GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.— An encounter with a pro-life center that had previously served as both a house of worship and an abortion clinic at different times in its history has left a lasting impression on one pro-life leader.
Although it may not be apparent to those who pass by, the building in Grand Rapids, Mich., that is now the headquarters of the pro-life organization LIFE International has a complex past.
The building was rented in 1994 by an abortionist who turned it into “the largest abortion facility in western Michigan,” David Bereit told CNA on June 12.
The National Director of the 40 Days for Life campaign, Bereit learned the history of the building in 2004, during a visit which took place only days after the final abortions had been performed in the building.
“That experience taught me that with God, all things are possible,” even “reclaiming an abortion facility and helping it to become, once again, a place that honors God and protects and promotes life,” he said.
Originally built as a Jewish synagogue in the late 1800s, the building at 72 Ransom Avenue eventually became too small for its growing community. It was then sold to a Greek Orthodox community until they too outgrew the building and moved elsewhere.
The investors who purchased the building then changed it over to commercial property, leasing it to an abortionist for the next decade.
This is when pro-life leaders, pastors, members of the Grand Rapids community and others began to pray “specifically with the intention of reclaiming that building for God,” Bereit said.
In 1999, “a for sale sign went up in front of 72 Ransom.” But the pro-life community faced “obstacle after obstacle” in trying to acquire the property, he said. Meanwhile, abortions were still being performed there.
During this time, a group of people involved with a local pregnancy resource center decided to form a ministry to take the center’s work “and spread that hope elsewhere around the world.” They named this new ministry LIFE International and decided that its goal would be to place pregnancy resource centers wherever abortions are taking place.
Bereit said that the newly formed group “laid out their strategic plans and — talk about bold faith — they wrote down that they would acquire 72 Ransom Avenue and it would become the headquarters of LIFE International.”
By the end of 2003, the organization’s plan came to fruition when LIFE International, with the help of donors and local businesses, was able to negotiate a price for the building.
Upon acquiring the building in 2004, the new owners ended the abortion clinic, “kicked out” the abortionist and brought the LIFE International world headquarters into the building.
Bereit said the story had a strong personal influence on his own life and faith.
It “totally changed my perspective forever,” he explained, “because I realized, that this truly is a battle of life and death, a battle between good and evil.”