The heartwarming story taking the Internet by storm the past few days almost reads like a fast-paced movie script.
A young couple pregnant with a baby diagnosed with Down syndrome are planning to abort. A priest learns about the situation, and steps in. He tells the couple he’ll find a home for that baby if they choose to deliver – however, the woman is planning her abortion for the next day.
It’s a race against time, so the Rev. Thomas Vander Woude (pictured left) takes to Facebook. He asks his church’s social media volunteer to write up a post describing the situation, and making the plea. “If you are interested in adopting this baby please contact Fr. VW IMMEDIATELY,” the volunteer writes. “We are asking all to pray for this baby and the wisdom that this couple realize the importance of human life and do not abort this beautiful gift from God.”
The response was overwhelming.
The church received phone calls from people all day long along with more than 900 emails. The Washington Times reports that people from all over the United States and around the world – places like England, Puerto Rico and the Netherlands – reached out and said they’d give that baby a loving home.
What you may not know is how Father Vander Woude knows first-hand about the challenges and blessings of having a family member with Down syndrome.
Father Vander Woude’s younger brother, Joseph, has the condition.
It also turns out that Father Vander Woude isn’t the first person in his family to save a life. Years ago, the priest’s father, Thomas S. Vander Woude, gave his life so his son Joseph may live.
It was 2008 when Joseph, his father’s constant companion, fell into a septic tank. As the Washington Post reported, at some point the father “jumped in the tank, submerging himself in sewage so he could push his son up from below and keep his head above the muck… When rescue workers arrived, they pulled the two out, police said. Vander Woude, who had been in the tank for 15 to 20 minutes, was unconscious. Efforts to revive him were unsuccessful.”
We live in a culture where 92 percent of women who receive the diagnosis of Down syndrome for their preborn child choose abortion. As my colleague wrote, “the population of those with Down syndrome is barreling toward extinction.”
In a world where we can medically screen to ensure we have “perfect” babies, most people haven’t met someone with Down syndrome. They might assume the worst about the condition when in reality people with the condition are the sweetest you’ll ever meet.
Well, thanks to Joseph, Father Vander Woude knew all about Down syndrome – and he knew that baby’s life was worth saving. His dad knew all about the condition, too – and he was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for Joseph.
As Christians, we know what the Bible says is true: every person has inherent dignity. The stories I share with you today give a glimpse to how those facts play out in real life. The beauty and sanctity of life compel people all over the world to love, compassion and sacrifice.
This is something that as a culture we can’t afford to lose.