My friend, the grassroots movement leader
Editor's note: The opinions of the writer do not necessarily reflect those of the Central Oregonian and Pamplin Media.
I first met Jeff Jimerson in 2001 on a trip to Israel. I was 19 years old on the adventure of a lifetime with many of my Bible college pals and others from our church.
As we rode along in the large tour bus, I would perform what has now become a customary back of the bus comedy routine, and Jeff would occasionally turn in his seat and give a friendly courtesy smile.
A few years older than me, Jeff earned instant respect, traveling with his young, beautiful wife, Elizabeth, while in the beginning of a career in graphic design.
Over time, his family would grow, and they would have three stunning daughters, each modeling the same strawberry blonde hair as their mother and father.
As Jeff and I attended the same church in Corvallis and started to raise our families in Albany, we would have more interaction. One day while at the city park, we found the Jimerson's oldest daughter playing in the grass with her pet snake. As a self-diagnosed ophidiophobiate (having a fear of snakes), I was quite impressed with this brave little girl and her squiggly little friend. It turns out, bravery runs in the family.
Jeff is now the founder and director of Oregon Life United, an organization with the mission of passing Oregon's from being hurt by abortion. We see the culmination of their purpose on this year's election Ballot Measure 106, which aims to stop the mandatory funding of thousands of abortions each year by state taxpayer dollars.
Jeff explains the problem in our state, "Oregon is the only state that has no laws whatsoever that are designed to protect moms and babies from abortion. There are no waiting periods, no parental notification laws, no restrictions that other states have. What this means is, right now in Oregon, a high school nurse can take a 15-year-old girl, and drive her to an abortion clinic without her parent's permission, and proceed to end the life of their grandchild without them even knowing about it. On top of it, the abortion would be paid for with state tax dollars, yours and mine."
Statistics show that $23,880,720 in public funds have been used to pay for abortions in the state of Oregon during the past 14 fiscal years. Every day, 10 preborn babies die because of taxpayer funded abortions. These are almost always healthy babies and healthy moms who may even be pushed to abortion by a boyfriend, a husband, or even a mother.
Research shows that 40 percent of women who have had abortions were attending church at least once a month when they had an abortion, often because they were too afraid to share the news that they were pregnant and receive any judgment and gossip to follow.
Jeff urges the church toward the forgiveness and grace of God toward those who have made poor decisions, "We need to have an active ministry of loving women who have made mistakes."
Jeff used to serve on the board of directors with the Pregnancy Resource Center in Corvallis. In 2009, a consultant from Focus on the family flew out to meet with PRC so they could look at getting an ultrasound machine. This consultant informed the board that here in Oregon, the state is paying for abortions. This was the first time Jeff had heard of such a thing. Jeff made a note reminding him to do some research.
He asked himself two questions, "Why is this happening?" and, "Why is the church doing nothing about it?"
Jeff discovered a citizen's initiative. This is where citizens gather signatures and get a law put on the ballot, letting the people decide what their taxes should go toward.
"It's a pretty cool idea that came to be in Oregon about 100 years ago." Jeff thought, "We need to do a citizen's initiative to stop tax payer dollars being spent on abortion."
I asked Jeff a few questions regarding this "grassroots movement" and the role faith, the church and Central Oregonians have:
Jeff: Rory, you're a pastor of solid preaching with corny jokes — please don't ever change.
Rory: What is your normal occupation when you aren't toiling for the cause of the unborn?
Jeff: I am the creative director/principal/playground supervisor at Madison Ave. Collective, a branding design and website development firm in Corvallis.
Rory: What church do you currently attend and what ways do you normally serve that local body?
Jeff: I've been going to Calvary Corvallis for 20 years. These days, I serve where I can in an unofficial capacity. I plan to seek out more ways to be involved after Nov. 6.
Jeff: I first began with knowledge in 2009 that I was being forced to participate in abortions with my tax dollars. The ballot initiative work began in earnest in 2011.
Rory: What was the purpose and benefit of the year off in 2016?
Jeff: In 2016, we were blocked from getting signatures due to legal delays by our opponents (led by Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and the ACLU of Oregon). They challenged the wording of the ballot title, which tied everything up in the courts for several months. By the time the Oregon Supreme Court ruled on their challenges, we had only two weeks before the signature deadline. So we regrouped for 2018.
Rory: What made you endeavor to start this movement? What was the first thing that triggered your zeal against citizen's taxes being used to fund abortion.
Jeff: I believe we are responsible for the knowledge we have been given. To not act would have been a sin for me. I saw an injustice that nobody seemed to know was happening. People with moral convictions against abortion were unknowingly participating in abortions. A huge part of these ballot initiative attempts has been about education.
Rory: What do you think gave this last attempt the pull to get it on the ballot?
Jeff: Turning big ships takes time. We just kept building, asking, knocking, and eventually there was enough momentum to achieve the goal. Each year we got started, the number of volunteers would increase, the number of churches grew, etc. Donations grew over time, too, which didn't hurt. House Bill 3391 was also a wakeup call to many. We had churches jump on board specifically in response to this law.
Rory: Describe your trips to Central Oregon for this purpose. What role does/has its faith-based citizens, — including Calvary Chapel of Crook County — play in assisting Measure 106?
Jeff: More than 600 churches participated in the petition drive in one way or another (some were all in, others more quietly supporting in agreement). In the early years, we gave dozens of presentations at churches around the state in an effort to build awareness. I was so grateful to be able to give a presentation at Calvary Chapel Crook County a few years back.
Rory: What role does faith, the Gospel and churches have in this?
Jeff: Scripture commands us to speak up for those who have no voice. God is the author of life. But abortion destroys human life created in God's image. It steals sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews. It burdens mothers and fathers with the guilt of having taken your own child's life, leading to depression and even suicide. Death upon death. Sin upon sin. Abortion is distinctly anti-God.
Rory: What part does your own faith in Christ contribute to this venture?
Jeff: When Jesus told us to love our neighbor as ourselves, I believe pregnant women and their babies are to be included in the definition of who our neighbor is. As a follower of Jesus, I am not able to look away when women and their babies are being hurt by abortion.
Rory: How can Central Oregonians be praying in the next few weeks?
Jeff: I would personally appreciate prayer for peace, protection and provision for my family.
Rory: How do you believe God will be glorified if this measure is passed?
Jeff: The Church, being greatly encouraged, will give praise and thanksgiving to God. Very few people expect Measure 106 to pass. And when miracles happen, people will turn towards God.
As Central Oregonians get out to vote this next week, I strongly encourage you to research Ballot Measure 106, check out oregonlifeunited.org and pray for breakthrough in the battle for lives of unborn babies. As an Oregon man who knows the source of this measure, I am pleased to support this home-grown, home-financed movement for those who cannot speak for themselves.
Rory Rodgers is the lead pastor of Calvary Chapel of Crook County. He can be reached at 541-416-9009.