When I started working for Lutherans For Life last summer, one of the first things I wanted to do was to lead servant events for youth. There is something special about taking youth out of their comfort zones and introducing them to service opportunities. It creates bonds of friendship between the participants and has a lasting impact on their future decisions and attitudes about serving others. It was my dream to provide students with opportunities to serve at For Life ministries and to learn about how they can make a difference For Life in their own community.
In April, my dream came true. We hosted our first Y4Life Servant Event in St. Louis, Missouri. It was a small group of six students for our first event, but what we lacked in quantity, we more than made up for in quality. They were great kids. They were passionate and curious and eager to learn more about life and life ministries. They all came from different backgrounds and each had unique life experiences that contributed to a more meaningful weekend than I could have ever anticipated. (I think I learned more from them than they learned from me.) While I hope the weekend changed their lives, I know it changed my life and strengthened my resolve to encourage and equip these young people to be Gospel-motivated “rock-stars” For Life!
The servant event took place on a weekend from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon. The experience started out with some basic training on Friday on how to defend the For Life position.
Saturday was our service day. Just as Lutherans For Life teaches the value of life from “womb to tomb,” I wanted the servant event participants to have a chance to serve those at the beginning of life and at the end of life. We volunteered at a senior center, where the students were able to help the residents play several rounds of bingo. We were then trained on sidewalk counseling by representatives from the Coalition for Life St. Louis. After that we went to Planned Parenthood in St. Louis, so that the students could see sidewalk counseling in action and see the reality of abortion. We ended the day with a service project at a local pregnancy center.
On Sunday, we worshiped together and talked about how to take what they had learned and continue to work For Life after they went back home.
The students’ reaction from the event was incredible. During our debrief of the weekend, they shared about how the training and the service projects increased their respect for each other, inspired them to serve others more, and helped them understand the importance of speaking up For Life.
One student expressed how the experience at the senior center helped change her perspective about service. “Talking to elderly is not one of my gifts. But I saw the gifts God gave other people, which helped me to recognize God’s gifts to me. We can’t all do everything, but we can serve in our own way.”
Another student was convicted by the experience at Planned Parenthood and by the sidewalk counseling training. “Before this weekend, my perspective was ‘I am not here to judge, I can’t tell them ‘you’re wrong’ … When I saw the look on the face of a girl leaving Planned Parenthood, it hit me, ‘this is happening. This is wrong …’ Now I realize that this is crazy, babies don’t deserve this.”
One of the most poignant comments of the weekend, however, came from one of our adult leaders. He said, “When I was your age, we were losing. The best part of this day was seeing you guys, young people who care and see what is happening … Our generation failed, our hope is in God and in you.”
What a responsibility and what an opportunity! This generation is on fire For Life and this weekend showed me that there are unlimited numbers of youth out there who have the potential to be powerful witnesses For Life if only given the education and the opportunity. Before the students went back home, they were already asking me when we could all get together again to go and sidewalk counsel at Planned Parenthood. If one weekend in St. Louis could have such impact on these six students, I can’t even begin to imagine the possibilities!