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(Seventh in a series on long marriages.)
Greg and Robin Reynolds were high-school sweethearts, but after graduation, they went separate ways.
Halfway through college, Greg became disillusioned and dropped out: He realized the Zen Buddhism he’d adopted didn’t deal with the problems of sin and death. Searching for answers, he moved into a commune and, through reading the Bible, became a Christian in 1971. Later that year, Greg moved to L’Abri Fellowship, Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer’s study center in Switzerland.
Back in New Hampshire, Robin could not deny how her mother’s life had changed after she became a Christian: She displayed a new contentment and joy. One weekend, Robin came home from college and asked, “Mom, what do you have that I don’t?” In February 1972, Greg returned from L’Abri and was “instrumental,” Robin said, in helping her understand and accept the gospel. The couple married the next year.
But when Greg decided he wanted to attend seminary and become a pastor, Robin felt intimidated: She supported his dream, but her reserved personality and New England independence did not match her idea of a pastor’s wife—extroverted and involved in everything. When Greg began pastoring a small Orthodox Presbyterian Church in New York, Robin prayed, “Lord, I’ll do my best.”
Robin felt the pressure of the congregation’s expectations. “There are perceptions that you have to be perfect,” she said. “Even though people don’t really believe that, it’s still there.” She struggled not to overcommit out of a desire to please everyone, and Greg reminded her the Bible does not describe the perfect pastor’s wife. Over time, Robin took on the tasks she could manage and tried to serve quietly behind the scenes. One of her biggest challenges, she said, was hosting presbytery: At the couple’s second church, she hosted five, coordinating multiple meals for 90 visiting pastors and elders. Though tempted to focus on people’s expectations, she tried instead to concentrate on what God expected.
Greg also felt the pressures of ministry. “We really had to rely on the Lord just to survive,” he said. Robin encouraged her husband when he felt stuck in counseling, and she affirmed his preaching. He told her his troubles without gossiping about church members. The Reynoldses stuck together throughout their 35 years of ministry. Today Greg says ministry is such isolating work that he doesn’t know how men do it without a supportive wife.
When Greg retired last summer, the church ladies asked Robin for a list of her responsibilities. It was longer than anyone realized, including “everything from making sure the flowers on the front porch were always there in the summer to hosting presbytery,” Greg said. It took eight people to cover for her.
Now Greg is 70 and Robin is 68. They live in Massachusetts, enjoying time with their grandchildren. Greg edits a journal for officers in his denomination, writes, and preaches several times a year. The couple remains busy, but being free of ministry burdens makes a big difference. Looking back, Robin said the mark of a good pastor’s wife is faithfulness: showing up and sticking with the tasks she takes on.
In the end, Greg said, “Robin made a better pastor’s wife than she will admit.”
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Dr. Anthony Levatino’s story is not for the fainthearted. From 1977 to 1985, he performed nearly 1,200 first- and second-trimester abortions as a routine part of his residency and later obstetrics and gynecology practice at Albany Medical Center in New York.
Personal tragedy forever changed his practice and his life. In June of 1984, as he and his wife Cecelia visited with friends in their backyard, a car struck their 5-year-old daughter, Heather, in front of their home. Despite Levatino’s CPR and treatment by paramedics, Heather died in his and Cecelia’s arms in the ambulance.
Grief overwhelmed them. “Our marriage was in crisis. We were mourning apart,” says Levatino.
He had gone back to work, but during his next second-trimester abortion, for the first time he understood what he was doing as he looked at the growing pile of baby body parts he’d pulled from the woman. No longer did he see himself as a great doctor helping a woman with her “problem”: “I didn’t see that I was supporting a woman’s right to choose. I saw that I was killing someone’s son or daughter.”
Levatino says he kept blaming everyone else for the abortions—the women for being pregnant, the hospital for allowing them—but he continued doing them for a few more months. As his marriage worsened and his conviction grew about the reality of abortion no matter the size of the baby, he stopped performing all abortions by February of 1985.
At the same time that God was changing Levatino’s mind about abortion, He was changing his heart. He and Cecelia recommitted to each other. They went from trying to fight the pro-abortion stance of their liberal Protestant church to losing all their friends and eventually finding a pro-life nondenominational evangelical church where they found Jesus and many new friends. “It was a lonely time for a while,” he remembers. “We had to start all over.”
A pastor reminded him God had used many people in Levatino’s life to bring him to salvation. Levatino sought out a woman who for seven years delivered a “Jesus loves you” message to him while he was still doing abortions. He thanked her for those messages, told her about his change, and found out she used to picket his office, praying for him.
For more than 30 years now, Levatino, age 67, and Cecelia have ardently supported pro-life causes, speaking at gatherings, conferences, medical and law schools, and colleges around the country. In 2015, Levatino testified before a U.S. congressional committee on what an unborn child at 24 weeks experiences during an abortion. The pro-life bill passed the committee but failed in the Senate when Democrats filibustered.
He testified again in 2018 before the House Judiciary Committee in efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. Congress still funds the organization through Medicaid—our taxes.
Last year, Levatino played the role of the abortionist in the pro-life movie Unplanned, and though he relished that moviemaking experience, what drives him these days is urging people to vote pro-life.
Levatino expresses frustration: “People will support pro-life clinics, picket at Planned Parenthood, and say they support unwed mothers. Then they’ll go out and vote for a pro-abortion candidate.” He also bristles when he hears congressional bills promoted that say late-term abortions are OK if the health of the mother is jeopardized.
“You never have to do an abortion to save a mother’s life,” he says. “They may have to deliver the baby early, but you don’t have to kill it … and the term ‘health’ can mean anything.”
He is outspoken on voting pro-life, whether speaking before the Catholic Medical Association, evangelical groups, or in foreign countries like Malta.
Levatino says he’ll keep talking until God lets him know he’s done. He’s grateful for his Christian faith that gives him assurance: “I know with absolute certainty that when my time comes, our daughter will be standing right there.”
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In 1953, James Hodge sat behind Louise in an economics class at Bob Jones University and noticed how beautiful she was. He asked her out, but the only dates he could afford were free campus events. To his delight, “she fell in love with me, even though I was poor as a church mouse,” he said. When Louise graduated from college, they married one Friday in June 1955. Unable to afford a honeymoon, they went back to work the following Monday.
Money remained tight as the couple had three children and James pursued more education, but they were happy, and “we knew God would take care of us,” James said. Later, after James settled into a long career at DuPont, he traveled frequently for work and took Louise along whenever he could: “The greatest thing about marriage is companionship. … We were always together.”
But life changed when Louise was diagnosed with dementia. A couple of years ago, the Hodges moved into a retirement community in Midlothian, Va., after Louise began developing mobility problems. There, James noticed—to his surprise—that Louise was becoming forgetful: She had forgotten how to use a telephone and remote control.
Still, James remembers that even then she wanted to do things with him: After dinner, she would ask him to pick out a good movie for them to watch. But “step by step, dementia was taking hold,” said James. Eventually, she didn’t even want to watch movies, just go back to bed. It was much different from the days when the couple traveled together on work trips and visited their daughter and grandchildren in Colorado.
James managed to care for Louise for a year. But she found it harder and harder to walk: One day she fell three times, despite her walker. The emergency room doctor said she needed to move into the memory care unit immediately.
The day she moved out, James returned alone to their apartment. The reality that his wife was gone hit him. “I just completely broke down,” said James, now 86. “After 60-plus years of being together, making decisions, working our way through hard spots, it’s just difficult.”
Not long after moving into the new facility, Louise told him, “I love you, and I always have.” James looked back at her and wondered, “How in the world did she date me for a year and a half when I could never treat her to anything?”
At this point, Louise, who is 85, has forgotten where James lives, and her memory has deteriorated to the point that they cannot maintain a conversation. He said that sometimes at church he feels overwhelmed by grief that she is no longer sitting beside him. “I have lost the companionship of the love of my life for 65 years and it hurts,” he said.
Still, he sees her for about an hour every day: “What often I do is give her a kiss and tell her I love her, and she always gives me a big smile.”