UNSHACKLED

I recently received a copy of this article written by my friend John Kennedy about my friend Mark Morrow. I asked his permission to share it on my blog since it has already been published in “Pentecostal Evangel”. The pain of lost fatherhood has to be addressed; this is not just a woman’s issue, but rather a family crisis! This is just a sampling of the wonderful healing moments we enjoy at SaveOne.

Unshackled
By John W. Kennedy
Feb. 16, 2014

Mark Bradley Morrow’s faith sustained him when his 45-year-old father died of a cerebral aneurysm in 1980. Ten weeks earlier, the 19-year-old college student had accepted Jesus as his Savior.

The weekly Bible studies, prayer meetings, and fellowship at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania likewise buoyed Morrow when his two favorite uncles, both in their mid-40s, committed suicide in 1981 and 1982.

But after college, away from his Christian friends, Morrow began to drift from his spiritual moorings. While his wildest activities during college had been bowling and pinball, by his late 20s Morrow embarked on a string of brief relationships with women.

In 1987, Morrow impregnated his girlfriend. Upon learning the shattering news, Morrow expressed no interest in marriage; he suggested his girlfriend give the baby up for adoption. Instead, she scheduled an appointment with an abortionist. Morrow sat anxiously in the waiting room and after the procedure drove his sobbing girlfriend home.

The experience didn’t reset Morrow’s moral compass. His next short-term girlfriend told him she had aborted their baby — two months after they had broken up.

In the meantime, Morrow lived a duplicitous life. He led the youth group and worship ministry at his church, and even filled the pulpit on occasion. The young women he dated were involved in church as well.

A few months later, yet a third girlfriend wrote a letter to Morrow. No longer together, the girlfriend explained that she had an abortion.

Despite prodding from the Holy Spirit, Morrow didn’t alter his irresponsible behavior. He hooked up again with his first girlfriend, with the same result: an unwanted pregnancy. Although he agreed to support the baby financially, Morrow rejected the notion of marriage once more. This time the girlfriend visited an abortionist without consulting Morrow.

In a 20-month span during 1987-89, Morrow played a role in four abortions.

In retrospect, Morrow believes the unexpected rapid-fire deaths of the three most influential mentors in his life left him with unresolved emotional and spiritual wounds that made him more vulnerable to temptation. But he bears full culpability for his selfish sexual conduct.

“If I had been the man God created me to be, I wouldn’t have chosen to have premarital sex,” Morrow says. “I wouldn’t have put these women in a position where they even thought about having an abortion.”

In 1992, Morrow rededicated his life to Christ. Without mentioning the abortions, Morrow admitted his sullied sexual past to his then-girlfriend and said they needed to stop having intercourse. The confessional made such an impact that the girlfriend, whom Morrow met in graduate school, accepted Jesus as her Savior.

Three months later, Morrow proposed to the girlfriend, on the condition they never would have children. Jeannie agreed, and the couple wed — after Morrow had undergone a vasectomy.

But the marriage came with a child already. Jeannie had a 4-year-old daughter, Ricque, from a previous relationship. Mark adopted Ricque after marrying Jeannie. In time, Morrow grew to understand the blessedness of fatherhood.

Moreover, Morrow thought raising more children might not be such an awful idea after all. After Mark’s successful vasectomy reversal operation, Jeannie gave birth to a daughter, Faith Maddison, in 2002, and a son, Ross Bradley, in 2004. The children attend Erie First Christian Academy, a school operated by Erie (Pa.) First Assembly of God.

Even before they had children together, Mark and Jeannie established themselves as licensed professional Christian counselors. Ironically, as Morrow listened to others pour out their troubles, he continued to harbor the guilt and disgrace from secrets he had stifled for 18 years.

In 2006, he could no longer keep the pent-up burden to himself. Morrow specialized in treating teenagers. As he examined client intake sheets, he kept noticing birth years corresponding to the time his own babies had been aborted. One day he cried out to God to take his shame and pain away.

In mournful wailing, Morrow divulged specifics of his sinful past to a close male friend. In loving compassion, the friend assured Morrow God had forgiven his acknowledged sins.

“Pride is a big reason we keep secrets,” Morrow says. “Satan is the father of lies, and he had convinced me if I told anyone, nobody would come to me for counseling, everyone would hate me, they would think I was the scum of the earth.”

The next night Morrow revealed the whole truth to his wife. It didn’t go well.

“She was rightfully upset,” Morrow recalls. “I had lied to her through omission and kept extremely important details of my life hidden.”

With the help of their pastor and Christian friends, the Morrows worked through their difficulties over a 1 1/2-year span. Mark found healing through a 12-week abortion recovery Bible study for men written by Sheila Harper, founder of the Assemblies of God ministry SaveOne.

“Abortion is not just a female issue, because that child belongs as much to the man as it does to the woman,” says Harper, whose husband, Jack, is pastor of CrossRoads of Antioch, an AG church in Tennessee. “Regardless of whether a man begs a woman not to have the abortion, or if he drives her to the clinic and pays for it, when he realizes what he has done, the consequences are devastating. We don’t have it in us to deal with the aftermath of making the choices of life and death for a human being.”

Subsequently, Harper says, men suffer as much trauma as women from abortion, dealing with issues such as outbursts of anger and mistrust of the opposite sex. Harper says too few men take the step of honestly reflecting about their responsibility for an abortion, confessing their sin, and receiving God’s forgiveness.

“By telling his story, Mark is not only continuing to heal, he allows God to take his most regrettable mistakes and turn them into something good,” says Harper, whose organization has 150 chapters in 30 states and 14 nations. “Because he has allowed God’s grace to cover his sins, Mark is no longer suffering.”

The opposite of what Morrow initially dreaded — that people would revile him for revealing his secret — turned out to be the common reaction. Telling others about his past is therapeutic to him, and influential with others who are keeping secrets.

“Whether you’ve had an abortion, you are looking at pornography, or you’ve had an affair, you need to make the bold move and get it out,” says Morrow, 53.

These days Morrow isn’t reluctant to talk about his past because he knows the Lord has forgiven him. He speaks frequently at pregnancy care center events, describing how abortion impacts men.

“When you are living in secret, you really are bound and shackled in chains,” Morrow says. “Once you can release that secret to God, Satan doesn’t have a hold on you anymore.”

JOHN W. KENNEDY is news editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.

4 thoughts on “UNSHACKLED

  1. Our story isn’t our own, it is God’s story of amazing grace entrusted to us to share. Powerful testimony. I passed it on to many on my email list. Terri Nordone

  2. this was such a touching reality ..i know there are alot more situations like this out there and if it wasn’t for people like you to get the word out..satan would of surely won…thank you for sharing..God is so loving and forgiving..as you!

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