by Michelle Bauman, Director of Y4Life

It’s been two days since the Y4Life in Washington, D.C., conference and the March for Life, and I am still riding an emotional high. A bit like being dunked in a pool of joy, I find myself unable to dry off completely, and frankly, I’m okay with that. In fact, I’d like to splash a little of that joy on you if I may.

After last year’s disappointing cancellation, this year’s long-awaited gathering more than made up for it. It was a fantastic event, full of enthusiasm, memory-making, and laughter. The conference brought students together who had only ever seen each other on Zoom; it introduced youth from neighboring communities and states, connected college students across Concordias, and laid the foundation for new friendships. The Y4Life in Washington, D.C., conference was filled with hugs and cheers and selfies.

And if those gifts weren’t enough, God gave more.

Over 140 youth were deeply invested in supporting LIFE. They filled posters with creative, life-affirming, Gospel-motivated messages. They engaged our speakers, asking thought-provoking questions about how to get involved in a post-Roe society, how to reach out to those experiencing gender brokenness, how to uphold LIFE in a world enamored with death.

And God gave more.

Despite the cold weather, those who participated in our conference not only rejoiced in the opportunity to march with tens of thousands of other for-life advocates, but they also remained positive while doing so. The wind was brutal at times, but our Y4Life youth smiled back at it, sang hymns, said prayers, and encouraged others.

And God gave more.

Our panel discussion on temptation, especially as it relates to sexuality, hit home. Given the chance to ask questions anonymously, our youth posed more than 200 queries in a matter of minutes. Our panelists were gracious and patient, answering questions scripturally, providing practical ways to avoid temptation, and reminding students of the hope they have in Christ.

And God gave more.

During the panel discussion, it became clear that more than one youth longed for forgiveness for the sexual sins they had already committed. Thanks be to God that a pastor on our panel was able to, in the stead and by the command of Christ, pronounce that much needed forgiveness.

And God continues to give.

It was good, on so many levels, to gather together this weekend. To be present in the flesh. It was good to see many of the youth I serve face to face and to be reminded that we were designed to be fleshy-designed as gifts for each other in real and tangible ways. We were designed to laugh and sing and weep together. We were designed to hug and hold and march alongside each other. We were designed to belong to each other.

Despite the hardships we experience and the sin we face, God’s work submerges us in a pool of joy; through our Baptism, He daily refreshes us, strengthening our bonds to Him and to each other. Yes, we Christians are connected more deeply than participation in any march or gathering can offer. By God’s grace, we have become family. We share a home and a future.

Psalm 23:6 reminds us that “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” This weekend offered a taste of God’s goodness, a taste of the blessings to come and the family reunion we have in store.

One day, we won’t need to gather around a cause; instead, we’ll gather around His table. We’ll smile and sing and pray with joy because our hope will be fulfilled. And when the weekend is over, we won’t need to head our separate ways, because we’ll already be home. 

This weekend was amazing, but we Christians know there’s even more to come. Until that day, may we find both joy and refreshment in His never-ending goodness and mercy and may we rejoice in the gift of each other.