Sunday, October 28, 2018

Innocents Lost

Reflections on the Case of Kermit Gosnell 

“In Ramah was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.”
(Matt. 2:18)

Exhibit A[1]

By Gaylene Goodroad 

Scrolling through the television channels a few weeks ago, my attention was grabbed by a trailer for a new film called Gosnell. The advertisement alleged that it was the “true story of the world’s biggest serial killer.” But this prolific murderer was strangely unfamiliar to me. The twist in this story I discovered, unlike a film documentary on someone like the notorious Ted Bundy, is that that Dr. Kermit Gosnell was an abortionist who killed living babies after they survived initial abortion procedures—many older than 24 weeks. The proverbial plot thickens.

The movie advertisement piqued my interest enough to see Gosnell, a film based on the NYT Best Seller Gosnell – The Untold Story of America's Most Prolific Serial Killer—by the husband and wife team of Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer, who also produced the movie.[2] It chronicles the investigation and subsequent trial of Dr. Gosnell, whose clinic was raided by DEA, FBI, and other law enforcement agents, like detective James “Woody” Wood, played by Dean Cain, for suspicion of illegally selling prescription drugs.[3] It was during this raid that officials soberly discovered things far more sinister than ever anticipated.

Exhibit B[4]

The film reenacts these events culminating with the arrest, trial, and conviction of Dr. Gosnell—utilizing court documents and evidence exhibits to tell this compelling story—a story that political operatives and media outlets refused to tell and tried to bury.[5]

Author Conor Friedersdorf, writing for The Atlantic in 2013, provides a gruesome overview of this case from the grand jury report on the Kermit Gosnell murder trial: (WARNING – this material is graphic and disturbing)

The grand jury report in the case of Kermit Gosnell, 72, is among the most horrifying I've read. "This case is about a doctor who killed babies and endangered women. What we mean is that he regularly and illegally delivered live, viable babies in the third trimester of pregnancy - and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors," it states. "The medical practice by which he carried out this business was a filthy fraud in which he overdosed his patients with dangerous drugs, spread venereal disease among them with infected instruments, perforated their wombs and bowels - and, on at least two occasions, caused their deaths." 

Charged with seven counts of first-degree murder, Gosnell is now standing trial in a Philadelphia courtroom. An NBC affiliate's coverage includes testimony as grisly as you'd expect. "An unlicensed medical school graduate delivered graphic testimony about the chaos at a Philadelphia clinic where he helped perform late-term abortions," the channel reports. "Stephen Massof described how he snipped the spinal cords of babies, calling it, 'literally a beheading. It is separating the brain from the body.' He testified that at times, when women were given medicine to speed up their deliveries, 'it would rain fetuses. Fetuses and blood all over the place.'" 

One former employee described hearing a baby screaming after it was delivered during an abortion procedure. "I can't describe it. It sounded like a little alien," she testified. Said the Philadelphia Inquirer in its coverage, "Prosecutors have cited the dozens of jars of severed baby feet as an example of Gosnell's idiosyncratic and illegal practice of providing abortions for cash to poor women pregnant longer than the 24-week cutoff for legal abortions in Pennsylvania..."[6]

Friedersdorf continues this alarming account:

On February 18, 2010, the FBI raided the "Women's Medical Society," entering its offices about 8:30 p.m. Agents expected to find evidence that it was illegally selling prescription drugs. On entering, they quickly realized something else was amiss. In the grand jury report's telling, "There was blood on the floor. A stench of urine filled the air. A flea-infested cat was wandering through the facility, and there were cat feces on the stairs. Semi-conscious women scheduled for abortions were moaning in the waiting room or the recovery room, where they sat on dirty recliners covered with blood-stained blankets. All the women had been sedated by unlicensed staff." Authorities had also learned about the patient that died at the facility several months prior. 

Public health officials inspected the surgery rooms. "Instruments were not sterile," the grand jury states. "Equipment was rusty and outdated. Oxygen equipment was covered with dust, and had not been inspected. The same corroded suction tubing used for abortions was the only tubing available for oral airways if assistance for breathing was needed. There was no functioning resuscitation or even monitoring equipment, except for a single blood pressure cuff." Upon further inspection, "the search team discovered fetal remains haphazardly stored throughout the clinic - in bags, milk jugs, orange juice cartons, and even in cat-food containers..."[7]
Exhibit C
Gosnell’s Philadelphia Clinic in 2013[8]

And there is more, so much more flagrant depravity that finally came to light in this landmark case. Readers interested in these disturbing details can read Charlie Spiering’s article, “58 horrific details from the Kermit Gosnell trial that you do not want to read,” from The Washington Examiner HERE.

The grand jury testimony would go on to say that upwards of 20 percent of the fetuses Gosnell aborted were older than 24 weeks, which is illegal in Pennsylvania. Because most premature babies survive after 24 weeks, Gosnell resorted to a procedure he called “snipping” which ensured “fetal demise.” He would stick a scissors in the back of the baby’s neck and snip its spinal cord. Over the course of his 30-year career, Gosnell performed hundreds of “snippings.” Most of these cases will never be prosecuted, however, because Gosnell destroyed the evidence and records while the community, city agencies, and media ignored his crimes. Fortunately, however, there were a handful of files that Gosnell failed to get rid of:

…Among the relatively few cases that could be specifically documented, one was Baby Boy A. His 17-year-old mother was almost 30 weeks pregnant -- seven and a half months -- when labor was induced. An employee estimated his birth weight as approaching six pounds. He was breathing and moving when Gosnell severed his spine and put the body in a plastic shoebox for disposal. The doctor joked that this baby was so big he could "walk me to the bus stop." Another, Baby Boy B, whose body was found at the clinic frozen in a one-gallon spring-water bottle, was at least 28 weeks of gestational age when he was killed. Baby C was moving and breathing for 20 minutes before an assistant came in and cut the spinal cord, just the way she had seen Gosnell do it so many times. And these were not even the worst cases….[9]

It was a chance photo of Baby Boy A, taken by a clinic worker who succumbed to compassion, that would be Gosnell’s undoing. It became the most powerful piece of evidence in Gosnell’s trial that gave the jury, and the world, a snapshot of the true evil behind the prolific abortion doctor and baby killer.

The producers of Gosnell are to be commended for their dignified handling of these horrible details. They did not resort to a gratuitous display of graphic imagery, which most Hollywood productions would surely have done. They never showed the photo of Baby Boy A, or even an imitation of it, but made it available to moviegoers who wanted to view it on the Gosnell website.[10] I went to the movie’s website when I got home and reluctantly clicked on the photo link. Yes, it was horrifying, but not because of a gory, unrecognizable blob exploited for all to see. This was the unfortunate first and last portrait of a beautiful, perfectly formed little boy, who lost his life simply because he was unwanted and because someone was willing to accept cash in order to end his life. His death was facilitated by greed, immorality, and a wanton disregard for human life.

This precious child was abused, murdered, and discarded—but not forgotten. I sat in silence for several minutes as I looked at his image recalling that my youngest son, born premature, was much smaller and frailer than this child had been. It is inconceivable that any human being, much less a doctor, could shamelessly “snip” his precious life away so callously, so coldly, so completely. Instead of a grave to mark his passing, the only evidence to show that Baby Boy A even existed was that crude photograph taken by a clinic employee—that had become a court exhibit. He was unceremoniously laid to rest in a plastic shoebox. Babies B, C, and beyond, undoubtedly left this world in a red medical waste disposable bag.

But God knows their names.

Exhibit D
Author’s son at 2 weeks old

One of the most sobering scenes in the movie was the testimony given by a female abortionist, Dr. North, played by actress Janine Turner, concerning legal abortions. She was called to contrast the actions of her clinic with that of Dr. Gosnell. The defense attorney, Mike Cohan, played by Nick Searcy (who also directed the film), showed her photographs of fetus sonograms and asked her to defend the legality of her practice, ironically suggesting that no difference existed. At one point, he held up a syringe with a long needle, using it to demonstrate on an enlarged photo of a sonogram. The witness emphatically denounced Gosnell’s method of ending the life of babies born alive by stating that her clinic never had a live birth because they habitually confirmed death before delivery. She testified that her skilled practitioners routinely filled such a syringe with a lethal chemical that was injected into the heart of each fetus, in utero, thus insuring instant death. I wondered how she was able to morally separate the difference between chemically stopping the heart of such a little life, while housed within its mother, and that of cutting the spinal cord of the infant once it exited the birth canal. Had Baby Boy A been given this lethal injection before 24 weeks, his death would have been legal, and Dr. Gosnell would never have been prosecuted for his death.

Without blinking, the lady abortionist proudly defended her practice that had performed 30,000 such injection procedures, snuffing out the lives of tens of thousands of innocents. A sickening feeling came over me as I combined the total deaths of these unborn babies in my head, with that of the serial “snipping” victims of Dr. Gosnell. Then I thought of the countless souls lost at abortion clinics around the nation…and the world.

My husband and I sat in a bare theater in Indianapolis with only four other people watching this powerfully, yet sensitively crafted film. As the credits were rolling, we all sat still. I could hear the lady sitting to the left of me sobbing. As I stood up, I said aloud, “It’s a shame that more people aren’t in here watching this movie.” Sadly, I discovered later that many theaters have even refused to show this film.[11] Facebook and NPR have blocked advertisements for the movie.[12]

Friedersdorf voices his disapproval on such public apathy:

Yet, accusations of babies having their heads severed -- a major human rights story if there ever was one -- doesn't make the cut." Inducing live births and subsequently severing the heads of the babies is indeed a horrific story that merits significant attention. Strange as it seems to say it, however, that understates the case. 

For this isn't solely a story about babies having their heads severed, though it is that. It is also a story about a place where, according to the grand jury, women were sent to give birth into toilets; where a doctor casually spread gonorrhea and chlamydia to unsuspecting women through the reuse of cheap, disposable instruments; an office where a 15-year-old administered anesthesia; an office where former workers admit to playing games while giving patients powerful narcotics; an office where white women were attended to by a doctor and black women were pawned off on clueless, untrained staffers. 

Any single one of those things would itself make for a blockbuster news story. Is it even conceivable that an optometrist who attended to his white patients in a clean office while an intern took care of the black patients in a filthy room wouldn't make national headlines? But it isn't even solely a story of a rogue clinic that's awful in all sorts of sensational ways either. Multiple local and state agencies are implicated in an oversight failure that is epic in proportions!... 

There is, finally, the fact that abortion, one of the most hotly contested, polarizing debates in the country, is at the center of this case… [13] [bold added] 

No, abortion advocates—and they are many—don’t want this story told.

Exhibit E[14]

“For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother's womb.”

(Ps. 139:13)

1. Image: 9 week old baby in the womb; Collection by Cleveland Right to Life;
2. See the Gosnell movie website:
3. See IMDb website: 
4. Image taken from the Gosnell movie website;
5. “Media Ignores Movie On Abortionist Gosnell, America’s Biggest Serial Killer,” Daniel John Sobieski, Flopping Aces, Oct. 19, 2018; 
6. Conor Friedersdorf, “Why Dr. Kermit Gosnell's Trial Should Be a Front-Page Story,” The Atlantic, April 12, 2013; 
7. Ibid, Friedersdorf. 
8. Photo taken from the Washington Examiner website: “58 horrific details from the Kermit Gosnell trial that you do not want to read,” Charlie Spiering, The Washington Examiner, April 18, 2013;
9. Ibid, Friedersdorf. To view the photo of Baby Boy A, scroll to the bottom of the movie’s Resources webpage;
10.  “Suppression: Theaters Drop 'Gosnell' Movie Despite It Being a Top-Grossing Film,” Beth Baumann,, Oct 20, 2018;; “EXCLUSIVE: 253 Theaters Drop 'Gosnell' Amid Media Blackout to Defend 'Sacrament' of Abortion,” Tyler O'Neil,, October 23, 2018;
11. “'Gosnell' Is the Movie Hollywood Does Not Want You to See,” Jerry Newcombe, Newsmax, October 24, 2018;
12. Ibid, Friedersdorf. 
13. Image taken from UCLA Health website:

Ed. Note: To read about the rapidly rising heresy that calls abortion a "rite", read the two Herescope articles: 
"Oprah Magazine: God's 'in' Abortions?"
"Un-Sacred Spaces: Theology to Justify Abortion"

Tuesday, October 09, 2018


Herescope Testimony Series

“Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters….”
(Isaiah 55:1a)


“O God, Thou art my God;
early will I seek thee:
my soul thirsteth for Thee,
my flesh longeth for Thee in a dry and thirsty land,
where no water is;”

(Psalm 63:1)
By Sarah Huling Leslie

Have you ever been really thirsty? Really thirsty?

I had been a nominal Christian for several years, and I was a chronic backslider. I was converted out of the hippie movement into the Jesus movement. But I was a fragile baby believer, and without solid discipleship the weeds of sin soon flourished, crowding out my faith. I struggled to be a Christian but without much success. Many years later I would realize that during my college years I had been put through various psychological and sociological experimentation programs without my full knowledge and informed consent—all of them designed to erode faith. I didn’t know how to stand firm, and I definitely didn’t know how to walk in the faith.

But God had His own plan for my life. One year after I graduated from college I surrendered and entrusted God with 100% of my life. Corrie ten Boom had come to Des Moines in a pivotal weekend in May of 1976, and my Christian friends and I went to listen to her in every place where she spoke. Her sincere and simple faith guided me into recommitting my life to the Lord. In a key moment of time I recognized that Jesus was real and alive, and He was asking me to follow Him the rest of my life. I immediately rushed to flush my cigarettes down the toilet. From that point on I desired to live a more pure and holy life.

During this time I had been working in a group home with emotionally disturbed adolescents. Even though I didn’t talk about my new-found faith, the teenagers noticed the change in me. Inevitably a few of them wanted to know about Jesus and they requested that I take them to church. Each Sunday that I was on shift I would drive a van load of adolescents to a local Bible-preaching church. Several of them had accepted Jesus into their hearts. As a consequence I was asked to quit my job. I was told by the staff psychologists that believing in God was a sign of “emotional weakness” and they couldn’t tolerate someone “mentally unstable” working with the kids. They claimed that believing in Jesus would cause further emotional damage to these teenagers. These were atheists and this was what they believed. Thus I had to quit my first fulltime job with poor prospects of obtaining a good recommendation from them for my next job.

Suddenly I found myself confronted with the necessity of living totally on faith. I had no job, no income, and my parents were living overseas. There was no one I could turn to for help. Scared, helpless and lonely, I rushed into the arms of Jesus and begged the Lord to sustain me. I had to learn to live on faith alone. But even as a fledgling believer, I had hope. I knew in my heart that the Lord was telling me to wait on Him, that He would open a door for me for a new job, He would show me my next step. I wanted to be in His perfect will. Many people thought this was crazy, but I knew that I needed to obey Him. So I waited… and waited… and waited for God to “give” me a new job. And the Lord encouraged and sustained me with many precious promises from His Word, especially Psalm 16:3: “Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.” (RSV)

Two months later, still without a job, I was asked by a pastor friend to accompany his church youth group as an adult chaperone for a trip to Colorado to do a week of volunteer service. With nothing else to do I readily agreed to go.

I had never been to the Colorado Rockies before. I immediately fell in love with the high rugged peaks. The church youth group headquartered itself in a Christian retreat center, sleeping bags lined up in one big open area. Our volunteer duty was to assist a small group of forest rangers with culling dead wood by carrying it out of the forest. Each day was filled with physically demanding forestry projects conducted at a very high altitude. At night we fell into bed exhausted.

Near the end of the week, one of the forest rangers suggested that on Saturday we could climb one of the high peaks nearby. All week long we had seen its beautiful summit off in the distance. Climbing a mountain had always been one of my dreams so I quickly jumped at the chance. Only a handful of the teens felt like they were up to it.

That night we were dropped off to camp in a cabin in a pine forest at the base of the summit. None of us slept very well; there was a constant rustling noise. In the morning we arose to discover that the food in our backpacks had been tampered with by mice! We had less food, but we figured it would be enough to sustain us on the climb.

Just before dawn we began our assent. It was a vigorous climb. For those of us accustomed to lower altitudes this posed a real challenge. It was much more of a strain on the body than we had anticipated. One step at a time… breathe… step… breathe… step… stop and rest…. One step at a time, putting one foot in front of the other. Perseverance.

We passed the beautiful timberline by sunrise and began our assault on the summit. After a few hours we stopped upon a broad plateau above a lush green field to gaze far down at the earth below. It was a beautiful reward for our laborious trudging. We could barely recognize anything—it was all so far away. There was utter silence. Not even tree leaves were there to rustle in the gentle breezes. We could only hear our own huffing and puffing from exertion. We sat there for a long time and rested. The hardest part was yet to come.

We were surprised to see early hikers coming down off the summit. They had already reached their goal. A father and his son wearing shorts and hiking boots had jogged past us up to the summit. An hour later they jogged past us again on their way down the mountain. They paused to talk and told us that over the summer it was their goal to climb every mountain peak over 13,000 feet in the Rockies. No wonder they were so physically fit that they could run up the mountain!

Meanwhile we were crushingly exhausted, painfully swallowing huge gulps of air with each footstep upward. The path became rocky, narrow and circuitous, winding and curving, ever going upwards. Often we could often only see a few steps ahead. Scriptures such as Proverbs 3:23 suddenly began to seem more literal: “Then shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble.”

By mid-morning we had depleted our small water supply. The teenage boys on our hike had only brought a few canteens with them. We hadn’t calculated for the increased need for water caused by our extreme physical exertion and high altitude. Our bodies began to complain for water. It began to dawn on us that we might not make it to the top. In between gasping breaths we discussed the possibility that we would have to turn around and go back. We were sorely disappointed. We wanted to make it to the summit—to achieve our goal!

Just at the bleakest moment, a young man hiking about twenty paces ahead of us called down to us, “Hey! There’s a glass of water on this rock!” We didn’t believe what we heard. He must be joking. We couldn’t see his location but we could hear his voice calling down from the curve of the boulders. Surely there wasn’t a real “glass” of water anywhere on this desolate summit!

We stumbled upwards to the rock ledge where he was standing and, sure enough, he was telling the truth! There was a sparkly clean glass sitting on a rock. A literal glass! It was filled with the clearest water I had ever seen. We looked upwards to see the source of the water and traced a tiny stream back to a melting glacier. The ranger had warned us not to drink mountain water unless we could ascertain that it was from a pure source that was uncontaminated. This water was definitely safe to drink—a result of mid-summer glacial melt! We greedily gulped up the ice cold water and began refilling our canteens. It was the best water I had ever tasted.

As I trudged the last 500 hundred feet of rocky path winding up to the summit, it slowly began to dawn on me that the Lord was revealing a very important lesson for life. Just at the brink of utter discouragement, when I would become most weary and my own strength was failing, there would be a miracle—a “glass of water on a rock.” I remembered one of my favorite passages in Scripture. Jesus told the woman at the well in John 4:14 that “whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst” and that it would be a “well of water springing up into everlasting life.” Remarkably, my strength was replenished by that glass of water! I had the physical ability to go on, to persevere, knowing that I could reach the summit. I pondered the spiritual meaning of this experience to my current life situation. Was God trying to tell me something?

The teens and I stood there at the rock at the top of the summit for a good long time, trying to embed that spectacular view into our memories. We recalled the Scripture in Psalm 121:1-2: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.”

We marveled at the miracle of the glass and asked unanswerable questions. Who had carried it up there and placed it next to that tiny streamlet for water for the weary climbers? How did a fragile glass survive the mountain weather without breaking? How could it be right there on that rock just at the moment we most needed it? By God’s mighty providence we realized we had been blessed with liquid sustenance, giving us renewed bodily strength to reach the summit that day. We were able to complete our task and accomplish the goal—even after things seemed to be most hopeless. We peered down and marveled at how far we had come, and affirmed, like the Apostle Paul, that we had “fought a good fight… finished [the] course… kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). We called to mind the Scripture from Isaiah 55:

“Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price…. Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
(Isaiah 55:1,6-9)

The Rest of the Story
A few weeks after this trip, and at the end of three months of unemployment, the Lord did indeed miraculously provide me with a new job, just as He had told me. One day when I was walking down a hallway in a building on the local college campus a man yelled out at me from his desk in an office, “Hey! Are you looking for a job?” He happened to be the roommate of my former boss, the one who had asked me to resign, so he guessed I might still be unemployed. He insisted that I take a typing test, and let me take it over and over again until I finally passed the required minimum words-per-minute.

The next day I received a phone call from a lady who started the conversation by bluntly asking me, “Well, do you want the job?” She then proceeded to tell me that I had the job even before I went to interview for it! I didn’t even know what the job was so I had to ask her. It turned out to be a clerical job that, in addition to a salary, provided free tuition which would enable me to start graduate school. I had felt the Lord’s calling to do this, so this was an amazing confirmation.

Waiting upon the Lord also had resulted in other benefits—rewards that were totally unexpected. My new job placed me in an office location where I immediately encountered my future husband, Lynn. We married a few months later. I now shudder to think what might have happened if I had gone ahead on my own strength and will, trying to work out my own future without obeying God.

Meditating on the Scripture in Isaiah 55 describes our experience with the glass of water on the rock. God offers life-giving water that has no price. His water is pure and uncontaminated by the world. It “satisfieth” and is “good” (vs. 2). In fact, my experience with the glacier ice water seemed to be described by verses 10-11: “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my Word be that goeth forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing where to I sent it.” The water of the Lord’s Word is pure and restores the soul. Truly it just as the Lord promises:

“For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace:
the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing...

(Isaiah 55:12a)

This article is another testimony in an ongoing series to encourage readers to boldly persevere in God’s holy faith.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Jean & Juliet

Emboldened Faith
A Testimony

“…and grant unto thy servants,
that with all boldness they may speak Thy Word.”

(Acts 4:29b)

The Holy Spirit moved upon a congregation on a Sunday morning in the early 1960s. They thought they were hearing an angel sing. Juliet was standing up in the choir loft, her vibrant voice rising and falling upon the people in the pews below. Juliet’s high notes reverberated with such strength that it shook the old church building. Jean bellowed along on the old pipe organ with equally loud exuberance. This was a musical match made in heaven.

It all got started earlier when one Sunday morning Rev. Lowder delivered a remarkable sermon to his small church. “Charlie,” as he was affectionately called by his parishioners, expounded on Galatians 3:29: “And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.” He concluded with verse 28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” Charlie was a diminutive, balding man with a pleasant countenance. The children in Sunday School informed their teacher that they knew what God looked like—Rev. Lowder.

The white clapboard church was in a village of less than 2000 people situated amidst the verdant cornfields of Illinois. Rev. Lowder’s church was made up of people with long proud lineages of European Christian ancestry. One family tracked back twelve generations to the Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s. Another family still spoke German at home. The McLaren’s came from Scotland, and Mrs. Dodge’s father had been an English parson. But Charlie proclaimed that the church of Jesus Christ was more diverse than this and it was time—it was time—to recognize that “red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight.” The congregation would sing that song many times.

Rev. Lowder was a doer, not just a believer, preaching often about the life of Jesus and His disciples. It was not surprising then that Charlie next took the radical step of opening the church to Juliet and her church people. And then an amazing miracle happened – they came! Afterwards Juliet was invited to sing solos regularly with the choir. Scuttlebutt in the village soon called it “the nigger church.” But that didn’t deter Charlie, nor his church folks. They stood on the truth in his sermon.

A short time later Rev. Lowder delivered another life-changing sermon. Here is how Jean described it:

The telephone rang early Monday morning, back in the 1960s.

“Would you be willing to help me study the music for my voice lessons?” It was Juliet, a black woman I’d met two years before when she sang at our church where I was the organist.

“Sure,” I answered, “but is this because of the sermon yesterday?” Juliet had again been our vocalist, and the sermon we both heard was a powerful one titled “Unlimited Horizons.” Our minister’s point was to “get out there today and do what you have been putting off, things you know God wants you to do.” Already that morning his wife had called me to start piano lessons, and it had also moved me to place an order to a music store for some Ragtime piano pieces (something I had always wanted to play).

“Yes, it was that sermon,” Juliet answered. “I’ve decided to really concentrate on my voice.”

With my classical music training I knew I was perfectly suited for the job. Juliet had been cleaning houses to pay for her voice lessons. Life was hard for her; she had ten children to support because her husband was unable to work due to a construction accident.

“…they received the Word with all readiness of mind.”
(Acts 17:11b)

After this sermon Jean’s household rapidly began to change. It became a busy place as Jean bustled around organizing her life so she could practice her piano in the den for hours every day. Jean had given birth to four children in the 1950s, the youngest two of which who were premature and required much care. She was a typical housewife of that era, and along with her husband Paul was joyfully renovating a vintage 1840s house. Jean was a classically trained pianist and organist. She could play Bach exuberantly on an organ one hundred miles an hour with a hint of syncopation. No one had ever heard anyone play Bach like that. But it seemed like the perfect way Bach should be played.
Juliet with some of her children

Juliet had ten children and she lived on the south side of Joliet. She had to support her own family. Nevertheless she said she would give up a day of work and come to Jean’s house for vocal practice. She knew this was what God wanted her to do. There was no doubt in her mind about her calling from the Lord. Thus each week she bravely boarded the bus in Joliet that would drop her off at the main intersection in the village where she could easily walk the three blocks to Jean’s house.

But it wasn’t so easy. Jean expected her that first day about 10 A.M. But Juliet didn’t come and she didn’t come. Jean got worried. When Juliet finally arrived at the front door she practically fell into Jean’s arms. She looked frazzled and had been crying. It turned out that the local police had been contacted by someone spotting a Negro walking down the sidewalk. She had been harassed and told to leave town.

Jean wanted to call the police that very minute and complain but Juliet wouldn’t let her. Juliet wiped her tears and gazed long and hard at Jean. In very strong terms she asserted that this is precisely what Jesus meant when he said to “turn the other cheek” and love our enemies (Luke 6:27-19). Juliet took Jesus’s words literally, she admonished, and so should Jean. Jean was amazed at her pure faith. From that day forward Juliet and Jean would share their faiths together in God’s leading, His providence, grace and protection.

All cheeks turned aside, nevertheless Jean drove Juliet back to the bus stop that day in an antique model A that was the only family car at the time. When Jean got home she did call the police station and politely explained that there was a Negro lady who would be coming to visit her house every week on a Tuesday morning. “Leave her alone, she’s my friend!” Jean warned. She thought that would take care of the problem.

But it happened again the next week, and the week after that, and the week after that. By this time Jean threw one of her classic “fits” and called the police demanding that they put a stop to this. “Juliet isn’t breaking any laws. It is a free country and she has a right to walk down the public street!” Jean demanded. The police explained that they “had to do it because neighbors complained.”
Jean with her 4 children and Gus the dachsund

Well, that wasn’t the right answer. Jean got charged up. Her best friend Nan lived in a house halfway between the bus stop and Jean’s house. Nan loved Juliet and was sympathetic to the cause. From then on Nan stood guard at her window, watching for Juliet walking by her house. Nan would then race out of her house and stand with her hands on her hips, glaring at the police car slowly following Juliet’s steps down the sidewalk. Jean and Nan couldn’t believe that anyone would think that Juliet, a mother of ten children and wife of a handicapped husband, posed a threat to anyone. Nevertheless the intimidation continued.

Eventually the situation deteriorated to the point that Jean drove into the south side of Joliet and picked up Juliet to take her back to her house. It was a move that required courage, because Jean also, just like Juliet, stood out in a neighborhood of different color. But God gave them both a holy boldness that enabled them to set aside all fear and prejudice, social ostracization and ridicule. During the years they rehearsed together, the turbulence and violence of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement was always lurking in the background, sometimes in the foreground. There were even race riots in Juliet’s neighborhood after Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated. Both women were afraid. Yet they openly associated and were undeterred because God had told them to do this.

…God hath chosen the weak things of the world
to confound the things which are mighty;”

(1 Corinthians 1:27b)

Jean and Juliet had a strong sense of divine destiny. Each woman found in the other what they needed “for such a time as this” in their lives (Esther 4:14). Juliet needed a gifted pianist who would not be daunted by very difficult pieces of classical music. Jean, who was very smart and classically trained, wanted to be more than “just” a housewife. Juliet’s need made Jean use her gift—and vice versa. Jean’s began to realize that her calling in life might be to become a professional pianist just as Juliet knew her calling was to sing. When they rehearsed together Jean’s whole house rang with music. Even Gus, Jean’s dachshund, would sometimes join in with howling.

Soon Jean and Juliet began meeting together twice a week. Friends of influence in the background were working towards giving Juliet an opportunity to do formal concerts. Dorothy from the church, a reporter for the area newspaper and a staunch friend of Juliet, wrote articles to promote her. In the beginning a handful of brave churches in central Illinois invited Juliet to sing. This encouraged and motivated the two ladies even more. Jean would practice hours every day until she had the complicated classical songs memorized. Juliet would sing all day, with or without accompaniment, but working together they fine-tuned their skills and repertoire.
Program for one of Juliet's concerts

Juliet’s first big concert took place in a small town church. It was a Sunday evening in the middle of winter and the snow was thickly falling. It took an hour and a half of skillful driving by Paul to get them safely there. Despite the weather the church was all lit up, bright and cheery, and the pews were rapidly filling up with a large attendance. Upon arrival Juliet and Jean requested to use the ladies’ bathroom before the concert. However, Juliet was informed that “her type” was not permitted to share the facilities. Yet there were no other bathrooms in this church and it was a Sunday night when everything else in this town was dark and closed. Once again Jean threw one of her famous “fits.” She grabbed Juliet’s elbow, turned her around, and marched her straight into the bathroom.

Juliet conducted herself with dignity under pressure. She possessed a special elegance and grace and was gifted with a strikingly beautiful appearance. Her temperament was humble but spirited. She stood on that sure foundation of her faith in Jesus Christ. She prayed constantly—often out loud in the middle of a conversation with Jean when the need arose. She knew her Scriptures and often quoted Bible verses, especially from the Gospel of Luke. She had a teachable spirit, and her fervent desire to sing skillfully was a testimony of perseverance.

“And why call ye me, Lord, Lord,
and do not the things which I say?”

(Luke 6:46)

Juliet always gave God the credit for her talent. She made it a practice at her concerts to “preach.” That’s what Jean called it, but in reality it was a bit of Scripture and testimony. Juliet simply inserted a time for her little “talk” into the body of the program, sometimes surreptitiously, sometimes scheduled. She believed she was an ambassador for Christ—she knew that for some of the people attending her concert that she was the first Negro they’d ever seen up close. In those tumultuous days of the mid 1960s people only knew what they heard and saw on television. How wonderful that their first introduction to a real live black person was a charming eloquent lady who praised God in song, word and life. Juliet was a one-lady battering ram, gently breaking down walls with a four-octave voice and modest sweetness.

The other thing that Juliet sang—which concert-goers absolutely loved—was Negro spirituals. In the middle of a program of classic Bach, Puccini, and Handel, Juliet would belt out a classic like “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” She was not ashamed of her heritage. In fact, Jean loved it, too! Jean was passionate about spirituals and loved Ragtime and Dixieland music. True to her commitment after Charlie’s sermon that day, Jean had purchased a collection of Ragtime music. She exuberantly began to play spirituals with animated syncopation. Intrigued by the history she began to research the roots of the rare female composers in these genres and decades later would publish a scholarly monograph about her findings.
Juliet recording for television

Dorothy the reporter busily made key connections for Juliet to help launch her career. Dorothy would testify that this was a direct result of that very same sermon by Rev. Lowder. She jumpstarted a group of volunteers who were willing to help Juliet become a professional. Soon Juliet was taking private voice lessons from a professor. She had to learn German, Italian, French and Spanish. Jean helped with the Spanish. People supplied Juliet’s needs in one way or the other, donating time, talent and/or money. One man and his wife drove her into Chicago once a week for her voice lessons. An account of her life was published in a September 1970 article titled “Song of Praise,” in The Rotarian. Describing Juliet’s life and testimony, Harold Finley wrote:

Her appearance is majestic, queenly. She is always faultlessly gowned, immaculately groomed, with a figure more like that of a model or an actress than like the usual operatic soprano. Her poise and gracious platform manner are the result both of humility and the realistic knowledge that she has a tremendous talent….

There are many roots to Juliet’s genuine humility. She had a deeply religious mother, whose principles about cleanliness and devotion to church were never compromised by the exigencies of poverty or racial discrimination.

Juliet never sings publicly without taking time before the appearance to pray for God’s help, and after the service to thank God for the joys she always finds in singing.

She has done, and does, more than her share of hard work. She is the mother of ten children, nine boys and one girl. Five of the boys have been in the Service, three in Vietnam, and two are overseas at present. Mr. King has never fully recovered from an industrial accident suffered 11 years ago, so Juliet must produce most of the family income.

She still remembers poignantly the pitifully small house and the wind whistling through the cracks in the floor and walls when her children were small and her husband’s condition seemed desperate. She continually hesitated to ask more favors of a kindly aunt and a few other loyal relatives and friends. It was on one such occasion that God’s answer to her prayers seemed to be that her voice had been given her as salvation and support.

Although it seemed out of the question at that time, she resolved to get musical training. Now looking back, she believes that she would have “gone to pieces” without that resolve and the faith that God would see her through.

Praise from a September 29, 1974 concert program

Jean, in stark contrast, had been raised in a plush hotel in central Illinois which her parents ran for decades. Jean’s parents were not affluent, but she grew up having everything she needed. They were dedicated Christians and it was in church that Jean met her future husband Paul. Paul’s mother Agnes was a gifted church organist and would play for churches all her life.

About the time that Jean and Paul began to minister actively to Juliet they informed their parents. Amazingly their parents supported them in this new venture, albeit with some fear and concern for safety given the volatility of the 1960s uprisings. But Jean’s mother’s heart melted the day she met Juliet face to face—it was love at first sight. And Paul’s parents had a long history of helping needy people one-on-one in tangible sacrificial ministry. Juliet was just a continuation of their family’s living faith. In fact, Paul quietly donated his money, his time, his talents, and even a car or two, to further Juliet’s career.

“For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ:
for it is the power of God unto salvation
to every one that believeth;
to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”

(Romans 1:16)

One summer Saturday when Juliet was over at Jean’s house singing, the den windows were open. Her strong soprano voice filled the neighborhood. A neighbor sauntered over and sneered at one of Jean’s children, “I see your mother has that nigger lady over again.” Shocked, the child ran into the house and informed Paul. Paul immediately strode over to the neighbor’s and told him it wasn’t appropriate for him to use that offensive term around children. Paul then instructed the children that night at the dinner table that they were never, ever, ever to use that word—and Jean reinforced it by pointedly reminding them that she wasn’t opposed to washing mouths out with soap. But Jean’s children loved Juliet and couldn’t even imagine calling her that bad name. They even told their friends in the neighborhood that they couldn’t use that nasty term.

Well, this incident got Jean fired up. She planned a dinner party to introduce Juliet to all of the “different” people in town—professionals, and people of other faith, nationality and ethnicity who for various reasons weren’t welcomed in the social mainstream. The main dish on the menu that night was a gourmet wild rice seafood casserole. Juliet, also a fabulous cook, helped prepare the meal and sang gloriously for everyone. The next door neighbor likely heard her powerful voice ring out that night.

“For whosoever shall be ashamed of Me and of My Words,
of him shall the Son of man be ashamed….”

(Acts 9:26a)

During those early years Rev. Lowder preached yet another sermon, this time about the Good Samaritan, asking the question from Luke 10:29, “And who is my neighbor?” The Sunday School classes studied it, too, and, dressed in character, they acted it out as a play in front of the congregation. Everybody got the message, “For there is no respect of persons with God.” (Romans 2:11). Once again Charllie’s sermon took root in the families in his congregation and bore much fruit for generations to come. The church people not only accepted these Scriptures but began to live them out in real life ways. The church would also financially support Juliet for many years.
Juliet with Sacha Kliass in Brazil

By 1970 Juliet had given many concerts in Illinois and New York. She auditioned to sing professionally with the fine arts community in Chicago but, despite her superior accomplishments, she was turned down for a lesser candidate. Jean and other friends privately believed that it was due to prejudice. By this time Juliet was being called “Another Marian Anderson.” She would go on to become the first female vocalist to give a concert at Westminster Abbey. She performed at military bases throughout Europe and for church conferences in Switzerland and Sweden. In 1975 Jean moved to Brazil for four years. She invited Juliet to come to San Paulo and sing for churches and with a Dixieland jazz band headed by Sacha Kliass.

By Whom we have received grace and apostleship,
for obedience to the faith among all nations,
for His name:”

(Romans 1:5)

Jean would go on to play spirituals and Ragtime professionally with her husband Paul. She produced many tapes and CDs, composed music and became widely published in her field of expertise. Her favorite music remained the old Negro Spirituals, which Jean always played with fervent animated syncopation. She continued on as a church organist, gave piano lessons, became an elementary school teacher, and encouraged all of her grandchildren to become musical. Juliet continued to give concerts until the end of her life, and worked as a prison guard in her later years.
Jean & Paul

Much could be said about the events that were swirling around in the background during the decade that Jean and Juliet started their musical careers together. Their lives would bless others across the world in ways that could never have been imagined those sunny Sunday mornings when Rev. Lowder delivered his life-changing sermons. It all began at a time of turmoil and riots, violence and hatred. Yet these two women heard the Lord speak to them. God told them to do something positive with their talents that could bless someone else—against all odds and despite all opposition, fears and threats. And they walked through these hazards with grace and dedication.

Juliet had sons in the service, including VietNam. The 1960s was a time of great racial and political turmoil in America. Yet these two women determined that they would be a living example of Christlikeness, kindness, gentleness and love. They openly expressed the hope that their lives would be a testimony and that others would learn from their example.
Juliet with Jean in Brazil
Jean Hahne Huling was my mother. Juliet King was the singer. Both have gone on to be with the Lord now, living abundantly fruitful lives well into their eighties.

I was an eyewitness. As a child I had a frontrow seat observing these things that I write about. What did I learn from these two godly women? Courage in the face of fear. Steadfastness to fulfill God’s calling. These women believed in a literal hope in Scripture. I learned that faith must have shoe leather; and that discerning the times may require living against cultural norms.

Finally, this miraculous series of events occurred without an official church “vision,” “plan,” “program” or “purpose.” Rev. Lowder preached simple sermons from God’s Word and then followed through. He was a sincere man who was humbly obedient to speak what God had laid on his heart. He also evidenced extraordinary courage in the face of opposition. So did many of his parishioners.

I observed people acting one by one, sacrificially responding to the call of Jesus Christ, boldly obeying His Word and courageously following His Spirit. The cause of Christ was advanced by these meek people doing good and honorable, brave and courageous, decent deeds of goodwill and friendship.

It is time to spread the message of Charlie Lowder’s “Unlimited Horizons” Gospel sermon once again:

“But [Jesus] said,
Yea rather, blessed are they that hear
the Word of God,
and keep it.”

(Luke 11:28)

Juliet with Sacha

Special Notes:
Article authored by Sarah Huling Leslie. Special mention to Paul T. Huling, husband of Jean, who immensely helped Juliet behind the scenes during all of these events. Jean and Paul would stay in touch with Rev. Lowder for many decades after he moved on in the pastorate. Jean would go on to become "Sister Jean the Ragtime Queen" professionally, and Paul, who learned to play the washboard from Sacha Kliass in Brazil, would go on to become "Laundry Fat," accompanying Jean on the washboard. 

Special credit is due to Dorothy Cryder the faithful reporter for the Joliet Herald News who furthered Juliet's career so ardently. 

Photos are from the author's personal collection and from Harold Finley's article "Song of Praise" in The Rotarian, September, 1970 (Vol. 117, No. 2), p. 18. 

Jean's article is excerpted from "One By One: Juliet, remembered by Jean," originally published in The Christian Conscience,  October 1997 (Vol. 3, No. 8), p. 20-21.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Joyce the Discerner

An Exemplary Discerner of the Times

“But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine:
(Titus 2:1)

By Sarah H. Leslie

Joyce Priebnow has gone home now to be with the Lord. The story of what we now call the “Discernment Research Group” dates back to Joyce in the early 1980s. In fact, the story about Joyce is intertwined with discernment for at least the past 40 years in the evangelical church world.

The first time I met Joyce was on the sidewalk leading to the parking lot, outside the backdoor of Redeemer Church in Des Moines, Iowa, shortly after we began attending. Her husband Bill then sauntered over and introduced himself to my husband Lynn. It turned out that we two couples had both left a large urban megachurch in the late 1970s. In fact, I had served on staff at that church, which is how Joyce knew who I was.

Bill and Joyce immediately launched into questions. “Why did you leave FFC?” they asked. “What happened?” Few knew why I left, but for some reason I felt that I could tell Bill and Joyce the real story. I explained that in my role as a secretary to a pastor I had known what was going on in the backrooms. In their attempt to build a rockstar megachurch empire, the leaders had become totally sucked into the fabulous claims of the church growth movement gurus. Salesmen dressed in fancy black suits came from California pitching their “grow big, get rich and famous quick” scheme to the board. I knew firsthand how the church leadership had brazenly lied to parishioners, deceiving them regarding their financial plans to build a big new facility.

Lynn and had left and began attending another church but Bill and Joyce explained that they had stayed on for a few more years, hoping that they could change things from within. When this failed, Bill met with board members and expressed his concerns. When that didn’t produce any good results he wrote a letter to the leaders explaining why they were leaving. He said they had stayed long enough to see how the Gospel message was being compromised over and over again. Again, I knew more of the back story. I told them it had been my job to type for a woman on staff who was researching and writing the lead pastor’s sermons. He had told her that he was too busy to read his Bible and besides he already knew it. Sunday after Sunday he preached her carefully studied biblical sermons. For obvious reasons she never got credit.

Joyce the Discipler
Joyce was a godly woman my mother’s age. She quickly adopted me like a daughter, a relationship that was to last decades. Early on I was a young mother with a baby and a toddler, but I added on five more children. Joyce would phone me every morning at 9 AM to pray, read me verses of Scripture, exhort and admonish me. Given the busyness of my life I often felt like she was spoon feeding me the pure milk and meat of the Word. We would discuss God’s leading in our lives and pray over concerns.

When Joyce first came into my life I had a ministering counseling practice. I was also occasionally a substitute radio host on a local morning Christian radio station. I was a public Christian but in reality I was still very much a new convert and walking more shakily than I cared to admit. Joyce knew that discipleship was a discipline, and it became her ministry to guide me in measured steps into maturity in the faith. She had great wisdom about life and I listened to and heeded her advice closely. In fact, I recall with great appreciation the times she gently but firmly rebuked me when I was in danger of going too precariously off the narrow path. Firmness was her style. She was adamant about God’s Word and she made sure that it was the measure for everything.

Joyce was a woman of fierce loyalty to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. She was both a discerner and a discipler. In fact, it was her gift of discernment that motivated her to disciple. Discipleship is a lost art, having been replaced nowadays by the ubiquitous and nebulous term “mentor.” Being mentored implies “following” someone held in regard. But Joyce followed Scripture, not man. And she took seriously the admonition in Titus 2:4 for older women to literally disciple younger women in the Word of God. She always had a little flock of women that she was shepherding. I was just one of many who were blessed by her ministry. Her faithfulness to Christ changed my life, and this in turn has blessed your life if you are a regular reader of this blog. (Pass it on!)

Joyce and I would often discuss the new genre of discernment books that were being published in the 1980s. Earlier in our lives we had both been blessed by the life story and writings of Corrie ten Boom. Corrie’s simple, strong and genuine faith inspired us. When Constance Cumbey’s groundbreaking exposé of the New Age movement, The Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow came out we studied it together, pouring over every word. We did the same with Dave Hunt’s The Seduction of Christianity. Joyce was especially alert to the dangers of the new Word Faith, “name it and claim it,” and the increasingly popular false prosperity gospel doctrines. Although at that time we didn’t know the historical research that could prove the occult background of these teachings, Joyce was certain, from the whole counsel of Scripture, that these were errors and heresies. She warned many women about all of these dangers.

It was Joyce who painstakingly, and with much patience and grace, taught me how to biblically discern truth from error, especially in matters that seemed so spiritual but weren’t based on the Cross of Jesus Christ and His atonement for our sins. She would insist on standing on the Word of God only, moment by moment, day by day, in very real situations. She taught me that everything, every thought, every prayer, every spiritual feeling, every quiet leading, had to be confirmed with the plain Word of God. Period. Anything that didn’t conform to God’s Word had to be dismissed. She believed that women were especially vulnerable to being “led” by emotions, spiritual voices, peer pressure, subjective inner thoughts, and even our own imagination. She would often quote 2 Timothy 3:6: “For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts.”

Lint Theology
In the 1970s Eastern mysticism and humanistic psychology were rapidly rising thought systems that taught alternative spiritualities and paths to wholeness. I had been deeply involved in eastern mysticism (New Age) during the early 1970s when I was a hippie, so I was still purging myself of my old rough lifestyle and esoteric beliefs. I had also been trained in humanistic psychology beliefs and methods, I thought I had rejected all of it. I even wrote a thesis to take this stand. Nevertheless, Joyce frequently would warn me about “lint” she perceived from my past.

Joyce’s “lint theory” was a bit like the biblical “leaven.” Lint is stuff that clings to us closely and adheres to us with its gluey fibers. Lint is tenacious. Leaven will grow and corrupt if we don’t get rid of it each time we spot it. Joyce was a stickler about this lint leaven. I sometimes felt like she was literally picking lint off my clothes as she would point out things to me from my old life! Joyce had come out of Catholicism and she said she had learned to question everything she had been taught. She would pick off the “lint” of old wrong teachings whenever she spotted them in her own life.

One morning Joyce called me and said that while in prayer it seemed the Lord wanted her to tell me that I had a piece of lint that needed to be removed. I asked her what it was. “I don’t know,” she admitted. “I know this is a strange thing to call you and tell you, but I think you need to go to the Lord in prayer and ask Him to show you.” I retired to the only place in the house where I could get away from my children – the bathroom “prayer closet.” I prayed hurriedly and fervently, “Lord show me.” Just a few seconds later the Lord opened my eyes. I could see in a particular life situation that I was being “nondirective” when the Lord wanted me to be quite direct. As soon as the term “nondirective” came into my mind I knew this was the lint I needed to repent of and remove. Nondirective was a form of humanistic counseling that I had been particularly trained to do – in the theory of Carl Rogers it means that a client can reach their own conclusions without any overt right or wrong judgment from me, the counselor. The immediate verse that next came to my mind was 1 Thessalonians 5:14, to “warn the unruly.” In the situation the Lord brought to my mind I directly needed to do warn someone.

Leaving More Churches
Informally the “discernment research group” began as a Bible study fellowship in 1985 when Joyce and her husband Bill, along with Lynn and me and several other families, found it necessary to separate from Redeemer where we had been attending. Why? The leaders had adopted several serious errors that were derived from the occult, including engaging in the practice of guided imagery for “worship.” The leaders also began teaching both Catholic and Eastern mysticism. We all began to study the Scriptures together, to watch the signs of the times, and to take note to avoid the errant teachings that were coming into the church.

This event marked the beginning, when we first noticed how the occult and New Age were coming in and taking root, sometimes literally overnight, within the church. Redeemer was a study in falling away as we lived through the darkening days as this good church began to be seduced by feelings, imaginations, spiritual pride, and to follow messages that could not be confirmed by the whole counsel of the Word. Redeemer wasn’t alone. Throughout the evangelical church world occult teachings began to be re-written into Christian-sounding language. With sadness we watched friends being lured into these New Age practices and doctrines. The evangelical publishing and media world went whole-hog into these money-making, ear-tickling messages. With this influx of heresy came a flood of immorality as many of our former associates succumbed to their old sinful habits. People got off track when they were allured by a newly emerging sensual spirituality. Marriages failed, divorces ensued, and our friends’ children suffered. Our heartfelt burden was to warn others of the dangers.

Joyce’s husband Bill wrote a lengthy letter to Redeemer’s leadership outlining his concerns. Bill was a staunch defender of biblical truth and he was quite bold and outspoken. He encouraged Lynn to meet with the pastor to express our concerns, too. Lynn came away from that meeting amazed. The pastor had told him that he didn’t need to listen to any parishioners, that he was now hearing directly from God, and “God” said it was okay for him to adopt these new doctrines and practices.

Bill and Joyce went on to join another church. Lynn and I spent a few years helping to launch an innercity mission church. We then joined back up with the Priebnow’s at their new church. But all was not rosy. One Sunday a traveling missionary preached an extremely convicting sermon about Achan and the hidden sin within the camp (read Joshua 7). He presented a clear altar call for repentance but no leaders from the church came forward. A few months later it was revealed that the music minister was downtown at the gay bars, but not for the purpose of ministry. A short year later the church made the front page of the local newspaper because of flagrant adultery on its ministerial staff. Once again we literally fled a church together!

“Having Done All, To Stand”
It was Joyce who first discussed the rise of Dominionism with me. I had a frontrow seat in watching it take over the evangelical world via political activism. The gateway to enlisting evangelicals became abortion. Joyce helped me navigate the murky theological waters as I was propelled rapidly to state right to life leadership. At this precise time period in the mid 1980s Iowa rose to national prominence with its first-in-the-nation caucuses. The evangelicals had suddenly awakened to the reality of abortion and began getting politically active. I suddenly found myself a spokesperson to not only state and local media, but also in the national spotlight.

Joyce was my mother’s age, but she was different. She had a biblical mindset. Many women of her generation had been seriously influenced by Margaret Sanger’s ideology that babies were a burden and a curse, a detriment to sexual liberation, and not to be nurtured in a loving mother’s arms or, especially, breastfed. Sanger’s birth control methods included the brutal violence of abortion. When we were young mothers, my born-again friends and I discovered human development in the womb and we were awakened to the realities of the violence of abortion. By the early 1980s via the miracle of new technologies, especially ultrasound, we could view our babies growing in our wombs.

Up to this point the secular media in America had lied about babies in the womb. Women were told that babies were just “blobs of tissue.” The press had a vested interest in perpetuating the abortion industry, especially since they had promoted the “population bomb,” a looming catastrophe that would eat up resources on the planet. Evangelical leaders in the late 1970s also bought into this liberal mindset (which we’ve documented on this blog) and their dark compromises would adversely affect the ability of grassroots church people to stand as light against the darkness. So we young mothers, with genuineness of intent in our hearts, thought that if we simply told the truth about abortion and educated the church and the public, that people would see the light and truly repent of their sins. We even hoped that if enough people woke up to the brutal realities it might change the law of the land (Roe v. Wade, etc.).

We young mothers also had a heart to minister to other young women in tangible ways. This was a burden of Joyce’s heart, too. Joyce was never on the front lines. She was the woman in the background that discipled many of us. We all were influenced by Joyce’s strong stance in the Word. She believed that we had a biblical responsibility to tell others the truth – both the physical truth about abortion and also the biblical truth that Jesus could save us from our sins – especially the sins that led up to an unwanted pregnancy such as fornication and adultery. Joyce took literally Habbakuk 2:1, “I will stand upon my watch.” We were to stand, watch and pray. She put an emphasis on the word “stand” in Ephesian 6:11-18: “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.”

One woman of prayer, Jan Ebert, got a heart to go stand quite literally outside the local Planned Parenthood. With Joyce’s encouragement Jan bravely set up prayer vigils on the sidewalk. She even called the police and explained that this was nonviolent, it was not a protest nor a picket, but just people quietly praying. With Joyce’s shepherding, encouragement and support Jan would eventually go on to launch a crisis pregnancy center a few blocks away.

“Holding Faith, and a Good Conscience”
Joyce taught me the necessity of going to the Lord daily in prayer for confession of sins. She also taught me to stay continually in the Word of God for sustenance. The spiritual battles surrounding my calling as a right to life leader were often very fierce, and Joyce’s role in helping me stand and withstand the pressures was incalculably precious. There were battles within and battles without. I was heavily pressured to compromise. I was often under attack. I sometimes got threats, including once a death threat. Joyce’s favorite verse to quote me during these times was Isaiah 54:17: “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper.”

It took a holy boldness to stand up and face a hostile press, or stand in front of contentious political conventions – this was not a courage that came naturally to me. Not only was the Lord helping me to stand, but I often felt that Joyce was literally propping me up with her continual encouragement to simply “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). After one heated political convention, where I had simply stood and described the unborn baby growing in my womb, a woman approached me. She looked around to see if anyone was noticing and then what blasted out of her mouth was a terrible curse against me and my unborn baby. A man taking sound equipment off the stage saw it happen and rushed over to me. He knew this woman and told me, “She’s a witch.” Thinking he misspoke, I said, “You mean the ‘b-’ word?” “Nope,” he replied. “I mean the ‘w-’ word.” The next day in church Bill and Joyce propelled me up to the altar to be laid hands on for special prayer for me and my baby. Praise God for the shed blood of Jesus Christ! I later had an opportunity to go to lunch with this lady and I forgave her. This was also at the instigation of Joyce, who believed quite literally the words of Jesus to “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you” (Matthew 5:44).

This biblical stance set me apart from other evangelicals entering the political world during the 1980s. Others were entering the arena out of a desire to turn America into a “Christian nation.” Pat Robertson and other TV preachers were promoting this day and night on the newly emerging evangelical television and radio media empires. In fact, Pat Robertson even ran for president in 1988 and was frequently in the state of Iowa. Most evangelicals were viewing pro-abortion people as “the enemy” and developed an “us versus them” mentality. To this day I am ashamed at how badly some people were treated. But because of Joyce’s teaching and encouragement, I spoke the truth in love out to whoever would meet with me, and that often included people who were on the opposite side of the political argument. One day at a political luncheon I discovered I was sitting at a table with a group of Planned Parenthood board members from another state. Imagine their shock when they discovered who I was! Because I did not treat them as “the enemy” we were able to have a peaceable discussion about the many concerns we shared in common. They told me this was the first time that someone hadn’t yelled and called them names. For my part, God gave me great grace that I might be an “ambassador” for Christ. I spoke kindly to them but “boldly, as I ought to speak” (Eph. 6:20).

In fact, Joyce’s lint theology influenced my ability to speak out. She believed that our job as Christians was to stand, and if God gave us voice and boldness, to speak the truth, even to warn. In this sense she felt that all believers were “prophets” – we are not to be silent when we can present the Gospel. “Ye are the light of the world…. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16). She would sometimes describe our warning to fellow believers as noticing lint on their garments – we were to gently help them pick it off. This is what she did for those to whom she ministered, and we were all blessed. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Prov. 27:6).

Pass It On
Later in Joyce’s life Bill became very ill. They eventually moved into a full-service Christian retirement community that provided comprehensive health care. Shortly after she moved there I received a letter from Joyce which I recently found in my files. She enclosed a copy of a letter she had written to the woman in charge of redecorating the large great room in the facility. She expressed her appreciation for this woman’s service, but also pointed out that the new décor in the great room was not glorifying to God – in fact, it was a bit hedonistic. She quoted Philippians 4:8 and said it would be better if the room design glorified God, not man: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” This perfectly exemplified Joyce. She was such a good example of delivering a peaceful and loving admonition, but yet pointing to Scripture as the standard to go by in all of life.

My last conversation with Joyce on the phone took place a few years ago. I was preparing to fly out to California where Caryl Matrisciana was going to interview me for her film series Wide Is The Gate. Caryl had been gleaning valuable information from my expertise on Dominionism to use in her films. Joyce was so happy to pray with me, especially on this topic. I was able to thank her for her immense influence on my life.

The more my life goes on, the more I recognize the miracle of Joyce’s discipleship in my life. When I get to heaven I will be excited to thank her and point to the continuing fruits the Lord produced in my life from her faithful ministry to me all of those years ago. May other women follow her example – stick to the Word alone, stand and having done all to stand, and speak the truth in love.

“But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.”
(Titus 2:1-5)