Tag Archives: Youth

Confessing the Faith: Week 4 – August 2, 2015

During this Sunday’s service, we heard from our community’s 2015 ELCA Youth Gathering participants. From July 15-19, they joined around 30,000 other Lutherans  from all over  the US and the globe to worship, pray, learn, and serve alongside the people of Detroit, Michigan. To learn more about the details of their trip, scroll down to read the series of posts titled “Rise Up Together”. Below in this post is a reflection I wrote on the experience in light of Sunday’s texts.

Sunday’s Reading:
1 Timothy 3:14-4:11

+ Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +

These past three weeks, we’ve been exploring the Apostles’ Creed and how it applies to our lives as the people of God in Christ. We’ve acknowledged God the Father as our generous and gracious Creator; we’ve professed Jesus as our redeemer and Lord; we’ve talked about the power of the Holy Spirit to breathe faith and new life into us and send us into the world in service to God and our neighbors.

Two weeks ago, our group of seven from Falls City was approaching the end of our time in Detroit, a time in which we had ample opportunity to experience the power and presence of the Triune God and to live into the words that we profess each week. Our church’s choice to go to Detroit was motivated, in part, by the kind of thinking present in today’s reading from 1 Timothy:

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, provided it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by God’s word and by prayer. (1 Timothy 4:4-5, NRSV)

We went to Detroit, not to bring the presence of God to a city that had been forsaken, but to encounter the living God already at work among the people who call it home. We went to a city that had already been sanctified by God’s word and prayer, a city that may be despised in the eyes of the world, but that is precious in the sight of the God who created it and its citizens. In the process, we chose not to listen to the myths and rumors and idle tales about a place most people had never visited, but instead to open ourselves to experiencing firsthand how God works in places of brokenness to bear burdens, build bridges, break chains, and bring hope.

Along the way, we had a lot of fun and were part of making a huge difference in Michigan’s largest city, joining some 30,000 brothers and sisters in Christ to collect 1 million diapers, distribute 1,425 backpacks, clear 3,200 vacant lots of debris, board up 319 vacant homes, paint 1,847 mural boards, install 36 urban gardens, build 99 picnic tables, fill 26 dumpsters, and bring change to 600 neighborhoods. We heard life-changing proclamation and inspiring stories of hope in the midst of despair, as we were nourished on the words of the faith. (1 Timothy 4:6, NRSV) We became aware that we belong to a church that is bigger and wider than our imaginings. Most importantly, we were changed by our encounter with Jesus Christ, the one who was revealed in flesh, vindicated in spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed by Gentiles, believed in throughout the world, [and] taken up in glory. (1 Timothy 3:16, NRSV)

I think I can speak for the rest of our group when I say thank you for supporting us on this journey. Please feel free to ask us more about our trip in the days and weeks to come as we continue to reflect on our experience and what it means to Rise Up Together with our brothers and sisters across the world.

The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and struggle, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all the people, especially of those who believe. (1 Timothy 4:10, NRSV)

Thanks be to God! Amen.

Journey to Jersey: Day Eight

As of this writing, our group is driving down Highway 50 toward Syracuse. It is great to be back in Nebraska, and we have stories to tell of the amazing people we met and accompanied, the friends we made, and the things we learned about serving in Christ’s name.

Today, we thanked our bus drivers, especially Al, Allen, Ron, and Kevin, who drove us all the way from Nebraska to New Jersey and back again. Their flexibility and concern for our group and the experience our youth would have was simply amazing. If you ever need to travel long distance by charter bus, Windstar Lines out of Lincoln is second to none.

We also thanked our planning team, our bus leaders, and everyone who made this trip such a memorable experience.

Most especially, we thank God for the incredible privilege of being called and claimed in the waters of baptism and sent out by the power of the Holy Spirit to be the body of Christ for the sake of the world. So often we are brought up short by questions of meaning and purpose. We wonder if our lives can truly make a difference for this suffering world. But then we are reminded of the words of Scripture and the heritage we have received as Lutheran Christians: that because of the grace we have received in Jesus Christ, we are freed from sin and death, freed for lives of loving service to God and neighbor, freed to joyfully do God’s work with our hands. May that lesson be the lasting legacy of this Journey to Jersey, and may our experiences guide us to see opportunities each day to go out with good courage, knowing that the Holy Spirit is always there to grant us strength, endurance, wisdom, and grace unbounded. Thanks be to God for those indescribable gifts. Amen.

Journey to Jersey: Day Seven

After our final day of service in New Jersey, today was the first of our travel days back to Nebraska. It was also a day to say “thank you” to all the people who made our stay in the Garden State so great. We were blown away by the hospitality of the folks at Georgian Court University in Lakewood, who opened their doors to our group and served us hot, nutritious, and delicious meals. Our lunches the first day were provided by the fine people of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Lakewood. All our opportunities to serve were coordinated by our partners on the ground, chief among them being the staff of Lutheran Social Ministries of New Jersey.

Besides the “thank yous,” it was a solid day of traveling. We passed the time by napping, watching movies, playing games (like our paper airplane contest, which included all six buses and was dominated by our very own Bus 5), and enjoying the company of both new and old friends.

We’ve had a great trip, but I think we’re all looking forward to the familiar surroundings of home and “the Good Life”. It has been a privilege to serve, and it will be a joy to share our experiences with the people of St. Mark’s, St. Peter’s, and St. Paul’s. Thanks again to you for your prayers, support, and the opportunity to make a difference for the people of New Jersey.

Journey to Jersey: Day Six

Today our group got to do something a little different. After two days of canvassing neighborhoods, we jumped on the bus to head up to Crossroads Retreat Center and Camp (CRC) in Pleasant Grove, NJ. The trip took about 2.5 hours, including the time we spent recovering from a wrong turn, another detour required by a bridge that was too low for our bus, and a detour that turned into a stop when we stumbled upon a school in the middle of a fire drill and were asked to park while the students were gathering in the parking lot.

Once we finally arrived, we got right to work with various projects around the camp. Hurricane Sandy knocked down over 1,000 trees on the camp’s property, so a group of us spent time clearing downed limbs and trees, while taking breaks to rehydrate.

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Other groups worked on painting and staining projects, moving rocks, and raking leaves. After grabbing sack lunches supplied to us by CRC and hastily changing in shifts on the bus, we headed back south to Seaside Heights, where all 315 of us showed our support for the citizens of New Jersey by singing “Lean on Me” flash-mob style. It was quite an experience for all of us!

Once we got back from the beach, we grabbed our last dinner in NJ and got try for closing worship. With music by singer Dez Childs, expressions of thanks from our partners in NJ, a great message from Bishop Brian Maas, stories shared by trip participants, and the chance to share the Lord’s Supper, it was a great evening.

Now we pack our things and prepare for our return to Falls City. Our time in New Jersey has been a blessing to us all, and we pray that we have been able to bless others in return. We look forward to sharing our stories with you soon. Thank you again for your generous support and your heartfelt prayers for all of us who made this Journey to Jersey.

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Journey to Jersey: Day Five

Our journey continued this morning as we once again partnered with Ocean County Long Term Recovery Group. In addition to canvassing neighborhoods and gathering more information about the damage caused by the storm, we assembled hygiene kits to be distributed to folks in need around the Beachwood, New Jersey, area. We got to hear more stories from residents who described the impact the storm had on their homes and families. It is difficult to comprehend the different levels of damage that occurred on single streets: houses that sustained almost no damage sit alongside lots where houses no longer stand. Most people were appreciative of the information we provided, even when their house sustained little or no damage. One of our contacts with OCLTRG shared his story about communities coming together to support one another by establishing food pantries and other organizations to distribute aid.

Our productive workday was shorter than the last, because we needed to make preparations for this evening’s trip to New York City. Among the highlights of our visit were the following:

Seeing the 9/11 Memorial

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Enjoying dinner at Pronto’s Pizza

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Seeing the memorial at the NYC firehouse that stands directly across from the World Trade Center site for the brave souls who died trying to rescue their fellow citizens from the towers.

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Seeing the Statue of Liberty and part of the NYC skyline

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All in all, it was another great day. Tomorrow is our last service day, culminating with closing worship in the evening and preparations for our return trip home.

We look forward to sharing tomorrow’s experience with you.

Journey to Jersey: Day Four

After a mere four hours of sleep, our group was up and ready to go with our first day of service in New Jersey. Just check out the photographic evidence:

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In all seriousness, these guys hit their marks all day long. They were ready, willing,  and able to roll up their sleeves at a moment’s notice, slowing down only when logistics got in the way.

Today’s work involved partnering with Ocean County Long Term Relief Group (OCLTRG), a network of organizations designed to help people access the resources required to recover from the storm. One of their biggest obstacles was the lack of data about how much has already been accomplished since Sandy. About 250 people from our Synod were involved in canvassing neighborhoods and collecting and distributing information. We left for hangers and cards with a number to reach OCLTRG, and did our best to determine which houses remain in need of assistance. We were divided into “mission districts”, and our group of about 45 volunteers- Mission District 3 – was able to supply information to 777 homes! It wasn’t always easy to see that our work made a difference, but we’re trying to keep in mind that all of the work we have been called to do is significant because it signals our love for and commitment to our brothers and sisters in NJ.

Following our work day, we grabbed dinner and prepared for tonight’s activity: an evening along the boardwalk at Point Pleasant Beach. During dinner, we surprised Dayton with a cake for his birthday, and he was just thrilled:

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Dylan and Ryan got up close and personal with the waves.

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We also spent some time walking the boardwalk and checking out the shops. Our last large group activity was a devotional worship service on the beach. Gathered around the cross, we prayed for our joys and sorrows, reflected on the gift of Holy Baptism, and pondered the important truth that the Spirit of God is able to bring life and newness out of brokenness and pain.

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After our group devotions, we headed to bed, resting to prepare for another day of service in Christ’s name, and praying that God would use us to “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly” (Micah 6:8). May it be so among us as our journey continues into Day Five!

Journey to Jersey: Day One

On Friday, we began our Journey at St. Paul’s, where we met for last-minute preparations, a brief service of prayer and Holy Communion, and the first chance to lend a hand (bringing supplies downstairs for the Festival of Tables at the church). Six youth – Shane, Ryan, Lindsey, Brady, Dayton, and Dylan – and three adult sponsors – Stacey, Mark, and Pastor Andrew – hit the road for Bellevue, where we enjoyed the hospitality of Stacey’s sister, Ronda. As of this writing, we are on the way to Camp Carol Joy Holling, where we’ll meet the rest of our traveling companions and set out for tonight’s stop: Zion Lutheran Church in Waterville, Ohio.

The group is excited and ready to go – the early hour aside, of course. Thank you for your prayers and support as our Journey to Jersey continues!