One of the biggest blessings that has come out of the growth of Care Net’s Abortion Recovery and Care ministry in the last couple years are the stories. Through conference sessions, recovery leader trainings, the creation of our new online facilitator training courses – through all of these avenues, God’s presence in each individual’s healing journey has been palpable. Everyone’s story and experience with a past abortion is unique, but the privilege of witnessing someone move from brokenness to healing and forgiveness through Christ is a beautiful constant.

I had the privilege of connecting with Levi, a leader at Care Net-affiliated pregnancy center ThriVe St. Louis at our Men’s Summit last year. Levi boldly shared his own story with me – beginning in his high school years and carrying through to his relatively recent healing encounter with Jesus. I invite you to share with me in Levi’s testimony – from pain and numbness to true healing and forgiveness. God can use our stories mightily – and it’s my hope that Levi’s story touches you.

Levi’s Story

I hear some people say “I wish I could be a kid again” or something about going back to the good ol’ days, but as far back as I can remember, I was ill-at-ease. And there’s a lot of story in between that first recollected disposition, the abortion of my first child at 19, and unpacking all of that with Jesus for the last 14 years.

I tried every outlet I could to relieve the unrest. For the purpose of this story – validation from girls ever since I knew they existed, which got all the more messy when heavy drug and alcohol abuse entered the picture in high school. So I’m 18 or 19 years old, and my parents had kicked me out of the house for the second time because of the chaos my lifestyle brought into the home. For the next 6 months or so I entered into the prime season of my dealing and doing drugs, sleeping with girls, and running from the brokenness inside at lightspeed – all the while with the biggest smile on my face, as I played the life of the party.

I managed to keep the same girlfriend for about a year while lying and cheating for most of the relationship. As much as I was capable, I loved her. I still don’t remember what the conversation looked like, but she let me know one day that she was pregnant. We were both terrified. There was no way we could be parents, and both of us had bought the lie that abortion was the last line defense of birth control.

It wasn’t until this past year that I remembered much else of the story outside of what I just described. I remembered going to my parents house together to tell them what was happening, but I still don’t remember why I went, and I forgot about my girlfriend crying the whole time we were there. They were trying to tell us that they would help, and we didn’t have to have an abortion. I remembered her telling me that she had gone and got the abortion, but I forgot about calling my dad, terrified, because she had come home from the appointment and wouldn’t stop bleeding. I ended the relationship shortly after, but I didn’t connect the dots between the breakup and the abortion. The house I was living in got raided by the police just a month or two later, and I surrendered my life to Jesus after about 9 months of jail and rehab. This was in 2009, and I’ve learned only recently that I didn’t actually forget these things, but subconsciously blocked them out.

It was about a year ago when a healing that I didn’t know needed to happen began to occur. I had repented and knew Jesus forgave me back when I got saved. I had apologized to the mother of the child, the Lord had brought various moments of organic healing over the years, and I even spoke about it many times from stages and other ministry settings, but something was missing. I felt bad about the abortion, and knew I had a kid in heaven (a fact that stared me in the face all the more regularly after I got married and started having kids), but I had a disconnect with the abortion, with the child, that I couldn’t describe. Not to mention, I had been doing full-time pro-life work with ThriVe Express Women’s Healthcare for three years which kept me thinking about it all the more. I always had this monologue playing in my head – “I should feel worse than I do, and it makes me feel terrible that I don’t feel worse”. It sounds like it feels when I put it in writing.

I talked to my wife, Rachel, about what I had been feeling, and decided it was time to start seeking help. Bridget, my boss and CEO at ThriVe, encouraged me to meet with a partner of ours named Brett Atterbery who had an abortion recovery story. That was the first time I ever exchanged stories with another man who had an abortion and walked through recovery. That’s when the first flashback memory came. I had forgotten about the time I ran into my ex-girlfriend a couple years after the abortion at a restaurant. She was expecting. I had never felt so happy for someone who was pregnant, and all at the same moment, there was a profound grief rising up from my stomach, as I beheld what should have been.

Brett encouraged me to go to an abortion-healing retreat. I had been to Care Net’s Pro-Life Men’s Summit to rep ThriVe the year before, and when Bridget learned about the focus on post-abortive healing for men this past year, she asked if I felt led to go again. Little did I know that the miraculous would happen while I was there (although I learned later that the Lord was already letting my wife in on the secret before I left). I spoke to a few men from Support After Abortion who were there, and a common theme I kept noticing as they shared their stories was that they had named their children as a part of the healing process.

It’s the very end of the conference, and Care Net had a panel of post-abortive fathers on the stage. I don’t think I even realized how much their words were impacting me. I saw the same theme again – they all had named their children. The panel hosts offered an invitation for anyone who wanted to come forward to get prayer. It seemed to me more like an invitation for folks who had never told anybody about an abortion that had participated, but I had told tons of people. I sat there for a moment praying, about to get up and go because I had a plane to catch, when the Spirit prompted me to go up for prayer, “Just tell the prayer leader about the healing you’re pursuing”.

I told him the short version of what I just shared with you, and the common theme I kept hearing about the naming process, and then I said “But I can’t do that! I don’t even know the child’s gender!” And for the first time, the floodgates broke. I had shed a few tears before, but nothing like this. “I feel that I can’t dishonor this child any further by trying to give it a name, not knowing if it was a boy or a girl!”. Andy hugged me and prayed over me. I told him that I knew the Lord could tell me the gender if he wanted to – he had told me things that were impossible to know before, including the gender of my first born daughter weeks before it was confirmed! Andy looked me in the eye and asked me “What is he telling you now?”. I couldn’t answer him. “I don’t know, I can’t grasp at straws on this”. But looking back, I know I heard the Spirit whisper. He let me know that he felt the Lord had shared with him the gender of my child, and that if I felt like I had an answer, I could reach out to him some time for confirmation, because he didn’t want to sway me one way or another.

The conference was over and I got in my car to head straight to the airport. I was in a daze over what just happened. So many years of pent up emotion had been let out, and tears of healing had flowed out of my very soul. I turned on an old song that had brought some healing to me in my past – it was an abortion story, “Lucy” by Skillet. As I drove and listened to the song, I realized that the reservoir had yet to empty, and the tears started flowing uncontrollably again. Images started flashing in my mind. “Is that you, Lord?” I was seeing myself holding a baby girl, laughing, and rocking her back and forth. “God, is this really you?” The images kept coming. “It’s a girl!” God’s sweet healing presence flowed over me as John Cooper sang “I’ll see in you another life, in Heaven, where we’ll never say goodbye!”

I spent the plane ride home working through a study guide for post-abortive men that Care Net had provided, and it occurred to me “I can name her now!”. I excitedly started working on an alphabet of names in my head. A few days later, it came to me – Catherine. And Cate would be a great nick-name! I have a daughter named Catherine waiting for me in Heaven. Oh, and Andy confirmed from me that he had heard “girl” from the Lord!

In the following weeks I worked through the Reclaiming Fatherhood book from Care Net, and connected with Greg (who I had met from Support After Abortion) to share with him what I had experienced. He encouraged me to continue in the process – to write Catherine a letter and have some sort of ceremony in a way that was meaningful to me. It took a few months to get around to writing the letter. I just kept waiting for that “perfect moment”. Like maybe on a hike, sitting out on a bluff at sunset or something like that. Time kept passing when one night I sensed the Spirit say “It’s okay, just sit down and write the letter”. The real reason I had been waiting was because I wanted it to be perfect, still struggling with wanting to properly honor Catherine. What if I didn’t feel anything when I wrote it? I’d feel heartless. Sitting on my bed next to my wife as she read her book, I began to write. Words started coming out of me that I didn’t even realize I wanted to say. I connected with my daughter as I poured my heart out to her, and again the healing tears flowed. God proved himself faithful again. But I can be a slow learner…

The next step was to have the ceremony. I found myself in a similar pattern as what led up to writing the letter. Ironically, I had organized and performed many funerals during the 8 years that I spent in pastoral ministry (a whole other God-story to be told there), but I couldn’t put something together for my daughter. It felt so sacred…it had to be just right. After several months I again acted on a small prompt from the Spirit. “Just reach out to whoever you would like to join you, start there”. I called my oldest best friend and brother in the Lord, Thomas. We did a lot of partying together before we both got saved, even at the time of the abortion. Thomas was completely understanding, supportive, and on board. He asked if I knew where I wanted to do the ceremony and I told him I was at a loss and had no clue, just that I thought it should be in Clinton County, where everything happened. To my great relief, he said “Okay, I got a good place, when do you want to do it?”. Thomas was still a member of the church I grew up in and went back to after I got saved. Catherine’s mom had even visited there with me one of the few times I popped in during that season of my life all those years ago. Thomas and I would attend church together and head to Breese, Illinois for the ceremony. He hadn’t told me where exactly yet. What should I wear? All black? That felt weird, so I decided against it. It all felt weird…I was nervous.

When we got in the car, I saw that he had brought flowers. What a good friend. “But why hadn’t I thought about that? What’s wrong with me?” The Lord gently spoke to me “It’s okay, son. You’ve done nothing wrong. I’m providing”. Shame was replaced with only gratefulness for God’s grace flowing freely through my friend. We pulled up to a cemetery I had passed a thousand times. “I thought you may have chosen this, it’s fitting”. Thomas replied “Yes, but we’re not there yet”. We parked and he walked me over to a spot with a single gravestone and a garden set aside by itself. Thomas explained to me that when he and his wife had had two miscarriages, the hospital did a ceremony for them here. This was a sacred place and burial ground for children whose lives ended prematurely.

I was blessed as Thomas took the lead. He read a few words from his notebook, and we prayed the Lord’s prayer together. I read out loud the letter that I had written to Catherine, and the tears flowed again. We sat on the ground for a minute talking and reflecting, both sensing the near presence of God. Thomas left me to be by myself for a few moments. I spoke to God, and to Catherine. When I got up to leave I noticed a small, pink granite rock that stood out among the rest in the garden. My pastor had mentioned that he thought I should get some sort of memento for Catherine months before, but like everything else, I couldn’t find the “perfect” one. There it was. My wife and our four beautiful children have been going on a lot of hikes lately, and my favorite place to take them is in southern Missouri where you can find crystal clear rivers running through pink granite stone.

When I got home I wrote 8/20/23, with a sharpie on the back of the stone and set it on my dresser – in remembrance of what should have been, but one day will be. I’m much less ill-at-ease today, in what I’ve heard called “the already, not yet” of the born-again believer. Look at God.

Healing Is Near

If you have a story similar to Levi’s, we invite you to seek out the healing that is available in the arms of Jesus. You can visit abortionhealing.org to learn more about the resources available and get connected with an abortion healing ministry. And if you’re a center leader or church partner hearing these stories in your halls regularly, we hope you’ll join us in investing in a space for abortion recovery in your own community. Join us for our next cohort of Abortion Recovery Facilitator Trainings, beginning on April 2nd! You can pre-register to join us to receive more information – pre-register for women’s group facilitator training (Forgiven & Set Free) here, and men’s group facilitator training (Reclaiming Fatherhood) here.

Here at Care Net we want to be a resource to you as you engage with those in your community with an abortion story in their past. If there’s any way we can help, reach out to me at jmarquis@care-net.org, or our new Assistant Director of Abortion Recovery and Care, Lovette Vassar, at lvassar@care-net.org.