The importance of being an “Encourager-in-chief”

By Dave Andrusko

Editor’s note. This was my contribution to a three-person workshop at the 2021 National Right to Life convention workshop titled “Communicate, Convert, and Commit: the art of pro-life persuasion.”

Dave and Lisa Andrusko

Each year I begin with the same disclaimer: Rai Rojas and Lori Kehoe are superior speakers —funny, energetic, knowledgeable, and inspirational—so I will talk for no more than 10 to 15 minutes. For those who’ve joined us in the workshop over these last five year, you might notice that I am taking a different tact. Let’s see how it works (fingers crossed). Let me address two points.

Number One. How any of us identify ourselves can often be very revealing. Off the top of my head, I am a dad, a husband, a grandfather, a brother, a father-in-law, a cousin, an adult Sunday school teacher, and, an editor who also writes a lot—hundred and hundreds of thousands of word since 1981.

But the one I like to think is true—and the description that I hope and pray extends beyond what I do at National Right to Life—is “Encourager in Chief.”

What do I mean, why do I begin this way, and what could that possibly have to do with “Communicate, Convert, and Commit”? Glad you asked. I’m going to talk about us—pro-lifers—not the people outside whom we are trying to Communicate, Convert, and Commit. We also need some tender loving care, don’t you think?

Whether you’ve toiled in the pro-life vineyards–as my wife Lisa and I have for over 40 years–or, like the workers in Jesus’ parable, you joined late in the afternoon, you are indispensable and deserve to be equally rewarded. In fact, because of who you are and/or because of your personal experiences and your talents, you may be the one who brings in a bumper crop of new converts into our Movement.

You need to know that. We all need to know that. Just as there are no insignificant people—each of us is God’s handiwork, unique and irreplaceable—there is no pro-lifer whose contributions is not genuinely significant. When times are tough—as for example in the still hard to believe elevation of the likes of President Biden and Vice President Harris—you and I need to shore one another up. We are in this together and we know—however dark it may be some days—that the ultimate victory has already been won.

In his famous 1965 Commencement Address at Oberlin College, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Yes, we shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” And justice is not obliterating the defenseless because they are powerless to stop us.

In his very next sentence, Dr. King added something that is not remembered as well, but is hugely important: “We shall overcome because Thomas Carlyle is right: ‘No lie can live forever.’”

That’s point #1. You are part of the greatest Movement for Social Justice of our time and there is nothing those who toil in darkness can do to change that. I believe the primary reason they hate us so is not that we pass laws but rather because we hold up a mirror, forcing them to confront their own unforgiving consciences.

Point #2. Perhaps the fundamental irony (and there are many) of the major media’s absurd caricatures of our Movement is that they think, to borrow from Max Lucado, we are most concerned “in condemning exteriors”—in acting (horror of horrors) “judgmental.”

But how could that be when our Movement is filled with Pauls who were once Sauls. That transformation speaks volumes to the uncommitted. And nobody—and I do mean nobody—has a more powerful testimony than a woman who has gone through an abortion and whose soul was ravaged in the process. I would add that once his eyes are open, the man who did nothing—or worse—to help the woman in his life face a crisis pregnancy—exists in his own special hell.

And it’s hard to act high and mighty when there so many women (and many, many men) who can honestly say, “There but for the grace of God go I.” When the pregnancy test shows two lines, their first instinct was “No, this can’t be happening.” Let me give one example.

When I put this workshop together, the first person I asked to join was Jean Garton, author of “Who Broke the Baby,” the single most persuasive pro-life book I ever read. It was not until years later, after we’d know each other for decades that I learned that Jean was a genuine Saul-on-the-road-to-Damascus pro-life convert. Here’s the backdrop.

The 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy made her husband Chic take another look at his career as a successful businessman. A year later, at age 40, Chic entered the seminary.

Jean and their three children followed with what seemed like a “healthy bank account” which was soon depleted by the many hospital stays and medicines needed to treat their oldest daughter’s severe rheumatoid arthritis. Some days they subsisted on oatmeal, some days on nothing. But thanks to God’s providence and the help of local churches, they made it through Chic’s four years in seminary.

No sooner were they ready to begin their “service as full-time church workers” in Pennsylvania than Jean found herself pregnant at 40.

“This fourth child wasn’t wanted,” Jean wrote in a Lutheran Woman’s Quarterly essay, “so the obvious solution was to abort the pregnancy. Our course, the human mind is never more clever or resourceful than when it is engaged in self-justification.”

But this was prior to Roe v. Wade and she could not find a doctor to “terminate” her pregnancy. In her essay, Jean went on to explain how she joined an activist group “seeking to promote abortion-on-demand.”

I spent six months studying the abortion issue from numerous perspectives in an attempt to find confirmation that abortion, as its advocates claimed, helps women, doesn’t take a human life, and is a choice God allows us to make. I came out the other end of that exhaustive research with a changed heart and mind and with a commitment to be a voice in defense of the unseen, unheard, unborn child.

In 1969 Donn was born, the same Donn who would be riding with them in 1979 when police tracked them down to tell them their older son Dean had been murdered…in Dallas. Jean wrote

He had just completed four years in the Air Force during the Vietnam War and was beginning a management training program. Dean, our first son, our planned son, our wanted son, dead, while seated between us bringing great comfort was Donn, our second son, our unplanned son, our unwanted son, whom I had wanted dead.

Over the many decades that followed her pro-life rebirth, Jean wrote and testified and spoke on behalf of that “unseen, unheard, unborn child.” Few were as articulate, fewer still who could write as well, fewer yet who could move an audience to “see” abortion in a new light.

What Jean was about, what you and I are about, is not “judging exteriors” but transforming interiors.

Thank you.