Congratulations to Sam Jopp, whose Sanctity of Life essay was selected by the National Lutherans for Life Essay Committee as the 9-12 grade national winner! Sam, pictured here with his certificate as the Minnesota state winner, has been invited to present his essay at the National Lutherans for Life conference to be held in Cincinnati in October.
The Lutherans For Life Council of Federation Presidents sponsors the essay contest each year for students in two grade categories: 6-8 and 9-12. This contest is available for students in all states who attend a Lutheran school or a Lutheran church.
For this year’s contest, students were to write a life-affirming essay based on the theme Just As … I Am, with the Bible verse “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10
Here is Sam’s winning essay:
Have you ever been told you are a mistake and that you will never amount to anything? I was told that many times in my young life, but I am here to tell you that you are not a mistake, even with all your imperfections, and that God has a tremendous plan for your life. The Bible says, “For (you) are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for (you) to do” (Ephesians 2:10). I am a living example of how I am God’s handiwork, and I am loved by Christ just as I am.
When I was born, it was discovered that I was deaf/hard of hearing. After many doctor appointments and tests, I was diagnosed with bilateral conductive hearing loss. I could not hear from either ear and there was no cure. I didn’t qualify for hearing aids because of all the fluid in my ears. I had nine surgeries to put tubes in my ears to help with drainage, and one surgery to reconstruct my right eardrum, all before I was 8 years old. I looked normal and spoke like other kids my age so people thought I was “normal,” but I am not normal. I am extraordinary!
I didn’t know what I was missing in school from lack of hearing, and I appeared to be like my classmates so teachers thought I was lazy or unmotivated to do the school work. My classmates teased me because I couldn’t hear and my poor grades, but I was told everyday at home that I was loved by my parents, 3 siblings, and extended family. They accepted me just as I am and helped me to correctly say words and speak clearly. They worked hard to help me be successful.
When I was in 4th grade, the fluid in my ears decreased and I received hearing aids. There were so many sounds I was experiencing for the first time. Cars driving on the street, coffee dripping in the coffee maker, and the refrigerator humming were all the sounds I was hearing for the first time as a 10-year-old. I had no idea the world was full of so many sounds! I could now hear my teachers with my new hearing aids, but it also made all the other noises around me louder. No one understood what a struggle it was to be hard of hearing and I was still teased and told I needed to pay attention in class. I had to learn how to focus on the speaker and block out all the background noises. It was very difficult to do all this and try to focus on what was being said. God knew all the obstacles I would have to overcome to succeed in life, but He placed people in my life to help me be successful in school and with my peers just as I am.
I am God’s workmanship created with His hands to be perfectly made. He hears all the hurtful words and sees all the cruel acts others do to make fun of me, but He makes it all right because I belong to Him. He has my life planned out to do good works for Him. I get up everyday and face the obstacles placed before me knowing Jesus is right there experiencing them with me. He will do a good work in me as I follow His command to love others and be forgiving.
I still struggle in school and fitting in with my peers is a daily challenge, but I know I will be successful. God has blessed me with a wonderful family. I am privileged to play high school sports with my peers. My family supports me just as I am, hearing aids and all. They know God has big plans for my life and they believe in me. That is all that matters. I am living proof that God made me to be exactly like I am and He loves me just as I am. I do not see myself with a disability, but as a child of God, His handiwork, His perfection!