Awake and Alive supports young adults

Gabriella Moline 

Musician and ministry leader Mike Westendorf describes a young adult’s life like a Rubik’s cube. Before individuals go off to college or start their professional lives, all the colors of the cube are lined up in order. But as they enter adulthood, learn more in their studies, and develop deeper critical thinking, the colors start to get jumbled. Difficult questions are asked, and sometimes the answers are unclear.  

During this point, notes Westendorf, it’s crucial that young adults have a community where they can grow and discuss key questions, especially regarding religion. This is where Awake and Alive comes into play. 

“Awake and Alive has three primary goals,” Westendorf says. “One is to help people know the gift of grace, the second is to own the gift of grace, and the last is to make the gift known.”  

Westendorf has worked with 18- to 25-year-olds for the past eight years through WELS campus ministries in Milwaukee, and he saw the need to encourage them in their faith. He started Awake and Alive five years ago and has held one-day events in the past.  

This past January, Awake and Alive held its first two-day conference at Wisconsin Lutheran College, Milwaukee, Wis. More than 100 people attended, growing closer in their relationship with Christ and each other. 

Elicia Engel, a senior at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, was introduced to Awake and Alive during the winter conference. She notes, “Awake and Alive is a really great way to hear some important messages and to be surrounded in fellowship with other young adult believers.” Engel said one of the greatest moments was listening to Pastor Wayne Shevey talk about the need for God’s grace. 

Twenty-four-year-old Sammy Unnasch was one of the people who urged Engel to attend the conference. Unnasch turned away from God in college but eventually found his way back to the gospel with a new passion for young adult ministry.  

“I became invested in Awake and Alive because my generation has been asleep spiritually,” he says. “It breaks my heart to see them pursuing things, or people, or experiences that never satisfy them the way Jesus’ love and grace do.” 

The Awake and Alive winter conference was made possible through donations from the Antioch Foundation, WELS Campus Ministry, and other organizations. The WELS Campus Ministry grant, which offers up to $2,000, is available for any WELS campus ministry group that wants to hold a retreat.  

Charlie Vannieuwenhoven, chairman of the WELS Campus Ministry Committee, said Awake and Alive is the first group to take advantage of this grant, but that he hopes more groups will apply in the future.   

“Any time you can get more college students together around God’s Word, the more they will be strengthened,” Vannieuwenhoven says.  

The next Awake and Alive conference will be held June 10 at St. Paul’s, Muskego, Wis. It also will be livestreamed. For more information, visit 


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Author: Gabriella Moline 
Volume 105, Number 5
Issue: May 2018

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