Love Life group seeks more prayer, fewer abortions
"We really can do something about it," said Josh Kappes, director of city development at Love Life, a non-profit that leads people to pray and rally near abortion clinics in three regions of North Carolina. "It's our modern-day slavery."
Kappes, who is also pastor of biblical counseling at Vertical Life Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in Newton, networks with pastors and local church leaders, recruiting believers to gather for one-hour prayer journey meetings to explain the ministry of Love Life. The outreach initially focused on Charlotte, but recently expanded to include other areas.
"I want to say to my kids, 'We did something about it,'" Kappes said in an interview with the Biblical Recorder. "These abortion clinics that close will be monuments to God. You can bring your kids back to show them what God did when the church showed up and prayed."
Love Life asks pastors to adopt one week during a 40-week emphasis. As part of the commitment, the pastor shares a pro-life message with his congregation and someone from Love Life shares the plan for the week.
Church members are encouraged to pray regularly, with a special emphasis on prayer and fasting on the Wednesday of the focus week. Then, members gather with other believers on Saturday for a worship rally and prayer walk near the abortion clinic.
It was a one-hour prayer journey that opened Kappes' eyes to the 150 abortions performed each week in Charlotte, which has the largest abortion provider in the Southeast. The prayer journeys introduce pastors to information about Love Life, the local abortion clinic and how a prayer/worship rally works.
He was inspired to become more involved by helping lead their church to participate in sponsoring weeks during the prayer emphasis.
Because of the success of Charlotte's Love Life efforts, Kappes said the organization is gaining national exposure. More people are sharing stories about what is happening, and the organization has recently expanded to Greensboro and Raleigh.
Love Life founder Justin Reeder's journey began in 2012 when he was taken by friends to a local abortion clinic to see "the atrocity taking place in our city," he said. "When I heard the tragic truth of abortion, I was shocked and sad to see so few actively doing anything about it."
Reeder said the Holy Spirit convicted him on his lack of action. He began to pray about next steps. His wife joined in the prayers.
Reeder's mobile truck-washing business celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2015. He and his wife asked God how He would use them in the next phase of their lives.
"After much prayer, He gave us the vision for Love Life by clearly saying, 'serve the least of these in your city by being a voice for the voiceless,'" Reeder said.
During one week, Reeder recalls God waking him up during the night with a strategy for ending abortion in Charlotte and uniting the church. Love Life began in 2016.
"We have seen close to 30,000 people from over 150 different churches come and pray at the abortion clinic," Reeder said. "Many are engaging in a variety of ongoing ministries, including adoption and foster care. Over 1,000 families have chosen life at the clinic, and we have even seen around 20 workers quit and even join our prayer walks. God is shifting the culture."
Local church involvement
A church member introduced Sam Roach, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Weddington, to Love Life Charlotte.
Located a short distance down the road from Charlotte's abortion clinic, Roach went to lunch with Reeder, and Roach agreed to lead his church to adopt a week in 2016.
"Things just continued to develop," he said. "My wife and I became mentors of a mom and dad who were going to have an abortion who were met by people on the street" outside the clinic.
Being involved with Love Life developed a greater awareness of abortion.
"It's energized lay people in our church," Roach said. "I have some people that are out there every Saturday that are volunteering."
Roach said their involvement has increased awareness within the entire church, which came alongside the couple Roach was mentoring. Members held a baby shower, and a member donated a car to the couple when transportation became a problem.
"Basically, we were available if they needed to reach out ... if they needed someone to talk to," Roach said.
The couple was invited to lunch and to church with the pastor and his wife. The Roaches went to the hospital after the baby was born five months after the mentoring relationship began.
"It has not been an easy process but we still have that relationship," Roach said. "This isn't just a show up on Saturday ... you need to show them love. You need a lot of partners; you need a lot of people."
Love Life Charlotte emphasizes the local church, respecting the pressures placed on pastors, Roach said.
"They do a great job of coming alongside the local church to help people understand an issue that God cares greatly about," he said.
Being involved with the ministry has given Roach "tremendous hope" that the abortion industry can be defeated.
"To see the tragedy of it, but at the same time, the hope," makes a difference, Roach said. "We want to see the culture change."
Through Roach's involvement, Eric Cook was invited to hear about the ministry. Cook, director of missions for Union Baptist Association, had lunch with Reeder and the local Love Life leader to learn about the ministry.
"I'd love to see all of our churches involved," Cook said.
At the end of the 40-week emphasis, there is a culmination rally, celebrating the victories God has orchestrated. Cook said the one he attended in Charlotte attracted more than 5,000 people.
"Just watching the church on a large scale doing what it should always be doing: being a voice for the voiceless ... it's profound," Cook said.
Each year, Southern Baptists recognize Sanctity of Life Sundays on their calendar in January. But Kappes believes the pro-life movement should not be relegated to one Sunday a year.
"We're able to say to pastors, you can still do something," Kappes said.
The goal is for local groups to be boots on the ground six days a week when the clinics are open, to have mobile units standing by to offer ultrasounds and other care to expectant mothers. Love Life works with local ministries already in place to train counselors and offer assistance to pregnancy care centers, where most churches are already involved in some way -- usually through supplies or money.
"We want to give people multiple ways to connect," he said.
Because of the attention of Love Life Charlotte, Kappes said the organization has been approached to expand in many cities across the country, but through prayer, the leaders decided to focus on Greensboro and Raleigh.
On July 21, Love Life Triad launched with more than 300 people in attendance for prayer in the first two weeks.
"There was a team out there," Kappes said, "only two women showed up for an abortion." While he was saddened at the loss of those two babies, one man who frequently stands vigil outside the clinic said it was the lowest number he'd ever seen.
"We ask people to pray at 9:29 a.m. in Charlotte for an end to abortion," Kappes said.
That's just before the clinic opens.
"We've seen 20 workers quit in Charlotte. Several of them actually joined our walk."
Love Life Raleigh launched Aug. 4.
"We're after a shift in cities that the first thought isn't to run to the abortion clinic but to run to the church," Kappes said.
To do that, churches need to step up to pray and fast, to join in a prayer and worship rally, to come alongside local pro-life organizations -- pregnancy centers, adoption ministries, foster agencies, etc. -- in partnerships to share the Gospel, the only hope.
"The church is alive and active," Kappes said. "We're loving our neighbor as ourselves."
He encourages breaking out of the silo ministry and linking arms with fellow pastors and believers.
"Even if a church just does one week, it can be a catalyst to bigger ministry," he said. "The main thing is bring expectant faith, ready to pray, ready to believe for God to tear down the stronghold of abortion."
To learn more about the one-hour journeys, which meet in all three major cities -- Charlotte, Greensboro and Raleigh -- visit lovelife.org/1hourjourney.