by Barb Geistfeld

The Lutherans For Life 2019 Texas Essay Contest for Lutheran students in grades six through twelve is finished! As the LFL Regional Director of Texas, I want to warmly thank all the Texas students who sent me essays this year. They were thought-provoking and life affirming and covered a variety of life issues. The essay theme was “Did God Really Say …?”—our 2019 regional conferences’ theme based on John 6:68: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

First Place Winner—6th-8th Grade Category: Annika Peterson. Annika is in seventh grade; lives in Arlington, Texas; and attends St. John Lutheran Church in Mansfield. The title of her essay is “Follow the One Who Calms the Raging Storm.” She begins by describing her little sister who was adopted at birth. Her sister’s biological mother was very young and unprepared to keep an infant, so she placed her baby girl for adoption. Annika describes her sister this way: “My sister is joyful, kindhearted, and effervescent about everything, which reminds my family to remain positive. This God-given gift is an example of how He breathes meaning and purpose into every life.” She goes on to reference the theme verse in this manner: “When Peter responds with this famous phrase, it shows that he knows leaving Jesus would be unwise because no one else could lead us to eternal life … God has the best in mind for us that will make sense to us in His perfect timing.” When Jesus rebukes the storm in Matthew 8:23-27, it was to point His disciples to who He really is. As Annika puts it so well, “Who wouldn’t want to follow the One who holds the whole world safely in His loving hands? Life always works out better when we pursue our great Redeemer … and we will bask in glorious eternal life.” Thank you, Annika, for this message.

First Place Winner—9th-12th Grade Category: William Killinger. William is in 10th grade; lives in Houston; and attends Lutheran High North and Epiphany Lutheran Church, also both in Houston. The title of his essay is “The Silenced Generation.” “Nearly seventeen years ago, my mother … was diagnosed with Amniotic Band Syndrome and Single Umbilical Artery. This meant that her unborn son (yours truly) may have deformed limbs, amputations, or possibly die in her womb … An abortion was never an option for her or my father … At a 34- week check-up, I was unresponsive … so I had to be removed via C-section … I was transported to another hospital, put into a medically induced coma, and treated for another six weeks. By the grace of God, I am now a normal, healthy, sixteen-year-old. [My mother] had faith and everything worked together ‘for the good of those who love Him’… ‘God fashions us in the womb (Job 31:15) and ‘consecrated you before you were born (Jeremiah 1:5).’” What about problem pregnancies? “When trouble comes, we should follow Simon Peter’s example … We should look toward Jesus during crises and He will carry us. Every child that is conceived should be given the opportunity to live and become all they are designed to be, rather than being silenced and erased from society.” We are grateful, William, for God working in your parents’ lives and in your own to make you who you are today! Thank you for your story.

Second Place Winner—9th-12th Grade Category: Seamus Welton. Seamus is in 10th grade; lives in Johnson City; is homeschooled by his dad; and attends Trinity Lutheran Church, Blanco. The title of his essay is “What is True Compassion? A Lutheran Response to Brittany Maynard.” Seamus begins his essay with the theme verse, “‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.’ And these words of eternal life are the words of God. As Christians and as Lutherans, to whom else can we go but God? Brittany Maynard was 28 years old when she … was diagnosed with brain cancer. She had [treatments, but] four months later her tumor had come back … Since she did not like the options available to her, she decided to move to Oregon to be able to kill herself under Oregon’s Death with Dignity laws. She believed death could give her dignity … How should we as Lutherans approach her death? … In Exodus, the Fifth Commandment says ‘You shall not murder,’ which is, as Martin Luther explains, ‘[that] we must not kill either by hand, heart, or word, by signs or gestures, or by aiding or abetting.” Seamus supports this thought with other Scripture, reminding us that God gives life and God takes it away. “This, then, is our Lutheran answer: that we will trust God’s timing, neither trying to escape death nor hasten it, but rather preserving it to use it in God’s glory … We will strive to be compassionate to those in pain and work to promote compassionate resources, such as hospice care for those at the end of life.” Thank you, Seamus, for reminding us how God wants us to live—and how to die.