Monday, September 3, 2012

Fall is here and so here we go....

So when fall comes everyone thinks about how school and sports are starting, but that is not the only thing kicking off. 

September also means that the Youth Ministry calendar is kicking off.  This year we have a group of teens who are taking the lead on planning the events for 2012 and the calendar is full!

The Youth Ministry Teen Planning Team consists of:

Gabby Jones
Gabby Aldinger
Naomi Krizner
Marissa Irizarry
Jake Porgozelski
Woody Fulmer
Alice Wistar

If you have questions or need some information during the year, check in with one of them and they will work to represent you!


YOUTH LOCK-IN                           
Saturday, September 22, 2012                   
Saturday 7PM – Sunday 9AM
Come out and join the fun and get to start the
School year the best way you can!

Shady Brook Farms “HORRORFEST”
Saturday, October 27
6PM – 11PM
$18 for 1 event, $24 for 2 events
Do you want to be scared? You can do it!
Is “scary” not your thing? Just come hang out by the bonfire.

“THANKS” giving Potluck Dinner
Sunday, November 18 (college students welcome)
6PM – 8:30PM
Bring a Thanksgiving side dish; write letters
To active military personnel and help collect
food for local food cupboards
Sign-ups will be posted in October

December 15, 2012
Travel by train and see Times Square, Rockefeller Center, or a show.
Details to follow but mark you family Calendar today!

Ski Trip Weekend
January 26, 2013
Bear Creek Mountain Resort
Macungie, PA

SEPA Senior High Youth Gathering
Friday, February 22 – Sunday, 24, 2013
King of Prussia, PA

30 Hour Famine
Saturday, March 9 – Sunday, March 1
UDLC Fellowship Hall, MPR, and Chosen 300

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

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What to do when you don't expect, the unexpected?

Coming into the ELCA Youth Gathering trip I really didn’t know what to expect. I had heard that every night there is a dance and you get to meet so many people, and you probably won’t see the same people twice in one week. Other than that though I really didn’t know what I had signed myself up for.

Monday and Tuesday we spent touring the city, seeing what Bourbon Street and New Orleans was really like. Then on Wednesday we had to register for the event. While the adults registered us, us youth really got to bond in the Convention center. They had different sports set up along with obstacle courses that everyone really got into. One of my favorite moments in the Convention center was how happy we all were to just hang out with each other. There was no real big push to go meet other people right away and break off from the group.

After the Convention center we went to the Super Dome to get ready for the night event. Ray really wanted us to try to get on the floor for the first night, and somehow we did. It was a battle though since we were only 21 of over 33,000 Lutherans who wanted to get on the floor that night. Once we had got our seats we all went to the center of the floor where the biggest dance party I’ve ever seen was happening, along with about 3 different conga lines that eventually crossed paths and combined. It was so amazing to feel all the energy of 33,000 people who were all just excited as I was. After all the dancing we sat down to hear the speakers of the night who were just fantastic. There were songs and shorter presentations in between so we were never bored. My God moment happened that night. From the moment I got my seat in the Super Dome to the moment we were done with all the speakers and music that night I had the chills. But they weren’t the chills that you get when you’re cold and you need a blanket. These were the chills that you get when you feel God’s presence all around you and you can’t escape it. During one of the songs that night, when I looked around the Dome all I saw was the glow of cell phone lights in a black arena with over 33,000 voices singing. It was the most amazing thing I have ever seen and I don’t think anything will ever top that moment for me.

Thursday we were at the Convention center again but first we had a worship service in the morning. The service was cool because it had good music and it really kept my attention. After the service we explored with our assigned groups for the morning and in the afternoon we broke off into our own groups to explore more freely. We went to the Dome again that night and sat up top instead of on the floor. Being that far up was a good experience too, because while we couldn’t dance or anything we could see everyone else dancing and experiencing what we had experienced the night before. It was cool to see what God gets to see every day. That night there was a presentation about bullying. Different scenarios were told about different bullying situations and it really stuck out in my mind. The presentation was so powerful that by the end of it I was crying and I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t be one of those people that just let bullying happen anymore. I want to be a change in the world and I don’t want to sit by and watch bullying happen, and I don’t want to let people bully me anymore. I am really glad we got to be there to hear the presentation because it is another moment I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Friday was our service project day and we ended up the wrong directions, which caused us to arrive at the wrong project. However, we ended up staying and helping with a different project. At the end of the day we found out that we would not have been able to do our original project due to flooding. After hearing that I believe 110% that God does everything for a reason, and even if we don’t realize it right away He will let us know when the time is right.

That night we didn’t go to the Super Dome and instead watched the live video feed from out hotel. I’m glad we got to experience the video feed also because it gave me a different perspective of what goes on in the Super Dome during the gatherings.

Saturday was our discipleship day and we spent the morning with our synod. We had a worship service in the beginning and then we broke into small groups using different things to break us up like age, eye color, and then bracelet color. We were in our small groups for the rest of the morning. I didn’t have anyone else from UDLC in my small group and I was actually really happy about that. I feel like sometimes when I’m with people from my church I am not as open to talking with others or sharing my opinion, or I feel like I am fighting for the chance to share what I feel against others. Being in my own small group gave me the chance to really talk to other people and to really listen to what was being said by the leaders and my peers. I liked being away from the group for a few hours because it gave me a chance to reconnect with why I was there and what I should really be focusing on. At night we went to the Super Dome again and we were on the floor again as well. We got to dance and join the conga lines and see friends we had made during the week. We listened to the speakers and then stayed for a Switchfoot concert. That was cool too because the band really got us all to participate and just have fun.

Sunday morning we had worship at the Dome and it was probably the best worship service by far. Everyone really got into it and all these people participated in it to make it one of the coolest services ever. After worship we went to the hotel and then took a shuttle to the airport and after 13 hrs of traveling we finally arrived back at UDLC. When I left UDLC Monday morning I was expecting parties every night, meeting people and never seeing them again, and being sick of the youth at the end of the trip. Returning home very early the next Monday morning I realized that while there was a party every night they were not what I had hoped for. But I realized that that was alright, and I was kind of glad we didn’t have amazing parties. I came home with new friendships with people in our synod and who I hope to see again in the near future, and who I had the pleasure of seeing all week long.

Now that I am home I am so much closer with everyone that went on the trip and I feel like nothing can break our friendships now. I also came home with things I didn’t know I was missing. I came back with the strongest belief that God has everything happen for a reason. I came back with a new sense of belonging and a sense of pride in being a Lutheran. And I came back with a stronger faith then when I had left, and I am so glad that God had me realize that I was missing the point of being a Lutheran. Now I will proudly tell people I am a Lutheran and all that that means. God knew that I needed to reconnect with my faith and for me that was what this trip really gave me.

-Marissa Irizarry

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

NOLA meaning New Orleans Louisiana, is a special place consisting of special people.

Dear Blog-goers,

NOLA meaning New Orleans Louisiana, is a special place consisting of special people.

This past week was my second time experiencing the specialness of NOLA. Both experiences were very unique and brought about different challenges and successes.

For example, my first time I was 15, the weather was 100 degrees or more every day and UDLC was represented by 10 people. This time, I am 18, the weather was cool and it rained and rained and rained, and UDLC was represented by 21 people.

Now being one of the oldest (along side Alec Fox, Matt Merritt and Marissa Irizarry), and the only youth whose second trip it was, I was a role model whether I liked it or not. Most of the kids asked me when they had a question about the gathering and wanted to know my opinion on things. I found that if I really wanted to do something people followed (opposite of last time). This power was strange and at times overwhelming. I got asked “what are you doing/wearing/thinking/feeling?...can I come with you?...are you having fun? you want to do this again tomorrow?...” and so on.  I felt like a leader, and a follower.

I followed God this week, trying my best not to think too far ahead and trying to sit back and go with it, as much as I was able too. I also was trusted by my younger peers who came to me with problems. I was blessed to get to know all of the younger youth on the trip. They are more mature then I was at 13, 14, 15, and 16. It is because of this trip that I know with confidence our youth group will continue to grow, be present, and be strong without me.

UDLC youth are so accepting of each other even though each member is different ages and comes with different experiences and interests. We all became best friends.  I look forward to visits back to Sweet home Upper Dublin to see what our amazing youth are up to. They have such a passion for knowledge, experience, and faith.

I learned a lot this week:
  • I learned that singing in the rain turns an ugly, wet experience into a warm and exciting one.
  • I learned to let God handle it, sometimes I have to enjoy what others have in store for me even though I do not agree with it.
  • I learned that old guys (Lost in Found) can be great entertainers! I am considering becoming a fan of The Beatles, Crosby Stills and Nash, John Denver, and Pink Floyd.
  • I learned about accents and pronunciations of different kinds of people from around the U.S.
  • I learned there is a place called Grafton, North Dakota.
  • I learned that when your plane is delayed due to a missing screw, it is not the end of the world. You should enjoy your delay by having a conversation with someone you usually would not have the opportunity to talk to.
  • I learned that waking up at 3:45 AM is not that bad except for the fact when it is actually 10AM, you feel like it is 2PM, and you are craving a sandwich and fries.
  • I learned to not just hear, but actually listen. Give every second your 100% attention and life will be much happier and smoother.
  • I learned God is not typical, he turns tattooed, sexually abused, drug addict(S) into Pastors! He has a plan for each of us and everything happens for a reason. I cannot count the number of times that I had goose bumps this week, from the amazing speakers, music, and conversations with believers.

NOLA is special because even though they have been through a lot they want to rebuild and attract new people. Through the support of our amazing Congregation at UDLC, and the grace of God, I have had the opportunity to experience not one, or two, or even five service trips. I have been blessed with spending 7 weeks over 5 summers doing service through ASP and ELCA youth gatherings. It’s because of these experiences that I feel called to devote my summers to ASP staff.

You all, as a Congregation, have done so much for me and our youth. You have given me motivation and a purpose, and allowed me to be not only a leader, but a follower. You have kept me smiling in the saddest of times, and most importantly, you have given me the confidence and skills I need to have a successful experience in college. Because of UDLC, I am ready for the next stage in my life. I know that all the youth who chose to experience ASP or the youth gathering get as much out of it as I did. Service trips teach independence, courage and relationship building (among many other countless things).

Thank you all for making my life “swaggin” and I hope you continue to support our youth. Because of the generosity of the UDLC Congregation, hundreds of lives have been changed for the better by our youth group.

Thank you, and God Bless.
Cheryl "Swagerrific" Rozinski

Monday, July 23, 2012

So much to do, so little time to recap.

I would love to give a day by day recap, but what will be coming will be posts from the teens themselves and an adult recap from the leaders.

We will be updating this week, so keep your eyes peeled.

Friday, July 20, 2012

I need a HIGH 5 and a PONCHO!

DAY #2:
Condition-tired yet spirited.

Attitude-cheerful as always.

Food supply-flourishing.
Faith journey: inching forwards-actually, accelerating into space!

FREE HIGH FIVES ANYONE? I think I've had more high fives in the past two days than I have in my entire life. Literally. Oh, and I've also witnessed the infamous excess of Bourbon Street-if you know what I mean. On a more serious note, I've learned that you can spread your faith by simply loving one another-this can be as easy as welcoming new friends, giving lots of hugs and by supporting others around us constantly! Never before have I experienced so many happy teenagers- high-fiving, singing, hugging and cheering. However, one of the best parts of my day today (Thursday) was that I got to buy FOUR oranges (which I've become really addicted to) FOR JUST $2!!! TALK ABOUT A GOOD DEAL! BUT NEW ORLEANS IS COOL AND ALL THE SPEAKERS ARE FAN-FLIPPING-TASTIC!



Thursday, July 19, 2012

Wednesday is the real first day...

You enter the week of National Gathering full of expectations, assumptions, desire, and hope.  When you open up the door to the Interaction center (the center for activity, activity, and shopping) at the gathering the world unfolds.  You start to see a place where you can focus in on the week, the people you are with, and the area you are serving. 

Sometimes in life you are given a gift that while you want to replicate it in tangible gifts, you cannot.  You only can find it in a few places.  There are few places where everyone comes together for a positive and single purpose.  The ELCA National Youth Convention is one such place.  In 2012, 38,000 youth and adults will serve in community projects, learning to be peacemakers and problem solvers in the world.  Not the singular world they live in, but also the unspoken world.  Those places hidden from the glitz and glass of the city.  It is a place where “nice people” don’t go.  It is a place where many suburban churches send money, but not always people because it is not viewed as “safe”.  It is seen as a place that needs help, but not a place that we want to go and help.

I have been able to walk side by side with the youth of Upper Dublin.  See them laugh and cry.  Hear what they enjoy, what scares them.  I get to see them enjoy each other, learning about different people, but that they are all the same people in Christ.  Many times they share pieces of doubt in their faith and they are reinforced that doubt is okay.  We learn as Lutheran’s that struggles with doubting in your faith are sometimes as much a part of what we learn about in our faith walk, as the bible studies.

We enter Thursday preparing to be peacemakers after literally becoming cleansed in the healing rain of Wednesday night.  We learned in the opening dome session about how all of use needed in the LUTHERAN CHURCH.  Those of other races, ethnic backgrounds, different socio economic places, and lifestyles and we are all part of the church.  We love to be different and we hope to be different and unique all week.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

How you get there is part of the adventure....

I will be honest, the idea of waking up 16 youth to get on a 4 AM airport shuttle to catch a place was a bit nerve racking.  What time could they sleep till and still be ready by 4 AM was my biggest logistical plan.

You know what the hardest part was?  What to do with the extra 10 minutes they had after, getting up, packing up, and getting ready.  The youth (and adults) were amazing.  After 40 minutes at Philly's Airport printing boarding passes and another 30 minutes through security...we made it to our gate with some time to spare.  The flight to Houston was fine...then in my head I hear Tom Hanks, "HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM".

The problem, well we boarded on time.  Found our seats and were ready for take off.  Then 5 minutes passed. 10, 15, and finally 20 minutes.  We are told they are fixing a small mechanical issue.  Code for "YOUR PLANE IS BROKEN AND WE ARE GONNA PATCH AND PRAY"!  Well maybe not, but we were told we were missing a screw.  Now, I have always been missing at least one screw, and I get along JUST FINE.  The problem is, we weren't told if it was a screw to hold the wheel on or just the coffee holder in.

We leave Houston about 12:40 (our original landing time in NOLA) and as soon as we take off, we prepared to land and NOLA!

To save you boring details....Got our luggage, broke into three groups for travel to the hotel on the shuttles, arrived at the hotel, went swimming.  Then three friends show up in "UNIQUE SHIRTS".  We share some laughs and when we get ready for dinner, our already crowded room of 9 people is becoming too much for Shaughn Thornton.  When I say, "go get everyone else", he asks "this isn't everyone"?  Then 21 people are crammed in this room and Shaughn's mind is blown.

The 24 (21 + 3 UDLC Gathering Volunteers) venture off to Cajun Cabin for dinner.   Alligator, Dead Cajun Burgers, Blackened Protein of all kinds, Po' Boys are had by all. 

I convince Woody Fulmer and Adam Krizner to join me for a "Dead Cajun".  Now, I told them it was delicious and big, but to give you an idea on actual size...

Now they enjoyed it, but when the carbCOMA hit about 10 minutes later, a 45 minute stroll up and down Bourbon Street helped.

The youth ventured off to Bourbon Street.  To see what there is to see as a teenager (a lot of gift shops and entrances to shady places).  There were places called Gentleman's Clubs, but I didn't see any men in suits, just women asking people to come in...WEIRD HUH?

Then we headed back to the hotel for a team check in and early night....Remember, at the beginning of this, we woke up at 3:30 AM, so 9 PM was pretty late!

Well, Erik House's alarm has now gone off 3 times.  Must be time for him to get up.  We will start the day and you will need to check back in to see what adventures may come.

-Ray Hopkins

Saturday, July 14, 2012


If you have been here lately, you have not seen a lot of updates. Part of that is due to how busy we have been planning for the weekend. 

In a little over 24 hours the Youth and the Adult youth advisors will meet at the church and get ready to board an airport shuttle to Philadelphia for a week in New Orleans.

This year we are going back to New Orleans to spend more time with 35,000 youth and adults worshiping, learning, and serving the people of New Orleans.

I welcome you to keep tuned to this blog all week for updates.

Also follow us at on Facebook:

In the mean time you can see more about our youth from the Youth Sunday Video this year.

Friday, February 3, 2012

2009 REWIND: Things you can learn in New Orleans at a National Youth Gathering

So, I am preping for national gathering and I am trying to think about the positives that come from all the stress and I remembered this post. So I wanted to share with you all again.

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.

No you can not go to Bourbon Street instead of Community Life.
He/she may be very nice and their leader is probably very trustworthy but your saftey is my immediate concern, not your happiness.
Yes, that leader seems much cooler than I am, but I don't want to be "cool" I stopped that in High School.
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 change 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.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Say it ain't so Joe....

It is safe to say UDLC is pretty Penn State Strong. If you didn't go to PSU, your brother, wife, child, or family member went. If they didn't go, you just grew up on PSU football. It was just the thing to do. Each August the small minority of other Big 10 school supporters would see UDLC covered in Blue and White and we would bring out the Michigan or OSU rivalries and it would always end up with a good hearted ribbing depending on who had a perceived stronger Defense or who the QB was, but one thing was true everyone recognized JOE PA and what his presence at PSU did for the team and fans.

There has been some stuff that has happened recently, but this post is not about that. This is about the MEASURE OF A MAN. The heart of a man who did not live for his Football team, but for the individuals who made up the teams he coached. It was not for the position coaches working for him, but the men who coached players in different positions. Most of all Joe and his wife Sue wanted to make better people in the world, not just better players.

Joe and Sue gave a lot of money to PSU, this is true. However, they also gave a ton of time and love to the students, professors, and staff. Sue works at the Spirituality Center, making sure there was a place for all faiths to learn and grow and worship. The Library was in large part possible because of them and looks all around the campus and there are things made possible by the Paterno family. However, these "things are replaced", what is not replaced is the young people who go out into the world and then touch the lives of others.

I would go on and on about the Paterno's because I have an overabundance of respect for them both. I respect what they gave to PSU and the love they had for higher education. The reason of the post is not about that, but in setting an example of living a life for others and our ability to touch others in ways we will never see.

In church work and working with young people, it is often understood that you will not always see the results of those long talks, weeks of service, or Sunday school or Confirmation lessons immediately. That being said, there are amazing youth who you see have a heart for Jesus and they come shining through to you and you know that God's will is coming to you through them. However, it is not many High School youth who can balance their faith, social pressures, and the stress of being a teenager (I do thing UDLC has a large number of them though).

Youth worker will tell you it is stressful. It is long hours of worrying about events, permission forms, fund raising, practice for band or youth Sunday or choir etc... It takes a lot of time in your life. It takes a lot of energy and can be emotionally draining and there are times you pray "WHAT IS THE DEAL GOD? WHAT DO YOU NEED ME TO BE DOING HERE?

Sometime after that prayer we have an answer. It may not always be the answer we wanted, but it is there. It could be you were at the right place or online at the right time preparing something and a teen that needed to talk finds you. It may be that someone stops you and tells you how much the youth ministry means to them and the things they see in the "Youth Ministry" really bring an element that was missing at church. Sometimes it is that you need to make a drastic change for the good of the program, but we have to remember...WE ASKED FOR AN ANSWER!

I can only speak presently of my experiences. I will ask other people to blog about their own in the coming days and weeks, but I have a few examples to share and in turn maybe you can share with others.

I am 7 years, 5 months and 24 days (390 weeks for those calculating it at home which is also 3,935,520 minutes) into my ministry at UDLC and in that time I have had said to me "The things you do for the Youth in this church is amazing" to which I answer "It is much easier when you have a great starting point." This humility can only go so far, so I accept the compliment and then share with the youth themselves.

1 Bill is an older member of UDLC. He has had his own personal health problems in the past few years, but every Sunday I see him smiles and a laugh to be shared. His joy is one of our youth particularly. Now, she is a shining example and honestly a real example for the youth, but this young lady is what Bill shares with others. He has shared with her also, but given the things these two have both dealt with in the past two years, I believe God has put them together so they can support each other. Bill sees not only her, but the influence and the strength she offers younger youth. He is a strong supporter of our program and when he has the chance he tells the youth how amazing they are. Bill doesn't realize it, but he has also set an example to other adults who now realize they can recognize the teens and children of the church and tell them when they see their talent. They also see there is a difference between real compliments and support and empty accolades.

2. Chris is a parent of three. He has only been a member of our church for 2 years, but in that time he has gone from new member to one of the leads on our property committee and teams up with another guy Bob to create a Mr. Fix It/Mr. Build It team to rival the "Extreme Home Makeover team". However Chris went on our Summer Mission building trip for the first time last year and his time with the youth had inspired him. He saw the joy and spark the youth have when building and working to make a physical difference for these people and he said, why can't we do this at home? Then rather than letting someone else answer, Chris answered it himself. Chris along with two other ASP vets Bob and Todd have come together to make a local home repair ministry for our community. He designed it not for the handy men and women of the congregation, but for youth and adults. To let us go out and make a difference. Chris does not know it yet, but even if this ministry does not make it 10 years, his impact on future men and women who will do similar work starting here is dramatic.

3. "Marie" Changing the name to protect the innocent. Marie spent years with youth. She loves youth and while they have blown by her in technology and global awareness at times, she loves them. She supports them and me. She takes time to be with them and her life has become beyond stressed as of late, but her focus is still being involved. Marie brought the idea of a "30 Hour Famine" back to UDLC. She wants us to look to recruit teens and friends (50 in totals) to raise $5,000 at minimum for the famine in the Horn of Africa. Even with everything on her plate she wants to get the youth involved and educated on this that she is planning to not just be at the event and support it, but help plan and lead it. Marie is also my biggest cheerleader and critic. I enjoy this, but her constant desire to be more is not lack of contentment (honestly, i felt like nothing was ever enough), but it was the desire for us all to be more, to push ourselves to be more. Striving to challenge our youth to aim higher, bigger and not be afraid to fall short and learn lessons from these experiences.

These are just my few examples, but from a media spotlight to a flashlight on my church, people make a difference. Not in being on TV or giving money, but by being genuine and giving of themselves.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

You know how....

How many times do conversations start with an opener like this?

Sometimes when presented with these questions, I like to wait till the information comes out from the person asking and after a few other follow up questions it is usually something people feel awkward just asking.

You know how people will sometimes say things to you that your not sure how to take?
You know how sometimes you can't say what you really want?
You know how the things you want to say, are seen as inappropriate, even though your being honest?

These questions are often asked and hardly ever asked by someone who never wants an honest answer, because they have already made up their mind.

So what is your "You know how..."?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Long Weeks

Sometimes it seems like a week will never end. Going to classes, working around 30 hours, being in and out of ER's with your roommates, and trying to maintain a relationship with your roommates, friends, and boyfriend, all while attempting to have some time for yourself can be exhausting. So exhausting that it's Monday and you realize you just spent an entire week moving so non-stop that you didn't notice a full week had gone by. Sitting behind a cash register, nursing your first of several cups of coffee, you relish the moment of calm and try to find some moments that God was present in the craziness of the past 7 days. You realize that the trips to the hospital all ended with everyone's loved ones returning home. You realize that even a simple, insignificant gesture can change the way someone thinks. You realize that while emotionally you have been struggling, physically you are doing okay, and even the psychological warfare you managed to wage against yourself is nothing compared to that of those you've known in the past. You realize that no matter how long you go without talking to loved ones, no matter how hurt any of them might be, they will always be there for you, and you for them, because they are the people you need to have in your life- and He knows that. You have all these revelations, thinking back on the "week from hell" you've just endured when the rest of campus was out partying, and you write the word 'blog' on your palm, hoping you will remember to write before it washes off.
Then, before you know it, your shift ends. You leave the building, intending to check out the latest sale merchandise on campus, and you run into someone you haven't seen much of this year. He looks as beat-down as you do. He asks, but no you haven't heard about this weekend. You think you may have read something vague, but you were wrapped up in your own life. Now you realize what you've missed. She's gone. Someone so loved by so many, now gone forever. Suddenly all of your problems vanish, just for a moment, while you try to figure out what to do next. It won't hit you until hours later, sitting at your desk. Even as you move on to all the things that need to be done before you go to sleep tonight, her beautiful face will be in your mind, laughing, singing, walking down the hallway, surviving until she just couldn't hold on anymore. And now and then other faces will show up as well. Is this how He wants to remind you to pay more attention to those you care about? Slow down and breathe once in a while? Perhaps. More likely, it was just about the time He needed his next angel, and you couldn't ask for many better ones than her. Through all her pain and suffering, whether she intended to or not, she was a light for her community and will not be forgotten.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Youth Ministry 2011 Flashback

So every year I am asked to write an annual report for the 50+ page Annual Report. While I appreciate that people care, I always wonder who actually reads it. So this year, I spiced it up a bit and made it more interesting to read.

Church, in January 2012, I was in the middle of my 7th year as youth director at Upper Dublin Lutheran Church. Now, UDLC had been through some pretty big changes in 2011. The first was a building expansion program that allowed for more meeting spaces and a way for members to gather after worship and enjoy each others company. The second was the fact that Pastor Douglass retired.

These both are important, but the reason I tell you about them is because YOUTH were big parts of both of these things. In, 2011 during the winter a few teenagers got together with Andrew McMaster and made some UDLC History when they created a song that would be brought out again at Pastor Douglass’s retirement celebration.

In 2011, there were the annual trips; SEPA Sr. High Youth Gathering, Appalachia Service Project, Laser Tag, and even a rescheduled camping trip for the Tweens. There were also new things the youth brought to the congregation. A youth band, two Christmas musical celebrations (thanks to Music and Christian Ed), increased involvement in Chosen 300, and all of the ministries at UDLC. However, the most exciting thing is a visible presence on Sunday’s and at church events. The youth have gone from the children of the congregations members to “members” involved in all areas. Cheryl Rozinski is a High School Sr. who is finishing a term on council. Melanie Fry, Kendall Couch, and Marissa Irizarry have become the go to youth for child care for Couple Relationship Club and Financial Peace University. You will find a few youth serving as assistant ministers, running power point of videos during worship, crucifers, and acolytes. We even have youth preachers on Youth Sunday and you can find many teens in Sunday school each week. I know this is nothing surprising, until I report they are not students, but rather teachers for younger students.

Youth have also worked to be some of UDLC’s best and most active friends on Facebook. In 2011, UDLC has taken on Social Media more intentionally and the influx of web presence has allowed teens to identify with UDLC publicly and that in itself is a big shift. Teens post photos of events, will talk to each other, make plans to meet at Church Sunday mornings, and check in on each other when someone was missing that week. What more can you want from a Youth Ministry than a community of young people being involved in a church, identifying with the church community, and inviting others to come? Maybe as adults we should take a lesson or two from them?

In past years I had told you about members coming to me and telling me wonderful things about our youth. You may also remember for the past few years I have asked people to tell the youth and you know what? People have started to tell the youth directly. Now I am not saying this alone has increased interest and involvement of our teens, but I am sure it has helped. They feel validated and welcome to many places they had not before. Can I, youth director, take credit? Not really, but one of my goals was to take youth from “EVENTS” for teens, to an infusion of the youth in the church ministries at large and this is what we see happening now.

In 2012, we will have an Appalachia trip, we will go to ELCA Senior High Youth Gathering (with 30,000+ other youth), our lock-ins, but an exciting new event will be 30 hour hunger awareness fundraiser in March. This will be in cooperation with global mission to raise money and awareness for hunger world wide.

One other new part of the youth ministry is a new program dreamed up by and chaired by Chris Couch. This program “Helping Hands of UDLC” would be an extension of youth ministry and supported by volunteers from the church. Adult team members will evaluate small jobs and teams of youth and adults (similar to ASP) will work on local projects one Saturday per month. Funding for projects would be raised by free will donations from those benefiting from the acts of service and other funds raised by this ministry.

This new program is not only a way for UDLC to give back to the community more locally, but it is will be a way to help our member begin a more direct intergenerational program and take the skills youth are learning on the summer mission trip and improve them, develop new ones, and learn some life skills that will benefit them and the communities they will live in as they grow.

With so much happening this year, it is hard to imagine what 2013 will bring, but I am sure there will be plenty of to report on then as more youth talents are discovered and nourished.

Respectfully Submitted,

Raymond Hopkins

Director of Youth Ministry