“Life is on the line, and we have the ability to do something about it. Because we know that every life from womb to tomb is valuable. It matters so much to God, and it better matter to us.”
This impassioned plea, delivered by two-time national champion and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, set the tone for Right to Life of Northeast Indiana’s (RLNI) Annual Fall Banquet on Oct. 10. A record crowd of more than 1,200 packed into the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne to offer prayer and support for the pro-life organization. After a rendition of “God Bless America” by Kathryn Burt, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades led those gathered in an opening prayer.
“We rejoice in our Supreme Court’s decision, Dobbs vs. Jackson, which has lifted a dark cloud that has hung over our nation for almost 50 years,” prayed Bishop Rhoades. “We rejoice in this judicial victory, yet we know it is not yet a cultural victory and that the evil of abortion will continue in many states. Strengthen us to continue to bear witness in love to the truth of the dignity of human life until all others reverence this precious gift.”
Over dinner, RLNI Executive Director Zach Rodgers shared some exciting news with those in attendance.
“In May, God provided a new office space for us. Our new address is 3106 Lake Avenue, and we are proud to be Planned Parenthood’s newest neighbors,” Rodgers said to much applause. “God provided this incredible opportunity, and we stepped across the threshold in faith. We now turn to you and ask you to step with us.”
Rodgers announced the launch of the organization’s first-ever capital campaign, with a goal of raising one million dollars over the next six months. These funds will not only be used to pay for the new office and renovations, but also to establish an endowment fund that will provide for the future needs of the location.
He then introduced Tebow as the keynote speaker for the evening. The former NFL quarterback and New York Times-bestselling author is an outspoken pro-life advocate whose foundation fights for those who cannot fight for themselves. Tebow spoke about his athletic aspirations growing up and how everything changed during a mission trip to the Philippines when he was 15 years old. Tebow met a boy with his feet on backwards whose own village had discarded him, and Tebow said God opened his eyes when he fell in love with that boy.
“That day, when we were driving up that mountain to go to that village, I knew I wanted to be the best athlete that I could be – that I wanted to try to chase championships and try to chase MVPs,” said Tebow. “But you see, that day, I realized that there was a more important MVP. And it wasn’t to be the Most Valuable Player – it was to love the Most Vulnerable People. And ultimately, that’s why we’re here right now. We’re here to love the Most Vulnerable People. We’re here for MVPs.”
Next, Tebow described agape love as choosing the best interest of another person and acting on their behalf. This greatest form of love, which Christ showed us on the cross, is what we are called to show others. However, just like the priest and Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan, we often come up with excuses and walk on by those in need, according to Tebow.
“For all the times in my life, which have been way too many, I walked by when I had an opportunity to make a difference – to choose someone’s best interest and act on their behalf,” said Tebow. “I had a chance, I had an opportunity, but why didn’t I? Because they weren’t worth it? I think they’re worth it, every single life. I believe they’re worth it, because they were worth Jesus dying for, which means they’re worth us fighting for. Every life has infinite value and worth because the Son of God, who has infinite value and worth, took their place on the cross.”
Tebow also addressed what people are willing to sacrifice for a given goal or mission. Relating sacrifice to his own career, Tebow again brought his athletic achievements into perspective.
“Honestly, I would say I’ve been willing in my life to do more to win a game than I actually have for things that truly matter,” admitted Tebow. “I’ve been willing to play a game with a broken leg and other broken body parts, willing to wake up in the middle of the night, willing to do all of this to be able to score a touchdown or make the team. Have I ever been willing to do that for life? If I give so much up to have a better chance of making a team, I should be willing to do something much more drastic for so many lives that need it.”
In a poignant moment, Tebow shared how abortion has personally touched his own life. He told the story of a pastor preaching in a jungle in the Philippines who felt a tug from the Lord to have another baby. Not long after, he and his wife were expecting their fifth child, but doctors urged them throughout the pregnancy to abort the child amid constant health issues. Instead, she put her trust in God and delivered the baby – a miracle, according to the doctor, since her placenta had not been properly attached.
“He took that baby, and he handed him to his mom, and that’s the moment that I got to meet my mom, because I was that little baby that only survived because my mom gave me a chance,” said an emotional Tebow. “She gave me a chance because she trusted God, and I’m here today because my mom was willing to do that.”
Tebow’s willingness to share deep, personal stories left a mark on many in attendance like Judy Young.
“I thought he was a very powerful speaker,” Young said of Tebow. “To share all those personal messages, I think, makes an even bigger impact and makes it much more real.”
After Tebow’s speech, RLNI’s Abigail Lorenzen presented a pair of awards to individuals for their efforts in advancing the pro-life cause. The Daniel Award for Excellence in Pro-Life Public Policy was presented to Dr. Christina Francis, an OB/GYN who spoke out in defense of life in front of the U.S. House of Representatives in July. Meanwhile, Robin Atkins was the recipient of the Telemachus Award in recognition of her Reproductive Mental Health Certification Course that will soon be offered nationwide. In addition to the efforts of these two individuals, Young believes the impact of RLNI is also significant.
“I worked as an OB nurse for lots and lots of years,” Young shared. “I was always very grateful for everything that Right to Life did to help the moms in need. It made a big difference in a lot of their lives.”
Those who wish to help RLNI reach its capital campaign goal can donate online at ichooselife.org/donate or by mailing a check to Right to Life of Northeast Indiana, 3106 Lake Ave, Fort Wayne, IN 46805.
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