As Julie Orlando can tell you, fear is one of the greatest challenges women face when they discover they are unexpectedly pregnant. It may be fear of pregnancy or parenting, or fear of how their partner will react.
When Julie found herself facing an unplanned pregnancy at age 23, it wasn’t fear of being pregnant or raising a child that she felt, but rather the fear of her Christian community’s response.
“As the daughter of a pastor, I felt a lot of pressure wondering what my Christian community would say. How would this news reflect on my Dad and my family? Never did it cross my mind that I wasn’t capable of raising a child, or that I didn’t want to. I was simply afraid of what everyone would think.”
Although Julie knew of New Life Family Services at the time she found herself pregnant, the fear she felt was so great that she kept the news of her pregnancy hidden, except from two of her closest friends.
I found myself in a situation I never expected to be in and, all of the sudden, debating a decision I never thought I would be debating. I made up my mind to have an abortion. From the moment I scheduled that appointment, I knew it was wrong. In my mind, it felt like it was my only option.
Although Julie imagined that her friends would challenge her decision, those conversations didn’t happen. But God would soon begin speaking to her in ways she hadn’t predicted.
The night before the scheduled abortion appointment, Julie spent the evening with her friends at dinner and the movies, not once talking about her plan for the next day.
They parted ways and Julie went home. Julie recounts, “I crawled into bed and decided to flip through the channels on TV as a way to give God one last opportunity to change my mind. The next morning, the baby’s father was going to pick me up and take me to my appointment. There was nothing on TV that jumped out at me, so I thought, I guess this is the right decision.”
Julie went to bed and an hour later she heard a car pull into the driveway. “It was one of my best friends who came to the door with three envelopes and a mixtape asking me read, listen, and pray. She gave me a hug and left.”
Two of the letters were from Julie’s friends asking her to reconsider, but also telling her they would love her no matter what. The third was an anonymous letter personalized to Julie and her situation. While Julie didn’t know it at the time, the letter was written by her coworker Traci, who was a volunteer with New Life Family Services’ 24- Hour Crisis Phone Line. Traci had learned about Julie’s pregnancy and felt God nudging her to write this letter.
Julie recounts that fateful middle-of-the-night moment 20 years ago,
“Halfway through this letter, God broke me down. One of the lines that spoke to me was, ‘I know that by choosing to give life to your baby, you are risking a lot. But God is faithful and He will be with you every step of the way.’ I knew, right in that moment, my decision had changed and I could not go through with this abortion.”
Traci explained, “I felt compelled to write a letter because Julie believed she was alone and that no one would be there for her. It broke my heart that she felt abortion was her only choice. I wanted her to know there was hope and that people loved her and would support her.”
For Julie, the letter was a divine intervention. “After finishing this letter, everything changed. I knew if I didn’t tell someone immediately, I could wake up the next morning and proceed with the planned abortion. I needed to call someone, and I remembered New Life’s crisis phone line. I didn’t want to share my story with a stranger, but I dialed anyway.”
As only God could orchestrate, the woman who answered the phone that night was Traci. “I could not believe that out of all of the volunteers, I called the night she was answering the phone. Traci listened to me tell my story and talked with me for hours in the middle of the night, helping me think through the impact an abortion would have on the rest of my life. I also learned during this conversation that she had written me the letter that God used in a big way.
Because of her letter and the time she spent talking with me that night, I had the courage to cancel my abortion appointment and choose life for my son in spite of my fears.”
After having the courage to choose life, Julie also found the courage she needed to share the news with her parents.
“When my dad and everyone at my church found out, it turned out completely opposite of what I had feared. They all came and surrounded me and my family with support and even threw me a baby shower. They were there every step of the way. I moved back in with my parents for the first year, and they were an amazing support to me. My dad has been not just a grandparent, but a second father to Justin.”
Justin was born on Palm Sunday, which commemorates Jesus’ big arrival in Jerusalem. For Julie, her son’s birthday is a reminder that God shows up in big ways.
A 20th Anniversary
Now 20 years later, Julie gives thanks to God, Traci, and New Life for the gift of a letter and a listening ear that saved her son’s life. “The day I was scheduled to have an abortion was August 20th, and eight years later, that same date is when I met my now husband. That date marks big changes in my life. God was able to swoop in at the last minute and change the situation through a sheet of paper and a few close friends. It saved my son’s life.”
Today when Julie finds herself in life’s valleys, she is quick to remember God’s faithfulness to her. “I reminisce about God’s faithfulness twenty years ago and that is able to pull me out of the valleys I’m facing.”
Justin, now a young man, has graduated from high school and is pursuing dreams of working in software development.
Julie describes Justin as a really funny guy, a nature lover, and sport enthusiast.
When I look at my son, I am so blessed that I was given the opportunity to be his mom. I know how easily I could have missed the joy of motherhood, as I experienced multiple miscarriages later in my marriage. My son Justin is my one and only child here on earth.
But beyond all of this, Julie knows Justin is destined for great things. “God had a great purpose in mind when creating Justin and I am thrilled to see where God leads him and opens doors for him in his adulthood. I hope and pray Justin will know how much he is loved and be able to use his life to make a difference.” •