Since the 40 Days for Life fall campaign kicked off September 25, pro-lifers across the country have combined their efforts to pray for the unborn and deliver a message of hope to a culture of death. Life Runners, the largest pro-life group in the world, is one of many organizations participating in the 40-day campaign aimed at ending abortion.
Faithwire recently spoke with Life Runners teammate Deb Mirenda, whose husband, Ted, co-chairs the organization’s Philadelphia chapter, to learn more about what sets Life Runners apart from other pro-life groups.
What is Life Runners?
Life Runners, founded in 2006 by veteran, professor, and marathon runner Dr. Pat Castle, is a nondenominational Christian pro-life group that boasts over 13,000 “teammates” in 50 states and 39 nations.
Despite the name, anyone can become a Life Runner. All you have to do to join is sign up online, order a jersey, and wear it as a public witness to the pro-life cause. Each Life Runner’s jersey includes the group’s slogan, “Remember the unborn,” along with a reference to Jeremiah 1:5.
Some of the words Mirenda used to describe Life Runners included “local,” “organic,” and “inclusive.” If that sounds liberal, it’s because, in a way, it is.
As Mirenda explained, the pro-life cause is a human issue that affects all people, regardless of sex, age, color, nationality, economic status, political affiliation, physical or mental ability. Because of this, Life Runners operates as a grassroots effort unified in its branding and overall mission.
“We do have our basic mission, but each individual chapter kind of lives out that mission with the personality of the group, so to speak,” Mirenda told Faithwire. “So it kind of ebbs and flows, and it’s kind of organic, depending on whatever life issues are happening in your area.”
Life Runners teams from all over organize walks, runs, vigils, and volunteer efforts throughout the year. Though events vary by chapter and region — from pro-life rallies like the massive, star-studded one that took place in Philadelphia back in May, to local marathons and 5Ks, to courthouse prayer gatherings — one of the major ways the organization advances its mission is through public gatherings outside abortion clinics.
“We’re mothers, fathers, teachers, business people,” Mirenda said. “So you show up when you can. Some people work all day, so they’ll go after work. Some moms try to get there with their little ones — I spent years pushing a stroller outside Planned Parenthood.”
On several occasions, Deb has been the only person there, praying for God to multiply her individual efforts and touch the lives of women visiting the clinic.
“I just kind of walk the beat, so to speak,” she said. “You just feel like you’re the soldier at the tomb of the unknown soldier. You’re just there to pray, and God does the rest.”
The key, Mirenda said, is showing up and being a peaceful presence in the hope of getting women to reconsider their decision to abort. Though simple, the strategy has yielded powerful results.
“Former abortion providers report that when you show up to pray, the no-show rate for abortion appointments can go as high as 75 percent,” 40 Days for Life states on its website.
Planting seeds of hope
It’s impossible to know how many lives you will change when you partner with God and others in defense of life — but sometimes, if you’re lucky, you’ll catch a small glimpse. Mirenda described her own experience that goes back about 10 years ago.
One day, Deb was out with her five children. She had a dinner to attend with her husband later that evening, and she needed a haircut. So, with all five kids in tow, she stopped into a hair salon.
For most moms, getting their hair cut is a rare, relaxing, kid-free event. But she was desperate, so she nervously went ahead with it. Then, something miraculous happened.
“All of my kids were like the most well-behaved they’d ever been,” she said. “And they all sat and read their books while I got my hair cut.”
Not long after that experience, Deb was talking to some friends of hers who are in the hair business, and they mentioned a hairdresser they knew who had recently had a baby. The woman was initially on the fence about keeping the child, as she was single and scared. Sure enough, it ended up being the woman who had cut Deb’s hair.
To this day Mirenda doesn’t know for sure why the hairdresser chose to keep her child, but she does believe God led her to that salon that day to provide a small witness to the beauty of life.
“We never know [how God will use us],” she said. “Whether it’s a personal witness, or a Life Runners witness, or standing outside of a church and praying.”
Life Runners, she explained, simply creates a space for conversations about life, but from there, the possibilities are limitless.
Reclaiming the culture
As our wider culture becomes more brazen in its attacks on the dignity of the human person with the expansion of abortion and assisted suicide laws, Mirenda believes the pro-life movement is only growing stronger. She shared that the Philadelphia Life Runners chapter has tripled in just three years.
Back in May, pro-life heavyweights like Matt Walsh, Abby Johnson, and Lila Rose organized a prayerful rally outside of Philadelphia’s Locust St. Planned Parenthood. The event, which drew hundreds of individuals from various pro-life organizations, was held in response to State Rep. Brian Sims (D), who filmed himself harassing young women who were praying outside the clinic.
“It was just kind of a call to arms for all of us, from all walks of life,” Mirenda said of the rally.
Life Runners is proud to partner with 40 Days for Life and other pro-life initiatives. To learn more, or to find a Life Runners chapter near you, click here.