By Erik M. Lunsford
At this year’s Jan. 22 “March for Life” in Washington, D.C., Marissa Troyke wore three pairs of socks, three shirts, two pairs of gloves, two pairs of pants and a coat. And still, the student from Concordia University Wisconsin, Mequon, said she was freezing.
Troyke was one of nearly 150 LCMS Lutherans participating in the D.C. march in the bitter cold.
“This year’s weather was brutally cold, but there were still thousands and thousands of committed pro-life advocates freezing our toes off to send a message to our nation: Abortion must stop now,” said LCMS Life and Health Ministries Director Maggie Karner.
For the first time, LCMS Life Ministries also participated in the Walk for Life West Coast, held Jan. 25 in San Francisco.
About 30 LCMS Lutherans were among the estimated 60,000 participants in the 10th annual walk, considered the second-largest pro-life event in the United States, behind the D.C. march.
Among those participating in California were members from the New Life Chinese Lutheran Church and West Portal Lutheran Church — both in San Francisco. One couple traveled from their Montana home to walk.
One of the Lutheran marchers carried a personal sign in the two-mile-long walk reading: “My friend is an abortion survivor and she has made an impact on my life.”
Leading the LCMS group with an LCMS Life Ministries banner in San Francisco was Ed Szeto, special projects coordinator for LCMS Life Ministries. Szeto was invited to the event’s VIP area during the pre-walk rally and the ministry’s participation was announced from the stage.
Unlike the D.C. march, the weather was spring-like, Szeto said. A mariachi band sang as the crowd gathered in Civic Center Plaza. Counter-protestors were present in two locations on the march’s route along Market Street.
“The Walk for Life West Coast was an incredible experience that was peaceful, life-affirming and edifying, all at the same time,” Szeto said. “The atmosphere was electric as tens of thousands of pro-lifers closed down a major thoroughfare in San Francisco as they carried signs and banners showing their support for babies in the womb and their mothers.”
The annual event marks the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. More than 55 million babies have been aborted since then.
In D.C., Troyke moved slowly in a mass of hundreds of thousands — mostly young people — on Constitution Avenue, before turning toward the Supreme Court building. A rally with several speakers kicked off the march on the National Mall as temperatures hovered in the teens. Wind chill dropped to the single digits.
Following slightly behind the Lutheran group was “LCMS U” member Jason Hufford, a sophomore at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. LCMS U was introduced a year earlier as a new approach to campus ministry in the Synod.
Hufford was part of a small group of Lutherans who traveled overnight on a pair of buses along with nearly 100 students from Ball State Students for Life.
As he looked backward and forward in a sea of signs and song, Hufford said he was a bit overwhelmed — in a good way — during his first march. “I felt a lot of joy knowing I’m not the only one marching for the cause we believe in,” he said.
The small LCMS U group led by Deaconess Shaina Mitchell is already close-knit, but Hufford said the trip brought his group and the larger group of Ball State Students for Life closer together. They began their ride back to Muncie just hours after the march.
High-school students from Lutheran High School of St. Charles County, Mo.; Lutheran High School in Parker, Colo.; and Y4Life, a part of Lutherans For Life, joined college students from Concordia University Wisconsin and Concordia University Nebraska for the march. Six seminarians from Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind., also arrived with the Ball State group.
The theme for the 41st annual event here in the nation’s capital centered on adoption as an abortion alternative. Thousands waved hand-held signs that read, “I am the pro-life generation.” A banner from one group showed an illustration of a baby with the words, “Take my hand, not my life.” Another sign featured graphic images depicting aborted fetuses.
The Rev. Christopher Esget, pastor of Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church in Alexandria, Va., told those at the pre-March for Life LCMS Divine Service of worship there that looking into America’s abortion culture is “looking evil in the face.”
Esget said in his sermon that hope is the reason why Lutherans march.
“Make every Sunday Life Sunday, every day a March for Life,” he said. “For whether this is our last march or we have to come back 41 more years, we have something greater than an anti-abortion message. We have the Good News that the glory of God is in the Living Man, Christ Jesus our Lord, risen from the grave … We march with confident serenity behind the crucified-yet-living One, with the message of His forgiveness and life.”
See more photographs from the Washington March for Life and Divine Service at photo.lcms.org.
For more information about LCMS Life Ministries, visit lcms.org/life.
Erik M. Lunsford is staff photojournalist and an editor with LCMS Communications.
Melanie Ave, staff writer and social media coordinator with LCMS Communications, also contributed to this story.