You may notice that my eyes looked misty in the above photo. I was crying because of something that Ruth, the 40 Days for Life leader from Halifax, Novia Scotia, had just told me right before Donna snapped this photo. (I will explain what she said later in this post.)
I was blessed to spend three days this past weekend in Houston, as part of the 40 Days for Life leader symposium, which our generous national leaders gift to all of us every year. (All paid for by their generous donors!) Pittsburgh team members Beth and Donna accompanied me. For anyone who is interested, at the bottom of this post I will include some photos and recap some of the things that we experienced…but I will focus on telling you about Ruth, pictured above. Of all the amazing and inspiring talks that we heard at the symposium…Ruth’s had the biggest effect on me.
Ruth’s talk was titled, “What are they going to do, kill me?” You see, Ruth grew up in Saudi Arabia as a Christian…where it is perfectly legal to kill Christians. Christians are by far the most hated minority in Saudi Arabia. Second to Christians are the Sunni Muslims…they can also be legally killed, but Christians face the most danger. In fact, she said that her town had a square called “Justice Square“, where any citizen could bring a Christian to be killed. The affectionate term for this square was “Chop-Chop Square” because they would kill the Christians there by chopping off their heads.
Ruth’s parents were part of the underground Church in Saudi Arabia and began bringing Ruth with them at a very young age. Her parents didn’t call it “Church“…they told Ruth they were going to “Coffee Club“, in case little Ruth might blurt something out and get them all killed. She remembers her mom sitting her down when she was 5 years old and telling her that if she ever told anyone where they went, they would take her away and she would never see them again. When she was 14, she began to assert her independence and one day informed her mother that she was going to take a walk outside. Her mom had told her it wasn’t safe and had forbidden it. It was very common, and even accepted, that western women could be raped by Muslim men. They had rooms designated for this very thing called “rape rooms“. Her mom asked her, “Ruth, are you really prepared to be a mother at 14?” Ruth thought about it and decided not to go for a walk. When she went to school her mother had to hire a driver to take her. It was common to pay the drivers an extra fee to ensure the girl’s safety. It was basically called a “Please do not rape my daughter” fee. Women had absolutely no rights of any kind. If a woman wanted to get a driver’s license for example, she needed the permission of her father, husband or brother. If she had neither of those, her son may give permission. Ruth explained that if a woman has only an infant son as the only male relative, she can take that infant son to the authorities, and they will ask the male infant in her arms, “Do you give your mother permission to drive?” They baby may respond something like, “Ahhh, Ghaaa”, and they will accept that as permission granted. Seriously. It happens.
When she was 18, after the death of her father, her mother and her moved to Novia Scotia. She was finally free to openly practice her faith! She didn’t know what sort of Christian she was. There was no distinctions in the underground Church. All Christians were equally hated, so they were all together in one group. There was no Catholic or Protestant…just Christians. After attending many churches, trying to find one that didn’t “teach heresy” (her words)…she ended up in the Catholic Church. She decided to start a 40 Days for Life campaign in Halifax. The people in her church tried to talk her out of it. Novia Scotia is a very anti-life place…as is all of Canada. She wouldn’t be able to find any volunteers, there was a 50 foot buffer zone around the abortion clinic, so she couldn’t even get close! And…they informed her…she would be PERSECUTED! She might get screamed at by angry people, maybe even spit at!
Can you imagine how she felt upon hearing those words? She knew what REAL persecution was…and it wasn’t getting yelled at or spit on! So she answered with the words that she titled her talk, “What are they going to do, kill me?” Then she said, quite honestly, “Even if they do kill me…so what? I will just go to Heaven!” “Whatever they do to us on the street, they do much worse to the babies in the womb!” She said that the thing that is most commonly said to her, and is the one thing that makes her the most angry, is when someone will say to her, “You just hate women! You just want to take women’s rights away!” She tells them, “Believe me, I KNOW what it is like for women to have no rights!” And she does.
What a perspective she has! It put me to shame. When I think of all the times that I complained about not getting enough people to help us fill the vigil, I will remember Ruth. Her first 40 Days for Life campaign she only got two volunteers; herself and her mom. After persevering, she now has almost 80 volunteers in her campaign.
She was amazed at the lukewarm faith of most Christians in Canada. Coming from the underground church in Saudi Arabia, where Christians put their very lives on the line by practicing it, she couldn’t understand how the people in “free” Canada could take their faith for granted. She believes that persecution purifies faith. One must decide if their faith is worth dying for. If it is, they stay. If not, they leave. Simple. Pure. Purified.
As 300 of us local 40 Days for Life leaders sat in stunned silence, listening to Ruth’s story, I jotted a note to show to the ladies sitting next to me. It said, “I think we are listening to a saint.” I had the feeling that I was experiencing an amazing privilege to be in the room with this young woman…a woman who could easily pass for 12 but is actually 24. I felt like I was witnessing someone like Mother Teresa. I had never had an experience like that. Then, the following day, we all got on busses and drove 2 hours to Bryan College Station to tour the 40 Days for Life Headquarters (formerly the Planned Parenthood where 40 Days for Life began). The national team had set up a tent in the parking lot and gave us a wonderful meal of Texas barbecue. As I sat with Donna and Beth, Ruth and her mother came and sat beside us. I was able to speak with her and ask her some questions about how it was that she came to be raised in such a dangerous place for Christians. As she told me her family’s story, she said something that for me…explained everything…and this is what brought the tears to my eyes, captured in the photo at the top of this post. She said, “When my mother was pregnant with me, she knew that she was unable to carry a pregnancy to term. She had lost my brother before me. So, she prayed and told God that if He would allow her to carry me to term that she would give this child to Him to use however He wanted.”
Her’s is the story of Hannah and Samuel. Hannah begged God for a child and promised to give that child to Him. The child was Samuel, who anointed David as King.
The tears came to my eyes as I realized what God was doing by using Ruth in the pro-life movement. It was confirmation to me that the pro-life cause is near and dear to God’s Heart! It is SO important to Him!!! He is raising up saints all around us, for this time! Ruth is one, and you and I can be saints as well….if we will allow God to use us as He chooses.
I hope you will allow Him to use you to end abortion here in Pittsburgh. To save lives and souls. We need help next week on Wednesday, August 18th from 9:30-11:30 (Elsie needs a partner) and from 2:30-3:00 (Eileen alone). Next Thursday, August 19th is a scheduled abortion day but we don’t have anyone to be there yet. Marlene offered to go for two hours anytime between 9:30 and 1:00 but if no one volunteers to be with her we will have to cancel her. Next Friday, August 20, Kim has no one to be with her from 9:00-10:00 and Jeannie needs a partner from 2:00-3:00. And on Saturday the 21st, Mary needs a partner from 3:00-4:00.
We have the right to practice our Christian faith, and we have the right to publicly pray and witness at Planned Parenthood. We need to use these rights, or we risk losing them forever. Thank you and I hope to see you on the sidewalk!
Nikki (Scroll down for photos from the symposium)