EL CENTRO – Local Valley residents came together Saturday evening at Bucklin Park for the annual Speak Up Imperial Valley Luminaria Rally, hosted by the Real Hope Center. Residents joined in solidarity to mourn the loss of over 50 million aborted babies in the United States. The event, which began at 4 p.m., had participants place 3,000 luminarias across the park symbolizing the 3,000 abortions taking place every day in the US. It also included a prayer walk and a time of personal testimonies.
The event featured testimonies from all walks of women in the Valley, who shared the common experience of having an abortion.
One featured speaker, Jackie Bee, said, “The rally brings abortion into reality. They have 3,000 luminarias out there. That’s the number of abortions that take place each day. You can say that number all day long, but when you see those bags lit up, and when you picture each bag representing a baby, it makes it real.”
Bee shared her personal story of three abortions at the event, and her connection with Real Hope Center.
“The testimonies speak life into death, and they speak truth into the lie that you can’t tell anybody about it,” Bee said.
“That’s the trick about abortion,” Bee said. “Everybody roots for it, and then after you do it, you’re condemned and nobody wants to talk about it.”
“It also helps women who have had abortions have a place to come and grieve – it’s almost like a memorial,” said Bee.
The Real Hope Center, run by Marty and Debbie Ellett, conducts post-abortion workshops, aimed at helping women heal from the aftermath of an abortion, of which Bee attended and now helps co-facilitate.
Along with conducting workshops, the Real Hope Center also helps women who are pregnant and in need of help in the Valley. They offer parenting classes, from which women can earn diapers, formula, clothes, toys, etc, for attending. They also work closely with Amaris Ministries adoption agency, to provide solutions for women looking to give their child up for adoption.
“The Real Hope Center helps women on a personal level,” Bee said. “They go above and beyond to help women who are keeping their baby. They walk with them every step of the way during their pregnancy, whether they are giving it up for adoption or keeping it.”
One rally attendee, Allyson Derma, said, “The thing that struck me the most was seeing all the lamps just lit. Hearing the number is different than seeing it. It really does strike you.”
“It’s a good time of remembrance for me,” Derma said. “To remember what’s going on, and that there is hope in every bad situation.”
“All together the entire experience was bittersweet. You have that really good hope feeling, but then you remember exactly what the day is for. It’s bittersweet.”
Along with helping women and hosting the Speak Up Luminaria Rally, Real Hope Center works with the Imperial Valley Coalition for Life to bring awareness to the Valley.
“They are always bringing awareness,” Bee said. “The more people we tell about what’s going on in the Valley, the less it will go on.”
The one word that circulated the event was “forgiveness.”
“I just want to say that going through all of this and different workshops, and the Speak Up Rally, it’s so important that we realize that we are important and that we are forgiven,” Bee said. “The grace and mercy that Jesus offers is for all sins.”
Photos courtesy of Stacie Chandler.