7/18/2015 8:35:00 AM
DETROIT (ELCA) – Life-changing, amazing, unimaginable, and impactful are some of the words members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) used to describe their experience during the ELCA Youth Gathering meeting here July 15-19.
“I’ve been looking forward to this week since the last day of the 2012 Youth Gathering in New Orleans,” said Joe Risdall, a member of Lifehouse Church in Northridge, Calif. “It’s such a great time and such a great atmosphere for all the Lutherans around the country and all over the world to come together to have a great time and learn about Christ.”
About 30,000 youth, adult leaders, volunteers and other Lutherans from around the world are gathered here under the theme “Rise Up Together.” The event provides leadership development, faith formation, service opportunities and more. ELCA Youth Gatherings are held every three years.
Inspirational is how Kayla Wiesneski, from Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Menomonee Falls, Wis., described her Gathering experience.
“The week has made me stronger and made me open my eyes to the problems in the world,” said Wiesneski. “I did the Walk for Water and it was really difficult. It’s inhumane that people have to go through all of that for water.”
The gathering’s Walk for Water effort is hosted by ELCA’s World Hunger at the Cobo Center. The walk simulates the experience of women in Sub-Saharan Africa who walk an average of three miles each day to fetch water for their families. Other activities at the center included painting plywood boards that will be used to board up abandoned homes in Detroit.
“The theme of my board is love,” said Taylor Amundson from Messiah Lutheran in North Mankato, Minn. “We’re drawing hearts all over this tree … we’re going to bring love to Detroit.”
Amundson said eye-opening is how she would describe the Gathering. “Just being here opens my eyes, makes my faith stronger.”
Jesse Andersen, from Lifehouse Church, said he hopes the Gathering leaves the city of Detroit “with a peace of mind because, although they struggle, there are very strong people here. I can see that and feel that in the environment.” Andersen described the event as impactful.
Madelynne O’Callaghan, from Trinity Lutheran in Midland, Mich., said the Gathering has been a life-changing experience. She reflected on the Lutheran Disaster Response exhibit at the Cobo Center.
“You got to be immersed in the whole experience of being a refugee. I hadn’t really gotten that point of view. I had the point of view of volunteers and helpers, so now I feel like I have a better understanding. It puts into perspective what other people are going through and makes you want to help them a lot more,” said O’Callaghan.
“I always like taking them out of the Midland community so they can get a bigger idea of what God’s kingdom is and all the different people that make up the kingdom of God,” said Jordan Palladino, Trinity’s youth ministry director, who described the event as eye-opening. “I love any chance they get to see other believers working across the world, of what we can do to impact God’s kingdom – not just in [the] Midland community and not just in our lives but on a global scale – and opening their eyes to that is something I love to do and have a passion for,” he said.
A significant aspect of the ELCA Youth Gathering is community service projects throughout the city of Detroit.
“I love our church so much,” said Andrea Sova from Trinity, who also described the week as life-changing. “We’re not only helping out in the community with work and physical stuff, but I think we’re also spreading our faith.”
“Even though they’re having hard times through all this stuff, it’s still a really pretty city from what I’ve seen,” said Alyssa Anderson from Our Savior’s Lutheran in Austin, Minn., who used the word fun to describe the event. “It’s a really nice city. I hope it gives them faith and hope and shows them that they are loved whether they are religious or not.”
Nick Mittelsteadt from Cross of Christ Lutheran in Welch, Minn., also used the word “fun” to describe his experience. He said that one of the highlights of the Gathering are the evening Main Stage events at Ford Field.
“I’ve had a lot of fun and basically at the end of the day when we go to Ford Field I just like feeling all the emotion – it makes your heart tingle. It’s really awesome and a lot of fun.”
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About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with more than 3.8 million members in nearly 10,000 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of “God's work. Our hands,” the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer, Martin Luther.
For information contact:
Candice Hill Buchbinder
773-380-2877 or Candice.HillBuchbinder@ELCA.org
Living Lutheran: http://www.livinglutheran.com