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Lessons From Jerusalem’s First Sidewalk Counselors

April 22, AD2016

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Today many people, of all ages, stand or kneel and pray at abortion businesses. Some of them speak with the women and girls who are going there pregnant, many of whom will leave un-pregnant. The speakers have come to be known as “sidewalk counselors,” although “sidewalk saviors” or “sidewalk angels” better describes what they do.

Sidewalk Counselors

Chapter 3 of the Book of Acts tells us about some of the first sidewalk counselors, some apostolic folks walking on the sidewalk near the temple in Jerusalem sometime before 70. A.D.:

Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour. And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple; who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an alms. And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, ‘Look on us.’ And he paid attention to them, expecting to receive something from them. Then Peter said, ‘Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.’ And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones were strengthened. And leaping up he stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God. (Acts 3:1-9)

It is interesting to note what Peter and John did not do in addressing the lame man. They did not tell him he was a sinner; or that, perhaps, his mother’s sins or his father’s sins were the reason for his infirmity. They did not tell him, as St. Paul does the Thessalonians, if you do not work, you do not eat. They did not tell him to be quiet. And they did not ignore him, passing by as if he did not exist, although they were on their way into the temple to pray.

What the apostles did do provides some insights for those who stand and pray at abortion businesses and those who encounter and engage pregnant mothers seeking an abortion. The Apostles/Sidewalk Counselors teach us to be there, to speak, and to give what we can to the mothers entering abortion businesses.

Some Thoughts of Elizabeth McClung

What follows are some thoughts of Elizabeth McClung about sidewalk counseling. Currently Development Director for Texas Right To Life, she has had experience both as a sidewalk counselor and as an instructor of sidewalk counselors. She founded the Coalition for Life in Austin, Texas at the young age of 22 and then led it in mobilizing over 1,000 volunteers to pray at Austin’s four abortion centers. She trained over 200 of them to be effective sidewalk counselors. She then began traveling across the country to train sidewalk counselors.
Here are her comments on the lessons to be learned from the Sidewalk Counselors/Apostles Peter and John:

Choosing to engage in any activity out of our comfort zone is a stretch in and of itself. The stretch is amplified exponentially when we go so far out of our comfort zone that we are challenging every social norm our culture offers. When our culture tells us to take the easy way out, our faith teaches us the hard way offers redemption. When our culture tells us instant gratification is a moral right, our faith teaches us selflessness. When our culture tells us ending the life of an innocent human being is acceptable, our faith teaches us murder is anything but acceptable.

Sidewalk counseling is as far out of your comfort zone and as counter-cultural as you can get. When Proverbs 24:11 tells us to rescue those being led to death, we logically realize we cannot rescue those being led to face the tools of the abortionist if we don’t show up to the very place where abortions are happening. Showing up is the first and biggest step any person of conviction has to make in the journey of saving lives in front of abortion centers. Speaking unashamedly in love and truth is the other side of the sidewalk counseling coin. If you can have a conversation with a stranger and have a desire to be God’s instrument for good, you can be a sidewalk counselor.

We cannot save babies from death if we do not help their mothers, and we cannot love their mothers while killing their children. Sidewalk counselors talk to the mother, not the baby. We all know what the baby would say in response to the proposition of being murdered. Sidewalk counselors empathize and offer real hope and help to the mothers.

In the hundreds upon hundreds of people I have trained to be sidewalk counselors, the biggest obstacle is always fear. Perfect love overcomes fear. (1 John 4:18). For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control (2 Timithoy. 1:7). We love these mothers and we love their babies. Love must rule the day and compel us to embrace our own fear and courageously speak out in spite of our own fear. We have nothing to give these mothers that is not a gift from God. Any hope we have is a gift from God. Any experiences in our own life that help us to empathize with a pregnant mom is a gift from God. Any resources we have in our community to help a mom through an unplanned pregnancy are gifts from God.

One interesting result of Peter and John’s sidewalk counseling (and healing) of the lame beggar outside the temple was that those of religious authority in Jerusalem ordered them to stop doing such things, “and they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.” (Acts 4:18 ) Peter and John’s response was basically, thanks, but no thanks; we can obey you or we can obey God. Needless to say, they continued their sidewalk counseling.

There are many excellent sources on sidewalk counseling. For example, the ProLife Action League has excellent information on how to become an effective sidewalk counselor: http://prolifeaction.org/

[Full disclosure: Elizabeth McClung is the author’s youngest child]

Copyright © Guy McClung 2016

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Guy McClung lives with his wife of 44+ years south of Houston, Texas helping inventors develop and patent their inventions. Following two stints in the seminary with the missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, total 5 years (for which he is truly and forever thankful), he came to the realization that God was not calling him to that type of vowed obedience; so he left the seminary and got married. Seven children and eleven grandchildren later, he decided to try to write some words that would convey his thanks to God almighty for blessing after blessing after blessing.

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