Ester Garcia glows as she holds baby number five in her arms. He is eleven month old Luke and is beyond precious. Ester is a mother of five with one on the way in a couple of months. We meet for coffee (that only I have as she is pregnant) as she and I begin to share the story that has made Ester one of two women currently serving in the Rachel’s Vineyard ministry that is willing to offer testimony to their own experience with abortion. Rachel’s Vineyard is a ministry that offers semi annual retreats to women and men that have been affected by the pain of abortion. This includes mothers who opted to abort a child or anyone who has been impacted such as fathers and even grandparents.
Ester grew up Catholic in El Paso with active Catholic parents who participated in several church ministries. She and her siblings were very well engaged in their Catholic faith through a dynamic parish life. Both of her parents also participated in the pro-life ministry at their parish. She fondly remembers attending pro-life marches as a child with her family. She tells me her parents’ spiritual work to promote and preserve life included abortion clinic protests.
Her father, deeply committed to his work, once incurred an injury at a clinic demonstration. She says, “In those days it was very different. The protests were aggressive. Bodyguards accompanied abortion doctors on their way in; people locked arms to prevent entry. It got so bad our house was once shot at.” Eventually Ester’s parents decided to stop advocating so fervently in order to maintain their family’s safety. She tells me, “Today we do prayerful demonstrations. The way we are going to get our message across to people is in a peaceful approach. We are the eyes of Christ at the clinics today so we simply pray in front of clinics”. Ester says she has heard many testimonies from women saying that while driving to their appointments they asked God to send a sign. And as they pulled up to the clinic they saw someone kneeling in prayer. “Peacefully we become the sign that so many are asking for that makes them change their mind”, she shares.
Upon graduating from high school Ester stayed in El Paso and started her Freshman year of college. She always maintained a close relationship with her parents but despite that she still struggled with typical teenage issues of low self esteem. As a young girl Ester says the talk of sex in her household was “You don’t have sex until you get married. My parents could never find the words to discuss sexuality so what I learned, I learned from my friends.”
While in college she started a relationship with a man nine years her senior. She became pregnant in the first year of their relationship and he turned out not to be supportive of carrying the baby to term. She says her memory of the events that followed are very blurry and all she can really remember is her then boyfriend telling her it was not possible for her to go through with the pregnancy. She says, “I don’t really recall the days leading up to the abortion. I cannot really even recall how the procedure was paid for. I do remember entering the clinic, the way it looked, the way it smelled. There was no pre-counseling and the staff was very cold.” She does remember a woman telling her not to worry that she had done this nine times before. Ester goes on to share, “I think in my humanness I blocked some of it out. The experience almost seemed not to be real. It was as if I was in a dream.” She tells me the procedure was horrific and she experienced excruciating pain. It was over rather quickly and she was sent out to a patient recovery room filled with other girls. A close friend picked her up as Ester’s parents thought she was at the mall. While at her friend’s house she experienced extreme pain and later collapsed. She had to be rushed to the hospital where she found out a part of the baby had been left inside her. The hospital staff told her they could keep the details from her parents. She later woke to her parents at her bedside. Even though she had lied to them about what had really happened she says, “My mom knew. My mom later told me that she knew, she just knew in her heart. She later told me she named the baby that night.”
For years after the abortion Ester struggled to find herself and to find peace. After her experience with abortion Ester says she spiraled out of control with careless and reckless behaviors. Ester says that eventually she realized why she acted out this way but it took a long time. She says that finding her way back to her faith to seek forgiveness was what helped her make the connection between the abortion and the self destructive behavior. She explains, “Every time that something bad happened to me, I thought God was punishing me.” She found her way back to her church community and knew she had to start serving the Lord in some way to make good the bad choice she had made years before. It was an ACTS retreat where she gave her first testimony which led her to go to a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat.
It was at a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat that she found the help to mourn the loss of her child and found a way to cope. Ester says, “The reason I always say yes to giving my testimony in public is that one in three women have experienced an abortion yet our attendance at Rachel’s Vineyard remains very low. People need to know.” Ester says that women who confess this sort of sin need more and Rachel’s Vineyard offers that. She says, “There is a post abortive syndrome that leads women to destructive behaviors like alcoholism, promiscuousness, drug abuse, eating disorders and sometimes even suicide. Rachel’s Vineyard offers women a place where they are not alone in their pain from abortion and can find acknowledgment of what they have done and ultimately find healing.” Ester goes on to explain, “I understood the Lord forgave me but it is forgiving myself that is most difficult. It is hard to live with regret.” Rachel’s Vineyard helps women forgive themselves, give dignity back to the life they took and gives them closure. Ester says, “God granted me the grace to decide I needed to help people and He gave me the courage to do so by sharing my story.”
On Sunday, January 21, 2018 thousands of Catholics marched for life in Downtown El Paso. The march was to remind us that we too need to share our stories of our faith. That life is precious and does begin at conception. We as Catholics are called to be signs of Christ for others. Through her ministry Ester not only found healing but was able to find love. She met her husband by chance while peacefully praying in front of an abortion clinic. He too was praying and was called to the same ministry. Ester’s husband refers to Ester as “A Warrior for Christ”. May we all choose to be warriors for Christ too.
The next Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat is scheduled for February 16, 17 & 18.
For more information please call (915) 433-1983 or email
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