October 5, 2018

Stories show how one person makes a difference in pro-life fight, says 40 Days for Life Founder

David Bereit, founder and former CEO of 40 Days for Life, makes a point during his keynote address at the Right to Life of Indianapolis “Celebrate Life” dinner and fundraiser at the Indianapolis Downtown Marriott on Sept. 25. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

David Bereit, founder and former CEO of 40 Days for Life, makes a point during his keynote address at the Right to Life of Indianapolis “Celebrate Life” dinner and fundraiser at the Indianapolis Downtown Marriott on Sept. 25. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

There is one thing David Bereit wants all Christians—especially youths—to know: “One person can make a profound, lifesaving and world-changing difference. And that one person is you.”

As founder and former CEO of the 40 Days for Life campaign, Bereit has a treasure trove of true stories to prove his point. He shared some of those stories with approximately 900 adults and students during his keynote address at the Right to Life of Indianapolis “Celebrate Life” dinner on Sept. 25 in Indianapolis.

(Related story: Local story shows impact of individuals in pro-life cause)

And with each story came a reiteration of his message, with a special focus on the youths: “Who is God calling to make a difference? It is you. And it is now.”

‘Because one man answered the call’

One of the true stories Bereit told was of the origins of the 40 Days for Life campaigns. Now, for 40 days each spring and fall, people around the world pray peacefully in front of abortion centers, fast and concentrate on sharing the pro-life message in their community.

This now-global effort had its birth in 2004 in College Station, Texas, in response to a Planned Parenthood abortion center opening in the city a few years earlier. Bereit may have started the organization, but he credits its founding to the story of one man committed to ending abortion.

“My wife and I were having a dinner party, and this one guy, David, asked if he could talk to me privately,” he said.

David ranted about the killing of innocent babies “right in his backyard.” He couldn’t understand “why people aren’t out there praying day and night to stop this butchering of babies right in their mother’s womb.”

The next day, Bereit discerned with other pro-life advocates about how to make a more concerted effort to rid their town of Planned Parenthood through prayer.

“There was one thing that God convicted on our hearts,” he said. “It was the time frame of 40 days.”

He noted the repeated use in the Bible of 40 days as indicating both a time of transformation and a time of testing faithfulness.

“I believe that God is testing our faithfulness in this time of need in this nation that once upon a time was founded on the unalienable right to life,” Bereit stated. “And look how far we’ve fallen from that.”

David took the night shift for all 40 days of that first campaign. Bereit asked him why he was so passionate about the subject that night at the dinner party. The answer left him speechless. David’s dying father had recently told him that he, David, had almost been aborted.

“David realized [abortion] is not some abstract issue,” Bereit explained. “This is not just some debate about the Supreme Court. This is not an election issue. This is not a once-a-year thing we talk about on Sunday. It’s life and death, good and evil, heaven and hell.

“Because one young man made it personal, … a movement was spawned that is now in all 50 states, 50 countries, 769 cities, has saved more than 14,000 lives, closed 96 abortion centers and helped 177 abortion workers out of the abortion industry—because of one person answering the call.”

‘Is it you? And if not, then who?’

To further exemplify the impact one person can have, Bereit shared the story of an event that took place in the town of Salem, Ill., in 1837.

One evening, a young man went to a religious camp meeting. There, he heard a preacher named Dr. Peter Akers rail against a “great injustice,” and posed to the crowd the possibility that perhaps someone in their midst might be the one to end it.

The next day, Bereit said, the young man walked into his place of work and told his partner about the prior evening.

“He then looked at his partner and said, ‘I cannot shake from myself the conviction that indeed I have a role in helping to end this great injustice.’ ”

The young man was Abraham Lincoln, and the “great injustice” was slavery.

“And now I’d like to ask the same question that Akers asked,” said Bereit. “Who can tell but perhaps the man or the woman, or the young man or the young woman, that God is calling to end abortion in Indianapolis, in Indiana, across the nation, could be in this very room tonight? Is it you? And if it’s not you, then who?

“It is you. It is here. It is now. The entire pro-life movement is driven by one individual at a time hearing a call, answering a call, and then fulfilling a call.”

‘A third of your generation wiped out’

Such calls are not always to create an international organization like 40 Days for Life or to become president of the United States.

“I think sometimes looking at the problem of abortion is abstract,” Bereit told The Criterion in an interview. “Planned Parenthood is so big and so overwhelming, or we look at big pro-life organizations like Right to Life of Indianapolis, or Indiana Right to Life, or the March for Life and we think, ‘Oh, I could never do that.’

“But there are things every person can do—and I believe we’re called to do—to be a voice for those who have no voice, and intercede to save lives and help to transform lives.”

During his keynote address, Bereit cited statistics that speak of the great need for supporting the pro-life movement. Since Roe v. Wade became law, he said, more than 60 million children have lost their lives to abortion. Last year in Indiana alone, nearly 7,800 babies were aborted.

“There are children who are supposed to be in your classrooms who aren’t there,” he said, addressing the roughly 400 high school and college students in attendance at the event. “A third of your generation has been wiped out by abortion.”

Bereit addressed the youths and young adults further, asking them “to begin seeking God’s will in regards to what it is he wants you to do in this effort at this crucial moment in history.

“When you and I decide not to treat [abortion] as an issue, but decide to make it personal and answer that call, and dig deep and say, ‘God, show me what you want me to do with my time, my talent, my treasure,’ that is when the transformation begins to happen, that is when lives will be saved, and that is when abortion will begin to end.

“It’s you. You are the one God is calling.”

To those students questioning the value of their role in the fight against abortion, Bereit offered assurance.

“There are gifts you have that I don’t have,” he said. “There are people you can reach that nobody else can reach.

“Whether it’s volunteering or educating yourself or others, I want you to reach out to your peers who are in the cross hairs of Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry. You’re the one who can speak to them and help them to choose life if they find themselves in an unexpected pregnancy.”

‘Is it hard? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes.’

But Bereit didn’t leave the fight entirely in the hands of the students.

“There are two things I want everyone to commit to,” he said. “Number one is, do something that you’ve never done before to support the cause. Maybe it’s to join 40 Days for Life. Maybe it’s to join some other pro-life organization. But commit to doing one new thing that will help to advance this cause.

“And the second thing is to commit to bringing at least one other person with you into this work.

“Is it hard? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes.”

To illustrate how much the cause is worth the effort, Bereit had one more “very local” story to share.

Two years ago, he was visiting Indianapolis during the 40 Days for Life fall campaign. Two women shared with him that day how after years of praying, they had never seen any proof that their prayers were making a difference.

At an event that same evening he was introduced to an 18-month-old girl named Larelle. (See related article below.)

“The woman who was with her said, ‘This young lady was one of the ones who was saved because of these people right here praying. This girl’s mother chose life because of the prayers and the love and support of those people.’ ”

The two women Bereit spoke with earlier in the day were also at the event.

“I introduced Larelle to [them],” he said. “Their eyes filled with tears, because they got to meet a child who was still alive because of their ‘yes.’

“I hope one day you get to meet a child who is alive because you fulfilled your call, and you said ‘yes,’ ” he told the audience. “And when you meet that child, you will know how incredibly worth it all of your efforts are.”

(For more information on Right to Life of Indianapolis or to donate, go to rtlindy.org. For more information on 40 Days for Life or to participate in the current fall campaign, go to 40daysforlife.com.)

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