by Pastor Michael Salemink
Lutherans For Life has enjoyed a very active and effective 2022. Ever-increasing opportunities for educating and serving, along with the generosity of our supporters (especially during the pandemic!), raised our budget to more than $1.25 million. We restructured our national staff to better meet the needs of our nationwide ministry, including a new Department of Volunteer Relations for equipping our volunteer communities (Life Chapters, Life Teams, and State Federations) as well as engaging unaffiliated individuals interested in activism. (Reach out to Virginia Flo, Director, and she—along with Pastor Jeff Duncan and Dr. Barb Geistfeld, Assistant Directors—will aid you in getting involved and getting organized!)
We also welcomed three new team members: Dave Probst, Director of Development; Cori Meier, Y4Life Assistant; and Erika Peterson, Events Coordinator. (Here I am in the above photo with Dave and Erika and Wendysue Fluegge at our 2022 national conference!) In addition to a revised strategic plan for our organization at the board of directors level, we’ve developed three (!) ambitious operating plans to improve and expand our legacy programming, Y4Life, and Word of Hope over the next six years.
You made our spring Step Up 4 Life virtual walk the biggest ever, with hundreds of participants and donations that exceeded our $60,000 target by more than $10,000! This magnificent campaign does more than merely raise funds—it brings together individuals and communities across the country in relationship-building, friendly competition; For Life awareness and advocacy; and celebrating the sanctity of every human life.
We joined the AFLC and AALC at their churchwide conventions over the summer to express our gratitude, offer our ongoing assistance, and invite their continued cooperation. In fact, I heard the June news of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision vacating Roe v. Wade while at the AALC assembly (on the AFLC seminary campus!) and had the privilege of sharing the delightful report during their proceedings.
Our presence at the LCMS triennial National Youth Gathering (Houston) and the Lutheran Education Association convocation (Milwaukee) proved exceptionally fruitful, too. For four days solid at the former and two-and-a-half at the latter, we enjoyed nonstop visits and conversations with students, chaperones, and educators that have already led to multiple follow-ups (and additional invitations to share our Owen’s Mission project with schools).
The twenty thousand young people at NYG came in groups at a time and occupied our seven-member crew for over eight hours a day (including Word of Hope, whose presence the gathering organizers expressly requested to provide spiritual care for the questions and concerns—“I think I might be pregnant,” “I suffered a miscarriage,” “I’ve been sexually abused”—stimulated by the on-site mobile ultrasound unit).
Six years ago, at my first LEA Convocation with LFL, most attendees bypassed our display, avoiding eye contact. This time around, the succession of participants asking questions, offering suggestions, giving thanks, cheering us on, and taking literature didn’t end!
And, of course, we’ve just returned from our first LFL National Conference in four years, which featured 200-plus registrants, three nationally-known keynote speakers, sixteen expert informational breakout sessions, award-winning student essay presentations, more than fifteen exhibitors, and a busy abundance of joy and hope.
Now we’re turning our attention—and asking for yours—to surpassing it in 2023.
Our third annual Life Week (January 15-21) festivities—daily devotions, life-issue fact sheets, life-affirming service activity suggestions and instructions, nightly webinars, LFL apparel, and more—will culminate in a youth conference (Y4Life in Washington, D.C.) in conjunction with the 50th March For Life in Washington, D.C., and Sanctity of Human Life Sunday (January 22), utilizing our familiar and beloved thematic congregational worship materials proclaiming the Gospel-motivated message of “Blessed For Life.”
We’ve already begun the process of chartering several new Life Chapters and Life Teams whom we’ll celebrate welcoming in the months to come. We’re reviewing and revising classic print booklets and brochures (and making them available online for free download and distribution!) and writing, designing, and producing many new ones (including translation into Spanish) on emerging matters, and you’ll have those before your eyes and in your hands this year.
In partnership with the Carolinas District LWML, we’ve submitted a proposal for $70,000 in grant funding (vote for us if you’re going to LWML’s biennial convention this summer!) for a “Life Connection Events and Kits” initiative that will engage and train twenty-somethings embarking on first-time families and vocations and bridge the age gap by integrating them into our volunteer communities, many of whom have leaders reaching retirement age and are eagerly seeking strategies for collaborating with successive generations.
Of course, whether we receive the mission grant award or not, we’ll remain excited to roll out the four national pilot events and subsequent field-tested “activities-in-a-box” (supplies, instructions, publicity materials, apparel, and all you’ll need to locally replicate young-adult-friendly, life-affirming service projects) and revolutionize a hands-on approach to sanctity-of-life education and action.
It’ll take an even bolder budget—more than $1.6 million—to make it all happen—a genuine stretch into uncertainty, especially since contributions have tapered in the last three quarters—but we believe our God and our people will meet the challenge.
And we’ll welcome you to celebrate it all at ANOTHER NATIONAL CONFERENCE in 2023!