Greenville 40 Days for Life celebrates the saving of a child

Miscellany/Terry Cregar: Sheila Miller, left, stands with Lesli Hernandez and Rocio Fernandez during the closing celebration of the 40 Days for Life campaign held Nov. 3 at the Piedmont Women’s Center in Greenville.

GREENVILLE—Lesli Hernandez was caring for a young son when she learned she was pregnant with her second child. 

Four months into that pregnancy, Hernandez stopped at the Greenville Women’s Clinic on Grove Road, where Sheila Miller and other 40 Days for Life sidewalk advocates were praying outside.

Miller said she spoke with Hernandez through a translator in the driveway leading to the abortion clinic. Like other advocates, she offered prayers, comfort and support for Hernandez and her unborn child. Hernandez, a young, single mother who doesn’t speak English, told Miller she lacks the financial means to adequately care for a second child. Miller told her she has options far greater than the taking of one of God’s most precious gifts.

In the end, Hernandez chose life. Her unborn child was one of three confirmed to have been saved in the Greenville Deanery during 40 Days for Life’s fall campaign, which concluded Nov. 3 with a closing celebration in front of the Piedmont Women’s Center in Greenville. The center is across the street from the clinic. 

The event attracted more than 80 pro-life supporters, a record turnout for the local chapter, according to Valerie Baronkin, Greenville Deanery coordinator for 40 Days for Life and a parishioner at St. Mary Magdalene in Simpsonville.

“We’re making a difference,” Baronkin said.

Greenville’s closing celebration, one of hundreds held across South Carolina and worldwide, included music, singing, dancing, and testimonies from mothers who chose life, prayer warriors and sidewalk advocates.

Ingrid Ireland, a sidewalk advocate and 40 Days for Life event coordinator, recalled an incident on a Monday morning during the fall campaign when a man stopped to chat with several 40 Days participants, telling them that a year ago his then-pregnant niece was on the verge of aborting her unborn child. 

“He told her if she would give life to the child, he would take and raise the baby,” Ireland said.  The man then showed the prayer warriors a photo of the now 5-month-old child he is raising. He also thanked Ireland and the others for what they were doing to protect the unborn.

“Miracles happen when we pray,” Ireland said, her fingers wiping tears from her cheeks as she spoke.

The 40 Days effort started locally in 2004 in Bryan and College Station, Texas, east of Austin. A small group held peaceful prayer vigils, fasting and community outreach, adopting a campaign timeframe of 40 days, in reference to the time period God consistently uses throughout salvation history.

In 2007, the campaign went national and ultimately worldwide. 

As of Nov. 4, the peaceful vigils and prayers had led to the saving of 454 lives during the fall campaign across the 40 Days for Life network, Baronkin said. Since 40 Days for Life went national 12 years ago, more than 16,000 babies have been saved, while 104 abortion centers have closed, she said.

For the first time, Greenville’s campaign expanded to a 24/7 time schedule, Baronkin said. Some of those overnight slots were filled, but others were left unattended.

“The 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. shifts were rarely covered, but the ones that were covered really made an impact because those people came out in faith that God would hear their prayers and answer their prayers. It’s a great sacrifice for those who came out during that time,” she said.

The prayer warriors counseled three mothers “that we know of” to keep their unborn babies during the Greenville campaign, Baronkin said, including Hernandez, who through an interpreter thanked the celebration gathering. 

“She is very thankful that someone stopped her from going into the abortion clinic,” Rocio Fernandez translated. “She also wants to thank God and all the people with 40 Days for Life, as well as the people from Birthright and the Piedmont Women’s Center, who took time to pray for her.”

Birthright of Greenville, along with the Piedmont Women’s Center, is providing clothing, diapers and blankets for Hernandez and her baby. Celebrants at the Greenville 40 Days for Life closing ceremony brought additional items for Hernandez and her baby during a baby shower held in the center’s parking lot. 

Baby Hernandez is due to arrive March 28, Baronkin said.