This is part 3 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, or the story of Jama Edlund, the Director of Ministry Services, here.
“Some seek help six months after their abortion, others 35 years,” the If Not for Grace website states. Linda Burgess, now a member of the ministry’s Community Awareness Team, was one of the latter. For her, 37 years passed between her abortion and the day she finally sought help.
“I moved around a lot as a child,” Linda said. “I didn’t make many friends – we moved 7 times by the time I was 11. As I turned 12, we moved to the KC area. My mom went to work full-time for the first time in my life, and my dad worked all the time. I turned to the social aspect of school, doing what too many teenage girls do – seeking a boyfriend to fill the voids in life.”
When she met the man who would become her husband, she fell in love and knew he would always be there for her. But she got pregnant before they were ready to get married and, as a result, decided to have an abortion. Around a year after that, when they got married, both began experiencing a lot of anger toward each other, frequently fighting or arguing.
“We were still really blinded by the whole thing, not really knowing where the anger came from,” she said.
Thirty-seven years later, Linda and her husband were looking for a new church to attend. Linda had given her life to Christ when she was 11 but had later stopped attending church when her parents stopped. She began going again once she had children and wanted them to experience church. Still later, God began softening her heart through difficult but sincere faith questions from her daughter.
“It got to the point where I had to do something. I just was not a happy person,” she explained.
It was a week before Easter, and Linda was sitting on her back patio, searching on her iPad for new churches to try. She had heard several positive things about Abundant Life Baptist Church, and so she went to their website and began scrolling through the list of ministries they supported. There, her gaze landed on If Not for Grace.
She looked up at her husband. “You’re not going to believe this…” she began.
Linda had never heard of an abortion-recovery ministry before, but the idea appealed to her. “This has got to be a really forgiving church if they’re willing to list this on their website,” she thought. A week later, on Easter Sunday, she emailed Jama Edlund, the Director of Ministry Services at If Not for Grace, and asked for help.
“[Jama] got back with me that Monday, and we met that afternoon,” Linda said. “That’s when my healing process began.”
After meeting with Jama, Linda decided to attend one of the Her Choice to Heal classes, a 9-week course that helps participants work through emotions of anger, guilt, and denial before moving toward forgiveness and healing. When Linda completed the class, she wanted to go to an If Not for Grace reconciliation weekend and asked her husband to go with her.
“He had no idea what he was getting into,” she said.
That weekend, as they were spending time praying and reflecting on God, they began envisioning the child they had lost. Over and over, when one of them would describe something they believed to be true of their son, the other would respond, “That’s exactly what I saw!”
Since that weekend, Linda and her husband have given their testimony together at a total of ten different church services, each time praying that their story will help those who are dealing with the guilt and shame of abortion to find God’s redeeming grace.
“We did this [the abortion] to keep it a secret, and now we’ve told everybody,” she said with a laugh. “But we pray God will use us and our story through Him, for His Kingdom.”
In her role on the Community Awareness Team, Linda helps get the word out about If Not for Grace by meeting with area pastors, pregnancy resource centers, single moms’ ministries, etc. – anywhere that women in need of healing might be. She also helps plan social events to allow people who have already gone through If Not for Grace classes to reconnect.
Having waited 37 years before seeking healing for her own abortion gives Linda a strong passion to help women who might be experiencing the same thing.
“I’m reminded of John 10:10, which says, ‘The Thief comes to kill, steal and destroy; I have come so that they may have life, and have it to the fullest,’” she said. “I allowed Satan to steal 37 years of my life, and I don’t want women to hold onto their hurt any longer than they have to. I want them to be joyful and live life to the fullest.”
Before she found If Not for Grace, Linda often asked God, “What is my purpose? What do you want me to do?”
Every time, the answer she received was “You need to tell your story. You need to confess your sin.”
“I can’t,” she always thought. “I can’t.”
But now that she has finally told her story and found healing, she has experienced freedom and blessings she never imagined possible before. She has become more confident in herself, built new friendships, and seen her family draw closer together.
“There was no place Satan would rather have me than those 37 years that I lived with what I had done and kept it to myself and let it eat away inside of me,” Linda explained. “I always wanted things to go my way, and when they didn’t, I moved on, whether that was in relationships or employment. I was never satisfied. But God is so good…. He has opened my eyes to His truth…. [Now] I walk boldly with Him, relying on His promises and working for His Kingdom by doing whatever it takes to help abortion-wounded women and their families.”