Aggie takes pro-life message to Nepal

COLLEGE STATION—Kristen Ackerman is not your typical college sophomore-to-be. In fact, her former pastor calls her unique.

When most of her peers were breaking out their swimsuits or planning some R&R if only for a few days before beginning summer jobs or summer terms, Ackerman was preparing for a sobering mission to Nepal.

The Texas A&M University chemistry and pre-med major lived in Nepal from age 6 to age 12 as a missionary kid and has maintained friendships there. But the impoverished Asian country she left has changed in at least one unsettling way: abortion, legalized in 2002, has become a burgeoning problem, especially in the capital city of Kathmandu.
According to AsiaNews, the Nepalese Health Service Department reported abortions have risen 42 percent since 2007 in a country of 29 million people dominated by Hindus and Buddhists, causing some government leaders to endorse a movement to repeal the abortion laws.

Ackerman, who spent her high school years as a member at Rock Prairie Baptist Church in College Station, has long been a trailblazer. She and a friend began a pro-life student club at A&M Consolidated High School that is still thriving. At Texas A&M, she is one of about 25 students who make up a club called Pro-Life Aggies, a group that once a semester holds a memorial service on campus for the unborn victims of abortion. They use the occasion to educate other students about life in the womb.

So when a friend from Nepal learned of her work on behalf of the unborn and their mothers, she challenged Ackerman to bring her knowledge of the abortion issue back to Nepal, where many Christians, misled or unaware that abortion stops a beating heart, are falling for abortion propaganda being pushed by governmental and global health organizations.

With help from several sources, including a large offering from Rock Prairie Baptist that covered most of her trip, Ackerman traveled to Nepal through a Christian development ministry founded by her parents, spending May 28 through July 1 spreading a sanctity of life message to rural villagers, literacy workers, Christian churches, and English-speaking secondary and college students from Hindu and Buddhist backgrounds.

“They really need to know why abortion is wrong,” Ackerman recalled her friend saying. “A lot of the Christian churches don’t know how to communicate the sanctity of human life to their people. Many of them don’t understand what abortion is. Some of the married women don’t understand the difference between abortion and birth control.”

Ackerman said because women in traditional Nepalese culture are treated poorly, especially if they become pregnant out of wedlock, the Christian believers, if equipped, are singularly suited for building trust and dignity in these women as they also seek to save lives and share the gospel.

In speaking with the churches, “I focused on Bible verses about how children are special, how God hates the killing of innocent human beings and why abortion is the killing of an innocent human being,” Ackerman explained.

She spoke to 10 churches, including two youth groups.

“One of the women [in the churches] said her friend had considered an abortion, but she had encouraged her to keep the baby,” Ackerman wrote in a newsletter to supporters. “Now, after studying the Bible and seeing the models and pictures, she could explain to her friend why abortion was wrong.”

The Nepalese churches’ pro-life message competes against wealthy international foundations and abortion-rights groups, such as the Center for Reproductive Rights, and governmental agencies with a vested interest in expanding abortion. In 2009, the Nepal Supreme Court ordered the government to provide abortion funding for poor and rural women to close a perceived gap between abortion legality and abortion access.

Wrote Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, in an opinion piece at CBSNews.com that praised Nepal as an exemplar in abortion access, “In seven short years, Nepal went from locking up women for violating a criminal abortion ban to providing public funding of abortion services.” (Stateside, the Center for Reproductive Rights launched the “Law School Initiative” in 2008 to promote “an emerging body of transnational law not yet widely taught in U.S. law schools,” according to its website at reproductiverights.org/.)

Ackerman said that among the rural poor, she used some simple scientific props and information on fetal development to build her case that abortion takes a human life created in God’s image. The scientific information was especially helpful for the younger people, who are becoming increasingly westernized, she said.

“We showed them that a baby’s heart starts beating at three weeks, brainwaves are detected at six weeks, vital organs at 10 weeks. I had some in utero models at various stages that were donated by a friend from A&M that showed why this life is precious and why abortion is killing that baby.”

Ackerman was also able to use an animated video that explains what takes place in an abortion.

Perhaps the highlight of her trip, Ackerman said, was speaking to a packed auditorium of male and female students at a social work college in Kathmandu where most of the students were not Christians. Ackerman began by apologizing for the exportation of abortion from the West into Asian countries such as Nepal.

“I want you to know so it doesn’t hurt your country the way it’s hurt mine,” she told the students.

“There was an amazing response at the college,” Ackerman said. “I was speaking to educated young people who were mostly Hindus and Buddhists. They really understood it and how it was going to hurt their nation. These are going to end up being the leaders in Nepal.”

Lani Ackerman, Kristen’s mother, said her daughter was able to speak to these young people before they were indoctrinated with abortion rhetoric, “and they were flabbergasted. They said, ‘We cannot allow abortion to take over Nepal.’ These were Hindus and Buddhists and yet they were flabbergasted.”

She added, “Kristen had so much more of an impact than what I could have as a middle-aged doctor. Sure, they’d listen to me. But for a young person to speak to her peers is so much more powerful.”

Two Nepalese Christians who served as translators for her in rural Nepal are carrying on Ackerman’s sanctity of life message. These indigenous missionaries work with a ministry called HELP, founded by her parents, Tim and Lani Ackerman, which teaches literacy, health, and agriculture, and animal husbandry to rural Nepalese as a platform for gospel proclamation and church planting. Lani Ackerman is a family practice medical doctor; Tim Ackerman is an ecologist and a lay preacher.

Though the Ackerman’s are no longer members at Rock Prairie, the church has continued supporting the HELP ministry, said Johnny Sloan, Rock Prairie’s pastor.

Sloan said of Kristen Ackerman: “Unique is how I would describe her. She is a unique young lady. Really, she is still considered a teenager. You just don’t find many her age that would go into something of that caliber. She is a darling kid and we just love her family.

“She was a blessing to our church when she was here. I really believe the Lord is going to use her to do great things for the kingdom.”

After returning from Nepal, Ackerman was able to share her story with students attending a camp sponsored by Texas Right to Life, Lani Ackerman said.

For information on how to begin a student pro-life club at a high school or college, e-mail MPici@TexasRightToLife.com.

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