Reggie Littlejohn is a woman on a mission. Her life comprises an amazing journey from atheist to believer, from litigator to international rights advocate, from a person with boundless energy to a bedridden patient for five years – then back again to an energetic world traveler, leader, screenwriter and public speaker. She views it all as part of God’s plan to give her the passion and skills to shed light on abuses done to women and girls worldwide, especially in China.
From Atheist to Believer
Littlejohn grew up in a Christian home, but at age sixteen announced to her parents that she was an atheist and refused to go to church. Littlejohn moved from an atheist to an agnostic when she read the Bible for the first time in an ancient literature course in college.
As I read the Gospel of John, I realized just who this person Jesus was and what he did. I told myself, “This is not what I rejected.”
She married her college sweetheart. Following her college graduation Littlejohn, enrolled at Yale Law School, while her husband attended Yale Divinity School. She took a year off from her studies to travel around the world. On two separate trips, Littlejohn had the opportunity to meet Mother Teresa and volunteer with the Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta.
Every morning I was at Mass, every evening I was at Holy Hour. Mother Teresa was repeatedly reaching out to me. Every day I was ministering either to the people who were dying or people in tremendous need. By the end of this, I totally believed in God.
Following law school, she gave birth to her son, Nico. She decided to wait a year before taking a job at a law firm in San Francisco, to take care of her newborn. During that time off, she audited classes at the Yale Divinity School, where her husband was attending. Littlejohn comments,
It was the first time I ever read the entire New Testament. The whole message just blew me away. By the end of that I was a committed Christian.
After law school, Littlejohn and her husband headed off to San Francisco, where Littlejohn took a position as a litigation associate in a major law firm. She planned to stay at the firm only until her college and law school debt was paid off, but found that she loved her work as a litigator. She practiced litigation eight years. During her time as a litigator, she performed pro bono work helping Chinese refugees seeking asylum in the United States.
My first refugee was someone who was persecuted as a Christian and forcibly sterilized. That opened two whole worlds up to me. First, I didn’t know that Christians were persecuted in China. Second, I knew that China had a one-child policy, but I never stopped to think how it was enforced. I did not realize until I represented this first woman that it is enforced through forced abortion, forced sterilization and infanticide. I was utterly appalled.
During her years as a lawyer, Littlejohn got pregnant with her second child. Sadly, this pregnancy ended in miscarriage. Littlejohn was heartbroken. She called her mother and said, “Why would God allow me to get pregnant with a child that would be so loved and so well cared for, and then take that child away?” Her mother said, “We may never be able to answer that question. But I believe that somehow, God will use this pain for a purpose.” Littlejohn believes the pain of that miscarriage, and a second one, are what sensitized her to the suffering of women losing babies against their will.
Of course I have never suffered the violence of a forced abortion. But I do know what it’s like to lose two babies that I wanted. I believe that, because of the painful loss of my own babies through miscarriage, when I heard that women are being forcibly aborted in China, my response was visceral. I just couldn’t look the other way.
Struck Down by Mastectomies and Infection
In 2003, Littlejohn developed multiple breast lumps. Because of her strong family history of breast cancer, she had bilateral mastectomies with implant reconstruction. Unfortunately, during the surgery she contracted an MRSA staph infection, which is often deadly. She left the practice of law on a medical leave of absence and was disabled for five years. During that 5-year period, Littlejohn had to undergo several surgeries and developed chronic fatigue syndrome as well. Her time as a patient, however, became a spiritual awakening.
I cast myself on the Lord and He gave me this hunger for His Word. I read the Bible over and over. The Bible says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” I felt that the Lord was renewing my mind. Then I felt called to begin praying for those worse off than I was. I began to pray for Christians who were being tortured for their faith, and women who were being forcibly aborted. It became my sole focus and consuming passion to do something about this abuse.
Her Life Mission Changed
My mission went from making lots of money as an attorney to helping women and babies devastated by forced abortion and female gendercide in China due to China’s One-Child Policy.
Littlejohn recounts the unintended consequences of China’s One -Child Policy – forced abortion, forced sterilization, death from botched procedures, and the situation where there are 37 million more men than women living in China, which in turn results in human trafficking, sexual slavery, and a high rate of female suicide.
During her period of convalescence, Littlejohn prayed for guidance on what God would have her do specifically with her passion and new mission. God gave her the direction, “to write a screenplay.” Since she had had no previous experience or aspiration in this regard, she was astonished by this persistent direction and looked for confirmation. She recalls, “God’s voice would not go away – ‘write a screenplay’, ‘write a screenplay’ is what I kept hearing.”
Confirmation also came from her friends, who encouraged her to write the screenplay and started praying for her. Littlejohn came to realize that a film would be the most powerful way to communicate the devastation caused by China’s One-Child-Policy, and to move hearts and minds to end it. She wrote “Pearls of China,” a feature-length drama. The script has won numerous awards, including first place in the “Adventure and Action” category. She has taken the project through development and is currently raising production funds for the film.
Women’s Rights Without Frontiers
By the end of 2008, Littlejohn had begun to emerge from her disease, or her “five dark years,” as she calls her period of disability. With renewed energy, she founded the non-profit organization, Women’s Rights without Frontiers (WRWF), which has been called the leading voice to expose and oppose forced abortion, gendercide, and sexual slavery in China. In addition, the organization is directly saving the lives of girls at risk of sex-selective abortion through its “Save a Girl” Campaign.
As the WRWF leader, Littlejohn has had the opportunity to speak many times on the Voice of America, the U.S. official broadcast into China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. She spoke before the European Parliament, the British and Irish Parliaments,and at universities, including Harvard and Stanford law schools. She has briefed officials at the White House, the U.S. State Department and the Vatican. In addition, she has testified six times before the U.S. Congress.
She has had many television and radio appearances, including on CNN, C-Span and Voice of America. In January, 2013, Littlejohn was given the National Pro-Life Recognition Award at the 40th Annual March for Life. In May, 2013, she addressed 25,000 people in Ottawa, as the keynote speaker of Canada’s march against gendercide. In June, 2013 Littlejohn was the keynote speaker at the National Right to Life Convention in Dallas. In September, 2013 she met Pope Francis in Rome. In November, 2013, she traveled to Hong Kong as the featured speaker of the screening of “It’s a Girl” at the Amnesty International Film Festival.
From 2009 to 2012, Littlejohn led the successful, international effort to free blind activist Chen Guangcheng. In 2013, Littlejohn successfully led the effort to bring the daughters of prominent dissident Zhang Lin to the United States. She and her husband are now raising ten-year-old Zhang Anni in their home, as their own.
Looking back on her life, Littlejohn clearly sees God’s hand in giving her the skills, experience, and passion to pursue her mission.
I see it all as part of God’s plan for me – Mother Teresa, my illness, the opportunity to represent Chinese refugees as a lawyer, and even my miscarriage. If I had not lost my own baby in miscarriage, I might not have developed the passion to help women who were victims of forced abortion.
The scripture that most inspires Littlejohn in her work is Proverbs 24:11-12.
Rescue those being led away to death;
Hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”
Does not He who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not He who guards your life know it?
Will He not repay each person according to what he has done?
See post on January 27, 2014 — Reggie Littlejohn Named by “Inside the Vatican Magazine” as one of the Top Ten People in 2013
Reggie Littlejohn will speak at the Silicon Valley Prayer Breakfast on March 28, 2014. For more information and to register, see Silicon Valley Prayer Breakfast
Here is a a powerful but graphic four minute video about the suffering caused by China’s One Child Policy and what WRWF is doing about it.
Other related information:
Supernatural Escape — an article by Eric Metaxas in which he credits Littlejohn’s faith and the power of prayer in helping blind activist Chen Guangcheng escape from China