“And who says that prayers go unanswered?” Father Callahan said out loud to the group of individuals gathered at the Respect Life Service in Onawa, Iowa, on April 19, 2009, as he gave the closing prayer for the evening. Tears streaming down his face, this was not the first time this evening that the Father had been moved to tears, nor anyone else in the room at the Evangelical Free Church, for that matter.
You see, this wasn’t just any pro-life, interfaith service that took place that Sunday evening. It was a meeting of the hearts and minds, a joining of the souls, a face to face reminder that there is power in prayer, and that all life is precious.
On that Sunday evening, Father Callahan arrived for the Respect Life service grateful for the interfaith collaboration and excited to hear the speaker for the evening, saline infusion abortion survivor, Melissa Ohden.
Little did he know that as he stepped into the Church that evening, he would come face to face with one of the very babies that he had prayed for at St. Luke’s Hospital in Sioux City, Iowa, back in 1977. And likewise, little did abortion survivor, Melissa Ohden, know that she would come face to face with a man whose prayers had been answered, whose prayers had saved her life.
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I scanned the crowd during my speech that night of April 19, 2009, just like I do during every one of my speeches, searching the faces of the group gathered, for feedback about whether I was getting my message across and searching for whether they, too, had a story about how abortion has affected their life.
And just like every other time, as I scanned the crowd to gauge their response, I was met with a host of faces filled with tears, man and woman, young and old, alike. One young man on the left side of the room really stood out to me amidst the crowd. Holding his head in his hands, his head full of red hair shaking back and forth from time to time, he was visibly taken by his emotions. What those emotions were, I can only guess. Unfortunately, he came and went from the service before I had a chance to talk with him.
On the opposite side of the room from this young man, another man, likewise, caught my gaze over and over again. Like the young man, he, too, had a shock of orange-ish blond hair, and like the young man opposite him, he, too, was visibly moved to tears. As I told my personal story that evening of surviving a saline infusion abortion attempt in 1977, in Sioux City, Iowa, of my long search for the truth about the abortion attempt and for my biological parents, of my reunification with members of my biological family and struggles with their acceptance of me and the abortion attempt, of my gratitude for the resource of adoption and the power of unconditional love, and of my joy in becoming a mother, myself, this man in the crowd took in every word and I couldn’t help but wonder about him.
Everyone has a story, and in particular, I know that everyone has a story about how abortion has touched their life. I could only guess how he, too, had been affected by abortion…..that was, until he climbed onto the stage and gave the final prayer for the evening, closing the Monona County Right to Life’s Respect Life Service that evening.
And who says that prayers go unanswered? Not me. Not Father Callahan.
While he was outside of St. Luke’s hospital in 1977, praying for the killing of unborn children to end, I was inside, struggling to survive the onslaught of a saline infusion abortion over a five day period. I struggled, but I survived.
While he continued to pray over the years for the sanctity of life to be respected, I prayed for the serenity and strength to forgive my biological parents and come forward publicly to share my story with the world.
While he gave the final prayer on April 19th, tears streaming down his face as he reflected on the power of prayer, so, too, were the tears streaming down my face as I sat in the crowd, transfixed by the awe-inspiring revelation of the power of his prayer.
“I will continue to pray for you,” Father Callahan told me as we embraced in the crowd after his prayer. “And I will pray for you,” I told him in return. “It’s a deal.”
Just as Father Callahan continues to pray for the unborn, for me in my work of sharing my story as the survivor of an abortion attempt, and I pray for his continued well-being and for the strength and courage and to continue my work, I have no doubt that our prayers will continue to be heard and answered. God bless you Father Callahan—Thank you for saving my life.