Monday, March 27, 2017

God Can Use You to Reach the World: The Inspirational True Story of my Sister, Caroline, and Forty Days for Life

Do you ever doubt that God can use you?

Maybe you are shy or insecure, like we all are at times. Maybe you cave under the pressure of your peers too often. Maybe you feel sin has too much of grip on you for you to ever break free. You admire the Christian heroes all around you, but you know you can never be one of them.

Well think again, because my sister Caroline is living proof that God will use you if you commit yourself to Him!

The beginning of this year, Caroline said "yes" to God in a way that would stretch her way outside her comfort zone. She decided to run a Forty Days for Life campaign--a peaceful prayer vigil to pray for the end of abortion outside our local Planned Parenthood clinic. While I really appreciated her heart to stand for the unborn, honestly my first thought when she told me she was going to coordinate a vigil was:

"Say whaaat?"

I have grown up with my awesome sister from the womb onwards. I know her very, very well, and so I knew leading a public event wasn't exactly her forte. She is a sweet, smart, over-all-very-beautiful young lady, but she is most definitely an introvert. She hates making phone calls. And public speaking. And confrontation.

And those things were kind of what being a Forty Days for Life local coordinator was all about.

Caroline knew all this. She knew how much it would stretch her, and yet her burning desire to serve God and stand for the defenseless compelled her. Her desire launched her into orbit in the vast unknown outside her comfort zone like some crazy, brave NASA astronaut trying to reach the moon. There was no aborting (pun not intended) the voyage, only strapping on her spacesuit--or in this case, her spiritual armor--and getting right down to work.

She had said "yes" to this journey because of her faith in God. What else could she do?

Now make no mistake, this courageous step of faith did not mean she suddenly became an eloquent, gifted public speaker and prayer vigil leader. It was almost painful to watch her worry about her first few phone calls and meetings with local pastors. She would always take a sibling along to her first few meetings, not to be an "Aaron" for her like Moses, but to at least provide some much needed moral support. She was still naturally timid--to the point where even speaking in front of our own church was too scary at first. She had our dad give the first few announcements about Forty Days for Life. At one point, after a particularly hard morning, the stress and worry overwhelmed her, and she cried in one of the back rooms of our church.

I was almost tempted to be mad at God for putting my introverted sister through all these struggles. I appreciated her heart so much, but still, didn't God see that she was not naturally gifted for a leadership role like this? Didn't He see that it was making her cry and breaking her down?

And yet, even at these low points, I started catching glimpses of the work God was doing, not only in the heart of my sister, but in the heart of our community. Caroline met fellow Protestant and even a few Catholic friends who vastly encouraged her and helped her to stand strong. The prayer vigil schedule started filling up with eager prayer warriors willing to make a stand for life. Caroline started giving the announcements at our church. She started reaching for the phone as soon as it started ringing, shouting, "I'll get it!!". She spoke for forty-five minutes in front of the small army of prayer warriors she had  gathered at the Forty Days for Life kickoff rally.

The prayer vigil started. Caroline trekked out to Planned Parenthood almost every day to get the vigil off on the right foot and to encourage her troops. She became  affectionately known as "The Little General" because of her knack at keeping her prayer warriors on track and committed to praying to end abortion.

She started meeting the "unfriendlies", those who thought she and anyone praying to end abortion were anti-women bigots. She didn't shrink from the challenge to show them differently. After long, emotionally-draining days in front of Planned Parenthood, you could find her back at the house studying up on the facts about Planned Parenthood, abortion, and the devastating effects both have on women. I have gotten to see this knowledge in action several times as we have been approached by "pro-choice" people in front of the clinic. She demonstrates her love for them, while at the same time standing strong for the truth and debunking a lot of the false pro-Planned Parenthood, pro-abortion arguments thrown at her.

Her resolve was demonstrated the most when a fledgling counter rally was organized against Forty Days for Life by several young ladies of the local college. They stand on the same street corner with us in front of Forty Days for Life, holding signs like "Pray to end judgement" and "Jesus didn't shame women, and neither should you". They often stand right in-between all of us prayer warriors who hold our "Pray to End Abortion" signs. It was almost a comical scene, though without Caroline's leadership and encouragement to love these ladies, it could have been a very volatile, emotional one. These ladies expected us to respond in a negative way. They assumed we would try to kick them off "our" corner. They were completely caught off guard by our appreciation that they were there and our desire to engage in friendly discussion about our differing viewpoints. They've thanked Caroline for being so "chill", as they put it.

And soon, Caroline and our family will be meeting to talk more with the woman who lead the counter rally and a pro-abortion man running for senator. We hope to be able to plant more seeds of truth in their hearts.

Then, on Friday, God took it one step further. Caroline got a call from the national leader of Forty Days for Life, the Shawn Carney as she put it. He asked her to speak in front of the national rally of vigil leaders, to share her testimony. This would have probably struck Caroline mute with terror but a couple of months ago, but last Friday she answered immediately, "Yes". No, "Let me get back with you" or "Let me pray about it". Just yes.

Talk about a transformation.

"I've learned that you just have to say 'yes' to God, wherever He takes you," Caroline told me yesterday. "He will be faithful to uphold you and see you through."

That's really what it all comes down to, isn't it? Can we trust God enough to lay our lives in His hands, to allow Him to do whatever He wants with them? Can we trust Him even as He launches us into orbit outside our comfort zones? Can we dare to dream that He can use us in mighty ways? Yes, yes, yes! I would say. I've seen it happen right in front of my own eyes. I've seen the way God has used my sister Caroline in mighty ways when she submitted her insecurities and fears to Him and took that leap of faith. It inspires me!

Someday when I grow up, I want to be more like my sister Caroline. Don't you?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6