The First Step: A Youth Director’s Reflection on the March for Life

By Will Chester, Youth Pastor at Church of the Resurrection in Wheaton, Illinois

Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step. –Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Why am I doing this? I thought to myself. Why am I driving through the night to Washington, D.C in a van full of high school girls—and in January of all months?! 

As the hours passed, the answer I kept returning to was, This is the next step.

I first attended a March for Life three years ago in Chicago. I was nervous, wary of participating in a culture war fraught with complexity. But my bishop challenged our congregation to go and so I went—in a step of obedience more than conviction. What I discovered on that cold January day was not a culture war but a celebration: boom boxes blaring, students dancing—a diverse crowd of Anglos, African Americans, Latinos, and Filipinos—balloons everywhere. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed myself.

The following year, the next clear step was to attend the central March for Life in Washington DC with hundreds of thousands of others from around the country. How did I know that was the next step? Well, to put it plainly, because someone paid for me to go! They wanted to see if it’d be worth bringing Anglican students. So I went, saw what it could look like, and this year’s next obvious step was to invite my students to come along. Five junior and senior girls signed up, and with two other leaders, we were wheels-up after school on a Thursday afternoon.

The girls will tell you that their experience was life-changing. Here’s what one said: “This trip strengthened my belief in the pro-life cause and helped me take that belief as my own. I now firmly believe in the sanctity of every human life, no matter how small.”

Another: “I entered into this trip filled with fear and doubt, unsure where I stood in the spectrum of the pro-life movement, wondering if abortion should even be completely illegal. But when I attended the March, and then the Students for Life Conference afterwards, I found my misgivings challenged to a degree I never thought possible. I now know, with utter certainty, that abortion must be abolished, and I hold this belief with total conviction.”

This same student discovered the abortion debate “is so much more than a political issue, and the pro-life stance does not need to belong to any one political party.” She loved hearing from Louisiana State Representative Katrina Jackson, who spoke prior to the March: “People ask me all the time, “You are a black, female Democrat. Why are you pro-life?”  I say, “’Because I am a Christian first.’”

After the March for Life on Friday—and a much-needed nap—we returned to the Washington Mall to see our nation’s memorials. We were inspired by these words:

From Lincoln’s Second Inaugural: “[W]ith firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in.”

And from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”

On Saturday we attended the Students for Life Conference, the world’s largest gathering of its kind for high school and college students. We heard from speakers like Stephanie Gray, who recently visited Church of the Rez. That evening the girls prayed and journaled about what the Lord was stirring in them. One student felt a renewed calling to honor the dignity of mothers and fathers who have had, or are considering, abortion:

I heard a speaker say that “a human’s greatest fear is to not feel loved.” When we are talking to these women, we have to act “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2)…We need to remember that we are not trying to win a debate; we are trying to win a person.

After each shared, we thanked God and laid hands on them in prayer.

Sunday was packed. We worshipped at an African-American Baptist church, then arrived at the Roman Catholic Basilica just in time to hear the choir. After a quick lunch, we toured the Museum of the Bible where we saw an exhibit about “Slave Bibles.” These Bibles were intentionally mutilated to silence any parts of the Word of God that referenced liberation or the dignity of slaves’ lives. We sensed a clear thread throughout the entire weekend: our nation’s greatest injustices have come from the denial of human dignity.  On the other hand, our national heroes have been those who saw prophetically in their generation what ought to have been intuitive to all: every human life has infinite value and worth.

These five girls took a step of faith to come on this trip, and their lives were changed. Now they’re asking the Lord to show them their next step. They can’t see the whole staircase, but they don’t have to. God is going to abolish abortion. That is what’s waiting for us at the top of the staircase. And He just might use our generation to do it!

Lord, make it so!

But our responsibility is not to see the entire staircase and climb every step in our own strength. Our job is simply to take the next step in faith.

Will attended Church of the Resurrection as a Wheaton College undergraduate and loves serving a church that he loves. His passion for youth ministry is rooted in his own experience of formation and discipleship as a young man through youth group. His hope for each young person at Rez is that they would know the Father’s love, see themselves as integral members of the church body, and live out their calling as sons and daughters of God by using their unique gifts and abilities.

Will earned an MDIV at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Ema, enjoy traveling, camping, and bragging about the New England Patriots. Will currently dabbles in vegetable gardening and sour dough bread baking. He loves nothing more than an intellectual discussion paired with good friends and food.