By PPL Board member Stephanie Johnson and Rev. Stan Johnson
As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our sins from us…Psalm 103:12
Scott Klusendorf, President of Life Training Institute, points out that women ages 18-24 are the most vulnerable and most likely to have an abortion. In my life before knowing Christ, I made two of the worst decisions of my life, when, at age 18 and again at 24, I chose abortion over life.
I was 17 when I met my ‘first love” - a handsome Pastor’s Son. For my 18th birthday, he gave me an engagement ring, and on that same night I gave him my virginity – and got pregnant! I felt like I had no voice and no choice because no other options besides abortion were given. I was told that the baby was just a blob of tissue anyway…and I believed the lie. The abortion was performed in the hospital – even though it was 1971 and Roe v. Wade wouldn’t make abortion legal until January of 1973.
Afterwards, my abortion was never talked about by my family or my boyfriend –it was as if it never happened. It caused our relationship to end, which left me heartbroken and my innocence shattered. I stuffed my feelings of anger, grief, guilt, shame and regret. These deep wounds took my life in an entirely different direction than had I done things God’s way.
As is typical in women who have had an abortion, I was not aware that I was subconsciously trying to replace the baby I had aborted. At age 24, I got pregnant again with my boyfriend of 3 years. He said marriage was not an option and angrily insisted I have an abortion. I was so ashamed to be pregnant again. I couldn’t tell anyone, especially my parents, so I agreed to it. My boyfriend dropped me off at the abortion clinic, paid for it and went to work. I had never felt so alone or so full of despair as that day. That relationship broke up shortly after the abortion as well. Broken and wounded, with no one to share my secret, I stuffed my feelings again.
A few years later, I met a very nice man who I had a lot in common with. We started dating, fell in love and then, unbelievably, I got pregnant again. This time I knew, without a doubt, that I could not have another abortion. He wanted to keep the baby also, so we chose life and marriage. We went on to have 3 beautiful children together. We were married 11 years when, tragically, he died of a massive heart attack. This was a devastating and life-altering event for my children and me.
I was now a single, self-employed mother, supporting three young children. It was an extremely difficult time, but God provided for us. During this time, I felt the Lord pursuing me as “the hound of heaven” (Psalm 139). Finally, I surrendered, accepting Christ and believing that God truly loved me and forgave all of my past sins. He redeemed me and gave me a brand-new life in Christ! And He can do the same for all women and men who, like me, chose abortion.
Many years later, God answered my prayers and brought me the love of my life, my husband, Stan, a pastor. When we married in 2003 Stan became a “father to the fatherless” for my children – the three here on Earth and the two in Heaven.
We have been blessed to serve at First Presbyterian Church for almost 20 years now. One of the most providential blessings for me was when I met the CEO of our local crisis pregnancy center, Lenna, at an event at our church in 2005. She told me about their Abortion Recovery Assistance ministry and the Forgiven and Set Free Bible study that they offered. Although it had been almost 35 years since my first abortion, and even though I knew in my heart that I was forgiven, for some reason I still felt “stained.” Lenna helped me realize that I needed to face my abortion wounds and allow God to heal me through His Word.
During the Bible study, I learned so much about who God is, who I was in Christ and about His unconditional love, grace, mercy and forgiveness. With other women who had been where I had been, I could finally grieve the loss of my two children, acknowledge their humanity and honor their lives by naming them. By the end of the course, I was truly healed and set free from the brokenness and wounds I had carried all those years.
Even though statistics tell us that more than 4 in 10 women who have had abortions were churchgoers when they ended their pregnancy… I am here to tell you there is hope if you or someone you know has had an abortion. You can experience as I did, the miraculous transforming power of God’s redeeming love, grace and forgiveness through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God wants those wounded by abortion to be healed and set free so they can live the abundant life He created them for! I encourage anyone who has lost a child to abortion to pursue post-abortion healing.
In his book, The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren writes:
“God never wastes a hurt! In fact, your greatest ministry will most likely come out of your greatest hurt…. The very experience that you have resented or regretted the most in life—the ones you have wanted to hide and forget – are the experiences God wants to use to help others.”
This is so true! Shortly after my husband was hired at our church, I realized God had placed me in a unique position. I sensed God wanted me to help others and give Him the glory by sharing my testimony at our church. Unfortunately, I gave into the fear of being judged and gossiped about. This fear is why women who’ve had an abortion in their past don’t feel that the church is a “safe place,” and what keeps them from pursuing healing and sharing their secret with a pastor. They view abortion as the “unforgiveable sin” – and that’s a lie from the pit of Hell! Many nights, my husband listened to me agonizing over why I couldn’t find the courage to obey God’s calling! But, as we know, God’s timing is ALWAYS perfect!
A few years ago, our Senior Pastor included the topic of abortion in his sermon. He showed a powerful video to our congregation called “The Sound of Abortion.” This was the moment the Holy Spirit convicted me and said, “NOW is the time!” This began the journey of God using my “greatest hurt and turning it into my greatest ministry” and calling.
In 2017 I shared my testimony at the annual fundraising banquet for Piedmont Women’s Center. What a huge mountaintop experience that was! Afterwards though, I felt a huge burden, so I prayed “God, where are you calling me now?” It soon became evident that God was at work when Lisa Van Riper - church member, elder and President of SC Citizens for Life – asked me to help start a pro-life ministry at our church. Her request confirmed that this was where God was calling me to serve. As we shared our vision with other church members, the Holy Spirit moved them to support us and join our efforts. In July 2017, the First Presbyterian Church Light and Life Ministry was formed, and we became a local chapter of Presbyterians Protecting Life. Our mission statement is to speak truth, change hearts and save lives. Our vision is to bring the subject of abortion and the sanctity of human life “out of the darkness and into the light.” Matthew 5:14 says, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.”
Perspective from Rev. Stan Johnson, Pastoral Liaison to the FPC Light & Life Ministry:
As a pastor, I see that the abortion issue is not only out there in the world, but in the church as well. Stephanie has told me that she and other women (and men) do not perceive the church as a safe place to seek help for their abortion wounds. This needs to change and NOW is the time! For this to happen, we must break the silence that surrounds abortion and bring this dark secret out into the light. How do we do that?
1. Abortion is not just a woman’s issue – it affects us all – including the Church. We need to make our churches safe places where women, men and families wounded by abortion can go to feel loved, not judged - and given resources to help them.
2. Pastors and lay leaders – you’re not alone in this daunting task! PPL wants to partner with you! We can provide resources and support to you and pro-life advocates in your church on how to reach out to those wounded and broken by the devastating effects of abortion. PPL can help your church create a Life Team ministry to help Pastors and congregations champion life. With Life Teams, the church can be on the frontline of life issues from fertilization to natural death, offering grace, compassion, tangible help, truth and protection. Learn about Life Team ministry here.
3. The battle for LIFE is not easy - this is front-line Kingdom work. It is a spiritual battle between good and evil, lightness and darkness - literally a battle between LIFE and DEATH! “So let us not become tired of doing good, for if we do not give up, the time will come when we will reap the harvest.” Galatians 6:9
4. PRAY! Pray for strength and guidance from the Holy Spirit, that you will have the courage to speak up for LIFE within your church and circles of influence. We all need to be ambassadors for Christ in winning the battle for lives and souls! “Be strong & courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them. For it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
To God be the Glory!
Stephanie Johnson and her husband, Rev. Stan Johnson, serve at First Presbyterian Church in Greenville, SC. Stephanie is the Outreach Leader of the Light and Life Ministry and Stan is the Associate Pastor of Visitation and Prayer. They have 6 adult children, 9 grandchildren and 3 rescue dogs.
Post Abortion Healing Resources:
- Forgiven and Set Free: A Bible Post-Abortion Bible Study for Women and Healing a Father’s Heart: A Post-Abortion Bible Study for Men, both by Linda Cochrane, available at www.ChristianBook.com. The accompanying Facilitating Biblical Healing Leaders Guide is available as a digital download at www.coastlinewomenscenter.org
- Support After Abortion: Healing, help and recovery for abortion regret and grief, www.supportafterabortion.com
- VIABLE: ‘Viable’ is a one-act play about a woman who suffered from decades of post-abortion sorrow, shame, and self-condemnation until she encountered the merciful love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ – in a most unexpected and unusual way! www.ChristianCreativeMedia.org
Learn more about the FPC Light & Life Ministry, or email Stephanie at firstname.lastname@example.org