CHOOSE LIFE!

25 09 2019

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I know that if you just mention the word abortion, like it or not, you have lit a stick of dynamite. If someone desires to polarize a room into two passionate camps of strong feelings and cries of emotional angst, just bring up the topic of Roe vs. Wade. I remember being in grade school when the term defining the procedure to terminate a pregnancy entered the mainstream of American language. The words of a dear Sister who was my teacher at Notre Dame Catholic School still ring in my ears. She said, “The word causes raised eyebrows now, but one day it won’t even evoke an individual to bat an eyelash.” Even though she would have rather been wrong, she turned out to be oh so right!

I’m a Pastor who doesn’t believe in abortion because I am very pro-life. My understanding of the Scriptures shows me that life begins at the moment of conception. Even while we were still in the wombs of our mothers, the Bible explains that God had specific plans for our lives. John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit while Elizabeth carried him inside of her. God called Jeremiah to be a prophet form his conception. A baby is not a fetus or worse yet, just an it. A baby is a miracle. And even if the pregnancy happened in less than perfect circumstances, it doesn’t mean that the product of that union was a mistake. Every life is a gift. Even the lives of those precious children who never saw the light of day here on earth, each and every one is waiting for us in God’s presence.

If all of our children would have lived, Terri and I would have 9 children today. Before our son Rudy was born in 1986, we experienced 2 miscarriages in 1983 and again in 1984. I say we because even though as a man I didn’t have the honor to carry those children inside my own body, they will forever hold a place in my heart and soul. After Rudy, Leah and Abbie were born in 1986, 1988 and 1991, tragedy would once again rear its ugly head in 1995 and 1999 when two of our sons, Nicholas and Benjamin would be born to only survive a short time on this earth. Nicholas may only have been with us for a total of 90 minutes, we spent a whole lifetime in an hour and a half. And when it was apparent that déjà vu was occurring with our son Benjamin, Terri and I wondered if we ever would recover from such excruciating heartache. The length of their moments with us didn’t lighten the power of the impact to us. To this day, there are moments when I believe my heart is going to explode because we miss them so much.

When Terri found out that she was pregnant again in 2002, all the medical professionals thought we were absolutely crazy. I remember my wife and I sitting in conference with a doctor at Cape Regional as he very soberly and seriously rationalized all the reasons we should do the responsible thing and terminate this baby and save ourselves from the harsh reality that because of our history, chances for a healthy birth were a million to one. I know now why many choose abortion. The tension as we were meeting with that physician was so thick, it would have taken a chain saw to cut through it. But we knew that there was no way we could take matters into our own hands. I went into the chapel of our local hospital and literally poured my heart and soul out to God. On July 30, 2003, Joel Thomas Sheptock was born. I was 43 and Terri was 41 but we had another son to raise and today he is 16 and a junior at Cape May Tech. I couldn’t imagine our lives without him.

Still there would be more tragedy ahead for us. A 9th child was born way too early in June of 2005. And on the very day our oldest son Rudy was graduating from Middle Township High School, another Sheptock child was ushered directly into the presence of God. I remember someone saying to me that day, “Are you still going to stay a Minister? I mean, look at how many kids you have lost.” I replied with tear stained eyes, “It is my faith in God that gives these children purpose. Because I believe God is who He says He is, I will see them all again.”

Every life matters. I grew up in a family where my Mom and Dad had 7 children of their own and went on to adopt 30 more children. Many of my brothers and sisters ended up Sheptocks because nobody else wanted them. I have siblings that include many children that society has labeled as severely handicapped. The Sheptock Family is made up of kids with no arms, one arm, cerebral palsy, learning disorders and two wonderful brothers who have down syndrome. Martin and Issac exhibit more love coming through their pinkies than some so called healthy people display in their whole bodies. Nobody can convince me or either of them that their lives don’t matter. I can’t even imagine what this world might be had they never been given the opportunity to be born. As a matter of fact, if you ask any of my brothers or sisters if they wanted to continue to live, I know they would all give you an exuberant, “Yes!” None of these human beings are accidents. God loves and has a plan for each and every one.

I do not picket abortion clinics. I don’t scream hate at those women who have had abortions. I have no desire to be known as a Christian by just what I am against. I am for life. I am for all life. I fight for every life until God says it is time to take that person home. I don’t believe that inside the womb you are an it and all of a sudden, after your journey down the birth canal, that only then are you a human being. I felt prompted to write about this topic because there may be somebody reading this today who is confused and overwhelmed by the predicament they may find themselves in. God loves you. God is a God of grace and mercy and new beginnings. I want to speak up for the unborn. If all mankind is created equal, then these babies are just that, fearfully and wonderfully made by God. I close with some lyrics from an old Phil Keaggy song. “Who will speak up for the little ones; helpless and half abandoned. They have a right to choose, life they don’t want to lose, I’ve got to speak out, won’t you?” The World Health Organization estimated that between 40 and 50 million abortions were done in 2018. I write this article in honor of each and every life that never got the right to see the light of day. Choose life. Please!


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