An international event localized across the country, Life Chain invites local churches to come out to hold up signs and peacefully protest the practice of abortion at three designated spots: Heritage Baptist Church on John Exum Parkway; University Baptist Church on University Parkway and Hosanna Fellowship on Sunset Drive.
"We're here to pray and ask God to protect the unborn and their mothers when they're making decisions about whether to have an abortion or not," said Carolyn Merriman, Life Chain coordinator in Johnson City, to volunteers before the event at Heritage Baptist Church across from Science Hill High School.
Merriman said past attendance numbers were estimated at around 200 between all three locations, but this year the number only came to about 45.
But those who did show up in the rain first gathered inside the church for prayer and to pick out signs before standing for the planned 90 minutes with rain jackets and umbrellas.
Keeping with the code of conduct given by the official Life Chain, participants stood in prayer, encouraged to neither smile nor frown but to remain neutral and not engage with those who drove by and honked their horns.
They held up signs with approved Life Chain phrases, like: "Life the first inalienable right;" "Abortion Kills Children;" "Adoption: The Loving Option;" and "Jesus Forgives and Heals."
Protesters also brought packages of diapers to be donated to local pregnancy help centers in the Johnson City area.
Joan Pohlgeers, on the Life Chain planning committee in Johnson City, has been participating in the Life Chain for five years. She said they are not only there to pray for the end of abortion, but also for healing for those who have been affected by it — both women and men.
Pohlgeers said she has always been against abortion.
"In today's society, I think it's interesting that if we find a one-cell animal on Mars we call that life, but whenever we are talking about a human being in utero, that's not life. So I think that's very ironic."
This year's Life Chain event was dedicated to Murv Perry, who died recently. Perry originally brought the national event to Johnson City in the 1980s. His wife Rita participated in the event at the Heritage Baptist Church location.
"We are here to announce that we believe in the sanctity of life from the moment of conception until the end of natural life," said Merriman.