Culture of LifeFri Oct 5, 2012 - 3:45 pm EST
Former jailed pro-life activist founds Tijauna orphanage
TIJUANA, Mexico, October 5, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) - It’s an accusation that most pro-life activists have heard at one time or another: “You’re only concerned about children before they’re born!”
Connie Youngkin is a living refutation of the charge. A dedicated pro-lifer who has seen jail time for her witness to the dignity of human life, Connie’s activism has led her in an unusual direction. She and her husband, Tyler, now live in Tijuana, Mexico, where they house, feed, clothe, and educate 80 children they rescued from the city’s streets.
Their young charges, who range in age from five to their early twenties, are the children of drug addicts and prostitutes. They were living in the city’s notorious red light district before they took refuge at Niños de la Promesa, Children of Promise, the children’s home founded by the Youngkins.
Whether from the streets of Tijuana or the forceps of an abortion doctor, Connie and Tyler have been rescuing children for three decades. It started in 1982, when Connie made a comment to a pro-life neighbor about Margaret Sanger being a “nice person.”
“Connie, you better sit down!” the neighbor exclaimed.
The conversation that ensued was an eye-opener for Connie, who knew almost nothing about the millions of children whose lives had been claimed by abortion only nine years since the passage of Roe v. Wade.
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Although busy raising three children of their own, the Youngkins dedicated themselves to the pro-life cause: they prayed and demonstrated at abortion clinics near their hometown of Toway, California, and helped found a Crisis Pregnancy Center that is still running today.
Then Connie heard about Operation Rescue, an organization that was mobilizing pro-lifers to peacefully block clinic doors in an attempt to physically prevent women seeking abortions from entering the clinic.
“I knew without a doubt that I was to be part of it. God put this desire very strongly on my heart right away,” she says. “It was never to me a sacrifice. I knew the Lord would take care of my family.”
Her husband, a doctor, held back from this form of activism so that he could continue supporting the family with his work and take care of their now teenage children.
Connie was arrested for the first time at her third rescue, an event that she says saved the lives of several babies. These “turn arounds” were confirmed by sidewalk counselors who spoke to the women attempting to enter the clinic, and gave them information about abortion alternatives.
Connie saw the trial itself as an important aspect of her mission, and decided to represent herself. This way, she would not have the interference of a lawyer in her choice to ignore the judge’s gag order that prohibited the defendants from sharing their views about abortion.
The judge pounded on the gavel as she ploughed through her defense, demanding that she stop using the word “baby.” When she refused, the jury was sent out of the room. They found her guilty of trespassing and she received a 40 day jail sentence in a maximum security prison.
“If it is criminal to rescue babies sentenced to death, then I am a criminal,” she told the press.
The experience, she says, was a formative one for her. She had been separated from other pro-lifers, and found herself surrounded by murderers, thieves, and drug addicts.
Determined to treat this as her new mission field, Connie set about forming friendships with her fellow inmates with the goal of evangelizing them.
On one occasion, she brought a pocket Bible into a holding cell of 40 women, and by the time she left her fellow inmates were singing Sunday school songs with her, marching around the cell to the tune of “When the Saints go Marching In.”
“The policemen were just looking at us like we were nuts!” she remembers with a laugh. “They were all really sweet girls.”
It’s an experience she now draws from as she walks the streets of Tijuana’s red light district, where she is seemingly as out of place as a mild-mannered Christian housewife in a maximum security prison.
The children she and Tyler rescue have come, like her fellow inmates, from a life of crime, violence, abuse and neglect. They are often the children of prostitutes, left to run wild in the streets while their mothers are out plying their trade. These are children who, out of sheer boredom, have seized alcohol from drunks on the street, dumped it over them, and lit them on fire.
Some have come only temporarily, residing there while their parents go through rehab programs, but others spend their entire childhood in the home.
The Youngkins have accepted unflinchingly all the challenges that come with welcoming such children into their home. “Once you’ve been in jail, you’re not afraid of much,” says Connie.
Twelve years after coming to the country, their success is now evident in the lives of the children they have raised. Seven of the kids are now studying at the university, a destination they might never have dreamed possible from their previous life on the streets. One of them, a student of photography, has some of her work on exhibit at the Tijuana Cecut Museum.
The Youngkins make sure that all of the children receive basic instruction in academic subjects, as well as in the Christian faith. They have also imparted to them their own spirit of Christian service. Three times a week, all the children take to the streets with 500 burritos to distribute to the hungry.
The boys have built houses for the homeless, and three young women who once lived in the home as children are now working there as staff.
Some of the older children have also, by their own initiative, joined Connie and Tyler in local pro-life activism. Abortion is still illegal in Tijuana, but some pregnant women travel to other parts of the country where it is permitted. The Youngkins regularly lead some of their charges out to the streets with pro-life signs and literature to educate others about the sanctity of human life.
All of the children, it seems, have imbibed a lesson borrowed from Connie’s pro-life activism and her time in prison. “If we just give people a chance and just love them with God’s love, it’s amazing the change that can happen,” she says.