Welcome to the Pro-Life Warrior Spotlight, a series of interviews unique to ProLife365.com. To check our prior interviews with other leaders in the pro-life movement, click here.
Today, I am pleased to bring you an interview with the National Director of the world-famous 40 Days For Life campaign, David Bereit. David is a family friend and I was able to catch up with him by phone interview recently.
First, he’ll share why his wife is to blame for his getting involved in the pro-life movement. He’ll also share the biggest consolation God has given him: meeting a child saved by a 40 Days For Life campaign for the first time. Finally, he will share his advice to those who struggle to muster the courage to come pray outside an abortion center for the first time.
ProLife365.com (Kevin Kukla): David Bereit, what got you started in the pro-life movement?
David Bereit: This is the last thing I would’ve ever expected I would be doing, and it’s the last thing I ever wanted to do.
I was raised in a wonderful Christian family. Went to church every Sunday and never in my entire childhood heard anything about the sanctity of human life or anything on the topic of abortion, literally all the way through high school. So it just never showed up on my radar. It was never preached in our church and never discussed in our home.
From Pittsburgh where I grew up, I began going to school at Texas A&M University. Being there helped me to understand what abortion was. At that point I came to realize that it destroyed the life of an innocent child, made in God’s image and likeness, that it hurt women, that it destroyed and separated and caused rifts in families.
So at that point I became what I would call “passively pro-life.” I didn’t like abortion, but I didn’t think it directly affected me, and frankly, I didn’t want to do anything about it.
So the two main circumstances that drove me into pro-life work were first meeting my now wife Margaret. We met when she was a student at Texas A&M, as I was.
As I got to know her, she shared with me stories of growing up in Corpus Christi, Texas. Every weekend her parents took her and her siblings out to pray outside of local abortion facilities. Over a period of several years they saw every one of those abortion facilities go out of business because God’s people not only prayed, but they showed up. They put their faith into action.
So when she told me these stories about how what they did made such a difference, I started to get a little nervous because I thought, oh no, do I have to do something? I don’t like abortion, but do I have to do something?
The second event, Kevin that really propelled me into this was when the news broke in College Station, Texas, where I was living, that Planned Parenthood was going to open the first abortion facility in the history of that community.
There had been a Planned Parenthood referral office in that town that had never been opposed, and because of that, they moved ahead with their plans. They saw the market potential with Texas A&M University and they decided to open an abortion facility.
In 1998 the news broke. That was when I finally realized, okay, we have to do something about this.
So we went to a meeting that was organizing what became the group Coalition for Life. We just started to feel that we had a role to be involved in this work. So that was kind of, between my wife’s background and her sharing this with me, and then the sudden stark realization that this tragedy was going to come to our town, those were the two things that propelled me to take the first steps of getting involved.
Great. What’s maybe your favorite story, or best consolation God’s given you so far in your efforts?
Favorite story… that’s like trying to say what’s my favorite thing about God. I’ll tell you for me, probably the one that moved me most profoundly was the first baby that I got to meet that had been saved through 40 Days for Life.
I had traveled for the first two and a half years of 40 Days for Life to at that point probably 150 cities and had heard lots of stories of lives that had been saved, and even seen some pictures of some of the babies, but I hadn’t met one yet.
I had this kind of secret desire in my heart that one day I would love to meet one of the children who had been saved because of 40 Days for Life. As I kept traveling and kept going and that wish wasn’t coming true I thought maybe it’s like Mother Teresa said, we’re called to be faithful, we’re not called to be successful.
I had an event I was speaking at for a pregnancy center in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. It was on a Thursday night. It was Day 38 of our campaign, if I recall correctly. The event was a pregnancy center fundraising banquet.
So that night, right before I got up to speak, they had a woman get up to share her testimony of how this center had helped her. Unbeknownst to me, there was a direct correlation with 40 Days for Life as well.
As she got up to share her story, she described that several months earlier she had been in a crisis pregnancy. She was scared and everyone was pressuring her into having an abortion.
So she was literally walking down the sidewalk to the door of the Harrisburg abortion center, about to go in, literally grabbed the handle of the door opening it to go in, when she glanced out to the street and saw just a few people praying there as a part of the 40 Days for Life.
One of those people was a woman named Karen. Karen was holding a sign that she had made. It simply said, “My abortion hurt me.” Karen was a post-abortive woman.
That woman saw the sign and then she made eye contact with Karen. Karen simply said to her, “I will help you.” That was all that took. The woman slammed the door shut of the abortion center.
She ran across the front yard and fell into Karen’s arms, tears running down her face and said, “I need a lot of help.” So Karen and the other 40 Days for Life volunteers took her to the local pregnancy center. The whole community came around that mother throughout her pregnancy and even after she gave birth to her little baby. It was a little boy she named Jakai.
That night at the banquet she introduced everybody to Jakai. He was brought up on the stage. Everybody was weeping and cheering for her for making this courageous decision for life.
But after the event was over, she came over to me with Jakai in her arms. She said, “Mr. Bereit, thanks for 40 Days for Life, for what it meant for me, what it meant for Jakai.”
All I could say to her was, “It wasn’t me. It was Karen. It was these local people. It was the 40 Days people in this community. It was this pregnancy center. I’ve never even been to Harrisburg before.”
She said, “But wouldn’t you like to hold Jakai?” She smiled at me. Of course, at that point I just couldn’t resist. So she laid Jakai in my arms. He was beautiful and perfect. He was giggling. His brown eyes were twinkling.
The thought struck me at that moment, Kevin. What if people hadn’t been praying? What if people hadn’t put their faith into action? What if Karen hadn’t overcome her own fear and her own sense of ‘how can I go out there?’ What if there hadn’t been a local pregnancy center?
It’s because of faithful people in that community that little Jakai is alive. For me, that moment was worth everything I had ever done with 40 Days for Life. Everything. All the miles. All the time away from family. All the late nights and all the challenges and persecution.
It was all worth it in that moment of getting to hold that little boy and knowing that this was for real. My hope and prayer for everybody involved in pro-life work is if they had not yet had the opportunity of meeting a child who is alive because of their efforts, that one day soon they will. That’s when I believe they will know how incredibly worth it this work really is.
But that for me was probably the most profound moment and the story that moved me the most.
Praise God! Thanks for sharing. What would you say to somebody who has never been outside an abortion mill, how do they muster the courage to go out for the first time?
That’s another excellent question. I would say first off, they need to pray and prepare themselves spiritually.
Secondly, realize that it’s nowhere near as overwhelming as you may think. Actually, 99% of the time that is spent in prayer outside of an abortion facility is uneventful. There is very little going on except perhaps cars driving by, maybe people coming in and out of the facility, maybe not.
But most of the time it’s just going to be you and God, and an opportunity for you to realize what’s going on inside to a much more significant level because the reality is facing you. But also an opportunity to really seek God’s will about how you can be used to be a part of this.
You may have some strong emotions that come up through the experience. It may be very quiet. There may be a little bit of eventfulness going on. But regardless, I would just say recognize what is at stake.
Children are dying. Women are being wounded. Your presence there could make all the difference in the world.
One example that I use a lot to share with people about the difference one person can make was a friend of mine named Pat Caraway. Pat was an evangelical Christian.
One day Pat went out to pray outside the abortion facility. When he got there there was nobody else there, just him. So he just had his head bowed in prayer. He wasn’t talking to people. He wasn’t confronting anyone. He was just there praying.
He was holding a sign that had the verse on it that said, “Thou Shalt Not Kill.” As he prayed there, unbeknownst to him, a woman was driving down the street. She put her turn signal on to go into the abortion center for the abortion appointment. She saw Pat.
She saw his prayerful demeanor and she saw that sign. She turned off the turn signal, went down the road a little further, did a U-turn, came back up the road and went to a nearby crisis pregnancy center. When she got to the pregnancy center she told the people inside, she said, “I was going to have my abortion, but because of that man out there praying, I decided to choose life for my baby.”
Pat Caraway learned that day that for his one hour of prayer, he saved a life. Literally, he had an impact on a physical life, on an eternal soul.
But how many of us in a typical day have an opportunity in one hour of anything we do to save a life?
That’s what I always tell people. Remember what’s at stake. God could use you to save a life.
He could use you to change a heart and mind. He could use you to impact an eternal soul.
So muster the courage, get with somebody who is already doing it if you can and go with them. But most importantly, realize what’s at stake and just do it.
Even if you’re scared, do it anyway.
Stay tuned, as later David will share with us how the 40 Days For Life campaign got its start, and what
prompted him to write a book about the campaign.
What do you think of David’s testimony?
Were you aware of how he got started in the movement?
Do you see yourself in his story, at all?
Are you encouraged by his convictions?
Please sound off below!