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?...do 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