Over 8,900 babies’ lives saved.
Fifty abortion mills closed.
Over 100 abortion clinic workers quitting.
625,000 people. Over 500 cities, from 24 countries.
This is the legacy, thus far, of the 40 Days For Life campaign.
Over three thousand individual 40 Days For Life campaigns have brought a peaceful, prayerful, vigil presence to abortion centers worldwide.
The co-founder and current National Director of 40 Days For Life, David Bereit recently granted ProLife365.com a phone interview. Earlier this week, David shared with us his personal testimony of getting involved in the pro-life movement.
Today, we share this Pennsylvania-native’s recount of the origins of the world’s largest anti-abortion apostolate, and what prompted him to co-write a book about the campaign, called 40 Days for Life: Discover What God Has Done…Imagine What He Can Do. David also tells us how to plan or to get involved in a 40 Days For Life vigil, as well as what exciting project lies ahead for the 40 Days For Life.
Here is the second half of the interview with David Bereit, the National Director of 40 Days For Life.
ProLife365.com (Kevin Kukla): How long were you in the Coalition for Life before you guys came up with 40 Days for Life? And how did that get started?
David Bereit: So, the Coalition was formed in 1998. Planned Parenthood opened the abortion center regrettably in 1999. At that point I was asked to serve on the Board of Directors of the Coalition, in Bryan/College Station, Texas.
From 1999 to 2001 we tried a lot of different things. Most of them were not very successful. The abortion numbers kept going up. We just got more and more frustrated.
So in 2001 the man who replaced me when I stepped off the board of directors, because my term was up, was an obstetrician/gynecologist named Dr. Royal Benson.
He said, “David, before you go, we’d like you to just help us do one little thing. Will you help us put together the plan to close the Planned Parenthood?”
I said, “Well, Royal, if I knew how to do that we would’ve already done it. That’s part of why I’m stepping off the Board. I don’t have the answers.”
He said, “Well, would you at least help us to connect with people, maybe around the country, who have done that and then put together a plan and from there we’ll go about implementing it?”
So we ended up realizing that American Life League, and particularly, Jim Sedlak at STOPP Planned Parenthood, had extensive experience in this and had worked with communities who had closed Planned Parenthood abortion centers. So we went up and spent the day and met with them in Virginia. We flew up, a group of us, and we came back and put together an action plan of what to do. Thirty days after that none of it was getting done because we just didn’t have the infrastructure.
So I get a phone call from my friend Lauren Gulde, who had started the Coalition for Life. She said, “Hey, David,” it was on June 26, 2001. I’ll never forget the date. She said, “David, Planned Parenthood aborted ten more children today.”
In my heart it was just like a knife passing through because I knew we had a plan that could eventually end that and we weren’t doing what we needed to do.
So I said to Lauren without even thinking, I said, “Maybe I should just quit my job and devote myself full time to doing everything I can to try to implement the plan we put together.”
She said, “Why don’t you do that?”
That was the first time it just hit me, wow, maybe I’m supposed to leave my professional career in the pharmaceutical industry in sales and marketing to do this work full time. So two weeks from that date I had quit my job, with my wife’s support, and we took on the helm of running the Coalition for Life. That was in 2001.
We trained several hundred sidewalk counselors over those next few years. We did a lot of advocacy efforts. But really 2004 was when we felt we had hit another wall again.
It seemed like the number of people involved was dwindling. People were tired. We just didn’t know what to do next.
So it was a July day in Texas. The four of us got together at the Coalition for Life office—Shawn Carney, his wife Marilisa, a young woman named Emily, and myself. We were talking about this. We said, “We don’t know what to do next.”
That’s when we decided we really needed to just pray and seek God’s face. So during that one hour of prayer around our wooden table there at the Coalition for Life office, that was when we really felt the call that became 40 Days for Life.
We felt we needed to do something that was short and focused. We decided to work with the time frame of 40 days, which God has used throughout history to bring about transformation, and why not align ourselves with that spiritually significant time frame.
The three things that we felt we had to do. One, was prayer and fasting, because we can’t do this on our own, but with God all things are possible. Two, a constant vigil outside of the abortion facility bearing witness to the injustice of what happens inside, but also offering hope and help to those mothers at risk of going in. Three, community outreach.
So two weeks from that day we kicked off the first 40 Days for Life campaign. We were in complete awe as God moved over 1,000 people to be involved in that campaign. That year we saw abortions drop by 28% in Bryan/College Station.
So we were just thanking God profusely, but little did we even know – we thought that was the end of the story. We thought that one 40 Days for Life campaign, that was it. We didn’t want to do it again. We were wiped out and exhausted.
But little did we know that God would begin to spread it to other places as well.
Kevin: Right. It came here to Dallas.
David: Dallas was number two, you’re right.
Kevin: Down the road, years later, you guys wrote the book, 40 Days for Life: Discover What God Has Done…Imagine What He Can Do, describing the campaigns thus far. What was your motivation for writing that book? [Full Disclosure: My wife is mentioned in the book.]
David: As 40 Days for Life has grown, and it has now spread to well over 500 cities in all 50 American States, 20-some countries, more than 600,000 people have participated, we have seen unbelievable results as God has spread this through the faithfulness of his people.
So as we’ve seen this happening, and we’ve seen now as of today 8,973 babies saved from abortion, as we’ve seen 50 abortion centers close down that have had 40 Days for Life campaigns outside, we’ve had 101 abortion clinic workers quit their jobs and leave – every one of these victories that God has accomplished through His people, has an amazing story behind it.
So as those stories would come in, we would relate them to people via email, or as we traveled, Shawn and I speaking, or just any way we could communicate them with people. We kept getting asked, can you package these up? Can you put these stories together? Can you pick out maybe 40 of your best ones and put it into kind of a devotional form that people could utilize during a 40 Days for Life campaign?
So even if they’re out there praying outside of an abortion center and they see no results, they will feel connected to the results that have been accomplished through the prayers of them and hundreds of thousands of other people united together.
So we fought it for a while. But we started writing in October 2012. By January of 2013 the book was actually published. It was amazing how it came together.
It’s brought record numbers of new people involved in 40 Days for Life because of the stories they’ve read. So it’s been a real blessing to see how that tool has helped a lot of other people to make a profound difference where they live.
Kevin: Great. What’s the furthest you’ve traveled to visit a 40 Days campaign?
David: Well, good question. I think the furthest I’ve gone geographically was to Australia, two years ago this summer. The 40 Days for Life campaigns in Australia, at that time I think we had had six or seven cities that had participated and invited us to come, my whole family.
To realize we didn’t even know anybody in Australia when we did the first 40 Days for Life campaign. There have been campaigns held now in Moscow, Russia, in Cape Town, South Africa. We didn’t know people there.
We didn’t even speak many of the languages in these other countries. But that’s how we knew the Holy Spirit was at work, because we saw it spread through faithful people who heard about it and then they decided, “I can make this happen where I live.”
I’ve been to several of the European countries that have done campaigns. Then all across Canada as well.
Last year, we hired an International Outreach Director. He’s based in London, England. Robert Colquhoun is his name. Robert is an amazing guy. So he’s traveled to visit campaigns in Russia, Croatia and many of these other places where 40 Days for Life has spread. That’s been really neat to see pictures and videos and hear stories from these other countries as well.
Kevin: Where can people go to learn more about the 40 Days for Life campaign and what kind of resources do you guys offer?
David: I’d start at www.40DaysforLife.com and signup for the email updates and browse everything on the website that you can to learn how to make this happen where you live or how to get involved in the campaign where you live so you can be a part of helping to mark the beginning of the end of abortion for your city.
Twice a year we go through an application process. If perhaps you’re feeling led to bring 40 Days for Life to your community, you can actually apply to lead a campaign.
We help them know all the different aspects, how do you organize? How do you put together a team? How do you promote your campaign? How do you fill your vigil slots? How do you get churches involved? All of those different aspects, we train people on how to do that. So if you feel led to bring a campaign to your area, we help you with that.
Kevin: Great. Finally, you mentioned an upcoming project that you guys are doing. What do you have as your vision for that?
David: When we do surveys after each campaign we find that between 30-33% of those people are brand new, have never been involved in the pro-life movement before. So over 200,000 people have taken their first step to get involved in the pro-life movement.
Now the question comes, what happens on Day 41, Day 42 and beyond? We realized we had to use 40 Days for Life not as an end in and of itself, but as a starting point.
We actually have partnered and have merged with the group the Coalition for Life, where 40 Days for Life began. So, we are helping them to build a prayer presence that goes year-round, helping to train people to be effective sidewalk counselors, helping to defund Planned Parenthood in their community, helping to raise awareness year-round.
That’s why I’m so proud of what you’re doing, Kevin, and the work of ProLife365.com, because really, that’s what people need. They need training. Then they need to put those things into action right where they live. I’m looking forward to many more opportunities to collaborate down the road.
Kevin: Great, thank you. That’s about it for me. I really appreciate you for taking the time out to meet with us.
David: You bet.
Pretty amazing what humble beginnings the worldwide 40 Days For Life campaign had, right?
What impact has a 40 Days For Life campaign had on you and your community?
Are you willing to purchase the 40 Days For Life book, to read more amazing stories?
Please sound off below!