In its twelfth year, LAUNCH is continuing to serve recent high school graduates who have grown up with Virginia Synod’s middle school and high school youth events. Known to draw a smaller crowd than most youth events, LAUNCH works to allows participants to take stock of where their faith life has led them so far, and to provide opportunities to engage in discussion on matter of faith, life, and vocation that they are likely to face as they move into their new stage of life.
This year Pastor Dave Delaney and summer intern Emma Kessler were joined by ten participants: Emily Mussey from Christ in Fredericksburg, Nathaniel Schaus from First in Norfolk, Maggie McPherson from Our Saviour in Christiansburg, Grace Yucha from Epiphany in Richmond, Aaron Bock from Peace in Charlottesville, Dane Chandler from College Lutheran in Salem, Tyler Wertman from Grace in Waynesboro, Madison Belcher from Faith in Suffolk, Chichi Ugochukwu from St. Mark’s in Roanoke, and Phoebe Nassqr from Christ the King in Richmond.
During LAUNCH speakers are brought in from across the Synod to discuss faith, lifestyle, and vocational challenges and choices. “Some of the speakers have really made me open up to the idea of joining in on college ministry while I attend Florida Southern University, which was something I hadn’t really been thinking about before this event,” said Nathanial, who is planning on studying nursing while at school.
The speaker lineup and notably featured current college students and recent college graduates who grew up through Synod Youth events like the LAUNCH participants. These young adults from college and the LAUNCH participants were invited for an evening at the Delaney home for pizza and conversation centered on college life and the challenges faced there. Experiences from these current and recent college graduates touch on a multitude of perspectives such as studying abroad, transferring colleges, attending community college, and much more. Tyler Wertman, who will be attending Blue Ridge Community College in the fall, felt he greatly benefited from an evening spent with these college students, “I was given the opportunity to ask questions on how to continue my faith as I enter college and life after, as well as to hear speakers touch on their college and faith experiences.”
Bishop Mauney also visited the LAUNCH participants to share with them about his experiences transitioning within the church as a young adult, as well as his own call to serve. In his talk he encouraged the participants to remember how important they are and will continue to be to the body of Christ, despite the challenges they may face as they make the staggering leap into adult roles within the church.
Throughout the event participants are asked to take time for self-reflection, considering conversations and experiences throughout the day that may shape them as they make major life transitions in the fall and beyond. “I love that this event focuses on a lot of individual reflection. I haven’t experienced that as much during other youth events,” said Grace, who will be attending Wake Forest in the fall.
Pastor Paul Henrickson was also invited to speak to LAUNCH participants, and was a notable standout in his open forum discussion on obstacles the participants may face that stand in the way of their goals in college and beyond, “I loved how he was always asking us what we were worried and concerned with and listened to them, rather than filling in the blanks for us,” said Chichi Ugochukwu, who will be attending William and Mary in the fall.
Across the event, LAUNCH participants have had the opportunity to reconnect with friends made at previous Synod youth events, as well as to take time for themselves for intentional evaluation on what they want their college experiences to be like. Hopefully they have left the event feeling more prepared to take on college and to continue to grow and develop their faith while away from home.
“Soon our group of ten will be all over the east coast. This is our last event together as youth, but the bonds we have formed will remain. Next year we will continue our faith journey and meet new people who are also on a similar journey,” said Emma Mussey, who will be attending the University of Alabama in the fall.