This is part 2 of 4 in a series of posts about the staff members and volunteers of If Not for Grace, a Lee’s Summit based organization that ministers to the abortion-wounded. You can read the story of the If Not for Grace founder, Lori Driggs, here.
“I have no idea how many people I come in contact with every day that have struggled like I have,” Jama Edlund said.
The first time Jama realized this was when she was sitting down to lunch with a friend of seven years, and her friend began describing the struggles she was having in her marriage. Then her friend shared that many years before she’d gotten pregnant and had decided to have an abortion.
Jama was stunned. She shared with her friend that she, too, had gone through with an abortion during her college years.
Jama hadn’t talked with anyone about the abortion, not even her husband, since it had happened. To realize that her close friend had gone through the same experience was astounding – and eye-opening.
Several years before, Jama had turned her life over to God and began studying the word of God for herself. “God was speaking into my life and telling me the truth of who I was,” she said. But as her relationship with God grew, she was still experiencing a nagging anger toward her husband and even toward her kids.
“For my kids, I was noticing that I was not happy, I was always grouchy toward them,” she explained. “I was very controlling, trying to make them be those perfect children that I had never been.”
Not long after that, she noticed an ad in the Metro Voice Newspaper for an If Not for Grace reconciliation weekend. Then, the following week, she went to the lunch with her friend who then told her about her abortion. When Jama mentioned the reconciliation weekend, they decided to go together.
“God really did some powerful work in my life that weekend,” Jama said. She was able to forgive her husband for suggesting the abortion, and she also sensed God calling her to be involved with If Not for Grace on a ministry level.
She contacted Lori and told her of her interest. But at the same time, she realized that, in order to be involved with the ministry, she would need to tell her children about the abortion. About a year later, she made the decision to tell both of her young adult daughters.
“They were very surprised, but it really opened a door in our relationship,” she said. “It helped them understand why I was the kind of mom I was.”
Two years after that, she told her son and finally felt the freedom to become involved with If Not for Grace on a more official level.
Today, Jama acts as the Director of Ministry Services. She oversees the Her Choice to Heal classes, reconciliation weekends, and Next Steps services and meets regularly with their volunteer staff to make sure they are equipped for their roles.
One of the most meaningful parts of her job is serving as a first contact for the women who reach out to If Not for Grace, looking for help in regard to their past abortions.
“It’s really one of the best jobs, to be able to give them hope for what God can do in their lives – [to help them realize] that they don’t have to stay in that pit of despair or live that mediocre life and that they really can live that abundant life and be free from the shame and the guilt of their sin.”
In this role, Jama also frequently runs into the most common challenge If Not for Grace faces: nobody wants to talk about this issue. Like Jama, most women who have had abortions sweep it under the rug and never talk about it again. They find it hard to believe anyone else they know might have done the same thing, and so they stay quiet out of fear and shame.
In the past, If Not for Grace has left educational information and pamphlets at area churches in bathroom stalls to allow women to see and read them in private. Even so, Jama recalls hearing stories from women who looked at the If Not for Grace contact cards for six months before finally taking one and promptly throwing it in the trash.
“Even when someone takes the initial step, it’s not uncommon for them to get scared and not continue to move forward,” Jama said.
Still, perhaps even because this is such a difficult issue to confront, one of Jama’s favorite parts of her job is seeing the dramatic life changes in women who do choose to go through the Her Choice to Heal classes and the reconciliation weekends.
“When I see one of these women a month later, her countenance has completely changed,” Jama said. “God has done this amazing transformation in her life. He has restored and redeemed her and given her hope…. I’ve never seen God work in such a powerful, quick way as I see Him work in this ministry.”
In that transformation and redemption, Jama has found her calling.
“This wouldn’t have been something I would have chosen,” she said. “But I felt the call from God to do this. That’s the driving force.”