Proactive for life: Student points abortion candidates to good news of Christ’s redeeming love

Communications Staff — June 2, 2009

Saturday mornings for many people means sleeping in, eating breakfast in pajamas and taking in a favorite lineup of cartoons.

But that is not the slate of activities for Hank Balch.
Each Saturday morning from 7-8:30 a.m., Balch stations himself in front of the EMW Women’s Surgical Center in downtown Louisville. During that time dozens of women stream into the clinic to have their babies aborted. Balch pleads with them to consider other options.

‘To be down there, to give them other options [than abortion] and to see them turn away … if you see one mother stop in tears and tell you how much she didn’t want to do this and all she wanted was for someone to tell her ‘you don’t have to do this and we are here for you’ — those types of responses tells me it is worth it,” Balch said.

In addition to deterring women from having abortions, Balch’s ultimate goal is to point them — and others involved in the situation — to their only source of hope: the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

“Our focus, from a Protestant perspective, is ‘We don’t want you to do this because you have hope: there is a better Way,’” he said. “We tell them that there is hope, that there is the Gospel. We tell them that we know that it feels like this is the only way for them, but we say, “Let us tell you about this man, this Christ and about this Father who loves you.’

‘You would think the only people you talk to are the women. But I have shared the Gospel more often with people on the sidewalk, whether it is homeless people or abortion clinic escorts — there are 10-20 of those on Saturday mornings. For them to see Christians urging women to not go through with the abortion on the basis of absolute truth and morality: that has an impact on them.”

Balch is a second-year Master of Divinity student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Prior to coming to Southern he attended and graduated from Texas A&M in College Station, Texas, where the Lord first impressed upon him the reality of abortion.

‘I came from a small Texas town and I knew about abortion, but I never conceived of it as happening with real people that I see on the street,” Balch, a member of First Baptist Church of Fairdale, Ky., said.

“It wasn’t until my freshman year of college, when I randomly drove by a Planned Parenthood clinic and I saw some people out front who had signs and were praying [that I grasped the reality of the situation]. One of the people had a sign that said, ‘thou shalt not kill.’ I thought, ‘wow, this is an abortion clinic.’’

Balch became involved in pro-life causes at A&M and soon discovered that the majority of people involved in such movements were Catholic. “That is when I began to have a burden to connect the pro-life movement to Southern Baptists,’ he said.

While Balch found Catholic pro-life activists did a good job of urging people to not have abortions, he wanted to be intentional about pointing people to the Gospel.

‘A Lutheran pastor in Texas told me once that it would be a shame to have an abortion clinic in a town with no Christians out in front,” he said. “That stuck with me: to always have someone to talk to the women, and ultimately to talk with them about the only hope for their lives personally, which is the Gospel – that is their greatest need.”

Balch participated in the inaugural 40 Days for Life event in 2004 in College Station, a campaign that seeks to draw attention to the evils of abortion through prayer and fasting, a constant vigil and community outreach, according to the ministry’s website.

‘Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, there were Christians in front of the abortion clinic praying and counseling the women before they would go in,” Balch said.
“We (pro-life proponents) stood there as a testimony.”

The 40 Days for Life website, 40daysforlife.com, says the initial Bryan/College Station campaign led directly to a 28 percent decline in abortions in that community. Over the last year and a half, 40 Days for Life campaigns have mobilized people in more than 200 cities – including a spring 2008 campaign in Louisville, Balch said — and 49 states, according to the ministry’s website.

Balch has a burden for seeing local churches and local church leaders lead such pro-life efforts, and others extending from them.

“My drive, and this has been something that [Southern Seminary professor] Dr. Russell Moore has done a great job of preaching and teaching on, is that this should be a church-wide ministry and a lifestyle for individual Christians,” he said.

‘I would like to see a coalition for life – an organization that would come alongside local churches to assist and equip them to better minister to these women in need. Local crisis pregnancy centers are essential, but it is the local church that will be the key in winning this battle.”
Balch said a culture of life should characterize all local churches.

“If all I did was go down to the clinic, but the rest of my life did not picture a love of children and an honoring of the Creator — He is the One making children — then everything else would be in vain,” he said.

“I asked Dr. Moore one time what the most important thing we can do to promote how we can promote a pro-life culture among Southern Baptists and he said, ‘By having pro-life families.’ I think something like that would have to begin by not viewing children, in general, as options or accessories, but instead by viewing every child as a gift, no matter what the circumstances are or the financial situation is and by not merely viewing adoption as a ‘plan B’ for families if all of your other plans fail.”

Balch has made material available on the Southern Seminary campus, letting students know about ministry opportunities outside the abortion clinic. He seeks to mobilize both sidewalk counselors and people who stand and pray in front of the clinic, which is open Tuesday-Saturday.

Women enter the clinic between 7-8:30 a.m., with Saturday being the busiest day, making that the prime opportunity to talk to women and those with them. There is a crisis pregnancy center, A Woman’s Choice Resource Center, located across the street, which Balch said is a great resource to have nearby.

Balch said Christ’s victory over sin and death serves as the foundation of all of his pro-life ministry efforts.
‘One of the [abortion clinic] escorts asked me the other day, ‘What would be a victory for you?’” he said.

“I said, ‘As a Christian our ultimate victory is already won. There are good days here where women turn around and there are days when 25 of them go in. But our victory is in Christ and those days when we do have a victory, we know that is the power of God at work. It confirms that He is working through this and He is showing that He is a God who loves justice and mercy.’

To contact Hank Balch, email brotherhank@gmail.com and his blog is www.lawngospel.wordpress.com/. For more information about the 40 Days for Life campaign, visit 40daysforlife.com. For more information about A Woman’s Choice Resource Center in Louisville, Ky., visit http://www.awomanschoice.org/content.asp.

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