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.