Keynote Speakers and Sessions:

Session Info: "You Were Made For This"

What do I want for my future?  I'm not a kid anymore so who am I now?  What's this life really for?  While the 18-25 window of life is a short one, it is exploding with opportunities.  And yet the more possibilities there are, the more questions come up and it's not hard to find situations in which we lose ourselves.  Within this context, questions and doubts arise in our hearts and minds, especially as new information and experiences challenge our adolescent understanding of Christianity and our relationship to Jesus.  As we consider majors, careers, relationships and the possibility of family, perhaps there is one question that rings out more than all the others - Why am I here?  In this session we'll go back to the beginning and look more deeply into the three reasons that you exist and the foundation of the three core relationships you are called to be a part of.  Your future joy, at the deepest levels will be found in these ideas of Communion, Community and a Common Unity - you were made for these!


"Life to the full!" That is the heartbeat of this Christian artist, meteorologist, husband, and father of three.  With a passion for sharing the life changing power of God's Grace through music and speaking events, Mike has been sharing this story as an artist and worship leader in the WELS since 2004.  In 2007 Mike began to do every day life with young men and women in both secular and Christian environments.  From his time in at UW-Milwaukee's Innovative Weather, his work in Campus Ministry through "The Point of Grace" and as the Founder and Director of Awake and Alive, a ministry event for 18-25 year olds, God has given Mike a passion for walking with 18-25 year olds as they move through the journey of coming to know, own and make known that gift of Grace.  Believing in the power of building a bridge between generations, Mike's insights and experiences are an inspiration to those who long to share the hope of Christ with young adults.  From Milwaukee, WI and a member of the ministry team at St. Paul's Muskego, Mike married his wife Melissa in 1997 and together have three children. 

Session Info: "Discovering Rest in the Shadow of Depression"

Many of us have been through a season of depression. The first time we went through depression, it was likely linked to an event, something that isolated us, or brought us great suffering or shame. For those of us who have been through depression multiple times, sadness can quickly trigger racing thoughts: self-focused, big-scale thoughts like “Why does this always happens to me?” We hate these thoughts, these patterns, and this can bring more fear and shame. How does God’s word speak about suffering, shame, and anxiety? How can we rest in Him? We can discover sweet sleep, resting in His wholeness after enjoying the meaningful work he has given us for each day.


Anna Sherod grew playing Oregon Trail, hiking in bamboo forests, and distributing thousands of church flyers door to door every holiday on the WELS Japan mission field.  She went to California Lutheran High School, and then Pepperdine University, and accepted a Fulbright Scholarship to teach in Romania in 2013.  She has worked on the White Mountain Apache reservation for the last four years.  She currently works for Kingdom Workers in a support role for international and domestic gospel work, while pursuing a Masters in Social Work.  Anna enjoys time with people, including strangers, and vulnerable conversations around spiritual truths.  Her mom would say that she enjoys “oversharing.”

Session Info: "From Worthless to Worthy"

One the greatest fears we face is failure. We feel we don't measure up to others in looks, accomplishments and social status. Comparative despair (even comparative depression) don't end at high school graduation; they only increase if not addressed. We speak our fears into reality. We convince ourselves that our insecurities define us and confine us. There is hope beyond measure. Find your story of worth through the story of Mephibosheth, a man who felt unworthy until he encountered grace.


Jon attended Martin Luther College and later Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, graduating in 2004.  He served as pastor at Divine Savior Lutheran Church in West Palm Beach, Florida until last summer when he accepted a call to serve as a Campus Pastor & Instructor at St. Croix Lutheran High School in West Saint Paul, MN. He and his wife, Debbi, have four daughters: Violet, Lydia, Eden, and Maggie. 


Breakout Speakers and Sessions:

Breakout Session Info: "MARRIAGE WITHOUT FEAR!

Vulnerability and intimacy are tough traits to develop at any age of life and can be quite the challenge in building up relationships in today's culture.  Divorce has done its damage, people don't seem to want to get married or start families until later in life, if all.  But the desire to be known and to know others on a deep level are still intense desires for all of us.  When it comes to the idea of marriage, are you afraid that you are not going to get married? Or are you afraid to get married? Join us to explore and discuss the characteristics that will help calm your fears of getting married or being married.

James and Denise have been teaching teens and adults about relationships for the past twenty years.  It began when Denise joined James on the staff of Wisconsin Lutheran High School in 1998.  Since then, they have team-taught “From Friendship to Marriage,” a class that helped seniors to establish and nurture healthy, happy and faith-filled relationships.  They have also presented Bible classes and retreats about various aspects of marriage.  This past summer they decided to retire from WLHS.  They now have more time to visit their five grown children (Matthew, Joshua, Rachel, Jonathan, and Elizabeth) and their families.


Breakout Session Info:  "Rise Up, Child of God"
As long as Satan can keep us sleepy he has nothing to worry about. A spiritually lazy Christian is easy enough to distract. But God is looking for warriors: men and women like Gideon who don’t even know they have what it takes to stand in the gap and lead. It only takes one person in a church or friend group, college campus or work place, neighborhood or city to motivate others to walk with God. Rise up, ‘cause that person is you! 


Amber Albee Swenson is a writer, speaker and blogger. Her husband and four children keep life exciting and give her lots to write and pray about. Mother, wife and author are treasured positions, but child of God is her identity

Nate Strobel
Breakout Session Info: Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled – Every one of us is in a season of life.  Hopefully the college/young professional years are going great for you and God is opening doors for you to be an encourager to people around you.  For some of us we're in a season in our young adult life where anxiety steals joy from the life of God’s men and women and worry distracts the saints from shining for Jesus in the darkness of this world.  While fear is not fun and causes us to hide in the shadows the relationship we have with our Savior is still bedrock in any season.  In this session, Pastor Nate will guide us in an open discussion focused on the peace found in the presence of our God.  


Pastor Nathan Strobel has served in the public ministry for 28 years—eight as a parish pastor in Bay City, MI and Tallahassee, FL, sixteen as campus pastor at Wisconsin Lutheran College, three as VP of Student Life and Dean of Students at the college, and one as Resident Missionary at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church Muskego.  Nathan and his wife, Jean, are the proud parents of two daughters and sons-in-law and three grandchildren.  Nathan’s passion for ministry has always focused on shepherding God’s people to love and trust the Creator and Savior God not only with the eternal, but with the temporal as well.


Breakout Session Info: "Helping Young Adults Find Firm Foundation in a World of Uncertainty"

Today’s young adults have been handed a world without a standard of truth, without a concept of who God is, and without a story to help them find their place. They didn’t create this world, but they are living in it. As leaders, our job is to help them find truth, know God, and see the Big Story and their place in it. These sessions, intended for leaders of young adult ministries, will explore how we created a world of uncertainty, the impact it has on the lives of young adults today, and how we can help them find – and share – certainty in God’s grand narrative.


Brandon Steenbock grew up in the Cascade foothills just outside Seattle, where he learned to love adventure and the beauty of God's creation.  He studied Creative Writing at University of Washington, and then transferred to Martin Luther College in 2002.  In 2005 he married Nikki, and in 2006 he was assigned two calls - to be a father, and to be Minister of Family and Youth at St. Paul's in New Ulm, MN.  He received his Masters in Family Life Education from Concordia University in 2013.  In 2017 he accepted a call to serve as Young Adult Minister at St. Mark in De Pere/Green Bay, WI, where he currently serves.  Brandon and Nikki have two boys, ages 10 and 12.  Brandon loves singer/songwriter music, playing guitar, writing stories, and walking in wild places.  He is currently working on his second Master's degree in Theological Studies.



Devotion Leaders:

Pastor James Hein
Know the Gift of Grace

Bio: From Saginaw, MI, James attended Martin Luther College and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary before beginning ministry in 2008 at Resurrection Lutheran Church in Rochester, MN.  Then in 2016, he and his wife Adrian moved to Milwaukee where James is Lead Pastor at St. Marcus Lutheran Church.  At St. Marcus, James seeks to focus on urban gospel work – embracing ethnic diversity, exploring modern technology in church, and navigating the post-Christian cultural climate.  He leads their LIVEIT worship, including their leadership team, community groups, and service teams.  Pastor Hein also maintains a blog, "Crossing my mind.  Mind on the Cross.”, and joined the blogging family at Time of Grace in 2015.  His writing is intended to help Christians see the world through the eyes of faith, apply biblical principles to society, and gain appreciation for changeless truth in a changing world.


Own the Gift of Grace

Bio: Mike grew up in Wisconsin in a family of 8 siblings.  A product of Lutheran Grade Schools, WELS ministry Schools (MLPS, NWC, WLS), he served as a parish pastor for 21 years: 6 years at Christ Lutheran in Grand Island NE and 15 years at Crown of Life in Hubertus, WI.  However, he and his family will soon be making their home in the Lake Mills area as Pastor Helwig is in his first year of teaching Religion classes to seniors at Lakeside Lutheran.  He is also the administrator for the Lakeside mission program “Operation Go” program that sends Lakeside students into mission settings with Christian camps and mission experiences around the WELS and ELS world.  He and his wife, Rachel, have five children: Samuel, Philip, Isaac, Miriam, and Gabe. 


Make Known the Gift of Grace

Bio: Donn grew up in Minnesota and attended Northwestern College and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, graduating in 1995.  He served as a parish pastor in Topeka, Kansas until 2000 when he and his family moved to Port Orange, FL where he served as pastor of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church for 17 years.  He now serves as the Director of Discipleship at WELS here in Wisconsin.  He and his wife, Beth, have four children: Aleah, Lydia, Caleb, and Levi.


Musical and Special Guests:

Jonah Backus and the Conquerors

Mike Westendorf

Sy Vanissaveth - Camp Phillip

Ask James and Jon:   Awake and Alive introduces a new way of getting answers to the tough questions.  As you experience the encouragements throughout the conference, some uncertainties and questions are likely to come up and we want to help you wrestle with them.  You can simply text your question to 4145078250 or fill out the "Got Questions" form.  We will pass them along to Pastor James Hein and Pastor Jon Enter who will use their skills and heart for the Gospel to bring understanding.  If you would rather be anonymous there will be sheets to fill out at the Awake and Alive table during the conference as well.  We will post them to Facebook and the Awake and Alive page as we go.

Sponsor Sessions: