How to Survive the Winter as a Sidewalk Counselor or Prayer Supporter
by Debra Braun, Education Director
Pro-Life Action Ministries, St. Paul, Minn.
For those of you who are new to sidewalk counseling or praying outside abortion centers, the following tips might be helpful. In case you’re wondering if the abortion centers ever close due to the winter weather, here’s your answer: I’ve been sidewalk counseling in Minnesota since 1986. In all that time, I can recall once that the local abortion centers closed because of the winter weather — the day after the 1991 Halloween blizzard when we received about 30 inches of snow. So, if the abortion centers are open for killing in bad weather and the abortion clients can get there, our goal is to be there also to try to save those innocent children.
We are also a particularly strong witness in the winter. Someone once took literature from me on a cold day, saying, “If you’re out here today, you must have something important to say.” Indeed, our presence in the winter tells all those around us that this is SERIOUS, that this is a matter of life and death, that these children are WORTH IT!
The following tips will help you fulfill your scheduled sidewalk counseling / prayer times and help you focus on the women and not on your own discomfort. (After sidewalk counseling / praying in the cold for a while, you will probably develop your own additional methods of staying warm.)
* Listen to the weather forecast before going out. Everything makes a difference — the temperature, the wind chill, whether it’s going to be sunny or overcast, etc. I even pay attention to the direction of the wind. Depending upon which side of the building I will be standing on, this too makes a difference.
* Dress in several layers and don’t forget the long underwear! This helps insulate you by trapping warm, dry air between the layers.
* Wear a hat or hood, and keep your neck covered. (A large percentage of your body heat escapes through your head.) But, if possible, avoid the ski masks. We want to be very approachable to the pregnant women, not scare them away!
* The first few times you go out in the winter, dress more warmly than you think you have to. You’ll be glad you did!
* Many people use disposable hand warmers for their hands and feet. Since I like to wear gloves (often several pairs) rather than mittens for ease in handling the literature, I don’t typically use hand warmers. Instead, I keep my hands warm by alternating them in my coat pockets (one hand is holding the literature to be distributed, while the other is keeping warm in the pocket). If it’s extremely cold, putting hand warmers in my pockets seems to help a little in warming my hands.
* A good place to shop for cold weather gear is a sporting goods store. (For gloves, mittens, hats, socks and boots NOT made in China, see www.newberryknitting.com and www.mukluks.com.) On a related note, a good place to shop for a big umbrella is a golf store.
* Keep moving. An observer watching me from inside could probably tell how cold it is by the speed of my pacing back and forth!
* If it’s an extremely cold (sub-zero) and/or windy day, consider parking your car nearby where you have a good view of the entrance to the abortion center. During the lulls between clients you can warm up in your car, or take turns being on the sidewalk with your sidewalk counseling partner. You could place signs against your car to help get your message out to the abortion clients even as you’re warming up and praying in your car.
* Be prudent; take a break when needed so that you don’t get hypothermia or frostbite.
Taking these measures will allow you to not only endure the winter but, on most days, to actually be quite comfortable in the cold. Something that helps me when I’m preparing to go out on bitterly cold mornings (like January 30, 2019 when it was 28 degrees below zero!) is to think of specific children saved because of sidewalk counseling. We are enduring this suffering for them and their families and out of obedience to our Lord. Think of the suffering He endured for us! “But if you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in His footsteps.” (1 Peter 2:20-21) It can be a challenge to maintain your pro-life presence outside the abortion mills throughout the winter. But with God’s grace and adequate clothing, YOU CAN DO IT!