Wednesday, June 27, 2018

How One Day Makes A Difference...

It is Wednesday and the group of 12 has been in Houston since Monday.  We slept over at church on Sunday Night to depart at 4 AM Monday.

We setup up our mini indoor campsite and the song created "we're going to Texas. we're going to Texas" (you really need the accompany the dance to appreciate it completely.

The flight was mostly uneventful and some of you may ask "what is it like to travel with 10 youth" and I have to say it is pretty easy, especially since 4 got TSA PREAPPROVED Status.  There was no special process of removing things in the morning. 

We grabbed some breakfast, boarded at 6:20 AM and touched down in Houston 3 hours. We found out luggage and exited the airport to a warm and uncomfortable level of humidity that can only be described as "HEAVY" as you could feel it.

We got to the hotel and it was immediately obvious that we were tired and we were waiting for our ministry partner, Wes Foster.  After some blips we met up and then set to creating the hygiene kits for distribution

AND THEN IT RAINED.  No, not rained exactly, but more an event where it felts like the sky exploded into a rainstorm which felt like a river from the sky.  Due to this, we time of day, and plan to eat dinner at 6:45 we completed prep for Tuesday with our introduction to "street evangelism" and broke for the day.


We took breaks and some slept, some hung out and chatted, and some of had work to do for school.  We regrouped and ventured to Maggianno's Little Italy Dinner.

 We had some initial issues with what was happening due to communication issues in March and when we arrived, but we worked it out and had a feast that night...

The night ended with some pool time and prepared for Tuesday!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018


We are scheduled to take off on Monday, June 25th, 2018 at 6:30 AM.

Sure, Blogs may not be hip or in some people's mind relevant ( I am considering this RETRO).  They also require we read, but this is the experiences of some of our youth who attend different Gatherings and what I encourage you to do is read about what these young people have experienced.

Some names you may recognize and some you may not, but one thing is for sure...

The experiences and opportunities this offers these young folks are worth every hour planning, email sent, and fundraising dollar raised.

Hang with us and stay in touch. 

You can also follow us LIVE and via posts on FACEBOOK

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Making Saints from Citizens

     To be perfectly honest, I cannot remember at all what I expected of the Youth Gathering before I went to New Orleans. I know I expected service, I expected God, and I expected New Orleans. I didn’t expect the people, the message, the fun, or any part of the experience. Now my story isn’t about the whole week, it isn’t about what we did each day, it isn’t about the individuals I met, the people I got to know, or even the fantastic speeches and stories I heard. My story is about the little things, the things that we did every day, which truly blew my mind. My story may seem really simple, really basic, and not too special, but I know that this is a story I won’t ever forget.

     Being a teenager means a lot of things, but the biggest part of a teenager is rebelling against anyone and anything. If you were to pick out 100 teens and tell them to go do anything that was out of their way, at least 20 of them would complain unending, 20 more would argue until they felt that it was in their best interest to just get it over with, and another 10 would just flat out refuse (and I think those numbers are modest). But something truly amazing happened inside that Superdome packed with 33,000 teenagers. I want to believe that this happened every night, but I only got to witness it on Thursday night. So far I think everyone has said that they had the best experience when we were on the floor in the Superdome, but my favorite day was Thursday when we sat in topmost balcony overlooking the entire stadium. Because up on that balcony I could see everyone, so when 33,000 teens were told “Please bow your heads as we pray” I was shocked to see that everyone did that. Everyone! Throughout the whole night people had been walking around on the floor, dancing, and talking, but when we were told to bow our heads, people stopped in the middle of a conga line to obey. I’ve seen hands wave, I’ve seen bodies wave, I’ve seen the entire ocean wave, but none of those waves even compare to the wave of heads that washed across our group of rowdy, rebellious teenagers.

     By Thursday night, my next experience had already begun to take its course. During the week, there was a “house band” made up of about 20 miscellaneous musicians. Please don’t misunderstand, those musicians were very good, but when you have to play to the same crowd for several hours over 4 days you eventually run out of music to play. So by Saturday night we were all sitting on the floor, in nearly the same seats, listening to the exact same music we heard on Wednesday night. But even then, there was one song that we heard every single day. This song was called “Get Down” and by the end of Wednesday night I would have been totally content to never hear it again. It’s an ok song, but the chorus is literally the same line 4 times and any good concert performer will repeat the chorus about 10 times. But on Saturday night, when we were sitting in those same seats listening to that same song, something truly life-changing happened: I listened. Suddenly, this song didn’t seem so pointless; it truly rang to my core.

In your weakness He is stronger
In your darkness He shines through
When you're crying He's your comfort
When you're all alone He's carrying you

I get down and He lifts me up
I get down and He lifts me up
I get down and He lifts me up
I get down

So in these two moments, my eyes were opened. I saw God and I saw my fellow citizens, my fellow saints. I saw His power, I saw Our power. Never did “His work, our hands” ever really mean so much. In going to New Orleans I not only found the light in God, but I found a light inside everyone, in my friends, in my acquaintances, and in myself. That was how God lifted me up when I got down… to New Orleans!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Knowing you're not alone in the crowd.

Leaving New Orleans and looking back at my most eventful week, I realized the one thing I got most from the week. I feel this renewed spark in me. Just seeing 33,309 youth come together and focus solely on Christ and take their faith as seriously as I do is just a big wow for me. To see the results from all of us coming together; the amount of blood we donated, the inches of hair we gave, the frames we built for Habitat for Humanity, and the money we raised for the 100 Wells organization just caused my spirit to become an inferno. I realized that youth actually are capable of having an impact on the world. I always had an impression that no one can do anything until they grow up and gain authority. But that is no longer true for me, and I intend to put this to action.

I expected the Gathering to be more textbook orientated. To sit down and over-analyze the Bible and all cry when someone takes John 3:16 to a whole new level. The minute I stepped into the Conventions Center those expectations flew out the window. To see actual games you can play! I mean you could actually play volleyball! Hockey! Ping Pong! I think my jaw dropped for that moment. Exploring the center some more, we found there were really cool exhibits about issues that needed attention. For instance, trafficking. Reading real stories and seeing statistics just made me want to do something about it. At the end of the exhibit, you can write on a post-it saying what you will do now that you learned about it and I was tempted to write everything. And the gatherings at the Superdome, they were filled with energy and spirit that can only be given to us by God. The speakers were amazing and really got my attention in ways I as a kid could relate to.
I saw God almost everywhere this week. I saw God in all the youth who were so willing to put forth their time and effort towards people they never even met before. To me that is the real Christian. I saw Him in the songs we all sang as we were sloping back to our hotels in the rain which happened many a time. I saw God in the adults as they had to put up the songs and the unending energy of the youth. But most of all, I saw God in the speakers as the farther into their speech they got, the more passion we all saw; in their face, in their voice, in their movements. Just to see God in that many places fortified my faith and pushed me toward devoting more and more of my life to Him.

The Gathering changed me in so many ways. I can walk around with my back straight and say: "I know there's a God. I know he exists. I saw at New Orleans 24/7." I used to think no other young christian took their faith as seriously as me. And because of that, I was afraid to show it. But now, I know that's not true. I saw 33,309 youth who were as committed to God as much as I was. So there has to be more. That changed me so now I am confident and unashamed to show my faith, because I know that at least one person in the crowd will agree with me. And that's all I need.

- Naomi Krizner

You can't just explain it...

In going on adventures like a National Lutheran Youth Gathering, you can't just come back and explain what happens.  You can't even try to tell people what happened, because each person expierences it different.

I have been to ELCA Youth Gatherings as a youth participant, a Gathering Volunteer, and now 3 times as the adult leader of a group of youth.  I have taken a group of 7, then 10, and now 21.  You would think it is scalable, but the funny thing is, it is not.  It actually is quite different.  I mean with the basics of having more people, it also changes the dynamic of the group.

We will keep sharing these with you and once the last member has shared, I will provide a recap of the the entire events from the "Youth Director's" view, but to avoid influencing reflections, I will hold off for now.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Sometimes being like Jesus is just being yourself.

First of all I would like to thank the congregation for their support, not only financially but spiritually. I would also like to thank the parents of the Kids that went on this trip. You have wonderful, caring, loving children who have become a bright light in my life and I have no doubt will be a bright light in the lives of others going forward.

It was a whirlwind week full of travelling, touring, and Gathering. Great speakers, Really Great Music, and fun.

For me personally the thing that stuck out to me the most from the speakers was about Justice. We need to stand up for each other more and be willing to protect and defend those less vulnerable than ourselves. We are never more like Jesus than when we are serving others. No matter how small we think the act is, it can make a major difference in the life of another. I saw this in action so many time this week. I spoke with an older woman on the trolley one day who was visiting from Washington DC. The Trolley was full of Gathering kids and we got to talking. She stated how impressed she was with all the youth she encountered. As we were talking one teen helped her put her money in the payment box. I explained to her what we were all doing there and that we were representatives of the ELCA and Jesus. She thought that was wonderful! As we departed I again saw 2 youths helping her off the Trolley and getting pointed in the right direction safely. What a wonderful example of discipleship and justice that was for her and me!

In our own group I experienced the caring, loving, discipleship that our youth and adults have. In the willingness to sit with a "mature" woman with some mobility issues instead of with the group in the evening gathering, or slowing down so she could catch up, or waiting and riding back to the hotel to keep her company. I was certainly really had to come to grips with my limitations last week but was never made to feel inadequate or unneeded or unwelcome by anyone! I can't begin to tell you what that meant to me to be so supported and loved!

I have no doubts now that the future of this generation is in good hands. There were many little lights glowing throughout the gathering. Many of the speakers referred to how many little lights can grow into bigger lights. At night in the dome we were asked to show our cell phone lights. Looking around at the illumination of all those lights put together really brought that home. There was such a light shining !!! Imagine how much brighter the world would be if we all took "this little light of mine" out from under the bushel basket and let it shine!!!!

- Ruth Arnold

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sometimes a "Thank You" is more than just a "Thank You"

I got a lot out of this that we spent down on the bayou in New Orleans with 33,000 of our closest friends. I formed friendships both in and out of our congregation that I will cherish for a lifetime because the people I have met have changed and shaped my life in a huge way.

I went into the week not wanting to expect a whole lot so I would not be disappointed if something I had expected to happen did not. I expected to meet many new people from around the country, be exposed to the culture of New Orleans, and have a little personal growth from the mass gatherings at the Dome. What I did not expect was to grow both spiritually and internally as much as I did this past week with all of the adventures, friendships, and moving speeches that I experienced throughout the week.

I saw God this week mainly from all the youth who participated and how well they embraced the experience and made everyone around them have a great time. However, where I truly saw God came from outside of the gatherings happenings. A couple of locals stopped and talked to us on the trip thanking us for coming down and helping to further repair the city. A simple thank you from a simple stranger in New Orleans was all I needed in order to know that this week meant just as much to me as it did to the people of the city. In general, the gathering gave me an understanding of other people, their cultures, traditions, and just what else is out there past the borders of our own towns. We have so much more to experience and do in our lives than I ever could imagine.

-Alec Fox