Each year the LFL Council of Federation Presidents sponsors a national essay contest for students in two categories. One category includes students in grades 6-8 and the other in grades 9-12. Students in the Federation states and all other Non-Federation states are eligible to participate. After all of the states have submitted their winners, a national committee selects one winner to be the National Essay winner in each category. For a student to qualify, they must either belong to a Lutheran church or attend a Lutheran school.
LFL National Essay Winners
2022 National Essay Winner – Grades 6-8
Good Shepherd Lutheran School, Collinsville, Illinois
Illinois First Place
Essay Title: The Blessing of Life
Alyssa Bivens is currently a freshman at Metro East Lutheran High School in Edwardsville, Illinois. She was recently valedictorian of her 8th grade class at Good Shepherd Lutheran in Collinsville, Illinois, and has been published in three poetry volumes. Alyssa enjoys playing soccer and deer hunting in her free time.
2022 National Essay Winner – Grades 9-12
Minnesota First Place
Essay Title: Blessed
Grace Emma MacPherson lives in Mankato, Minnesota, and is 16 years old. Until this year, she has been home educated, but thanks to the Post-Secondary Education Option in Minnesota, Grace is now completing her first semester at Bethany Lutheran College as a junior in high school. Grace enjoys the flute and plays the organ. She constantly analyzes the grammar around her, and carries a dictionary, just in case! She is the author of The King’s Sword, her first publication. Grace is the beloved biggest sister to six siblings, precious daughter to Ryan and Marie, and God’s own child, through faith in Christ.
The Blessing of Life by Alyssa Bivens
In America, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death, with one person taking their life every eleven minutes (“Facts about Suicide”). However, this is not God’s will for the world. The Psalmist reminds us of God’s view on human life by saying, “… the Lord protects him and keeps him alive; he is called blessed in the land; you do not give him up to the will of his enemies” (Psalm 41:2 ESV). Clearly, God values life and has called us to help others value it, too.
First, God has called us to help our neighbors in their struggles. In one of his letters, Paul wrote, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2 ESV). Encouraging private meetings with a pastor or setting up a time to share experiences with others in similar situations are two ways that the Church can remove the burdens of those who want to commit suicide. By sharing their feelings with people who can empathize, they will hopefully see their blessings, how they bless others, and that God will help them through their situation.
Additionally, God calls us to pray in unfortunate circumstances like these. Peter states in his first book, “Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7 ESV). Unfortunately, reminding people with suicidal thoughts of their blessings can be ineffective. Prayer is powerful, so in this case, we must take it to God, trusting that He will guide this person through their trials or comfort others who are affected. We must believe that God will protect and bless them.
Most importantly, God has a plan. According to Jeremiah, God says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope’” (Jeremiah 29:11 ESV). God will use their pain to bless their future; He won’t give up on them, so neither can we. He will use that person to bless others, so with God’s help, we must remind them of this and encourage them not to take their life.
Ultimately, God values life and wants us to share that message. He calls us to help and pray for our neighbors who want to commit suicide because He promises He has a plan for everyone. God will protect and bless His creation; we must trust Him, follow His commands, and share His Word.
Work Cited: “Facts About Suicide.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 24 Feb. 2022, www.cdc.gov/suicide/facts/index.html.
Blessed by Grace MacPherson
When I first babysat Paul, he was four months old. I have six younger siblings, and the rhythm of a baby’s development is familiar to me. Like many four month olds, Paul wiggled around, rocked on his tummy, and responded to my voice. It came as a surprise when I learned he has Down syndrome.
The CDC defines Down syndrome as “a condition in which a person has an extra chromosome … Typically, a baby is born with 46 chromosomes. Babies with Down syndrome have an extra copy of one of these chromosomes, chromosome 21.” This leads to facial characteristics that differ from the average baby, including a flatter face and smaller ears. Down syndrome usually causes delays in developmental stages and a somewhat lower IQ than the average population (www.cdc.org).
While a staggering 96.5% of abortions occur for social or economic reasons (www.hli.org), countless precious lives of the unborn are ended due to other reasons, and birth defects such as Down syndrome are among them. But is it realistic for a mother to think that being pregnant with a baby with Down syndrome is a good reason to have an abortion?
Actually, statistics reveal the opposite. A 2011 study interviewed numerous individuals with Down syndrome and discovered that 99% of people with Down syndrome were content with their lives, 96% were happy with the way they looked, 97% liked their siblings—and the list goes on (Skotko). I can testify to this after my months of caring for Paul. He just celebrated his first birthday, so I could hardly interview him the way this study interviewed others, but he is one of the happiest babies I have ever met.
The first few verses of Psalm 41 read, “Blessed is he who considers the poor; the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble. The Lord will preserve him and keep him alive…. The Lord will strengthen him on his bed of illness” (Psalm 41:1-3). God promises here not only to protect and care for the healthy, but also for the weak. As God’s children, we should honor the sanctity of human life, and care for and love the healthy and the weak alike.
Those needing extra care throughout their lives are still a gift from God. When I was eleven, my grandmother came to live with my family for several months. She had been struggling with dementia for years, and due to my grandfather’s work schedule, it was hard for him to meet all her needs. It wasn’t always easy to have an extra person in the house—especially someone who required a lot of care—but her presence was still a blessing. I was able to spend a lot of time with her that otherwise would have been impossible. Not only do we bless people whose needs require more patience and time, but in doing so, we find ourselves blessed by them. Paul directs older women to “admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed” (Titus 2:4-5). I had the opportunity to experience this through my grandmother’s presence in my home. Even when her memory was failing, her faith in God remained strong. Long after she had lost the ability to speak more than a few words at a time, she sang the Lord’s Prayer with my family as part of our evening devotions.
God’s love is with us always, regardless of our abilities. Even the strongest and wisest among us can do nothing to gain forgiveness. Salvation is ours by the grace of God. Our Heavenly Father assures us He will never leave us. Isaiah 46:3-4 reads, “Listen to Me, O house of Jacob…, who have been upheld by Me from birth: even to your old age … I will carry you!”
Psalm 41 reads, “The Lord will preserve [you] and keep [you] alive, and [you] will be blessed on the earth.” But this is not all that the mercy of God does for us. Not only are we blessed on this earth, but we can rest assured that anyone who, by the power of the Holy Spirit, believes in the forgiveness we have in Christ will also receive eternal life. This is the life that my grandmother now has and that all other believers will have some day. Resting in this promise, we trust that God will preserve us and keep us alive forever!
HLI Staff. “Why Women Abort.” Human Life International, 05 May 2021,
Skotko, Brian G., et al. “Self-perceptions from people with Down syndrome.” American Journal of
Medical Genetics, 09 September 2011,
“What is Down Syndrome?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accessed 27 March 2022,
All Scripture taken from the New King James Version.