YUBA CITY, Calif. (BP) -- The urgent need to rescue preborn babies is at the heart of another Life Chain observance Oct. 6.

For 26 years, people have been peacefully holding signs along streets in cities and towns while praying for the end of abortion. Upwards of a million participants in the United States and Canada were mobilized until organizers stopped counting in the early 1990s to make prayer the sole focus. The event occurs on the first Sunday in October, along with similar Life Chains at different times in other countries.

"Abortions remain numerous" while too many churches remain apathetic, said Royce Dunn, founder and director of Life Chain (www.lifechain.net) and a Baptist layman from Yuba City, Calif. "That's why we do this. We aim to rescue a nation, too. The church must discover and discern the holocaust."

Life Chain launched in California with thousands of participants from Sacramento to San Diego and went national in 1991 with 373 locations and 771,000 participants across the country. In 1992 the total swelled to more than 800 U.S. venues and 975,000 participants along with 97 chains and 80,000 people in Canada, although current numbers are considerably lower.

"The Life Chain is a call to the church through pastoral leadership," Dunn noted. "It's church-oriented and pastor-focused. Pastors are urged to prepare their people and lead them to the chain. Participants are to just isolate themselves with God for 90 minutes. If they do that with their pastor, it will be a very, very meaningful experience."

Joe Goodson, a Southern Baptist minister in Texas, has seen the Life Chain work well in the state, having participated as a seminarian, youth pastor and pastor over the years. This year he will be with the Temple/Belton Life Chain.

The battle at the Texas statehouse in Austin in recent months over a bill to restrict abortions is a special motivation to Goodson for this year's Life Chain.

"It was an intense conflict between light and darkness, and the spiritual blindness and darkness upon our nation and culture was almost palpable at times," Goodson said. "The attempt to protect unborn children was slandered as evil with all sorts of obscene signs, chants and bitterness." The legislature passed a bill with various abortion restrictions and Gov. Rick Perry subsequently signed it.

"After witnessing this, I am exponentially more eager to spread the word about the Life Chain all across Texas and beyond ... to provide that essential voice for the voiceless unborn," Goodson said.

Dunn said today's worship often shuns the cries of Jeremiah, Isaiah and Jonah. Instead, the American church largely is ineffectual against "a calamity much larger than the German Holocaust. While 56 million chiefly surgical abortions have been reported in America and 3 million in Canada, the actual numbers are much higher, and hidden deaths from the abortive chemicals in birth controls may exceed the surgical deaths."

Commenting on the silence of many pastors on the issue, Dunn said, "As long as they refuse to discern and communicate what the children are enduring they will continue to die. ... The same thing happened in Germany. The same thing happened in America with institutional slavery before the Civil War. America has been warned before."

For each Life Chain that gathers for prayer, their plea to end abortion is conveyed through a set of seven signs, with one taking the lead -- "Abortion Kills Children," the only one also printed in Spanish.

Other signs include: "Pray to End Abortion"; "Adoption the Loving Option"; "Jesus Forgives & Heals"; "Lord, Forgive Us and Our Nation"; and "Abortion Hurts Women."

The signs feature colored lettering on a white background. Their cost has gone up over the years from 15 cents to 50 cents. Fundraising is discouraged. A local coordinator at the event typically will ask for a free-will offering to pay for them.

"It's really peanuts to try to save human life," Dunn said.

Allen Palmeri is a writer in Jefferson City, Mo. For a video about Life Chain, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZvRvr9F_anM. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

Copyright (c) 2013 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net