by Barbara Lane Geistfeld, Assistant Director of Volunteer Relations
The annual Lutherans For Life National Essay Contest continues to afford our Lutheran students the opportunity to affirm and express their belief in the sanctity of life, and 2023 was no different! The theme this year was Just As … I Am, based on Ephesians 2:10. Our Texas students submitted excellent essays again this year, and I am very pleased to announce the Texas state winners.
Grades 9-12 Division
First Place: Annika Peterson – Grade 11 – Annika has won this contest before, and we are excited and grateful that she continues to speak up For Life. She is a junior at the Grand Prairie Fine Arts Academy, where she is working to establish a Students for Life chapter on her campus. After the loss of her newborn brother to Trisomy 18 in 2008 and the adoption of her little sister some years later, Annika is very passionate about helping families and mothers feel empowered to choose life. Last year, for her dual-credit rhetoric class, she spent a semester conducting a major research and analysis project showing the benefits that pro-life work has on women. Her final argumentative paper on the subject received acclaim from the professor, even while the professor was openly hostile to her position. Annika has shared her testimony about the sanctity of her brother’s life at her home church, St. John Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Mansfield, where she enjoys being very active in youth, children’s, and music ministries. Every summer, she works as an assistant counselor at Camp Thurman in Pantego, where she is able show God’s love to these little ones all summer long. Last summer she was given permission to write a devotion for her campers and described how God fearfully and wonderfully created them in His image. This message lights up Annika’s life whenever she shares it, and praise God, she lights up our lives with this message as well!
Annika’s essay was titled “For Such a Time as This.” On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court of the United States overturned Roe v. Wade and returned the authority to regulate abortion to the states. Annika wept and rejoiced with all of us who know the importance of this ruling. “We were all created intentionally to be salt and light, called by name to work the harvest field. Post-Roe may mean a new America, but it does not in any way mean a new or different God. There’s nothing new about life winning, nor God’s image bearers being created to be set apart … like Esther 4:14 says, ‘Perhaps [we] were born for such a time as this.’ Perhaps we were born to be the hands and feet of Christ in this post-Roe America, because as children of God it is our duty, our privilege, to relentlessly love on mothers and babies in all circumstances—to do the work God created us in Christ to do.” Annika firmly states, “I am ready to do the work God prepared in advance for me to do, which is standing up for the lives of all the others He created to do His work … Perhaps I was born for such a time as this….”
Second Place: Emma Roth – Grade 10 (photo not available) – Emma has also previously won the essay contest, and we congratulate her on another fine essay! Emma is 15 years old and is a homeschooled sophomore in Elgin, Texas, where she attends Grace Lutheran Church. She especially loves playing piano and classical guitar, painting with watercolors, crocheting stuffed animals for her six siblings, and sculpting with clay. Emma also enjoys studying math and science, and she hopes to pursue a career in nursing.
Emma’s essay was entitled “The Plus Sign That Takes Away,” and it addressed the very complex topic of those confused about their gender and sexuality. “According to the New York Times, the plus sign is ‘…not just a mathematical symbol anymore, but a denotation of everything on the gender and sexuality spectrum that letters and words can’t yet describe.’ This is why the ever-growing LGBTQIA acronym is followed by a plus symbol, to include anyone whose identity was lost in the mouthful of abbreviations.” Emma firmly rejects the world’s definition of the LGBTQIA+ identity based on the truth of God’s Word. “St. Paul writes, ‘For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them’ (Ephesians 2:10). So much of Lutheran doctrine is packaged into the single word, workmanship. We are not byproducts of a chaotic Big Bang that occurred billions of years ago. We are not leftovers of an evolutionary process that originated in a prehistoric soup of DNA. We are God’s beloved children, formed in His image and after His likeness (Genesis 1:26). We are the ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ caretakers of His creation (Psalm 139:14). Hence, God instructs us to respect His workmanship by upholding our bodies just as He made them … LGBTQIA+ advocates are so blinded by the desire to discover sexual identities that they lose sight of their true identities as God’s workmanship. We Christians strive to help them regain that sight and find forgiveness in the Gospel … Our vision is a bright future; we pursue one that extends far beyond life on this earth. On the Last Day, an identity in Christ is worth far more than anything a plus symbol can represent.”
Grades 6-8 Division
First Place: Emma Mildred – Grade 7 – We congratulate Emma on her first-place winning essay! Emma is 12 years old and is a seventh grader at Faith Lutheran School in Plano. She plays volleyball and basketball, participates in band and choir, and serves on student council. She also takes private piano lessons and serves as a drummer for the Plano Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution. Emma’s favorite hobbies are reading, swimming, playing with her cats, and spending time with family. She is a communicant member of Faith Lutheran Church, and her favorite Bible verse is Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”
Emma’s essay was entitled “Created in His Image.” Emma writes, “In America today, a lack of respect for life is all around us. Mothers are told that abortion is a ‘solution’ to the burden of their unwanted children and frees them from the responsibilities of taking care of babies. When difficulties in life are overwhelming, the world teaches that ending one’s own life is a reasonable way out … The lack of respect for life can also be seen through bullying of those with disabilities or handicaps. All these examples have one thing in common: humans who disvalue life look to the world instead of God’s Word. God’s Word is clear—we are all His workmanship; God created every human being for a special purpose, just as they are. In Ephesians 2:10, God declares that we are His workmanship. This means that God specifically created us in His own image. Just as Jesus served others, so I am also called to do good works. God sees every human being as His own, so all life is important. Just as God loves all human life, so I am also to love and cherish God’s creation. Lutherans should promote and protect all human life, for we are called to do good works and are created by God to fulfill His purpose in our lives.”
Second Place: Amanuel Ghebremariam – Grade 8 – Amanuel was born in South Africa and lived there for the first nine years of his life. When he was in third grade, his family moved to America, and they have lived here for five years. Amanuel lives with his mom, dad, and two sisters. He is fourteen years old and finishing eighth grade at Faith Lutheran School in Plano. He attends church services every Sunday and says he is “so blessed to learn the word of God every day, and I pray that God will provide me a means to continue my high school study where I ponder His Word. My hobbies are soccer, working out, and running. I am still learning about hiking and golf.”
Amanuel’s essay, “We Belong to Him,” discusses how euthanasia is contrary to God’s plans for life. “Ephesians 2:10 states: ‘For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.’ It emphasizes the concept that humans are created by God and have a specific purpose in life … Euthanasia is the deliberate act of ending the life of a person who is suffering from an incurable disease or condition or even a situation. Euthanasia undermines the value of human life … It suggests that some lives are not worth living and sets a dangerous precedent that can lead to the devaluation of human life and the normalization of killing as a solution to human suffering … As Christians, we are created in Christ Jesus, which means our identity is found in Him. When we allow Christ to live in us and through us, we can fulfill our calling and make a positive impact on the world around us. Our good works not only bring glory to God but also help to meet the needs of others and bring hope and healing to a broken world.”