Get your Kleenex handy.This is such a wonderful testimony about a pastor’s prenatal life saved from an abortionist.
This is a must read from the Texan, the publication of Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. It is the account of mother’s rape had personal implications for pastor’s abortion views
By: James Shupp | Special to the TEXAN
I had one of those really strange days several years ago. It’s the kind of day that changes you before you’ve really had time to process what is happening. It all began with a knock on my office door. As I opened it there stood my mother weeping like I had never seen before.
She came to visit Cherry and I during the summer. The church in which I was the senior pastor, the First Baptist Church in Allen, Okla., was in the middle of Vacation Bible School. Our first son Patrick was a few months old. She was there to help out during a busy week, and spend as much time with her grandson as possible.
“Mom,” I said, “what is wrong?” I really couldn’t imagine what had happened, or what was on her mind that would compel her to stand at my office door weeping uncontrollably. Having been a pastor for nearly 20 years now, I had seen this all too frequently. But this was my mother. “Had someone died?” I thought to myself. “Has there been an accident? Are my wife and son alright?”
“Son,” she cried, “I have something very important that I need to tell you.”
For the next hour or longer, I listened to a story that would change everything that I knew about myself, and even some of my core convictions. Although it has been over 20 years since we had this conversation, it is still etched in my memory like it happened a few moments ago. Here is what she said as she poured out her heart:
“When I was 15 and living in Jackson, Tenn., I had a boyfriend named Tommy. He was tall and handsome and a year older than me. One day he came over to the house and asked me if I wanted to go for a ride. It wasn’t long before I realized he had been drinking. He took me to a remote location, stopped the vehicle and raped me.”
“I was so angry with him for hurting me. I hardly realized what he had done. I was young and naive. A young girl back in the 1960s didn’t know what young girls know today. I resolved in my heart that I would end our relationship and stay away from him.
“My mother and father had been going through a divorce at that time,” she stated. “Our family was torn apart. Mother was also very sick with breast cancer. A few months later she had surgery and I went to stay with my aunt and uncle in Cairo, Ill. While I was there I became sick, although I didn’t understand why. They took me to their doctor. After a brief examination I heard the news that changed my life.”
“I’ll tell you what the problem is young lady,” the doctor said. “You are pregnant.”
“Pregnant! How could I be pregnant? I began to cry and panic. Quickly, the doctor called the nurse to give me a shot that would calm me down. Then he began trying to reason with me.”
“No one has to know about this,” the doctor said soothingly. “You can have a normal life. You do not have to go back to Jackson and bear the shame of your condition. You do not have to miss your prom. Let me take care of this for you. Let me end this pregnancy.”
“With the kind of confidence that one achieves after having done the same thing many times, the physician walked over to the cabinets in the examination room and began removing some of the instruments from the shelves. Holding them in his hands he approached me in a manner as if to begin the procedure without my permission.”
At this point in her conversation with me on that day, I was in a daze. After 27 years with my mother, I realized that she was telling me the most personal secret in her life. This may also be hard for you as the reader to imagine, but I didn’t have a clue that she was talking about me. I had never even heard her mention the name “Tommy.” As a matter of fact, I believed that my biological father was a man named “Richard James Strasshoffer Sr.” He was the man for whom I had been named at birth. His name was on my birth certificate. Until her divorce from Richard when I was seven, and the subsequent adoption by my new father Damon Shupp, I bore the name “Richard James Strasshoffer Jr.” “Where is this story going,” I thought to myself as she continued.
“As the doctor drew near I heard a voice. I was not a Christian at the time, but there was no mistaking to whom that voice belonged. The voice was clear and commanding. It echoed in my head. ‘Stop him! This one belongs to me.’ I had never heard anything like that before,” she cried, “not in church, not in my prayers, nowhere. But it was the voice of God, without a doubt.”
“I removed myself to a corner of the room and curled up in a little ball. I cried. I told the doctor that I couldn’t do what he was suggesting. Clearly, he was frustrated if not angry at me. He called my aunt and uncle into the room for the purpose of persuading me to let him perform the abortion. I kept telling them “No!” I can’t make that decision without thinking about it and talking to my mother.”
With a soft and gentle look my mother looked inside me and said, “Son, that was you. I’ve always known that God had a special plan for you. That day at age 19 when you told me that God had called you into the ministry was no surprise to me. I always knew. I knew it before you were born. You belong to God and for his purposes.”
This was all beginning to make sense to me now. I had always wondered how Richard, the man I thought was my biological father, could have walked out of my life so easily—never calling, no surprise visit at graduation, no letters on my birthday, even allowing my name to be changed. I wasn’t his son. Questions spun through my mind faster than I could process them.
She continued to unfold this amazing story. “Shortly after that I left Jackson for North Carolina. I had met a friend of my brother who was a Marine over the Christmas holidays. He stayed at our house because he had been estranged from his family. When I called my brother and told him what had happened to me, he overheard the conversation and offered to marry me. I had just turned 16, but this seemed to be my only option to get out of Jackson and away from the young man who had raped me. So I left my childhood and my life behind, and married a man I hardly knew.”
“Son, I have been so embarrassed that I never told you this before. I have lived in fear that you would find out and be angry with me. I want you to know that I have always loved you and did everything within my power to protect you and give you all that you deserved.”
“Your real father died when you were 10. He was a pilot. The small plane he was flying crashed and was consumed by fire. I remember the day that the news came to me. I saw you playing by yourself that day. You were so happy, and I was extremely sad that you would never have a chance to meet him. Despite the evil behavior of his youth, he became a good person and had a family of his own before he died. Do you forgive me for keeping this from you? I wanted to protect you from the shame I felt. I never wanted that to be yours.”
I immediately got up from my chair and embraced my mother. “Mom,” I said, “there is nothing to be ashamed of. You gave me a chance to live. You kept me alive. I will forever be grateful to you.”
She began sobbing again as I held her in my arms—mother and son locked in an embrace that would transcend any description of how meaningful it was for both of us. It was wonderful to be giving her the grace and acceptance she desperately wanted. We both lacked significant knowledge about each other just hours beforehand. I did not know the circumstances of my birth. She did not know how my knowing would change our relationship. I am forever thankful that my mother heard the voice of God. I will forever praise God that he spoke to a frightened, confused, and overwhelmed teen in Cairo, Ill.
I have spent years thinking about this day and how it has changed me. First, there was a time that I believed in abortion under certain extreme circumstances. I believed that if a woman had been raped, a victim of incest, or her life was in danger, she had the right to an abortion with a clean conscience. What I didn’t realize as I formed those beliefs in my younger years was this: I had a moral position which called into question my own right to exist. Had what I believed been applied to me, there would be no me.
Second, I do believe that the whole institution of abortion feeds off of personal dishonesty. Imagine yourself going back in time and listening to a conversation between your mother and a doctor over whether you will be born. Ronald Reagan got it right when he said, “All the people in favor of abortion have already been born.” Unless a person is prone to suicidal thoughts, they would never wish themselves to have been aborted in their mother’s womb. Then how can anyone take such an action upon another that they do not wish for themselves? The golden rule of Jesus Christ is generally considered to be the greatest ethical maxim ever given in all of human history. It is simply this, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” If a man or a woman cannot wish an abortion upon himself or herself, they have no right to make that decision for another.
Third, when I have preached on this subject many have attempted to get me to agree with them that abortion is a solution in some circumstances. I’ve had people tell me that if their wife or daughter were raped by the village idiot, they would have no problem encouraging her to have an abortion. The problem here is in believing that creating a second problem solves the first problem. One problem doesn’t take away another problem. It just leaves you with two problems instead of one. One plus one is still two. Abortion is not the solution to rape. I believe adoption is a pretty good solution to any pregnancy that is unwanted or unprepared for. Adoption blesses a childless family. God’s plan has always been to reverse a curse with a blessing. It should be ours as well.
Finally, our national blessing from God is in jeopardy. There have been over 50 million abortions and counting since Roe v. Wade was made law in 1973. If God is against abortion can he be for America? There will be a future day when everyone will be brought to stand before the justice scales of God—a day of reckoning. He will not hold this nation guiltless forever. Justice will prevail, either by our nation turning toward righteousness, or an unexpected encounter with God’s wrath. Every life is precious. God made it that way. And I am convinced that he will be the defender of a multitude of people who could not defend themselves.
I believe the doctor who wanted to abort me was stopped so that I could share my story with you.
—James Shupp pastors Castle Hill First Baptist Church in San Antonio.