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No one is beyond conversion, Abby Johnson tells Georgetown students

Abby Johnson.
By Matt Hadro

Washington D.C., Apr 21, 2016 / 04:54 pm MT (CNA).- No matter how deeply someone may be entrenched in the culture of death, they are never beyond the loving reach of Christ, said former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson to a group of Georgetown University students on Wednesday.

“I’m standing in front of you today as a testament to the power of conversion,” Johnson, a former Texas Planned Parenthood clinic director who later converted to Catholicism, said in a talk scheduled the same day as Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards’ address to students on Georgetown’s campus.

Reflecting later on Richards addressing students earlier in the afternoon, Johnson said, “I just kept thinking you know, I believe that one day – I have faith – that one day it won’t be me standing here speaking and defending the sanctity of human life.”

“I believe that one day it will be Cecile Richards standing here.”

Johnson’s speech was part of Life Week 2016 at Georgetown. A pro-life panel led by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), chair of the Select Investigative Panel on Planned Parenthood, spoke on campus Tuesday evening. The group Students for Life organized a protest of Cecile Richards’ speech on Wednesday, before Johnson’s pro-life talk that evening.

Cardinal Wuerl was scheduled to say a pro-life mass at Epiphany Catholic Church near Georgetown’s campus on Thursday evening.

Richards’ invite to speak on campus by the student group Lecture Fund – and the subsequent support that the university gave the group – drew biting criticism from the Archdiocese of Washington for its “unawareness of those pushing the violence of abortion.” Planned Parenthood is the nation’s largest abortion provider, performing well over 300,000 abortions per year.

“The Jesuit community on campus clearly has its work cut out for it and a long way to go as it tries to instill at Georgetown some of the values of Pope Francis,” the archdiocese stated.

In 2012, the university also ignited controversy by inviting then-Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to speak at its graduation ceremonies. Many Catholic organizations were being ordered by the HHS, under threat of heavy fines, to violate Church teaching by providing coverage for birth control to employees, and bishops were speaking out against the mandate.  

Johnson focused her Wednesday speech on her conversion away from being a Planned Parenthood clinic director and ultimately to the Catholic faith. She emphasized the importance of prayer, perseverance, and trust in God in overcoming the evil of abortion.

“No one is beyond the power of conversion because no one is beyond the power of Christ,” she stated. “And we can make all the most beautiful arguments in the world for why we should be pro-life, but at the heart of life is Christ.”

She exhorted the students to be hopeful for the conversion of more clinic workers and pro-choice leaders. “And if we are people of faith, we better believe that,” she said. “We better believe in that type of goodness, that type of kindness, that type of faithfulness from our God.”

She pointed to her organization And Then There Were None, dedicated to helping abortion clinic workers and doctors leave the industry, as an example of success. She initially thought 10 workers a year leaving the industry would be a great total, but there have been 218 workers leaving the industry in three years, including 6 full-time abortionists.

“Being pro-life is not just about saving the baby. Because if it was, then we would just be pro-baby,” she said. “We are pro-life, and we believe in the dignity and the inherent worth of that woman who’s walking in to that abortion facility and we know that she deserves better than anything she can receive inside those abortion facility walls.”

“My goal is not just to make abortion illegal, my goal is to make abortion unthinkable so that a woman never even darkens the door of an abortion facility, that she never even thinks that taking the life of an innocent human being is acceptable,” she continued.

“We can grow weary. We can grow tired. We can become angry. We can become frustrated. But in those times, it is then that we have to remember the goodness of God,” she said.

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/no-one-is-beyond-conversion-abby-johnson-tells-georgetown-students-45578

Jesus Gave Me What Boozing and Brawling Couldn’t

My journey from the criminal underworld to the foot of the cross.
ALLEN LANGHAM| MAY 17, 2019

Jesus Gave Me What Boozing and Brawling Couldn’t

Six years ago—lost, broken, alone, and suicidal—I was the empty shell of a once-promising rugby player, shuffling around an exercise yard in a London prison. I was a man of extreme violence who had done seven stretches behind bars.

One morning around that time, I watched a flock of birds take off from a ledge outside my cell. Right then, I knew God was real—and that he had reached down to rescue me from the pit of hell.

A Ticking Time Bomb

As a child, there was violence everywhere I turned. My mother had been widowed by her first husband, abused for 20 years by her second, and deserted by my father (whom she never married) when I was eight months old. She and my two sisters surrounded me with love—I was the little favorite of the family. But she was also a harsh disciplinarian and liberally wielded what we called “the Allen stick” to keep me under control.

Throbbing with anger and resentment toward my absent father, I was constantly getting into scraps with neighborhood bullies, hoping to earn their respect. I was also abused several times: by a family friend, by a boy across the road, and by a man I can’t say much about because I’ve blocked the worst details from my memory.

I had some means of escape. Often I would skip school to go fishing or run off to the woods and dress up as an Army sergeant major, shouting commands at the other kids and exerting control to hide my inner pain. I loved sports and showed potential from an early age. And on Sundays, I would venture out on my own to attend church. At home I was fatherless and abused, but there I felt safe and at peace.

One morning, alerted by the shrieks of my eldest sister, I came downstairs to find my mother dead on the sofa, the victim of a cerebral hemorrhage. Something snapped in me that day—I was only 14—that put me on the road to destruction for the next 20 years.

I went to three schools, getting expelled from the first two for unmanageable behavior. By the time I left home at 16, I was a ticking time bomb—angry, bitter, and lost. My sister ran pubs, and I started down the path of drinking, gambling, and fighting, emulating the “gangster” lifestyle. This was my idea of what it meant to be a man.

But I excelled at rugby, and at 17 I signed a professional contract with Sheffield Eagles. Soon enough, I had far more money than good sense. Craving acceptance from members of the criminal underworld I perversely thought of as “family,” I began fighting for money, selling drugs, collecting debts for dealers, and generally bullying and intimidating my way through life. I walked into my first prison term as a lost little boy trapped inside a professional rugby player’s body.

A Hostile World

It didn’t take long for prison to turn me into a hardened criminal. It was a hostile world—physically, mentally, and emotionally—where only the fittest survived. In prison I developed a heroin addiction, which left me alienated from my firstborn daughter and her mother.

Between sentences, I went chasing the bright lights of London but ended up sleeping on the streets of the Strand. Without the “good fortune” of being sent back, I might have died. Back in custody, spurred forward by a picture of my daughter on my cell wall, I resolved to rebuild my life. During the next two years, I caught up on my schooling and got clean from heroin. But after the next release, I soon returned to my old ways. The vicious merry-go-round kept spinning: drinking, drugs (now cocaine), partying, violence, sex, and before long, a trip back to the slammer.

During my stints in prison, I was always drawn to the chapel. I considered it a place of refuge, just as church had offered a safe haven from the tumult of my childhood. Over the years, I experimented with everything: Buddhism, Hinduism, spiritualism, counseling, course after course, medication—but nothing worked. I was still a wreck. Despite my burning desire to change, I couldn’t find any peace or stability.

Eventually, after stabbing a number of fellow inmates, I landed in Belmarsh, a top-security prison in southeast London. I hated who I had become. With my violent outbursts and paranoid behavior, I had pushed away anyone I ever cared for—and put my family through hell. I was mentally, emotionally, and spiritually broken. Outwardly, I sought “respect” by lashing out against anyone or anything in my way. But on the inside, I remained a lost little boy in desperate need of love and acceptance.

While awaiting trial in a kidnapping and hostage-taking case, I finally hit rock bottom and decided to commit suicide. With tears streaming down my face, I dropped to my knees and made one final plea to God: “If you’re real and you hear me, put a white dove outside my prison window. Show me you are with me!” At the time, I had no conception of the dove being a symbol for the Holy Spirit. I was only looking for some sign of hope and new beginnings.

The next morning, when a flock of pigeons lifted off the nearby ledge, I saw the dove sitting there. Something inside me jumped, and tears of joy replaced tears of despair.

After transferring to another prison in Leeds, I began praying and studying the Bible in earnest. Reading Joyce Meyer’s Battlefield of the Mind, I stumbled across a chapter where Meyer describes taking the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her father, rolling it into a ball, and laying it at Jesus’ feet. I decided to do the same with my rage. Before going to sleep, I closed my eyes, imagined Jesus on the cross, balled up my rage, and surrendered it to him. When I awoke, I felt peace like never before.

The Long Refining

Being a Christian—and turning away from drinking, drugs, and sleeping around—hasn’t been easy. (It’s tough having a functioning conscience!) At first I was on fire for Christ, and my zeal would outrun my better judgment. I would strike up conversations with complete strangers and probably put them off forever. I would go to pubs to tell people about Jesus and—still enslaved to old habits—end up drinking to excess. On one occasion, I found myself in bed with a woman after trying to share the gospel with her. I needed serious refining.

But God, in his patience, kept using this broken vessel for his purposes. He has given me the privilege of going into prisons—at first under the supervision of more mature Christians, then increasingly on my own—and testifying to the hope and forgiveness he offers. I have spoken to rooms full of men convicted of the most heinous crimes, including pedophiles and murderers, and seen them reduced to tears. At a key moment when I wondered where my life was going, God helped me launch a ministry (Steps to Freedom) that reaches out to young people abandoned by society. He let me return to my first love, sports, as a chaplain serving several teams.

Miraculously, God has even given me my family back. It has taken years, but one by one he has repaired broken relationships with my sisters and their families, with my three children, and with the father who deserted us so long ago.

The refining process has been long and hard. But bit by bit, it’s polishing me into a trophy of God’s grace.

Allen Langham is the author of Taming of a Villain: A Message of Hope (Lion Hudson).

 

Original here

 

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