Two Time-Tested Programs Offer Unique Benefits to Those Suffering After Abortion Loss
Synergy: The interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.
For approaching 20 years Rachel’s Vineyard (RV) and Forgiven and Set Free (F&SF) have proven to be very effective programs for those suffering after abortion loss. Rachel’s Vineyard, a ministry of Priests for Life features an intensive weekend program offered Friday evening to Sunday afternoon and is offered in a Catholic and Interdenominational version. F&SF is an Interdenominational program presented in an 11 week bible study format.
Patricia Pulliam is involved in both abortion recovery programs as well as a Pregnancy Resource Center. I asked Patricia to share her experience in ministry using both RV and F&SF, and how both models can provide a blessed synergy for those suffering after abortion:
Patricia share with us the many hats you wear in your pro life outreach?
I serve on the Board of Directors of the Pregnancy Resource Connection in Granby, Colorado and as director of their post abortion healing program, Forgiven and Set Free. I’m the pro-life coordinator in the Catholic mission parishes in Grand and Jackson Counties in Colorado. I also serve on the Rachel’s Vineyard Team in Denver Colorado…Colorado is a second home from my husband and me. This gives me an excellent opportunity to see both programs as very valuable resources for those I come in contact with. I can refer women and men for healing, either through the Forgiven and Set Free Bible class at the Pregnancy Center or by attending a Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat in Denver or in some cases combining them both. Our other residence is in South Texas where I serve as Regional Coordinator for the Texas Silent No More Awareness Campaign of the Coastal Bend.
I have had the experience of networking with different denominations and churches. I have come to see that while we can respect one another’s differences we also share a common love for Christ and the power of His Word, and that by working together we truly bless our ministry to those suffering after abortion.
You are a busy lady! Can you give us a brief overview of both programs?
When I received the facilitators manual for the F&SF study I carefully studied each of the weeks lessons and saw many similarities to the Rachel’s Vineyard retreat format.
Both retreats begin the same. There is a similar registration process and interview. I prefer in person interviews if at all possible as this can be an important first step out of shame in the direction of healing. But in some cases the registrations need to happen by phone.
F&SF takes three weeks of various scripture readings and other simple exercises to gradually have the participants remember the details. The first class is simply called Orientation and it is the same as the first night of RV when they all meet for the first time and actually see they are not alone in their struggle. There are lots of nervous smiles and distrust as well as a wondering why they are there.
The next two weeks are studying the scriptures about who God is and who He is not. The questions they have to answer in their workbooks are shared each week. Each class is about 2 and a half hours long. The classes are small…we had 4 the first one including me. Getting into the Bible is an awesome experience and the verses author Linda Cochran picked are truly amazing. We all take turns reading them out loud. The homework requires at least one hour and is completed by the next session.
An obvious benefit to the weekly format…time is a luxury here. We have time to learn and share and very slowly you begin to see the changes in each woman.
The following four weeks in F&SF begin to deal with specific feelings, relief and denial, anger, the need to forgive, and depression. These middle weeks are hard as they begin to peel away layers of pent up stuff. Once again we use scripture as the underpinning. There is time to share without any time constraint.
In F&SF the abortion experience is quickly replaced by the truths in scripture and the truth of how valuable every person is. Their individual abortion stories come out during the answering of the questions in their workbooks instead of the way RV allows each woman or man to tell their story on Saturday.
Time in class each week allows for “remembering” in a different way. Many times things that had been forgotten for years are suddenly brought to the surface, even additional abortions. The final two weeks are titled Forgiven and Set Free and Grieving the loss.
Rachel’s Vineyard uses a weekend Friday to Sunday program – how does it accomplish these important healing stages in that format?
RV has to accomplish the same type of trust, commitment and unity in a very short time, which is does very successfully as well as participants go through the process together. There is a benefit of having no interruptions with breaking for a week between sessions.
At an RV retreat the stories are told on Saturday morning. RV uses “Living Scripture” meditations and very effective exercises to bring home the same result, an interior letting go of lies and judgment. There is a benefit to the concentrated work in a weekend. The exercises and activities engage all the senses with the music, props and concrete ways the process helps participants move through the grief and trauma to embrace their children in love and find peace in the Lord.
Just as Rachel’s Vineyard allows them to meet their children the F&SF format also brings them to a place of identifying and naming their children. This is a time of deep grief, but there is so much compassion and unity in the group by now that it is truly a community effort to help each other up the hill so to speak.
The Memorial Service of F&SF is very similar to RV. F&SF do not use dolls that represent their children as you find on the RV retreat. They invite family and their pastors to attend. Amazingly enough every pastor has attended and of course been overwhelmed at the service. They are given a lace angel that represents their children and they read a letter to their child or some kind of memorial.
The FSF study has just developed a class strictly for men. I have not seen it but was given a preliminary set of guidelines. I really like it.
You have come to see the programs as complementary even enhancing one another. Could share about that and gives some examples?
I had told the F&SF class about my RV experience and all of them were interested but one woman knowing of the upcoming RV retreat and that I would be serving on team wanted to attend with her husband, which is a real blessing of the RV retreat which encourages couples, siblings and grandparents to attend. We had just finished week five on anger in the F&SF. I wondered how this would work out but I prayed.
I watched her during that retreat and we were able to share in the breaks how prepared she felt to go through RV. She had worked through some issues already and could now go into more depth in her “remembering.” I did not tell her about the RV format as it compared to F&SF. When she and her husband got to the naming of the children, she had had two abortions but her husband was not the father, I wondered how she would react.
It was very difficult but very freeing. She finished the retreat with a deep sense of accomplishment and freedom. I told her that what she experienced during the RV retreat would also happen in the rest of our F&SF class and that she would not tell the rest of the class what was coming.
As we finished our F&SF classes she truly seemed much more aware off her deepest feelings and even allowed herself to feel even more than she did at the RV retreat.
She wrote a new letter to her children and read it at the F&SF Memorial Service. She said she felt so blessed to have been able to do both together. The second Memorial Service provided and even deeper experience for her after the natural intensity of that first service on the RV retreat.
She then stood up in front of her congregation one Sunday morning and gave her testimony about both RV and F&SF and two women came forward to take the next F&SF class. From that next class another woman went down to an RV retreat before starting our F&SF class.
How can RV and F&SF help with the necessary ongoing emotional and spiritual growth when the program ends and you “come down from the mountain?”
The other woman who did her RV first and then waited a few weeks before our F&SF class shared that many issues that were brought up at the RV retreat needed to be addressed further. The class allowed her to take the healings she received at the RV retreat and go deeper and for some issues to find true closure.
RV teams and F&SF (through the PRC or church it is based out of) can keep an open network of sharing when there retreats are happening and encourage the retreatants from both to keep an ongoing process of healing and recovery going. Each time I go and serve on a RV team or teach an F&SF class I receive additional healing and spiritual support. I share this with anyone that will listen.
In our FSF classes I stress over and over that the process is just that and it will become more wonderful and cleansing as they go. They became excited about looking for ways to keep it going and still “come down the mountain” into everyday life.
In Denver I am in charge of the “aftercare gift bags” that are given out after the retreat on Sunday. They contain some unique brochures that I have found that deal with some common hurdles women and men have to face when they leave the retreat; such as how to talk about the retreat to family, children, friends, and spouses. Included also is the location of some of the PRC that offer other abortion recovery programs.
Why is important for women and men active in pro life and especially service in Pregnancy Resource Centers to consider abortion healing programs if they have experienced abortion loss?
You cannot give what you don’t have. Unaddressed past abortion issues come out of nowhere when you are faced with a defiant and sometimes volatile client bent on abortion. You will either back away from her and not truly engage her because it causes you interior pain or you will jump in with both feet and possibly lose perspective and not be as effective as you can be… and over time burn out.
The type of healing you receive from these programs allows you to be not only a good listener but to truly understand the girl who comes in wanting answers about whether she should get an abortion.
The peace and closure you have received over the death of your own child(ren) will help you lead another on their journey of decisions and options open to her. And in the event she still chooses abortion you will be there to lead her to recovery.
Women and men who have gone through either or both of these programs offer a profound insight into the issues surrounding an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy. They are truly “Resurrection people” and it has been my experience that their sense of joy is very apparent and generously shared.
What was your personal journey that led you to Pregnancy Resource Connection and Abortion recovery ministry?
I made my Rachel’s Vineyard retreat in 2010 in Corpus Christi Texas. I later became part of the team. The following year I went to my first March for Life in Washington DC and marched with the Silent No More Awareness Campaign (SNMAC) and gave my testimony on the steps of the Supreme Court. I then became SNMAC Regional Coordinator (RC) for the Texas Coastal Bend area.
My task as RC is to contact the women and men who register their regret on the national website and contact them via phone or email and introduce myself and let them know they are not alone in their feelings. This conversation usually leads to a confession that they are in need of some kind of emotional support and spiritual healing. It is then my job to find what kind of post abortion healing resources are in their areas. At this point I knew of the Rachel’s Vineyard retreats and had only heard of the Forgiven and Set Free Bible Study by Linda Cochrane. Two of the Pregnancy Centers in the Corpus Christi area offered individual counseling and other lesser known post abortion healing programs.
I went in person to each of these centers and told them my story and introduced Silent No More and Rachel’s Vineyard. Both centers really embraced the fact that there was an organized movement for post abortion healing. The brochures were then placed in their offices along with my card.
When we began to live more full time up in the mountains of Colorado I noticed that there was not any information on post abortion healing in any of the small mission parishes.
I also noticed a particular Pregnancy Center that sat directly next to a Planned Parenthood on Main Street. It is the Pregnancy Resource Connection in Granby Colorado.
It was eerie to say the least to walk up to the center’s door and just opposite was the door to a Planned Parenthood office. Planned Parenthood and I have HISTORY. Literally there is a door for life and a door for death. I felt an urgent sense of determination as I stood there. Was I to stand and pray at this site or was I supposed to continue trying to spread the word about the availability of healing after an abortion?
I turned and walked through the doors of the Pregnancy Resource Connection.
It was like a match made in Heaven…literally I believe. Through a series of events where God opened doors I came to offer the F&SF at PRC and serve on the RV Team in Colorado.
I hope and pray that others might consider how both these programs could provide a comprehensive outreach to the many women and men who have experienced abortion loss. This can occur with one ministry offering both programs or like in our case by networking between different organizations or churches.