by Michaela Seeliger
My high school students attended the February 2022 Y4Life Summit in Austin, Texas, and learned about many organizations that work diligently to uphold God’s good gift of life. Two of those students and I attended the Y4Life Team Training in October of 2022, and together we planned a life-themed mission trip for summer 2023, which we called “Austin Alive.” The idea was that we would spend four days serving different organizations that upheld the value of life throughout all stages.
Our first day of serving was spent at Sarah’s House, a maternity home in Austin for mothers who have chosen life for their babies. Sarah’s House not only provides a home, but it also helps women complete their education, find a steady job, manage their finances, and connect to a local church. Several women have been baptized through Sarah’s House ministry! Our seven students helped move donated cribs from the attic of the maternity home for two mothers who were very close to their due dates! Then we went off-site to their storage unit, which was set to be demolished within a matter of weeks. We helped sort through items and moved them to a new storage unit. One of the pregnant mothers came with us as we cleaned out the storage unit, and our students were able to visit with her for quite a while. They learned that her baby is a girl, and she planned to name her Sunshine. Since our visit, Sunshine has been safely delivered, and her mother is doing well in Sarah’s House. Praise be to God!
We stayed at an Airbnb with a theater room, so we spent that evening watching Unplanned, the story of how former Planned Parenthood employee, Abby Johnson, came to learn that abortion is the purposeful killing of a child. After the movie ended, we had hours of conversation about Roe v. Wade and the Dobbs decision, the emotional and spiritual impacts that result from the horrors of abortion, and how Sarah’s House, as well as the organization we’d be serving the next day, were working faithfully to help women choose life for their children.
On the second day of the trip, we traveled north of Austin to Annunciation Maternity Home. This ministry offers many resources to expectant mothers including housing, education, life skills classes, finance management, and Christian counseling. Our students stayed busy helping the staff prepare for an upcoming fundraiser by sorting through baby clothes. We spent a lot of time outside, and the students were cheerful servants and always kept the goal of being a Gospel-motivated voice for life in mind—even in the blazing central Texas heat!
During our next day of serving, we visited an assisted living home in Austin, where my heart swelled with joy as I saw my students THRIVE in serving! They assisted the residents as they got some exercise playing cornhole and eagerly joined them for a game of trivia. They served snacks and sparkling grape juice during “Happy Hour” and joined right in for a sing-along during music time. One student and I went to the memory care wing and led a watercolor class for a few residents, while the other students continued playing games with the other residents. We met residents who were partially paralyzed, couldn’t remember things that were said 30 seconds ago, couldn’t speak, and couldn’t see. We also met several staff members who were incredibly patient and loving. The students were quick to realize that the residents who had physical ailments or memory issues were still people God dearly loves and how valuable their lives are. As soon as we got in the car that evening to leave the assisted living home, every single student told me they want to serve with elderly people regularly at home. You can be sure I have already set up monthly visits to an assisted living center just up the road from our church for the coming semester!
On our final day of serving, we spent the whole day at a food bank. The students were responsible for checking expiration dates, bagging fresh vegetables, and sorting through canned goods. Earlier in the week, several students said they weren’t sure how serving at a food bank would be a life-affirming service project. However, while we were serving at Sarah’s House, the staff told us that the majority of the food the mothers eat comes from that exact food bank. It was excellent motivation for our whole group when we realized that the food we were preparing was helping feed mothers and their babies! The students were certainly tired at the end of the day, but they all determined it was well worth it when the food bank staff announced that after six hours of service, we had helped prepare 7,550 meals for our neighbors in need!
Since returning home from our trip, several of the students’ parents have told me that “Austin Alive” was the highlight of their child’s summer and that they can’t stop talking about all they learned. I am confident that God has mighty things planned for each of those high school students as they continue to uphold life in each of their vocations.
Michaela Seeliger is Director of Christian Education at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, Wichita Falls, Texas.