The ProLife Team Podcast | Episode 50 with Lauren Muzyka | Talking About Sidewalk Advocates

The ProLife Team Podcast
The ProLife Team Podcast | Episode 50 with Lauren Muzyka | Talking About Sidewalk Advocates
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Listen to Lauren Muzyka and Jacob Barr talk about hope found on the abortion clinic sidewalks.

Summary

This is Jacob Barr, and I recently had the privilege of hosting Lauren Muzyka on the Pro-Life Team Podcast. We delved into the transformative work of Sidewalk Advocates, a crucial aspect of the pro-life movement. Lauren, as the President and CEO of Sidewalk Advocates for Life, shared heartening insights into their mission to guide and support those committed to offering hope and alternatives to those considering abortion.

In our conversation, Lauren revealed the significant impact of Sidewalk Advocates for Life, which has witnessed nearly 18,000 turnarounds and aided in the closure of 30 abortion facilities. She also shared the profound stories of 85 abortion workers who, influenced by the compassion of sidewalk advocates, chose to leave the industry.

Lauren highlighted the importance of meeting women in crisis where they are, emphasizing the need to understand and address their immediate concerns. This approach has led to many women reconsidering their decisions and choosing life. She also stressed the essential role of prayer in this ministry, recounting instances where prayer visibly changed the hearts and decisions of those on the brink of choosing abortion.

Our discussion also touched on the collaborative relationship between Sidewalk Advocates and pregnancy clinics. Lauren underscored the synergistic impact of this partnership, with sidewalk advocates serving as the initial point of contact and clinics providing continued support.

Reflecting on the challenges and triumphs of this work, Lauren’s stories showcased God’s presence and guidance in this mission. Her prayer for all involved in the pro-life movement was a powerful reminder of the spiritual foundation underpinning this cause.

In summary, our conversation illuminated the critical role of Sidewalk Advocates for Life in the pro-life movement, highlighting the power of compassionate outreach, prayer, and collaboration.

Relevant hashtags for this podcast include: #ProLife, #SidewalkAdvocatesForLife, #ChooseLife, #PrayerfulOutreach, #LifeAffirmingAlternatives, #PregnancyClinicPartnership, #CompassionateCare, #ProLifeMission, #HopeAndHealing, #AbortionWorkerSupport.

Transcript

The transcript was automatically generated and may contain errors.

Jacob Barr :

Welcome to the pro-life Team Podcast i’m Jacob Barr i’m here with Lauren and we’re going to talk about Sidewalk Advocates, the story of reaching women from the sidewalks right next to an abortion clinic with the story of hope, of love and of care. So Lauren, I am so glad to have you on the podcast. Would you introduce yourself as if you were talking to a small group of pranks and clinic directors or pro-life friends?

Lauren Muzyka :

Yes. So again, my name is Lauren Muzyka serve as President and CEO of Sidewalk Advocates for Life. Those who are still getting acquainted with our organization, Sidewalk Advocates for Life is America’s largest sidewalk outreach organization. I ensure that the organization fulfills its mission, which is to train equipment, support people of faith and conscience who have a heart to go to the darkest place in their local community and offer mothers and fathers in crisis those loving, life affirming alternatives. Just to give you a little bit of a benchmark about what God has done in the organization, in the eight years that we’ve been around, we’ve witnessed nearly 18.000 thousand women turn around and accept life affirming resources, help and hope so 18.000 thousand babies saved approximately at this point in our history. We also just celebrated abortion worker number 85 who left the business with the help and witness of a sidewalk advocate. And then we are watching right in the middle of it abortion facility number thirty, closing its doors so to God, be the glory, great things he is doing.

Jacob Barr :

Wow, 18.000 thousand women were eighteen thousand women did AU turn, Is that what you’re saying?

Lauren Muzyka :

That’s right so in our 239 locations, we asked them for a periodic report and how we define a turn away baby safe, turn around you’ll hear some of these terms used interchangeably in sidewalk outreach, right so these are actual handoffs to a life affirming pregnancy Resource Center or where a woman otherwise let us know that she was going to be choosing life so even the ones who leave, you know, the facility maybe before the abortionist shows up or whatnot, we actually don’t even count those within that statistic we call those hopeful saves, right. So there’s roughly been about 5000 of those and sometimes we get to move some of those folks from the hopeful category to a baby saved or turn around, right. So yeah, so these are actual turnarounds, actual women who accepted that life affirming help.

Jacob Barr :

Wow and 85 employees or workers of an abortion clinic reached out or connected after leaving and what does that look like for a worker to go from you know, from being, you know, What’s the process look like? You know, from beginning to end for helping a worker change their direction?

Lauren Muzyka :

Yeah, that’s a great question. We work with former Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson’s abortion worker ministry it’s called And Then There Were None so they’re like the help in healing experts for those who want to leave the industry of course, Abby being one of those former workers herself, right? So she knows what that journey is, like, that journey of healing. She started the organization a handful of years ago they’ve had more than 600 abortion workers leave the business and we’ve been privileged to send them about 85 and so their big thing, the best advice that we’ve received from them is to build a relationship over time that these are folks who quite often have one or more multiple abortions in their past it’s really a, you know, mode of pain and justification that keeps them chained to the industry. You know, I think it’s, it is understandable and even easy for us to look at individuals who work in the industry and say how could you even begin to do that right, especially if you purport to maybe be a Christian we sometimes hear that from people who are abortion center escorts and volunteering or actually work within the organization, the facility itself. But what we realize is that these are hurting souls, that these are people who are really in need of God’s love and mercy and so we let them know that this organization is waiting for them when they’re ready to leave, that we care about them just as much as we care about the women who are walking into that facility and then God does the rest. Really so 85 that have made that leap of faith and left the abortion industry with help and witness of a sidewalk advocate.

Jacob Barr :

Wow those are. That’s 85 amazing stories of just, yeah, women being rescued from working in that space and then 18.000 thousand amazing stories of helping women just, yeah, find care and hope over yeah, over feeling like when it comes to a woman making AU turn, what are some of the what are some of the false beliefs that have to be addressed or what are some of the needs that need to be addressed or what are some of the messages you might bring to someone who is you know in that position and how you might draw them to look at going a different direction or better direction?

Lauren Muzyka :

Yeah, Well, we know that from right brain research testimony or lived experience on the sidewalk that a woman headed into the abortion facility is in a world of crisis she’s in self preservation mode, right? She’s looking at her present self and her future self, and she can’t reconcile the two and it’s really the enemy who’s throwing up something in her life and saying you can’t have this baby because of XY and Z, right it’s almost a distraction from again, that main call to give life through your very being i mean, this is the understanding of natural law that we as women are made to give a lot life through our very being, right? And so the enemy is the one that’s coming in and saying you have to have this abortion because otherwise your life will go up in smoke. Course, we know there’s never a good reason to take the life of a child, but that’s what happens when you’re in crisis or self preservation mode you’re not thinking clearly, You’re overwhelmed, and you just want to get out of the trap you just want to run, right. And So what we teach sidewalk advocates do to do is to go in through her lens. One of the things we teach in the training, for example, is that we as pro lifers, have things in the right order god comes first. A mother puts her children before herself, so it’s God, baby mom. But a woman in crisis mode, a woman in self preservation mode, has all of that inverted. She’s thinking about herself first, not even necessarily meaning to, but that’s what happens again when you’re in crisis mode, You just want out of the situation and you know you’re pushing baby to the recesses of your mind you’re pushing God even further away, ’cause if you stop to think about what he might say about this, then you might change your mind and that and that scares her, right she’s trying to make sense of all of this how do I continue with school how do I put food on the table? Mom and Dad are kicking me out of the house and so we as sidewalk advocates get a real privilege to go and stand in the gap. And we can say to a woman, we care about you, we love you, we’ve got real help for you and your situation today so we start with mom, right? And then we might transition at some point and say, by the way, how far along are you and then we paint a picture of life and then we can plant seeds for faith. Now again, we know that the inverse of that is really the goal, right we want to see women get into a relationship with God we want to see their lives transformed by him. But you know, it’s almost like she’s in a burning building and we got to go pull her out first before her ears and her heart are open to receive that message that day so, and this is what good missionaries do, You know, when missionaries go overseas, they say, do you have water, Do you have food you know, do you speak the language like, you know, we serve people where they’re at, and then their heart is more open to the spiritual need and so, you know, a lot of people think when a woman arrives in an abortion facility, she’s got her mind made-up and what we find is that she’s either there because she feels like she has no choice ironically, or she is trying to figure things out and so it’s beautiful to have this understanding with us of filling needs of being there for these women in whatever way they need it and many of them then will come to reconsider the life of their child. If we serve them well, yeah.

Jacob Barr :

That makes perfect sense. I often when it comes to marketing, we build a lot of basic clinic websites and our goal is to try and meet the woman where she’s at right step that she’s at. And if we’re trying if our goal is to have her walk up the flight of stairs maybe to two more floors higher than where she’s at, the goal is to meet her on the current step and then to guide her to the next step and the next step. I mean if we were to ask her to, you know, take a giant 17 step leap, it’s just not going to work. But our goal is to get, you know, down the road up 17 more steps or so on. But in order for someone to progress there, we have to, yeah, take care of the need that she has today and then help her with the next step and that and going in the right direction but yet you know, understanding that it takes, you know time is an element of travelling to a new destination And so we need to yeah so it makes it makes perfect sense i mean that’s beautiful when it comes to helping someone get out of the burning building before you start talking to them about you know other things and trying to address their heart and the heartache that they’re going through or the different scenarios that they have because an unplanned pregnancy is usually maybe more of the symptom of about 50 big problems. More so than being the actual cause of, yeah, it was. Usually there’s a lot of roots or previous dominoes that led up to that point.

Lauren Muzyka :

Yeah, absolutely yeah and we get so much further by acknowledging just where she’s at, meeting her, where she’s at and really it’s about loving her into decision for life and the great news is we don’t have to leave behind what we know to be true about abortion. We don’t have to leave behind what we know to be good right and true right. It just is a matter of understanding our audience and that’s what love does love begs us to understand our audience and to meet the person we’re serving, where they’re at and then we get the opportunity to really love them into a different place and that’s how we see ourselves as sidewalk advocates, as a gateway to these life affirming resources and an opportunity to really serve some somebody who’s in, who’s in crisis mode at that moment yeah.

Jacob Barr :

How did God draw you into this work of working with sidewalk advocates Like what was what’s your what’s the back story for you to find yourself on this journey?

Lauren Muzyka :

Yeah wow that’s that is a question. You know, I’m a in a nutshell i’m an attorney who ended up in grassroots pro-life work and I thank God for that every day much more interesting than practicing law. Even though I’ve got people who are friends, colleagues who are much smarter than me, that are working on the legal end of this and I’m so deeply appreciative even though no doubt, God uses my law degree. Gosh, every other day, right? So I started out as just a prayer volunteer and a sidewalk counselor in college so I started doing this when I was a teenager, and I used to pray and reach out in front of former Planned Parenthood Director Abby Johnson’s abortion facility. And I really got what’s that in.

Jacob Barr :

Austin, texas.

Lauren Muzyka :

So it was actually in Bryan College Station, texas the home of texas A and M university, right that’s where she started of course now she’s gone on to her and her family live in Austin. So, you know, I think at first it just felt like this pole, like the life issue, felt like a magnet to me. It hit me that this was the one right life was the one gift from which all other rights flowed so of course we should be working on this i mean, there is an understanding here that this is the greatest human rights issue of our times and so when we were just invited to pray one hour a week in front of this abortion facility you know, some of us to get trained as sidewalk counselors learning how to talk to the women who were going in, I thought, well, I could do that, right like, I could go ahead and contribute some time while I’m getting my degree. And, you know, it used to be such an earnest prayer of mine like, how do we really reach these women i’d gotten some good training, but there was a lot of odd things that were going on the sidewalk before this thing called 40 Days for Life showed up if your listeners are familiar with the 40 Days for Life prayer campaign, right, this is the place that birthed the very first 40 Days for life. And so I watched how the atmosphere kind of was disorganized and apprehensive and chaotic. And then thanks to that prayer campaign became very peaceful, prayerful and what I call purposeful. And it was sometime after that Abby actually, you know, witness an ultrasound guided abortion within the walls of her facility, saw a baby fight and struggle for his life against the abortion instrument. And because her experience, you know, they’ve been building a relationship with her on the sidewalk, right so this is when I went on to law school, the very end of this. But she, you know, when it was clear to her that she was a part of something so terrible and dark, she knew that she could go to the people on the sidewalk. So it really was peace, prayer and love that won her out of the abortion facility, out of the industry. And I also noticed on the sidewalk that women were coming to the fence to talk, whereas they didn’t really want to talk to us as much before because of a whole bunch of different odd things going on in the sidewalk. When the focus became prayer and peaceful outreach that really transformed the atmosphere, women felt more safe coming to the fence. And so I thought, wow, this is a prayer answered i still didn’t get the memo that maybe I was called to this work full time. I went on to law school thinking I would be legal counsel for pro-life Organization and then soon after I graduated at the height of the financial crisis in 2009 and I was invited in the meantime to join the 40 Days for Life National Team so I advised their campaigns for over 2 years, spiritually, strategically, even got the 1st blush at things legally. And at one point saw need and felt the call to start sidewalk advocates for life that just as 40 Days for life had you know, kind of this ready made plug and play program so to speak, for individuals who wanted to build a prayer campaign in front of their local abortion facility of course, seeing all of this incredible fruit, you know, including Abby’s conversion, Abby’s change of heart, right. As a result, I thought what if we could have a ready made program for sidewalk counselors, for people who wanted to reach out peacefully and lovingly with their words and offer these resources and so here we are, eight years later, we still buddy up with 40 Days for Life we share a lot of our sites the prayer and then the peaceful outreach is just a winning combination. We have a lot of sites that they cover that we don’t we have a lot of sites that you know vice versa, right we have that they don’t but we’re always kind of tag teaming with each other and giving each other shout out. Prayer and peaceful outreach is just such an amazing combination it bears such fruit when done well.

Jacob Barr :

Can you describe what peaceful outreach looks like? Like, What it what is that? When it comes to signage when it comes to posture, when it comes to someone’s voice on the sidewalk, what is peaceful protest i mean peaceful outreach. Sorry, peaceful outreach look like.

Lauren Muzyka :

Yeah so it really is just a matter of being that friend next door with help and hope so. You know, something I say on the sidewalk is hi there, I’m Lauren i’m referring to our women’s center down the road, which would be, you know, the pregnancy center. And I’d say, you know, we’ve got free pregnancy tests, free sonogram, free options, counseling and then asking her if she’s in need of those services and we’re getting women who literally are turning around at the abortion facility within 15 seconds with just that free offer of help. Of course, I know, you know, and she will soon know what a blessing it is to be able to have the bigger conversation within the walls of a life affirming pregnancy center. They’re not going to pressure her to have an abortion they really will tell her the risks and the truth about abortion as well as, you know, explain the options of parenting or adoption right now, some women will need a little bit more conversation besides just that, those free offer of services so I might ask, you know, what is it that brings you here today, Hun is it finances is it family you know, kind of trying to get to the root of why she’s there? Because again, as I explained earlier, there’s usually a reason or set of reasons that brings her to the abortion facility. If we can fill those needs, then her heart is more open to reconsidering the life of her child. So you know, it’s ask and listen and then it’s solve the problem or fill the need is another way to put that. So she says, well, mom and dad are going to kick me out of the house i have nowhere to go. Then we can bring up news of, for example, the maternity home in town right so this is so important for sidewalk advocates to have, you know, some of these resources, at least knowledge of these resources at their fingertips so they can offer them. And then our last step, so this is the five point method, right so step number five is empower her to leave. So again, it’s smile and greet and love give literature and explain the help, ask and listen, solve the need. And then the very last step is empower her to leave so we never end a conversation without an invitation to the local pregnancy Resource Center. So really is as simple as that, you know, why is she there fill those needs love her, serve her. When the bulk of the conversation happens in that Step 4, solving the problem, we can that’s where we can also bring in knowledge of you know that her baby’s development we can plant seeds for faith. But again, I’ll tell you, sometimes when you just offer these free services and you offer to fill these needs, women will start crying on you right away they will say, wow, I didn’t know this help was available. And then our, you know, big thing is just getting her, you know, doing that professional hand off to the pregnancy center where you know, some of those bigger conversations can happen in a natural, really more relaxed setting.

Jacob Barr :

Wow that is awesome. And that’s and I love your the progression you know just you know it feels complete like it feels like a really good plan and that seems to reflect wow 18.000 thousand people you know participating in that experience in a positive way like that’s amazing. So, reflecting on this at these amazing stories, can you share a story that reflects God’s fingerprints or amazing care? You know, while ministering, ministering from the sidewalk.

Lauren Muzyka :

Yeah, well, to, you know, to us, every story really is a miracle in and of itself but i’ll share a couple of stories that stand out one really shows the power of prayer and another one shows the power of prayer in combination with peaceful, loving outreach. So I remember being out on the sidewalk one day in Dallas when this young woman and her friend pull into a parking spot they were actually kind of backing into a parking spot right in front of me. And I remember just very quietly raising my hands in prayer you know, I didn’t want to draw a lot of attention to myself i didn’t want to freak them out. But I just raised my hands in prayer and I prayed so earnestly over that car. Remember, they got out and I called out to them to offer them free help and services, resources and, you know, they maybe looked over shoulder at me, but they really didn’t respond to what I said and they went into the abortion facility and I literally had the thought, wow, I prayed so hard i really expected something to happen there, right? Well, my attention was kind of moved to another couple on the sidewalk so I had started to talk to them and then my partner suddenly calls out to me and says, Lauren, look, and I look towards the front door and I see these two women walking out they had only been in the facility maybe a few minutes and they’re walking back towards the car and I called out and I said, ladies, are you OK can I help you with anything? And the friend says. We don’t know what happened she just walked inside and it’s like she was gobsmacked she couldn’t do it. I remember thinking to myself, wow, like that really is the power of prayer like, I barely said anything to these women of course, what I said to them was very loving and it was an invitation to talk but I mean, that really is evidence right there of the power of prayer. I mean, these women got back in the car i even said to them, you know, can I give you a hug? Can I celebrate this with you right. And the one woman just almost was so overwhelmed by her, the change in her heart that she could barely look at me. It’s like she was in this whirlwind of what just happened and they got back in the car and they left. So that was, that was a one of many testaments to the power of prayer for me. Another story I’ll share so this is actually the time that I got to hold my very first baby saved through the Ministry of Sidewalk Advocates for Life i’ve been praying for a long time. You know, Lord, it’d be so great if I could hold a baby that was actually saved through the ministry but hey, that’s OK you know, if it doesn’t happen, I understand, you know, that’s not my priority and so anyways, I was out on the sidewalk one day with two members of our national team in Tampa, florida and we were reaching out to those going in and I remember reaching out to this one young woman she was there with her sister and with her boyfriend and they didn’t stop to take our offer of help at the driveway so again, a lot of people don’t realize usually a driveway 99 % of the time is on public right of way usually we’ll station someone there and then we station someone at the fence as a catch all. And so I was, you know, at the fence, drew them into conversation and you know, found out that this was baby number three for her, that she had two precious little girls from a previous relationship. She was in a relationship with this young man her sister was there with her, and she was just really struggling they were really struggling about what to do. So i offer all of the help next door at the pregnancy Resource Center and, you know, really try to humanize this child, reminding them that this is going to be a brother or sister for, you know, the two little girls. And I just felt very prompted i really believe this was the Holy Spirit, just to kind of throw this out there i said, what if this is your boy? What if this is your boy like, I don’t usually say things like that, but I felt really kind of pulled to just put it out there you know, this may be the little boy that you have hoped for, right and her sister even said, see, that’s what I said to her, right. And i still remember saying to them one other thing before they went inside. I said just remember because she said to me, well, I think I need to go in and hear what they have to say and I said, OK, but just remember they’re going to treat you like a dollar sign. We care about what actually happens to you after this inside. They’re going to take your money and then you have to live with the consequences of this, right, and the pain and I want to save you from that today, right so I’m reiterating our help oriented message. So they decide to go inside the abortion facility and what was so interesting is they said that as soon as they got to the front desk, it was all about money in fact, they wanted them to not even hand over a credit card to, if possible, pay in cash, seemingly under the table, she said as they were getting ready to pay for the abortion, they were standing there and everything that we’d said to them on the sidewalk was starting to hit them, what they were about to do, how they were about to take the life of their child and both the father of the baby boyfriend, right, And her started to cry. And I remember out on the sidewalk we had the thought, like, we don’t know what else we could have said and we were like, it’s time to pray so we had circled up to pray for them and we hadn’t even said the word Amen. And they were coming out. And so I remember looking at them as they’re coming out and I said, Are you ready to accept our offer of help? And she said, yeah, we are. And so we walked them next door. Well, the gift bag that we had given them with some goodies and again, it has resources in it and literature. It had my phone number in it so she got a hold of me a number of weeks later and said I found out that I’m having a boy, we’re going to name him Cameron. So Long story short, even a couple of months after that we were able to throw them a baby shower. And then sometime after that, we were actually able to meet Cameron in person and we did a little photo shoot with him and his family. In fact, their picture is in our unexpected pregnancy literature that we hand out all over the nation. So we are still in touch with these beautiful parents, the family baby Cameron. So they ended up getting married and they had another little girl after that and he went on to serve our country in the US Army. They just got stationed overseas and so anyway, it’s just another wonderful victory story. You know, I think the one of the biggest lessons from that is to maintain your peaceful, prayerful, loving disposition because you know, a lot of people do need to go in and experience the darkness of an abortion facility and if you’ve done your job and being loving and being a light out on the sidewalk, they’ll feel that contrast. And they want to be back out on the sidewalk with you. I mean, I think it’s at least a third of the women that I’ve personally witnessed turn around have had to go into the abortion facility and experience that darkness. And then, you know, they wanted to be back out on the sidewalk with us. So yeah, so first time I ever got to hold of Sidewalk Advocates for Life, baby and it was one that I was directly involved with, which makes me think that God has a sense of humor so.

Jacob Barr :

Yeah wow. That’s that is awesome. And I love how there was a photo shoot involved like that’s such a that’s a that’s a gift. It’s a gift to the parents. And yeah, I mean that’s it’s also a gift to those who are supporting, praying and volunteering as a way of saying, you know, let’s celebrate, let’s celebrate a new birthday, a new child, a new person. That’s really good.

Lauren Muzyka :

Absolutely.

Jacob Barr :

Did you have another story that you wanted to share on God’s fingerprints or anything else comes to mind.

Lauren Muzyka :

I’ll share one more story so this is actually the second turn around that I ever experienced it was back in 2006 This was a 17 year old gal who arrived at a Dallas abortion facility with her mom so it’d be the grandmother of the baby. And they literally had started praying out loud so these were believers who, you know, really had been deceived by the culture thinking that this was a viable option potentially for them and their moment of crisis and so they literally prayed out loud and they said, God, we don’t know which way to turn. Please show us the sign, Show us what we’re supposed to do. And they said that as soon as they prayed that prayer, that someone came and waved at them just outside the window and that was me, the sidewalk counselor right. And so, you know, I started in and said, you know, I don’t know what’s going on with you guys i’m Lauren i’m here with our women’s center next door i let them know about all of the help available you know, she was overwhelmed because she was 17 she was getting ready to graduate. They barely had anything at home you know, this was a single mom that was trying to support her daughter who is now pregnant, and then had two other brothers besides. And so they were just overwhelmed as a family like, how can we bring a baby into all of this and so I just try to paint a picture about how they could do it and how they could make it work and, you know, all the help available at the pregnancy center and I still remember at one point she literally throws the car door open, jumps out, throws her arms around my neck and says, OK, let’s go get a sonogram. I mean, it was probably one of the most powerful moments of my entire life and so remember walking them upstairs, and I mean, they felt gobsmacked by the Holy Spirit that God had answered their prayer in such a powerful way and when they were doing the counseling intake with the pregnancy center, the counselor said that she could hear laughing, like as they watched the video and as there was follow up, you know, why were these ladies laughing so much and what they came to find out is they said that they were so relieved that someone had helped them to see how they could do this like they were laughing as stress was rolling off of their shoulders right. So anyways, we kept in touch that was the summer before I went to law school and I still remember around Christmas getting a picture in my inbox and it was baby Jayla she was born just a day after Christmas, December twenty seventh. She’s now 16 years old, approximately 16 years old. And I’ve met her i actually did get to meet her just before actually starting Sidewalk Advocates for Life, and I’m kind of like the godmother in the family in the background, she said someday she will tell Jayla, you know, the role that I played in her life but she’s of course waiting for the right time it’s hard to explain to a child with that journey is like, right so when she’s a little bit older, she’s going to tell her how I came into their lives and change some things. So it’s a blessing, Yeah.

Jacob Barr :

So while people are on the sidewalk, what does their prayer support situation look like? Are people that are talking to, you know, the people driving up or walking in? Are they praying for each other do you does everyone have like the same role of prayer plus engaging? Or are there certain people who do prayer only? What’s the prayer report look like?

Lauren Muzyka :

Great question so we always tell sidewalk advocates never to go out alone first of all, right, You need that support in many different ways if nothing else, you need an eyewitness, right? But prayer absolutely Is that foundation, that strength by which we can reach out and navigate any situation well on the sidewalk so prayer is the foundation. We know that with God, all things are possible, and apart from him we can do nothing, right so prayer is super important in our in our ministry, when you’re not reaching out to a client, we tell people to be in prayer, right pray before you go, pray while you’re there, continue to pray for people as you leave the sidewalk. I know there’s people that I still pray for years after encountering them on the sidewalk names and faces that I’ll never forget, right that God knows where they are this side of heaven, but I just continue to lift them up and really on the sidewalk with your partner usually we have sidewalk advocates out there and twos. One person will approach, the other person will pray, and then they switch off, right the other person will approach, the other person will pray. We do have a lot of people that feel very called just a prayer ministry they’re prayer volunteers, right? One of the things I also talked about earlier is, you know that we work at some sites in partnership with 40 Days for Life, and so they send people out there just to pray. And then we’re the ones who are trained to reach out with our words, right? So it really is just a winning combination prayer, peaceful outreach, and we find that actually, the less people i mean, we want people reaching out one-on-one we don’t want anybody to overwhelm a woman we don’t want a whole group approaching her one-on-one conversations are the ideal. Unless, of course, sometimes your partner has maybe a very similar story. You know, maybe you need a guy on your team like, sometimes we go out there with the male sidewalk advocates who are really effective in reaching out to other boyfriends so maybe I’ll back off and let you know nate, on our national team, jump in and try to reach out to the boyfriend, because there’s a natural rapport there from man to man, right. So it’s really just kind of, you know, who do we have out there? Where do we feel like the Holy Spirit is leading but yeah, one-on-one conversations go out there 2 by twos that’s how the Lord sent us out, right to do His work.

Jacob Barr :

So Speaking of how the Spirit leads or how the Lord leads when it comes to praying about what to say and then, you know, finding the right words, what’s that experience like?

Lauren Muzyka :

Yeah, well, I love the verse in Matthew where it talks about do not worry about what you are to say or how you are to speak. It will be the spirit of your father speaking through you, right. And that’s a whole discourse in Scripture about someone who is dragged in front of a court of accusers and has to give an account for their innocence and of course as we go and advocate for these children and these families, you know, one of the things that I remind sidewalk advocates is how much more will God be at the ready to speak through us and so it really is about being an open vessel as much as possible, turning off that self monitoring system and just loving the person in front of you. Now God works through the ordinary, right so the training that we give people that’s so thorough you know, we’ve got that compass which is mom, baby, God and then we’ve got our five point method which I shared earlier really you know, when you feel like you’re lost, go back to that compass, right start with her, love her, then transition how far along are you paint a picture of life, you know, and then plant seeds for faith. Now the other thing we tell people in the training is that the Holy Spirit is the trump card. And so, you know, we need to stay open to God saying something through us that maybe we didn’t plan, so to speak, to say. I mean, you know, one of the stories that I told about baby Jayla, you know, her mom Lizanne, said that the one thing she remembers on the sidewalk was the word hope. That I said the word hope. And I’m. I’ve always thought to myself, I don’t remember saying that, right i don’t remember using that exact word. Not that I wouldn’t say that on the sidewalk, but I just didn’t remember that from the conversation but she did. And so it’s like, what does that person need to hear he knows best what they need to hear and so I just do my best to love the person who’s in front of me using these guideposts.

Jacob Barr :

Awesome. How would you say when it when it comes to volunteers how does sidewalk advocates find volunteers what’s the training experience like? And what would you like to say to someone who’s thinking, should I volunteer like is it something I should try out like, what would you say to someone who is considering or, you know, pondering the idea of volunteering with sidewalk advocates?

Lauren Muzyka :

Yeah, we let people know you know, there are three main ways to get plugged into really what is the greatest human rights movement on the sidewalk, right it’s start, join or give and starting a location so that’s what that start is and then join, joining an existing location, starting a location. What it looks like is I mean you go to our website, you click the Apply button, 5 minute application and then we do a brief phone consult and explain to you how the program works there’s a lot of people who have felt the call to build a team right in front of their local abortion or abortion referral facility and I’ll tell you, these abortion referral sites are really important in post row America, especially in abortion restricted states, right these are facilities that of course aren’t doing abortions within their walls because maybe it’s illegal in the state, but they’re surely referring for them. Most people have an abortion or abortion referral center near them. And so, you know, really where there’s a crisis, there’s a need, and it could be that you’re called to fill that need. So you can look at your local abortion facility is there already an existing outreach team there you know would is there interest in your community for building, you know, a presence there through prayer and peaceful outreach? And then there’s a lot of people who, because now we’ve got 239 locations, they already have a A-Team near them and so they could go to our website sidewalkadvocates.org click the locations tab, and they can look up the nearest team to them. And each one of our locations has all the materials to facilitate a regular training. Lot of our teams are training about once a quarter, so once every few months and so you can make contact with your local team and say hey, when’s the next training attend And then once you go through our five hour basic training and sign our pledge of integrity, then you’re a certified sidewalk advocate it really is that simple and you know just as I’ve alluded to, we’ll teach you the compass, we’ll teach you the map. We even go over how to serve abortion workers, women after abortion, very unique abortion circumstances so the training is really comprehensive and you know, people usually feel very equipped to hit the ground running as soon as they go through that training.

Jacob Barr :

Awesome. And then the last part was give is that essentially just a way to then support through donations and prayer or what’s the gift? Start joining give Or is give actually giving of your time to then volunteer?

Lauren Muzyka :

Yeah, I guess it could work both ways, right yeah, So we basically put that down there, give meaning you can make a tax deductible donation to our ministry. You know, there’s a lot of people who can’t get to the sidewalk because of their particular station or vocation in life. I still remember a friend of mine making a 5000$ gift and saying, Lauren, I’m supporting a family i work really long hours. I can’t get to the sidewalk, but this is my way of getting to the sidewalk and it’s every 2000$ that we actually can train, equip and support a new team of sidewalk advocates across the United States and so when he said that to me, that never left me we have so many Saints behind the scenes that are giving of their precious treasure to keep our ministry going and growing so Yep, that’s also an option as well.

Jacob Barr :

Awesome what is something that a pricey clinic director or pricey clinic team would need to know about sidewalk care that may not be commonly understood or yeah, like what would you like to say to Prancy clinics when it comes to maybe like, are there any false beliefs that are sometimes that have to be overcome or are there any misunderstandings when it comes to Prancy clinic care and sidewalk advocate care that would be helpful to, yeah, shed shoes on?

Lauren Muzyka :

That’s such an important question. I think for the greater part of the history of the pro-life movement, it’s felt like, you know, sidewalk advocates, sidewalk counselors were kind of over here and then the other direction was pregnancy help centers and what I can tell you is that there’s a new springtime of collaboration that we actually see the most life saved when we are working a partnership with one another. We at Sidewalk Advocates for Life see ourselves as the first face of the pregnancy help movement. I mean, pregnancy help centers. All of you who work in pregnancy centers, you are our heroes you are the front lines of the abortion battle. And we love being able to bring women to you because I will tell you, almost no one arrives at the abortion facility having knowledge of how awesome you are. And so we love to be able to stand in that gap and say we can help you with all of these wonderful things at our local women’s center, pregnancy center, right? So, you know, we see ourselves as that sales team for life on your behalf. So we admonish sidewalk advocates to get to know the pregnancy help center in their backyard, to form a relationship with them, understand what their services are because we want to share those out on the sidewalk. I mean, just sharing those resources, sharing what you have as a pregnancy center, it can really turn someone around at the last moment it can really be a pivotal moment for life or death and it.

Jacob Barr :

Seems like most, I would say. I think a lot of pregnancy clinics look at the Sidewalk Advocate work as being a sister organization on the same mission, only maybe in a different stage of someone’s unplanned pregnancy journey. Essentially to me it looks like the sidewalk advocates are reaching someone at the very end of their journey towards an abortion clinic and a pregnancy clinic might be trying to engage a few notches earlier like when they’re before they are walking up to the abortion clinic. And so there’s, yeah, different stages of the same journey that where we’re trying to reach women with the same purpose of having them choose life for their child.

Lauren Muzyka :

I am so glad you recognize that because really for the greater part of our history in the pro-life movement, it hasn’t always been seen as that And I’m thrilled that there has been a sea change i like to believe that we’ve been part of that. We’re doing crisis intervention. Pregnancy centers are doing crisis management and we really are an incredible team when we’re working together and I understand it’s important for pregnancy centers to partner with people who share their values and you know, on our website we list all of our core values, which include being peaceful, prayerful, loving and law abiding. We actually have a lot of pregnancy centers that are running our program underneath their banner. So they’ve got a select crop of volunteers that go to the sidewalk and then they’ve got some who work in the center. Or sometimes they decide that day, OK, this group will go to the sidewalk and this group will be in the center. Either way, you know we do best when we are working together, Absolutely.

Jacob Barr :

Awesome so when it comes to a referral to a Precy Clinic, what is a Precy Clinic and your and from your viewpoint allowed to say about that client while maintaining privacy or health? You know, privacy of their health information or what you know where they’re going? Are they able to? If you were to call and say, you know, we sent Jane to your clinic, we just wanted to know did she arrive or what like what’s the journey look like for trying to get a confirmation of does she was she able to arrive or does she get service while still maintaining like that privacy layer over what someone does with yeah, down the road.

Lauren Muzyka :

Yeah, that’s a great question. We always defer to the pregnancy Resource Center, pregnancy help center as far as what their policy is and we always respect that, you know, because we are going to be doing a handoff and their care and curriculum will take over. We just you we do that handoff when we go back to the sidewalk and our goal is just to bring them the next one and the next one, right. What we have found generally is that it’s not violating confidentiality just to say, especially since we were the one’s making that connection, hey, Sarah made it, right she’s here or maybe at the very end they’re able to say, you know, thumbs up, great appointment or she chose life maybe they’re able to give some really general information. So we’re just very careful to honor whatever it is that the pregnancy center desires we know that if we can just get her through the doors of the pregnancy center, that the statistics, especially if she gets in front of a sonogram, are very high, that she’s going to choose life and so in some ways, you know, there’s no need for us to continue to follow up. But you know, we might be able to ask a couple of questions that are still respectful of that entire process.

Jacob Barr :

When it comes to promoting clinics in the area, if it’s if you have a Sidewalk Advocates group that’s not run by a specific crunchy clinic to our multiple clinics being referred to based on driving distance or where you know where someone might live so if someone’s driving, you know they maybe they live on the South side, then you might refer to this clinic or if they’re on the east side, you may refer to that clinic is that how do you decide which clinic to send someone to? You know when there’s several, let’s say in the area.

Lauren Muzyka :

Yeah, that is a another really important question for us if we can form a strong relationship with the one nearest, we tend to see more women turn around so if a woman doesn’t have to drive super far, you can walk her next door, across the street, down the street. You know, we often say that where we see resources that are free, immediate and visible that can be a game changer for life on the sidewalk. Now sometimes we try to form a relationship with the pregnancy center, but they’re short staffed or you know, they’re struggling to stay open some days that we may be out there and we’re able to refer women so then we’ll just go on to the next nearest pregnancy Resource Center and This is why I really encourage pregnancy centers to think strategically about trying to put themselves near right next door and abortion or abortion referral facility because you will see a lot more people turn around just by proximity. Right now. There’s another interesting question in post row America about how we have a continuum of care when a woman is coming from out of state, you know, she’s going to an abortion facility and sure, maybe we get her then to the next nearest facility, the next nearest pregnancy center to that abortion facility, right. But where does she go when she’s going back home like she can’t follow up at that pregnancy center and so, you know, we’re letting sidewalk advocates know not just to refer to the one next door, but also the one back home right, At least mention it and then the pregnancy center should be trained in post Roe America to continue that care at a center back where she lives, right so those are important considerations now in post Roe America as we’re seeing women come from out of state for abortions as well.

Jacob Barr :

Wait, so actually I’ve got a question on that but I’ve got another question because when you said earlier before, So what about mobile ultrasound, you know the Stork, you know the Stork mobile or the ICU mobile unit? Do you often see those parked next to an abortion clinic, and are those usually the ones you would then walk someone to?

Lauren Muzyka :

Yes. Yeah a mobile unit is a game changer if we can park a mobile unit right in front of the abortion facility right nearby, we do see more turnarounds, right because we’re able to legitimize what we’re saying it’s not just, hey, this amorphous offer of help that’s even just a few miles down the road it’s literally in front of my face and I can look at that mobile unit and I can see maybe a woman on the side and it lists out those services and so it’s like everything you know, everything dovetails with the other. So we love mobile units where especially where a pregnancy center can’t get right next door or really close to the abortion facility, these are great options so you’ve got save the Storks, ICU, Mobile Thrive, you’ve got Vans for Life, a new group that just came out that is also supplying mobile ultrasound units to pregnancy resource centers and beyond. So we’ve got a few great options that are that are out there.

Jacob Barr :

When it comes to the cost of a pregnancy test or the cost of an ultrasound at a Planned Parenthood or an abortion clinic, do you know what those costs look like sometimes across, you know, maybe they’re. I heard one, and this is from several years ago, the Planned Parenthood was charging i think it was like 13 or 18$ for a pregnancy test. So like what are the costs involved? And then contrasting that with the word free when it comes to going to that local precis clinic and how much someone can save along with then being on the right path from that point forward.

Lauren Muzyka :

Yeah well, there are some planned Parenthood’s that are cluing into the fact that a lot of women are turning around based off of a free pregnancy test there’s some that are trying to shift to that model. And so we’re trying to be very diligent in these areas about you know rounding out all of the free services that we have available at the pregnancy center, not just the free pregnancy test right now. There are, there are sites where in fact I would say this is the majority right now where they’re asking a woman, so she’s walking into the abortion facility and what they ask her for basically is payment that will cover like a pregnancy test sonogram, maybe initial blood work to do the abortion so it’s almost like a down payment towards the abortion it’s actually a very clever marketing scheme because they’re they’ll say, well you’ve already put 150 two, hundred and seventy five dollars down towards the abortion, right you might as well pay the rest and get what you were coming here looking for. And so in those cases what we do is we offer to cover that cost that she’s already incurred so we’ll say, well, we can cover that for you just give us a try at the Pregnancy Resource Center i mean, it’s like, what is a life cost, right? So we tell sidewalk advocates if you feel a need to offer that and she accepts that help, then we’ll financially back you up in that.

Jacob Barr :

Oh, that’s so kind and loving to try and take away that financial hook or try and dehook that financial commitment or you know what? You know, money already spent and it feels like, yeah, I don’t want to lose what I’ve.

Lauren Muzyka :

Right no, absolutely i mean, again, it’s like what does a life cost to us that’s a drop in the bucket and we have replaced a good handful of initial payments now, there are some cases where a woman can go back inside and she can demand, you know, money back, but a lot of times they aren’t refunding that money and then we don’t want her to go back in there and necessarily finagle with the abortion facility, right, Because they’re trying to rope her into maybe sticking with the appointment so it’s like if we can take care of all of that, aside from her having to even go in and ask for that, then we like to do that.

Jacob Barr :

So when it comes to the signage that sidewalk advocates that your group uses, what does the phrasing look like? What kind of words or do you what kind of do you even use signage?

Lauren Muzyka :

Yeah, no, absolutely. You know, it may not be the highest thing on our priority list, but it’s definitely a priority, right our first priority is getting ourselves out there, having good literature and materials to hand to her. But where we can make time for signage, it can be an incredible support to what we’re offering on the sidewalk. And definitely I would encourage anybody to make time to try to get signage out there so we like help oriented signage, woman oriented signage you only have so much time to give someone a message when they’re driving by right or walking up and so my favorite sign is free pregnancy test. And sonogram asked me how, you know, something really simple that free offer help. You know, because it right away it lets her know, like, people care, people have resources available this isn’t your only option it’s there’s so much that’s being said in that message that is being communicated besides what’s actually on the sign, right?

Jacob Barr :

Yeah, that makes perfect sense when it comes to people traveling to let let’s say someone travels from Texas to Los Angeles and they’re flying in because they want to go to an abortion clinic that’s near the LAX airport and so are you experiencing addition? Yeah what? What’s been your experience with some of these abortion friendly States and possibly with commuting traffic or people traveling from other states to a place like that has that been, Has there been like a increase in traffic at some of these abortion clinics near an airport or abortion clinics near a border of a state?

Lauren Muzyka :

Yeah, no, that’s a good question and it really is so interesting watching the post row landscape, you know, especially as states have allowed their pro-life law to go into effect or they’re fighting for a pro-life law it’s like watching Domino’s move across the board, you know, So for example, when abortion was made illegal in Alabama, almost immediately after the Dobbs case was handed down, we heard that, you know, this the largest abortion facility in the state, which was in Tuscaloosa, they were referring all of their appointments that they had to cancel to Atlanta, georgia to columbus georgia at the border. And so we had alert sidewalk advocates to prepare for a possible influx of out of state women, Right and so this tiny abortion facility in Columbus, georgia, there were days that they were doing up to 60 abortions at this one facility. Now, of course, we know from experience, I can tell you experience on the sidewalk and then what we’re hearing that a lot of people keep the laws, their moral compass there’ll be a lot of women that will simply choose life or consider choosing life because it’s illegal within their state but otherwise there will be this population that’s amenable to travel, right. So we’re kind of looking at states where, you know, it’s going to be a little bit of an abortion destination state, maybe it’s a little bit of a silo in their area so for example, Illinois in the Midwest, if you pull out a map of post row America, you can see it’s surrounded by pro-life states now, right? Indiana’s pro-life law just went into effect so this is especially true at this moment. We’re hearing about women that are going, for example, to Granite City, illinois right on the border Flossmoor, Illinois. Maybe there’ll be some that hop on a plane and go in and out of Chicago, but a lot of them are driving if it’s not too far of a drive, right. And so we’re just, you know, letting sidewalk advocates know to be especially ready to refer to a pregnancy center back home to be able to look up some of these resources available in other communities. New Mexico’s really interesting we heard about, you know, in the next several weeks, there’s going to be 16 new abortion facilities our leader of borderland, Texas, New Mexico, of course, it’s illegal in Texas it’s very legal in New Mexico, right there’s new facilities going up in Las Cruces, new, mexico. Albuquerque and, so you know, they’re saying to us, hey, please tell people back home in abortion restricted states to get to the abortion referral facilities and try to make that offer of help early before women make a big commitment to traveling across state lines and getting an abortion. So it really is very interesting, we’re looking at these states that, you know, maybe the 1st place that women will go if abortion is illegal in their state and then how can we best serve them and help them to reconsider the life of their child?

Jacob Barr :

That’s right yeah. It’s there’s a lot of things to consider that’s it’s interesting to see how it’s playing out in a in a Yeah, it’s a lot to consider. yeah.

Lauren Muzyka :

Absolutely.

Jacob Barr :

So when it comes to praying for abortion workers, praying for, praying at the edge of an abortion clinic and then taking the idea, you know, to essentially to love your enemies or to pray for your enemies or to pray for the people to well, for yeah, essentially what is, you know, that’s a hard thing to do and how do you, what’s been your experience and emotional state trying to navigate that on a regular basis because it feels very taxing emotionally to love your enemies i mean, Jesus is a great example of loving enemies, but it also sometimes feels like one of the hardest things to do.

Lauren Muzyka :

Yeah, absolutely. I just remember that every eternal soul who crosses my path at the abortion facility has a story. And even if they are so-called on the other side, you know, they’re on the other side of the fence or maybe I’m angry watching boyfriend drag, you know, that young woman in there of course there’s legal things that we can do to protect her and all of that so accepting that, I mean, the idea is, you know, someone that I’m tempted to be very angry at when it when I’m at the abortion facility, I remember that I have everything that I have because of Grace. And they’re not the real enemy we know who the real enemy is they’ve been deceived by the enemy. There’s been so many people who are a part of our ministry now that have experienced abortion 1 or multiple times you know what God has done in their life is now their glory story i remember one woman that I used to sidewalk council with in Dallas. She had four abortions in her past another woman that I worked with in 40 days for life, 7 abortions in her past right now look at what God was doing through her at that moment and for the woman who doesn’t choose life that day, I remember that God is not done with her yet he’s not done with her story he loves her and will continue to pursue her and I want to be a positive memory in her journey i want her to remember that a Christian was standing there for her that day in a spirit of peace, prayer and love and that may get her onto the road of hope and healing, just maybe remembering me or something that was sad, right and then for the abortion worker, Now when you see over 600 workers who have left the industry simply with an offer of help and visiting with so many of these people at the pro-life Women’s Conference who, you know, come after having left the industry and I mean, it’s just amazing what God is doing, you know, And it really comes through perseverance and prayer, Perseverance and loving them, remembering that, like God isn’t done with them yet either. And I can be an important part of their journey if I’ll maintain my peaceful, prayerful disposition.

Jacob Barr :

Wow. But your story is so amazing and it’s just beautiful to see how. Yeah just to see the heart of kindness and you know in a confrontational space but the height of the heart of kindness and desire to be yeah, provide care and love with the goal of helping someone who is. Yeah who is being deceived who is being used. And so that’s just beautiful. Would you? Would you wrap up our podcast with a prayer for sidewalk advocates for listening, and maybe also for Princeton clinic leaders might be listening.

Lauren Muzyka :

I would love to be a great honor, so let’s pray together. Father, I come to you in the in the name of Jesus, and I thank you so much for every eternal soul that you have called to listen to this that you’ve called to be part of what is the greatest human rights movement on earth. Your movement, Lord, your movement towards the greatest gift that you’ve given us apart from Jesus himself and that is the gift of life. I just ask God that you would bless the work of everyone’s hands who is listening to this and part of this work and for those who are discerning their role in this movement, just that you would inspire them with the way in which they should go. For those who are weary right now, who are maybe struggling feeling so much as they continue to work in the pregnancy help centers, the pregnancy help movement, please just give them a renewed strength. Lord, you tell us that you will give us wisdom and spades that we will soar like Eagles if we turn to you, God and so where we just have drooping hands and shaky knees i just pray that you would enforce us, help us, bless us, help us just to continue this great work that you’ve given us and loving the next person in front of us. For those who are out on the sidewalk that you would continue just to bless their message, their literature, their signage, they’re just everything that they have going on the sidewalk god, that it would work together for your glory and reaching more hearts and minds. And Lord, for the other parts of this movement, maybe that we don’t directly work in for the educational opportunities, the legislative advocacy, especially right now in a post row America, we ask that you bless their efforts. And even for the things that don’t come to mind right now, God, for anybody who’s contributing to this work in some way that you would continue to bless their path forward, we thank you, Lord, that we can be a small part of what you are doing to end abortion, to save lives, to transform hearts and souls. We submit all of this to you and lift it up in Jesus name. Thank you amen amen.

Jacob Barr :

Wow it’s been a pleasure, Lauren, to talk to you. And I’m really glad I get the chance to share this with my podcast audience and I think it’s going to be a real blessing for them to hear your story and your outlook and so thank you for being on here.

Lauren Muzyka :

Yeah thanks for having me such a pleasure.