Two American pastors who have devoted their lives to showing the graphic nature of abortion, believe that a respect for life attitude is gaining strength in the popular imagination.
Pastors Matt Trewhella and Ralph Ovadal of Wisconsin, were in Toronto recently to meet Canadian Show the Truth Tour organizers, and to attend the recent Ontario Students for Life conference.
Trewhella, pastor of Mercy Seat Christian Church in Milwaukee, and Ovadal, of Christ the King Church in Monroe, Wisconsin, founded Missionaries to the Preborn (MTP), an organization dedicated to public displays of the gruesome aftermath of abortion.
Like their Canadian counterparts in the Show the Truth Tour, the missionaries gather in various cities throughout the northeastern United States to display posters of aborted children. They also distribute pro-life literature and engage in a form of pro-life street evangelization.
The missionaries consist of a core group of about 15 people who arrange their vacation schedules to take part in the two-week demonstrations. Often their ranks are swelled by local supporters who join them for all or part of the pro-life tour.
“People have to make some sacrifices to join us,” Pastor Trewhella said, “but there is a wonderful sense of fellowship on the tour.”
Trewhella and Ovadal come to the Missionaries to the Preborn work after long service to the pro-life cause. Both have been active with Operation Rescue operations since 1988. Trewhella participated in the October, 1988 “Siege of Atlanta” rescue, and Ovadal was a key player in bringing Operation Rescue to Milwaukee. The two pastors have involved their entire families in the Missionary to the Preborn operation.
The missionaries recently completed Freedom Tour ‘97 which visited 35 towns in Wisconsin and Michigan. The group also and distributed more than 40,000 pieces of pro-life literature. While not all the attention generated by the Freedom Tour was positive, there is no doubt it reached thousands of ordinary Americans who might not otherwise be aware of abortion’s brutality.
“The reason we gather on the public streets with our pictures is because after years of state-legal baby murder, it’s time for the American people to see who is dying,” Pastor Ovadal told The Interim. He said the mainstream media has effectively removed the preborn child from the abortion debate. Efforts such as the Freedom and Show the Truth tour bypass the “media blackout” by bringing abortion’s grim brutality directly to the streets.
“Our photos stand as a haunting indictment of our nations,” Ovadal said.
Despite the occasional hostility from the public and harassment from police and civic officials, the two pastors believe the message is getting through to the public. In the Milwaukee area, for example, the number of abortion clinics has dropped from eight to three since 1996. As well, the majority of public reaction to the Freedom Tour is predominantly supportive.
Trewhella and Ovadal have a ready answer for those who describe their efforts as obscenity, or as an unfair appeal to the emotions. “Abortion is murder, therefore our pictures are disgusting,” they say. “What hurts our Christian witness more? – being silent while our neighbor is unjustly killed or exposing the evil works of darkness by showing the atrocities being committed?”
In a refrain familiar to many dedicated pro-lifers, Ovadal and Trewhella cited the occasional lack of support from their fellow Christian communities in combatting abortion. “It’s surprising the amount of hard-heartedness we come up against on the part of some pastors,” Ovadal said. “Protection for the unborn should be a priority for Christian leaders, but it can be demoralizing when some remain unaware or unmoved by the issue.”
Canadian organizers of the Show the Truth Tour hope to join forces with the Missionaries to the Preborn in staging an international project next summer. Initial plans call for a city by city tour around the Great Lakes. Tour details will be discussed at a conference scheduled for June, 1998.
In the meantime, Ovadal and Trewhella carry on the struggle to convince a reluctant secular media to uphold the truth of abortion. “Our message essentially is that abortion is a sin against God and against justice,” Trewhella said. “It’s a wake up call for the community.”