In the past month or so, there have been several graduations. And graduates get bombarded with many questions– Are you going to college? What are you going to do afterwards? Where do you want to work?
Quite frankly, when I was graduating high school, I thought I’d be doing something totally different than I am today. I work as the executive director at Agape Pregnancy Center, and back then I didn’t even know what a pregnancy center was, let alone that I’d be the director of one! But God has an amazing way of weaving your life together to take you where He wants you to be.
My journey to Agape started long ago – back when I was in Jr. High. I was beginning the 8th grade, and it was 1978. My sister was a senior in High School, a straight “A” student, and wasthe first-ever Student of the Month at Athens High School in Athens, Illinois. She had everything going for her, and college was just on the horizon.
Then she became pregnant.
It was a hard time for our family. We didn’t talk about it much (although, there was a lot of talk at school – and not all of it kind). In 1978 abortion had been legal for 5 years, but to my knowledge my sister didn’t even think about that. She knew it would be best for her baby to have both a mom and dad who could support her, so she decided to make an adoption plan. Hers was a closed adoption (back then most were, quite different from some of the adoptions today). My sister’s baby was born three days after her high school graduation.
Very difficult for our family – first grandchild, first niece, placed in the hands of someone we didn’t know. Some people might have thought it was the end of the world – but God uses those situations to mold us and shape our lives – and one of the ways He used it was to give me a compassionate heart for girls who experience unexpected pregnancy. Those girls are like my sister – young, scared, so much of life ahead of them, not sure what to do.
Fast forward to my senior year in college. While I had accepted Jesus at a youth retreat some years ago, I certainly was not walking with him. I didn’t have a close relationship at all, and really was just fine doing my own thing. One day I walked into my friend’s apartment, and there she was - standing in her kitchen with a pregnancy test in hand – and it was positive. Looking at her I asked, “What are you going to do?” and she stated she had to have an abortion. My only counsel was “Are you sure you want to do that?” and she told me her mom would kill her if she knew she was pregnant. And that was that - her decision was made that quickly.
A few days later, she came to me. You see, it isn’t recommended that you drive after a surgical abortion. And the abortion clinic was 45 minutes away. As luck would have it, I was the only one (who knew about the situation) with a car on campus. She asked if I would take a day off school and drive her to the abortion clinic. I told her yes.
I wrestled with this decision. I really can’t tell you why I thought abortion was wrong – I don’t think I’d ever heard it in a sermon at that point – but I felt it was. I was also worried something would happen to her during the procedure – and I’d be the one to tell her family she’d had an abortion. I don’t like admitting that I was more worried about myself than her, but it’s the truth. I was more concerned about how her abortion might affect me, then about my friend, any risks to her, or her baby.
We arrived at the clinic after having rise-and-shine biscuits from the Hardee’s drive thru for breakfast. She checked in, and I sat down. I realized no one was really looking at anyone, and no one was talking.
The receptionist called the girls back, and those of us who were drivers simply waited. My friend came out some time later. I asked how things went, and she said OK. We drove to a Chinese restaurant and had lunch, acting as though nothing had happened, and then went back to campus. There was huge elephant in the room that neither of us wanted to touch. We didn’t speak about the abortion the entire drive home.
When we got back to her apartment, my friend’s ex was sitting on the couch. He asked her “How do you feel?” I don’t think I will ever forget her answer, or how she said it, for the rest of my life. She said “I just killed our baby. How do you think I feel?!”
I was numb. I felt a sharp pain, like I had been stabbed in the stomach. I got physically sick – for three days. I believe it was a reaction to the realization of the sin in which I had participated. A terrible thing - something that hurt my friend. Something that not only hurt her, but also ended her baby’s life. Something that went so against God, who is the author of life and creates us in His image.
Again, a very difficult situation. I felt a terrible sadness–this time not really for myself, but for my friend and her baby. But again, God uses these situations to mold us and shape our lives – and one of the ways He used this was to give me a compassionate heart for women who have experienced the heartbreak of abortion. When I look into their eyes, I see my friend – a scared, young kid, perhaps with no one to talk to and no family support. Trying to do what they think is best, and then experiencing heart-wrenching grief and guilt when they find out they were wrong.
Several years later, I rededicated my life to Christ and really started living for Him. I started attending a Bible-believing church where the truth of God was preached. I learned about pregnancy centers, the way they help those struggling with unplanned pregnancy, and started volunteering at one. I realized that while God didn’t want me to choose sin in the past, He could use those events and weave them together to create a picture of love, forgiveness and redemption – all to His glory! What an amazing God we serve to give us this gift!
And now, on to today. I have been involved in pregnancy center ministry for the last 17 years in some way, shape or form. I am privileged to serve God at Agape Pregnancy Center, where our mission is to demonstrate His truth and love to girls and young women experiencing unexpected pregnancy. Our services include free pregnancy tests, STD tests, ultrasounds, parenting classes, adoption referrals and post abortion support. We speak God’s truth about their baby – how God is the author of life and is knitting their child together – and show them this through ultrasound. We get to share the Gospel - that God loves them so much He sent His one and only son to die for them so they can have eternal life! We get to walk along side of these young women, cry with them, celebrate with them. We get to love on them.
I am also privileged to serve here at Valley by leading the Surrendering the Secret Bible study. Surrendering the Secret is a study created by someone who’s experienced the heartbreak of an abortion for someone who’s experienced the heartbreak of abortion. With the help of very compassionate co-leaders, we have led four groups now! The women from these groups – many who bought the lies of the enemy for years – are experiencing the joy that comes because they are set free from the guilt and shame of their past! I am so grateful to be a part of a church where we want to restore joy to women who have had abortions – rather than consider their pain and hurt as the elephant in our rooms that we don’t want to talk about.
God is still teaching me many things – I think I still have a long way to go on my journey. Just like I didn’t know what God was preparing me for 38 years ago, I don’t always know what He is using today to prepare me for the next 38 years (if I have that many left). I just hope I will be obedient and hold true to the words of the old hymn - “Where He leads me, I will follow. I’ll go with Him, with Him, all the way”!
Brenda Knollenberg has been a member of Valley Church since she and her family moved from Illinois to the Des Moines area in 2006. She has a heart for women with unplanned pregnancy and has been involved in pregnancy center ministry for almost 17 years, currently serving as the Executive Director at Agape Pregnancy Center in Des Moines, She is also one of the co-leaders of Surrendering the Secret, the post-abortion Bible study offered to women at Valley. Brenda lives in Grimes with her husband, Jeff and two (almost) adult children, Henry and Audrey.
Join with other Valley Women on Tuesday, July 26th from 9am-2pm to serve at Agape. We will be cleaning, putting layettes together and various other tasks around the center that day. Contact Diana White at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and to sign up.