were new in town and had very few contacts so we asked one of Gary’s partners and he recommended his brother, Ken Bell. Gary made an appointment and started the preliminary work. It had now been two and a half weeks since the phone call that there was a baby.
Then came another phone call from the doctor on a Friday morning: the birth mother was in labor and she was still planning on adoption. We alerted our attorney, who told Gary to get me back in town as fast as possible. Believe me–I really didn’t need a plane to bring me back, I could have flown on my own! Fortunately, the airlines were very accommodating and I was back in Pensacola by Saturday at noon. Our son was born Friday June 29th at 5:00 pm, a normal delivery and a healthy baby.
From the airport Sarah, Gary and I went straight to Sacred Heart Hospital, where we were put in a room. After a few minutes Ken Bell arrived, wheeling a baby cart in the room that held John. The name on the cart said “Baby Love.” At Sacred Heart whenever a baby is up for adoption, Baby Love is how they label the crib. Ken was crying because he had just been with the birth mother, watched her hold and kiss her baby and then sign the papers relinquishing him. I had written her a letter both thanking her and telling her about our family and as much as I could about how we would raise him. Ken had given her the letter, which she read with her father and stepmother. Ken told me she put it away as if she would always keep it. As Ken watched us in the room with John, holding him, counting his fingers and toes, laughing, our joy overflowing, he commented that he had been from the depths of sadness to the heights of joy in short walk and elevator ride.
John’s birth mother also wrote us a letter, which we have always cherished and saved for the time when it would be appropriate to give to John. When John was 18 we gave him this letter:
Hello. I am writing you to express the way I feel about you and Bryan. First of all I am grateful that there are people like you to raise my son. I have been so worried that it wouldn’t work out or that it wouldn’t be the right thing for Bryan. Your letter has helped much to calm my fears. I know that this is one of the happiest times of your life. It is mine, too, in a way. I feel so much joy for my baby. He turned out so perfect, and I couldn’t be prouder. I know that he has a great need for love, and you will be able to give it to him. Rest assured that he holds all the love in my heart in the palm of his hand. I hope that when you speak of me to Bryan, you will be kind. I feel so much happiness at the wonderful life he is beginning. My feelings go way beyond anything that mere words can describe. More than anything I want Bryan to have the best and I know you can provide what he needs. I would give anything to be able to do the same, but I can’t. Thank you for all you’ve done and will do.
I also wanted to thank you for your offer to send pictures. I really appreciate it. I will accept pictures anytime you find it in your heart to send them. I know that they may make it harder to deal with at first, but I believe it will get easier with time. Being able to see my son as he grows will help to reaffirm my decision. (They will also make me immensely happy?) I pray for you and Bryan every night. I will try to write a letter to him for the future. It has been very painful to write this one and I don’t know if I can handle more, but I will try. Know that all of my love and hope are with you and our beautiful baby.