Allow me to introduce you to Jane Porter. Jane attends Christ Church in Anywhere, USA. She grew up in a Christian home, but she walked away from her faith while she was in her late teens. When Jane discovered she was pregnant in her sophomore year of college, she listened to the advice of her roommate and had an abortion. She never spoke of it to her parents, friends, or family. She also never told her husband John, to whom she’s been married for almost 27 years. After college, she resumed her walk with the Lord and has been a member of the church for 19 years. She is very involved and has regularly volunteered for various ministries over the years. But she does dread January and the Sanctity of Life service her church holds every year.
John is Jane’s husband. He has a great job and feels he is a good provider for this wife and two daughters. John was adopted by his parents when he was an infant and has expressed no interest in connecting with his birthparents. But six months ago he was contacted by a man who said that he was his birth brother, and that he and John were adopted by different families. The man wants to connect with him, but John isn’t so certain and is now asking troubling questions. What would life have been like his birth family? Why did they place him for adoption?
Jane’s parents, Mary and Paul, have also joined the Porter family household. They are both 82 years old. A few weeks ago they had to move in with Jane and John because her dad has Alzheimer’s, and her mom fell and broke her hip. Jane is caring for her dad at home and going back and forth to the nursing home to tend to her mom. Jane is also trying to decide what kind of medical care they need and how to talk to them about end of life planning.
Jane’s oldest daughter, Jennifer, is suffering as well. She got married two years ago and was very eager to start a family with her husband. But now she and her husband are struggling with fertility problems. They can’t conceive. They are researching fertility treatments, such as IVF and surrogacy.
And, just last week, Jessica, Jane’s younger daughter, came home the week before she started her senior year in high school and announced that she was pregnant. Jane and John are shell-shocked and not sure what to do.
Jane comes to church each week and, when her pastor greets her at the door, asking how she is doing, she smiles and says, “I’m fine.” But Jane really isn’t fine; actually she is just barely hanging on. But she’s too embarrassed to mention what is really going on in her life, especially because she doesn’t think the church can do anything to help her. So she plasters on her plastic smile and pretends all is well.
Yes, Jane’s story is a work of fiction. But she and her family’s struggles are anything but. Many people in the Christian community think that life issues such as abortion and euthanasia are far removed from them—those are things that happen to other people. But if we would take the time to talk and to learn about one another, we will discover that these issues are extremely relevant in not only our lives but in the lives of our fellow church parishioners.
Abortion, assisted suicide, and euthanasia are often considered “political issues” that should not be discussed in the Church. But if the Church does not talk about them or seek to help parishioners deal with them…who will? The longer we deny that there are people hurting in our pews, the more hurting people there will be, in our churches, families, and communities!
So what can the Church do? For one, we encourage you to consider leading a life ministry in your church and to serve as a Life or Chapter Leader. Whether you are a lay or ordained person, we encourage you to think about the needs of your church and community and to what kind of life-affirming ministry God is calling you. Secondly, we encourage you to visit our Take Action page, which features different practical action ideas on a variety of life topics every month. Finally, we encourage you to learn more about AFL’s resources and educational curriculums, Embrace the Journey and Project Life. As well as being informational, they are great stepping stones to learning more about ministry opportunities and real-world action ideas. But first, before you do anything, we encourage you to pray and to talk with your priest or pastor, to determine where God is calling you to serve.
The Jane Porters in our churches may force a smile and tell everyone that she is fine—but what she really needs to know is that God loves her, that help is available, and that she is not alone. Will you be a servant for people like Jane in their time of need?
Written by AFL Administrator Robin Ferguson