When a trusted individual sins in a way that can ruin dozens of young lives, Christian groups and communities need to respond quickly. Here’s one case study of ongoing recovery
A lawyer who lost his shot at the Supreme Court when he laid out the ugly moral and legal case against Bill Clinton. An attorney general who lost popularity by pushing the legal war against Muslim terrorists. A ministry leader who also told the truth about Islam as politicians whispered sweet nothings.
Ken Starr, John Ashcroft, and Franklin Graham were three of WORLD's Daniels of the Year.
A crusader for human and religious rights who traded aristocratic drawing rooms for the front lines of oppression. A southern Sudanese pastor who preached Christ as government forces from the North tried to annihilate his people. Young American Christians who professed their faith even when gunmen threatened to murder them, and sometimes did.
Baroness Caroline Cox, Michael Yerko, and Generation WWJD-teens committed to Christ at Columbine High School and elsewhere-were three more of WORLD's Daniels of the Year.
A painter highly respected by other artists who risks his standing by showing Christ through his work and words. Two African Anglican bishops who battle Scripture-twisters in their denominational leadership. A professor ridiculed for jump-starting the Intelligent Design movement.
Makoto Fujimura, Archbishops Peter Akinola and Henry Luke Orombi, and Phillip Johnson were three other Daniels of the Year.
This is our 10th year of choosing a Dan of the Year, a very different individual from Time magazine's typically power-grasping Man of the Year (now Person of the Year). We've had some well-known Daniels and some little-known ones, but in all cases their faith in God gave them the strength to stand up against tyrants who tried to put themselves in God's place. That's what made them Daniels: They exhibited bravery in defense of God's authority, not their own autonomy.
We've tried to choose individuals notable for their own work but also representative of Christian efforts in a variety of frontline fields. We have not yet covered many areas, but one omission is particularly glaring.
That night was a nightmare for me. My wife was ready for an appointment next morning with an abortion clinic. I wanted to stop her but could not convince her. I was searching the Internet and saw your profile on AOL. You were online. I sent you an instant message and told you what my wife wanted. You wrote me about the procedure and consequences of abortion. I showed that to my wife and she agreed not to go for an abortion. The baby was born in October. Today he is a three-year-old, bringing joy and happiness in our lives every moment. I have no words to thank you for what you have done for me, my wife and the baby.
The woman who received that email, Wanda Kohn, had faced her own abortion decision in 1977, when she was 17, and given in to death. During the 1980s she became a Christian and came to understand that women who had aborted could still receive God's forgiveness. She began volunteering for the Pregnancy Care Center in Leesburg, Fla., in 1989, and five years ago she became its director.
That pro-life center is one of thousands throughout the country with low-paid directors and unpaid volunteer counselors: Those directors and volunteers are WORLD's Daniels of the Year for 2007, and Wanda Kohn represents them well. She has impressed even liberal journalists such as Orlando Sentinel columnist Lauren Ritchie, who headlined one column, "Wanda Kohn-she is what I want to be." Ritchie called Kohn "Leesburg's version of Mother Teresa. . . . She is passionately anti-abortion, but tempers it with practicality that provides a place to live and diapers."
Passion plus practicality. Kohn over the past two years has occasionally emailed me, at my request, dispatches from the front lines like this one:
She's sweet but scared, and she's carried a huge burden for months as she's hid her pregnancy. I asked her, do you believe in God? Yes. Do you believe what the Bible says? Yes. Do you know what the Bible says about abortion? No, I haven't really read the Bible much. So I proceeded to tell her how God calls us to protect the innocent (her baby) and how much He hates abortion. How He created the womb as a place for safety not danger, etc. Talked about honoring God in her decisions . . . doing things His way instead of her own. . . . She's not going to have an abortion. Thank you Jesus!
But that doesn't always happen. A counselor may give everything she has, and a young woman may still choose abortion:
She was determined to kill her baby (her words) whatever way she can . . . not because she hates the father of the baby, but because she hates people, she hates her mother, she hates kids including her little half sibling, she acts like she hates me, and she says she hates God as well. Finally, she agreed to visit a Christian maternity home. Prayed that she would agree to stay there, but she didn't. She got an abortion.
Pro-lifers rightly push for laws requiring parental consent for minors to have an abortion, but sometimes parents can be more difficult than their pregnant daughters:
He told me his daughter wasn't going to be young and pregnant. She was going to finish school and get on with her life. I approached the subject of adoption. Between cuss words it was apparent he was bound and determined to take his daughter for an abortion-but she didn't want one. I only had a couple of minutes to spend with her. I knelt down before her, holding her hands, and said, "You are the one who has to live with the decision you make, regardless of your choice. . . . Call us if you need us." I pressed my card into her hand. A few days later I called their home. The dad answered the phone, told me not to ever call back, and hung up on me. It seemed most likely this baby was led to the slaughter.
Wanda and her husband Bob have been married for 21 years. They have no children, and Wanda thinks about her own abortion "often, but in a healthy way: Every time I share my story with another abortion-minded client, every time I think about the depth of the mercy of God, who redeemed a sinner such as I, every time I thank God for what He's done in my life and marvel at how He's taken something as evil as an abortion and years later used it for His glory to help save other lives."
For Wanda as for many others, thankfulness to God and awe of Him is a motivator on hard days:
I never even got a chance to sit at my desk this morning . . . from a very early morning call, "I'm not doing well, I need you to come to my house to see me NOW," to a late evening call from a mom whose 15-year-old daughter had told her, after talking to me on the phone, that she was NOT getting the abortion her mom had scheduled the next morning. But God is good and bigger than the most difficult day we can have! He is our provider!
Pro-life counselors are also thankful for technological advances: Now, at many centers, young mothers (and sometimes fathers) look at the screen of an ultrasound machine and see not just any baby, but their baby:
Another woman came in last week and wanted an abortion . . . she said, "It's only a spot." She got an ultrasound . . . she said she was still having an abortion. We prayed for her daily. . . . She came back in this Tuesday and told us she has decided to let her baby live.
And beyond the technology stands God's opposition to the evil empire of abortion, and His merciful intervention in some lives. A 1930s subject of another evil empire, Whittaker Chambers, dated his initial break with communism to the time his young daughter smeared porridge on her face. Chambers found himself looking at her "intricate, perfect ears." He saw immense design, not a chance coming together of atoms-and "at that moment, the finger of God was first laid upon my forehead." Pro-life directors and volunteers teach about intricacy and see God's finger:
The teenager asked me many questions. Her mother had told her that her baby was just a little tiny spot, a blob. I told her, "No. Your baby has arms and legs and is very far along in development." She started crying. I encouraged her to stand firm. . . . I consider that baby's survival to be a miracle from God.
In 1961 President John F. Kennedy, visiting the divided German city that was a hot spot in the Cold War, declared, "There are many people in the world who really don't understand, or say they don't, what is the great issue between the Free World and the communist world. Let them come to Berlin. There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future. Let them come to Berlin."
Today, many politicians and pundits don't understand, or say they don't, the great issue between pro-life Americans and the abortion empire. They should come to Leesburg or a thousand other cities and visit Wanda Kohn or the tens of thousands like her:
Please pray as we had a 15 year old in the office today. She wants an abortion. When I asked if she believed in God she said, "No, not really." She said she quit believing in God when she was six years old . . . that was how old she was when her mother died . . . we talked about going down the spiral of sin . . . one sin leading to another to another.
Do some say that abortion is the wave of the future? Let them talk with Wanda Kohn and those she represents. Nearly 35 years after the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, men and women who receive little or no pay, power, or honor keep coming forward to save lives. And some victories become meaningful in deeply personal ways:
As I was sitting in the waiting room with the adoptive family and this precious newborn, I asked what they had named her. "Rebekah" they replied. My heart was in my throat as I asked, "How are you going to spell it?" She spelled it out, "R-e-b-e-k-a-h." Tears welled up in my eyes. I didn't tell any of them until a few days later, but you see, that's the name in my mind of the baby I aborted. God is good, isn't He?
Another dispatch from Wanda Kohn
One morning a young woman called wanting directions. A few minutes later she showed up. We gave her a pregnancy test and some materials to review. She laid down the pamphlets without looking at them. We showed her a picture of an 8-week-old unborn child and she seemed a little disturbed.
She asked about her appointment. I said I would call the OB to schedule her for an ultrasound. She got tense and replied, "What? I thought you were going to do this today!" "Do what today, the ultrasound?" "No, do the abortion. Look, see? I have the money right here!" She pulled out a wad of cash.
Shocked, I said, "We don't do abortions here." She was in tears and very upset. Her three girlfriends who had come with her to support her in her abortion decision were rising from the couch in the waiting area. All of us were confused.
She said she called us from the yellow pages to get directions. I handed her the phone book so she could look for herself at our ad. It was then that she realized what happened. When she got up that morning, she looked in the phone book to call the abortion clinic for directions to the appointment she had made with them a couple of days ago. She called us by mistake.
She called the abortion clinic from our phone, becoming even more distressed as she found out that now she would have to reschedule. Now that she realized it was her mistake and that she couldn't get the abortion that day, her anger turned to tears. They rescheduled her for that coming Sunday, four days later. As she rushed out the door, I asked her to consider one thing: "You didn't come here by mistake. God brought you here and He wants you to know He loves your baby just as much as He loves you." With that she was gone.
Believing God would not send her through our doors by "mistake," we continued to pray for her. Two months later she came back and said, "I wanted to let you know that I am keeping my baby. I went to the abortion clinic but couldn't go through with it. Thank you!" We praised God for this miracle-and for God using us? Sidewalk counselors outside the abortion clinic? One of her friends? The Holy Spirit? All of the above?