Pregnancy resource centers exist thanks to the gift of time and effort of our volunteers.
At Women First Pregnancy Options on Long Island, I'm often the one to interview people who express interest in helping out.
I've always found it interesting to ask new volunteers what prompted their interest in pro-life work.
Rarely have I heard that it's just for something to do, or that it was a random pick of charities or non-profits to give time to. Every person I've asked this has a reason, and some of those reasons involve very interesting journeys.
A few months back I met Ariel, a bright and friendly young woman of 26. We chatted about how she learned about our centers, all the various ways we help pregnant women, and her available hours. Then she shared her dramatic conversion story.
Growing up, both Ariel's parents were Christian, but faith and moral issues weren't a topic of conversation. She remembers her grandmother sharing with her that she'd had two abortions, "for medical reasons," and that left an impression of general acceptance of abortion.
In middle school and high school, "everyone was sexually active," she said, and chats with her friends included the assumption that if one of them got pregnant, they'd naturally "just abort it because it's just tissue."
After high school, Ariel's mother recommitted herself to Christ. With Ariel having absorbed all the pro-abortion rhetoric a few conversations about the abortion issue led to dead-ends with her now pro-life mother.
Gradually Ariel got involved with the occult and tarot cards, "creating her own reality," which lasted at least seven years.
At 24 she dated a lukewarm Catholic who had a Bible and took her to Mass.
"The Lord was working in me through him," she said, “showing me a different way of life with Jesus at the center."
While that relationship ended, Ariel found herself curious about the Bible and went and bought her own.
At first, she'd look up Scripture for certain things, like psalms for sadness.
"There was something about the Bible that I'd never felt before that attracted me,” she said, “although I didn't know why at that point."
After a while, the Bible reading fell by the wayside, but Ariel was left with an uncertainty about the way she'd been living.
"I was feeling hesitant about my abortion convictions and the promiscuous way I'd been living," Ariel said.
Then two years ago, she hit a real low point. A period of anxiety, fear, and depression along with friendships falling apart left her feeling she was mentally deteriorating.
“All the guys I thought would be "it" - weren't,” she recalled. “I had no sense of self, no identity, I felt useless and hopeless, and like, 'what am I doing, why am I here, who am I?’”
She spent hours crying in her room.
"I realize now I was being called to something,” Ariel said. “I just kept thinking about Jesus, even though I said to myself I didn't want to be a Christian - they're (supposedly) homophobic, hateful, and bigoted.”
“But the attraction to Jesus continued,” Ariel said. “No one I knew besides my mother was Christian, but it was like a knocking on the door, the Lord calling my name, and it got louder and louder."
One night through her questioning and tears, Ariel spoke to God.
"I just looked up and said, Jesus I'm yours,” she said. “I heard an audible voice say, 'Come with me and sin no more.'"
When she woke up the next morning, Ariel found that all the anxiety and insecurity were gone, and everything seemed different.
“The colors were more vibrant, the birds sounded different,” she said, “even my hands looked different."
"The reality I was living in apart from Christ left me dead,” Ariel said.
“But now that my reality came alive,” she said, “I knew right away that abortion was wrong. I wanted everyone to know that witchcraft is wrong, heaven and hell are real, abortion is murder, and that Jesus really did rise from the dead. I completely changed into a new person, literally overnight!"
Ariel put her new love of God into reading the Bible, going to church, listening to sermons, and being vocal about spiritualism and radical progressivism.
While a number of people said she seemed calmer and more settled, some old friends resented her new life and called her a bigot.
A wiccan attacked her online.
"I was calling out BLM and witchcraft, but I hadn't become vocal on pro-life issues yet,” she said. “But the more I read the Bible the more I was unafraid. God was giving me a spirit of strength.”
Her Christian pastor found her a mentor who happened to pray at Planned Parenthood now and then.
She took Ariel along one day, which was an eye-opening experience.
"I spoke to one woman who'd had an abortion at 20,” said Ariel. “Then years later when her son was dying of cancer, she felt God speak to her: 'You took the life of one child and now you want me to save this one."
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Ariel was moved to see how this woman was healed and how God was using her past to minister to others.
"He doesn't condemn them,” she said. “He heals."
And so, Ariel began going out to pray at Planned Parenthood whenever she could fit it in her schedule. She saw the love and compassion extended to young pregnant women headed inside, and how sidewalk counselors would walk them to our pregnancy resource center a block away.
One day one of those sidewalk counselors brought her over to our office so she could learn about what we do.
We talked about how none of the pro-abortion euphemisms and mantras such as, "My Body, My Choice," make any sense.
"How can it be her body when there's a unique DNA," Ariel asks.
"’Reproductive rights’ and ‘Abortion is Healthcare’ - none of their 'arguments' go anywhere,” she said, “yet this is what's pumped into the heads of our young people day and night.”
Now every Saturday, Ariel joins other helpers at Women First to sort baby clothes, unpack diapers, answer calls, carry car seats or strollers to a mom's car, bring in someone’s donated baby clothes for our clients in need.
We're grateful to God for her conversion and for her help at our center.