Monday, July 27, 2009

Looking Back

As I was sitting on the plane on the ride home, I wrote an entry in a journal that a friend and I share. I focused on every word and after re-reading it, I realized that a similar summary to the one I gave her was required here as well. So here it is, almost straight from a teenage girl's journal...

*As you know, I left for New Orleans on Monday with 6 other UDLC teens. It started out okay, no major problems, we just walked around the city together and absorbed our surroundings while also souvenir shopping. One night we even got a tour around the french quarter to hear ghost-based stories. It was interesting, mostly. Once the gathering really started, we went through some workshops that seemed simple. Looking back on those workshops, however, makes me realize that they really had an impact. They gave us an opportunity to think about our relationship with God in a way that was accessible to teenagers. We played and crafted in the interaction center, and even cleaned up a highway median. We also toured some of the more devastated areas of the city, which really gave all of us a new outlook on the preciousness of life and the effects of any event that could happen to any of our towns. We updated the blog, which is way cooler than I had expected. And, of course, we met tons of new people. We have so many stories to tell about so many things, including an extrememly bumpy plan ride home. *

I am extremely thankful for this amazing opportunity to explore and strengthen exsisting relationships while also building new ones. I am also so blessed to have had the chance to really think about my relationship with God and my peers, as well as my overall faith. Even with the intense humidity and the occasional bickering, I would not trade this trip for the world, and I thank all those in the communities here and abroad that made the experience possible.


Things you can learn in New Orleans at a National Youth Gathering

I have learned a number of lessons bother planning, enroute, during and on the way home from National Youth Gatherings and New Orleans was no exception.

1. New Orleans is hot and humid. You will sweat, you will get dehydrated and at some point everyone will mention the heat. All that said, the people of New Orleans could not be nicer through it all. Driving, walking, in shops, everywhere...They are just NICE!

2. I will get sore and blistered, but the additudes of the youth make the pain definetly bearable. to hear teens talk about the fun they are having and all the kindness they see in people is a huge help.

3. Alligators may have at one time been endangered, but apparently they are no longer. Their heads, jerky, sausage, bones, teeth and all other parts are sold everywhere.

4. If a hot sauce comes in a dripper to dispense...DO NOT EAT MORE THAN ONE DROP!

5. Boys will get bored, girls will meet boys, Boys then are no longer bored.

6. No matter how little or much I take photos, someone will complain it is too many.

7. There is no such thing as TOO MANY Lost and Found concerts.

8. When you think you see the coolest tee shirt design, the nxt one is even cooler.

9. Budgets are only guidelines. Everything will cost more than anticipated, like 6 AM cab rides.

10. An hour hanging in the pool with your group is worth anything you may miss anywhere else at the gathering.

11. Flying to a gathering may cause some additional cost and logistics problems, but from what I heard it beats 24 hours by bus.

12. It is HOT AND HUMID!

13. The music is always amazing and hearing 30,000+ people sing to the Lord is one of the greatest things you can do. It is as awesome as being in Saint Peter's Square on Sunday in Rome.

14. Bishop Hanson is HILARIOUS and one of the most down to earth and youth geared leaders I have met. Plus, who else would arrive to his first appearance in a remote controled BATHTUB, in a BATH ROBE, and just embrace the teens?

15. Cost of things is only a concern when a teens 4th meal (PIZZA) Budget is impacted.

16. If you find a Dominos Pizza guy selling on the street, Teens become entrepreneurs when the wait is 2 hours back at the hotel. If Brad Hering ever starts a company, this is someoen I will invest in!

17. Every youth will get something out of this event and no matter what a church, pastor, parent, or leader wants them to see God encounters them constantly. One of the greatest things to see is young people laughing when it is 95 degrees and 80% humidity. Smiling because of the joy of the work and the people yelling THANK YOU at them as they driving by.

18. No matter what you are given information wise before you go, this will change 12 times upon arrival. If you can not fly by the seat of your pants you may end up bald by the end of the trip.

19. Some people should only take a half of a dramamine, unless you plan on a 4 hour nap.

20. Someone has to be the bad guy and for this reason, I always keep a black hat packed in my bags.
  1. No you can not go to Bourbon Street instead of Community Life.
  2. He/she may be very nice and their leader is probably very trustworthy but your saftey is my immediate concern, not your happiness.
  3. Yes, that leader seems much cooler than I am, but I don't want to be "cool" I stopped that in High School.
  4. When I give you a time to meet it is not a guideline to be evaluated and if I have to find someone, it does not make me late also, it makes me a bit annoyed and requires coffee

21. Coffee itself will not make it better, but the caffine will help...A LOT!

22. If at first you don't succeed please do not do it again, most likely you will look very foolish on the inflatable slide and someone may see you!

23. While the view from the top of the Superdome may be "AWESOME" the sensation of almost falling everytime I stand up is NOT!

24. Bruce Shaffer is awesome and his seeing my kids made their day.

25. Yes I do know a lot of people. Yes, I do stop to say hi to a lot of them. Yes I give hugs to them...this does not hange my hug policy...I just use multiple days quotas in this 3 day period.

26. If it looks like I am hot and sweaty...I AM. Hugs at said time are not recommended.

27. Teens inspire me with their willingness to meet new people all the time.

28. Iowa may now have more Lutheran teens than Minnesota.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Letter from President Obama to the youth of the gathering.

Check out the letter from President
Obama that Bishop Hanson shared.

We're Boss.

Woke up very early this morning (4:55 am) to walk to the superdome and get a bus to a highway median in a local neighborhood. We worked on the median picking up trash and clipping trees, while not exactly backbreaking work, many of us sweat a lot, as we were in direct sunlight a lot of the time. Although it didn't seem like much, and many of us would have preferred to work on the houses themselves, the impact on the community was much larger than many of us thought. After we finished we ate lunch and went on a tour to see some of the devastation that Katrina left behind. It was incredible, especially in our visit to the Ninth Ward, to see just how many people still haven't returned to New Orleans after the hurricane. On our walk home from the superdome, we got pulled over by a cop who thanked us for our service. We then enjoyed some relaxing time at the hotel resting up and swimming while we waited for the next meal.

For dinner, we went to a local hotel restaurant where we met a chef who has been a guest on several famous tv shows and magazines for his amazing skills (search Tyrone Howard the King on youtube). He made very good fruit punch and lemonade which we all enjoyed. The food was good too.

The superdome meeting tonight was mostly abour jazz. The first performance of the night after the house band played was a group of brothers who made some crazy juggling tosses related to Jazz, they were able to pick pins up that they dropped and still able to keep the throws going consistently. For a final act one of the jugglers picked up a pin from across the stage, walking straight through the other throws the other jugglers were making. After the jugglers were finished a guy came on stage and talked about something related to jazz, most people seemed to think he was pretty boring. After the first speaker was finished a woman named Venice Williams (not to be confused with the tennis player) talked about gardens. After her a teenage violin prodigy whose name name currently escapes us played an absolutely ridiculous piece and then talked a little bit about what she is doing to raise wetlands drainage awareness, then she played another piece that was extremely complex. Finally after she finished, a runner from Philadelphia but actually from North Dakota spoke about her experience with her life and especially on her founding of her Back on you Feet program. This program gets homeless people running to raise their confidence and allow them to move forward with their life. She was a very motivational speaker, as she faced some very challenging life decisions but eventually went with what she felt was right. It was probably the best night at the superdone of the week.

Night life tonight consisted of a dance for about ten minutes, a funky inflatable animal racing game which wasn't particularly entertaining, and then hanging out around the hotel until 10:30ish. After we got back to our hotel for the night, we played some music and some games and watched some tv. It was a good time. Peace out...

-The Guys from room 522

Notes from the Youth Director.

Here we are on the final full day of the gathering. It has been an amazing week full of challenges and rewards.

For me, I have had the joy of 5 day filled of laughter, joking, discussion, and time just to get to know youth a little better. I have learned so much from our teenagers. I have learned sign language and can not refer to my fellow staff as either ridiculous or awkward. I know that blood donation is one way to kill a cross country season due to energy. I got to know what the reaction to escargot is when a teen thinks they will hate it and then like it (turns out it is surprise then a smile). I learned that even Emeril's is a ton of fun when you introduce teens into the restaurant.

Things I also never knew. If you ask Brad to do anything other than eat, take a nap, or talk to his "parents" on the phone...there will be a degree of whining that is associated with said request. ROSS CAN SLEEP ANYWHERE!!! Cheryl will laugh and it is sometimes just funny (maybe not at midnight). Eric Bremme has the exact rock band tee shirts I had in High School (who knew they remade them all). Shaughn hates to be taped or have his photo taken and has not learned it makes me want to do it more!!!! Becca and I are a lot alike in many ways and this creates some major stress points, but also makes our relationship sometimes even better. She will share her thoughts on deeper subjects in order to get a conversation going. Oh and she pretty much hates 90% of the food on any menu. Oh and Renee Buthe, she can be super sweet, but inside lives a diabolical plotting mind and she can get a party started on the dance floor, like no one's business.

Erik and Sarah House...I could do absolutely none of this without them. They have always been a great resource to me at events, but at National Conventions in 06 and now in 09, they help me keep my sanity. They read the kids in different ways then I do and they are able to give me a heads up if something needs to be addressed or inquired about. They are amazing assets to the youth ministry program, but give everything they can to these kids every day. They offer me friendship, but also a sounding board for issues as they come up. When you see them in church, thank them also for making this possible.

As for me, this is my 4th gathering. 1 youth and 3 as a volunteer staff member or leader and every gathering offer something different, but one thing is always true of gatherings, I love to see teens and adults meet, W.H.E.A.T., worship together and just sing in a choir 38,000 people strong. To have this many people come together for so long in a positive and joyous way is truly a gift from GOD! The speakers this year may be some of the best I have ever heard. They have renewed hope in my journey on a discipleship path and always make the next year in Youth Ministry even more powerful. It lifts my heart and restores my soul. The prep for it is very draining and having ASP prep and NOLA Jesus Justice and Jazz in 2009 was a lot, but it is always worth it to learn what the youth get from it. To see the smiles, laughter, struggles with complex issues, and life is why I do this.

The congregation gives so much to make these events possible for our youth and I am hoping the sharing of this blog, videos, and photos will show you a bit of why we come to these events and that they give those who come a view that the path of discipleship is not a narrow path, but rather as wide as they need it to be.

Service Day by Cheryl.

The day began at 5 AM with a phone call from Ray, to both rooms, making sure we were awake. Next we went down to eat a quick on-the-go breakfast. Then we CABBED (finally), the 1.5miles to the Superdome to meet our buses. Our servant companion (leader), had an extremely deep voice, and a skinny body. Kind of like Marc Zumoff, or Merrill Reefe. He did a great Johnny Cash "Ring of Fire" impression. He also extremely liked the sound of his own voice, so we heard it a lot. On the ride there we had to sit with someone that we did not previously know, and it turns out that all four groups on the bus were from Pennsylvania. The guy that I sat with was actually at FLY last February, and remembered me because I shared in front of everyone during the gathering. Most of the people who were on our service project were from PA, one group even had our former pastor. That was interesting. Needless to say, there was a lot of WE ARE...PENNSTATE! And, E-a-g-l-e-s, EAGLES! Anyway, our service project today was cleaning off 12 blocks of median, in the middle of a road. Along the way, we found hub caps, hair barrettes, bags, a dead turtle, a lizard, tons of seashells, liquor bottles, a purse, electrical outlets, and fire ants and spiders. There were also many cigarette buds that we threw out! After that was done we got back into the van, where Subway provided us with a free lunch. Which is amazing because they did that for all 40 buses, that had about 40 people on them, everyday, and sometimes more then once a day. Subway is great! We then took a tour of the 9th ward, and the devastation, and we saw where the levees broke. In the 9th ward we saw a sign on a school that said Registration: 8-17-2005, and we saw a lot of houses with X's on them, some of them having numbers other then 0, meaning that someone died in that house. The tour was cut short because one of the other buses had a flat tire. So then we walked the 1.5 mile walk, back to the hotel and took showers, and now we are hanging out in the rooms! Love, Cheryl Rozinski!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Letter's to God

Letters to God was an oppurtunity to everyone that if you could write God a letter what would you say.

Dear God,

Not sure I know why you have me on the road you do right now, but I hope this path is one opening up a bit more. While I am about ending hunger and making poverty history?

Thank you for this week, these kids, Erik House, Sarah House, and SEPA SYNOD!

Ray Hopkins

Lost and Found Secret Concert at ELCA Gathering


Easy Love

Hyatt Hotel

Video Recap of Day 1 of the actually Gathering, but Day 3 in New Orleans.

Come with us on a trip to see what a city like New Orleans, looks and sounds like when 37,000 Lutheran's hit town.

Day 1 of the Gathering, Opening service of the dome and UDLC's travel's around town. - CLICK LINK TO LEFT!

We have loads of pictures and just got off the beach volleyball court. Time for a quick swim before we leave for dinner.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

<3 the girlies

day 4: (day 2 of gathering):

highlights:: meeting teens from all over the country (esp. cute boys!), seeing so many fellow lutherans all gathered in one place (superdome) for mass gathering ((and all of their camera flashes!)), killer calf muscles, "fourthmeal," workshops and learning experiences, seeing familiar faces, and obviously FREE HUGS.

funny moments/stories:: the noise cheryl just made (horse? maybe?), FREE HUGS!!! (and not-so-free ones??), fitting whole chips in our mouths, snuggling, smelly hotel rooms, small beds, cheryl's love for the bathroom (at emeril's), sign language, "yo, text it.", business cards, clothes pins, borat references, clever (and not-so-clever) t-shirts, running into old "friends" (awkward.), shaughn's spelling (or lack thereof), funny quotes (too many to list, but we'll try), define... define., "i want the fresh bacon salad... without the bacon", define "white guy walking"... cuz that guy, is white, and walking...", "stop hitting on those girls and let's go!" "i didn't even get to start!", man purses, "red shirt at that table" ...."ross?!", cheryl's brutal honesty (she apologizes in advance), oohhh cheryl, "heeeyyeyyy", thinking of things to put in this blog...

so overall, i think it's safe to say that although we have had TONS of funny moments and memorable experiences that may not seem completely "church-y", we really are experiencing a faith journey that none of us will ever forget. whether it be "twittering" via post-it notes, writing cards to the courageous women in our lives, watching videos, dancing, taking time to write poetry reflecting ourselves and our faith, or just sitting against a wall and people-watching/talking, all of us have already learned so much about ourselves and our peers. we look forward to the next two days of fun, interaction, and service, and of course, we continue to thank our congregation and home-support for everything they've done.

& cheryl

[[remember to hug someone today! it really does spread happiness]]

*side note for m/b/a: we really are getting along. i swear.*

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Gathering Day 1...

Well it is officially begun. 37,000 people have decended on New Orleans and with them all the matching shirts, accents, and trinkets that always accompany these gatherings.

Due to signifigant down time caused on this blog, the videos created will now just be links to

Once we get back and I can edit them all, we will have a longer video of a mix of the entire event, but please enjoy some video and updates from the teens.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Monday Video Recap...More to come.

Just a brief recap of Monday.

Sincerely the girls!

Hey Church!!
This is the second day in New Orleans, not much weather wise has changed. Its still hot and humid, and we still have been walking everywhere! People who where wearing flip flops have BLACK feet! However we are having TONS of fun! The girls started our morning at 8AM when we showered and went to continental breakfast, where we were expecting to meet everyone else. However the boys did not wake up until 9:02, which was past our meeting time, and the adults were just a bit tired from yesterday. Once we finally managed to get on the road walking there were some frustrations with stopping for no traffic. However when we took a bite of the beignets at Cafe Du Monde all the frustrations were gone. We met Lauren Ghenn and Stevie Buthe at Cafe Du Monde who waited and saved tables for us, for over an hour and a half. Then we broke up into groups for two hours and went impulse shopping at the French Market, which was awesome. It will probably be the best part of today. Everything was inexpensive and unique to New Orleans. Some of the things we bought included sunglasses, beads, alligator heads, non headache rings, other jewelry, and magnets. While walking back to meet the other groups we saw another group of teens who were a bit older getting off a bus. A few of the teens started to walk off when there uptight adult leaders flipped out on them because they walked a few feet away?? Well seeing this made us appreciate the trust that all of the adults have put in us, including Ray, Sarah, and Erik! After we met up we decided to go to the imax/aquarium. At the imax we saw a Katrina movie that was dramatic and brought tears to some of us. The aquarium was cool, but we only lasted like a half hour. Finally we went and toured the mall, which has very unusual touristy stores. Then we WALKED home. So far today we probably walked 4 to 5 miles! We are building muscles here in New Orleans. On the agenda tonight is Emerils, and hanging out with some ASP friends. Cheers! ~Cheryl Rozinski~Renee Buthe~Becca Kehs~

Monday, July 20, 2009

Love, Becca

day 1:

after our airport journey that i'm sure cheryl described in full, we managed to eventually secure a shuttle to the hotel, check in, find all of the wonderful food opportunities, and wander around some local shops and food areas, particularly along the riverwalk.

we toured bourbon street and canal street and got to experience some local cultural aspects while also gaining some extremely memorable quotes from members of our group as well as some of the people around us.

already it seems that there could be some budding romances (mostly fake ones... haha) within our group. should be interesting to see what happens when 35,000 more teens show up!

anywayy after miles of walking around today, we went on a "haunted history tour" which was definitely more history than haunted, but still very interesting.

then more walking. back to the hotel where we disappointedly couldn't get in the pool, but settled into our rooms and (surprisingly) managed to turn lights out over a half hour early!

i guess that's all for now, i'm not one for detail.


(m,b&a:: none down, but darn close [= )

By Cheryl

Hey Everyone!

Today has been very eventful so far. We met at UDLC at 7AM, then rode to the Newark Airport to catch a plane departing at 10:45. We quickly got through security, except for one of our members (who I will not name), who forgot that toothpaste cannot be packed in a carry-on bag. He is going to buy some new toothpaste here. Anyway, we were through security by about 9:15, so then we decided to go to buy some food. There was many choices of were to get food... from, McDonalds, and Dunkin Donuts to a diner and winery (?). We could not figure out why there was a winery in the middle of the Newark airport. So, being the teenagers that we are, we chose McDonalds and Dunkin Donuts. One of our members even got a vanilla ice cream cone! After that we road the mechanical walking things up and down a few times, then boarded the plane. When we got on the plane we realized that we were surrounded by other youth headed for the same gathering. One church from Dallas, PA even handed everyone green glow in the dark bracelets. We then all put our arms (with bracelets) into the air for a photograph that was sent to a Lutheran magazine via Twitter. During the take off of the plane a few of our members became nervous, and were tightly holding hands. Once the plane had landed we got off into a very cold and air conditioned New Orleans airport. Soon though we were outside in the humidity and heat waiting for a bus. They had buses there waiting for us, however we would have had to be split up. Because of an incident that happened on the last National Gathering, Raymond would NOT let us be split up. So instead we all stood in the heat and humidity waiting for a bus that could hold all ten of us! Luckily within about 10 minutes, maybe less, one had arrived and we were on our way to the hotel! The hotel is lovely, it's sort of old fashioned and I feel like I am in Greece. But the people here are very helpful, however their accents are sometimes funny or hard to understand. Well once we got here we unpacked and had a (not so brief) meeting about the rest of our night/week. Tonight we are planning on going on a HaUntED tour. It should be neat! Well thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed!

Cheers! ~Cheryl~

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Fats Domino sang it "Walking to New Orleans"

We are flying to New Orleans, but we will be walking in New Orleans.

Music is a big part of any National Gathering. As I was sitting in worship this morning the band started with a song that I have always liked since I first heard it. This this time when I heard the band start to play, I thought about the words and how it related to our trip.

Take a listen and think about how it may impact your life.

We will be asked this week to look, listen, and feel for God in what we do.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Prayer is just as much a part of the gathering as meals...

As a ministry to the Gathering, the Safety & Security Team will be setting up a chapel devoted entirely to praying for Gathering participants, events, the city of New Orleans, Gathering staff, volunteers, and all concerns related to a Spirit-filled, successful Gathering.
Please take advantage of this ministry. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns contact us at
24 x 7 Prayer Vigil
There will be a 24 hour a day prayer vigil for the duration of the Gathering. Invite members of your local church and your volunteer group to sign up to pray for the Gathering and participants.

The Web site to sign up is If you are in New Orleans and are signed up to pray during a time that the Interaction Center is open, let us know and we'll reserve a private place for you to pray.

Prayer Line

Beginning July 19 and continuing through July 26 (Sunday worship), anyone can call the non-emergency prayer request line at 1-866-521-7729 This number will be listed on your bracelet along with the Gathering Info Line number. Our volunteers will pray over all requests daily. Of course, if you have a situation that requires chaplain, medical, or security services, your first call should be to the Gathering Info Line at 1-888-411-3522, but you can request that the chapel volunteers also pray over the issue.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

t Minus 5 days

We head out of Newark Airport Monday at 10:45 AM.

This is the true story... of seven teens... picked to live in a, learn and worship together and have their lives taped... to find out what happens... when people stop being polite... and start getting real...The ELCA GATHERING, NEW ORLEANS.

Oh and it will be taped and clips posted here...

For a little fun, check out this video...

Friday, July 10, 2009

Stay Tuned...

Coming soon....

UDLC Sr. High Youth Group Trip to The National ELCA Youth Gathering.
July 20 - 27
New Orleans, LA