On July 12, I began a trek with seven youth and another adult for the ELCA National Youth Gathering. We traveled with 138 other youth and adults on three buses. Our trip was a full ten day trip from beginning to end, but the main purpose for our trip was the National Youth Gathering which is held every three years.
This year's gathering was held in Detroit Michigan. The last two gatherings were held in New Orleans as we helped residents pick up and clean up from Hurricane Katrina. 30,000 youth and adults (yep way more than ten) gathered every night in Ford Field to worship with the entire body of Christ gathered there in that place. We also listened to amazing awesome speakers who talked about social justice, racism, and making a difference in our communities. Together we learned what it means to Rise Up together; to rise up and spread God's love throughout the world and especially to the city of Detroit as we were gathered there.
Each day 10,000 youth and adults went out to engage in service projects. There were two launch groups; one at 8:15 am and another one at 10:15 am. We were in the second launch group on Saturday. Our group went to work for an organization called O'Hair Park Community Association (Learn more here: O'Hair Park) We helped them trim branches along a service road.* It was a hot humid day, but the youth never complained. They were kind, courteous, and listened intently to the stories of the Detroiters who were gathered there with us. And they worked HARD!
Every night we worshiped together and heard from wonderful speakers who reminded us of the power of "where two or three are gathered in his name." The youth came out each night full of vigor and power and ready to conquer the world. They came away knowing that they can make a difference. They learned what it means to proclaim justice, build bridges, and offer hope. They raised over 400,000 for ELCA World Hunger and the Walk for Water. We are waiting on numbers for how many heads of hair were donated and how many pints of blood were donated.
These youth give me hope for the future. In a world that continually often thinks that our church is dying, I don't see that at all. I see a church that is full of life; that isn't afraid to get their hands dirty and fight for what is right. I see a church that understands that all of our stories matter. I see a church that is all about action and not just words. I see a church that is ready to Rise Up together.
And in light of today's prompt I had to share this Top Ten List that a woman (Kathy Schaeffer) shared on an ELCA Youth Ministry Network FB page today. It is so much fun and captures the gathering so well. Enjoy my friends! 10--Want to walk everywhere; 9-Keep asking people, "Where are you from?"; 8-Have uncontrollable smiling; 7-Shout out "Jesus is" until you finally say, "Good News"; 6-Unfazed by rain! Just pull out a rain slicker and say, "Let's go!"; 5-Keep clipping "God Loves You" clothespins on people!; 4-Helping people everywhere! (Called the local food bank, Habitat for Humanity and Literacy council all in one day!); 3-Want family members to wear the same colored t-shirts!; 2-Try and high 5 everyone they pass by!; 1-Talk about going to church early this week in order to get a seat "on the floor" and up front.)
*This is where my five minutes ended.