By David MacLean
In an age such as ours, when God’s people are called upon to confront officially sanctioned evil, we may find ourselves faced with painful and life changing decisions.
As I sat in a West Hartford, Connecticut courthouse on Monday, June 19th, 1989, I weighed my options: either I would post bail and return to my job working with retarded adults, or I would strengthen my stand, remaining in police custody indefinitely and risk losing my job. Ultimately, I remained in jail for 24 days and every single day brought a new testimony of God’s faithfulness and provision.
This was the seventh time that I had participated in Operation Rescue – a non-violent sit-in on the site of an abortion clinic – and the second time I had been arrested. I had arrived in Hartford on Saturday morning and had spent several hours blocking the stairwell leading to an abortion clinic along with 300 other people. Christians from many different backgrounds had come together in an attitude of repentance, praying and physically interceding for the children who were to be slaughtered that day. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on those who had gathered there was breathtaking, and there was a unity and fellowship which transcended denominational barriers. This is Christianity the way it is intended to be!
As the day wore on, our success became apparent: no abortions were likely to take place that day, and at least one woman had changed her mind, deciding to receive the help of our counseling services rather than kill her baby. But there was one more detail that needed to be taken care of. In order to make sure that the clinic would remain closed, some rescuers were needed to block the buses being used to transport those who had been arrested. By causing further delays, we would insure that the clinic would remain closed. I agreed to go along and will never forget what happened next.
The whole scene was unbelievable: out in the parking lot, policemen were cursing, blaspheming, and in some cases, brutally torturing the rescuers. Men were groaning in pain as their hands were being stepped on. Older women (some past 60 years) were being dragged painfully by their handcuffed arms. I placed my body under a police bus and was there for a minute or two before being dragged out and painfully and tightly handcuffed.
When I responded to this abuse by audibly praying and forgiving the arresting officer, he grew visibly angry and when the time came for me to be dragged on the bus, the arresting officer threatened to break my wrists if I didn’t walk. When I responded by singing and praising God, the officer almost proved his threat, but fortunately I am quite limber, and his best efforts (lifting me by my cuffed wrists, bending them back as far as possible while dragging me on the bus and jamming my wrists against the seats) did not succeed. I will never forget the unfettered anger I saw that day. All that I had heard about violence against blacks during the civil rights marches of the 1960s did not prepare me for that day in Connecticut.
Even as we were brought into a West Hartford courtroom, the abuse continued. One man, who was overweight and suffering from hypoglycemia, screamed in pain as police dragged him across the courtroom floor. We stayed there for two nights, and when our bail was set for that Monday morning, Judge Raymond Norko (who said that he ordered the police “to use no more pain compliance”) sat and watched as a non-compliant rescuer was kicked by policemen.
Finally, we were brought to the Hartford County Corrections Center, where those of us who refused bail spent the next 20 days. I spent most of my time apart from the other rescuers in a barracks style bunk house along with 104 other men, most of whom were awaiting trial for felony charges.
What can I say about this painful yet precious time? God proved Himself faithful every day, as I learned first hand what it was like to be at the mercy of our arbitrary and overcrowded prison system. I had often dreamed of ministering to prisoners, but God gave me the practical every day experience of getting to know these men whose lives were in pieces as our court system repeatedly denied them their right to a speedy trial. The privilege of sharing my faith in Jesus Christ with dozens of men (including two struggling Christians) was absolutely priceless. And in my darkest hour, God compounded the blessing by using one of them to minister to me!
Ultimately, I emerged entirely unhurt: God protected both my physical body and my job, and made more fervent than ever my desire to see reform brought to every aspect of our society by the power of His Spirit!