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​ELCA Youth Gathering

Rise Up Together
National Youth Gathering, 2015

July 14th
It's been an eventful first day! We met at Redeemer Lutheran Church this morning to board the busses for our trip. We were so excited; Some of us arrived at 6:15. It seemed like forever before we were ready to go. But finally the moment was here. After prayer by Pastor Eric Fink of Living Springs, we hugged and kissed our loved ones and climbed on board. We were off!
We stopped briefly in Spartanburg to pick up the group from St. Matthias in Easley, and things seemed to go downhill from there. The engine light on bus 2 came on as we crossed over the NC line. We pulled over and the drivers quickly ascertained that it was leaking antifreeze. They were able to rig up something to get us to a bus company in Asheville where we sat and waited while they replaced the hose. Because of a few wrong turns and a couple other issues,we were delayed FOUR HOURS. We stopped for a quick bite, and, finally, we were on the road again. 
Things went smoothly for an hour or so until we hit a thunderstorm outside Knoxville. Traffic just crept along; it was raining so hard. Suddenly, we heard something hitting the bus. It was hail about the size of silver dollars! It sounded like rocks. Well, we got through that and everything has gone well ever since, (knock on wood). 
The kids are tired, of course, and so are the adults, but everyone is remaining positive and  optimistic. We hope to be in Detroit by 1am. Fortunately, we can resttomorrow morning.
Signing off until tomorrow! Thanks for your prayers; Keep 'em coming!

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Rise Up Together
National Youth Gathering, 2015

July 15th

Good morning from Detroit! I am writing this at 12:15am. We have just finished our Final 15 (daily devotions) and the kids are off to bed.
After going to bed early this morning, we let them sleep until 11am, then got them up for lunch. Although there is a Wendy's next door to the hotel, we walked down the street to try some local fare. It's was pretty good! Many of them did learn some new life skills - how to figure the tip and how to pay the bill. The lady at the register was so tickled because I had to stand there and show them how to add a tip and sign the receipt. 
Afterwards, we boarded the bus for our first trip downtown to Cobo Center. It was packed! Youth with every color of t-shirt you can imagine. And those vuvuzelas! I had never seen one until today. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, a vuvuzela is a  long horn and it makes a very obnoxious noise. 
Anyway, today was about fun and games. We spent the afternoon at the "playground." You can see from the pictures that we all joined in.
Then we made our way to Ford Field for the opening worship service. It was awesome!  If you have an opportunity to watch it streamed live, please do. The guest preacher was Rev. Dr. Luke A. Powery, the dean of Duke University Chapel. He was great, but I was really surprised to learn that, of the three speakers we heard tonight, he was the kid's favorite. 
Tomorrow (today) we go back to Cobo for Proclaim Community Day. We will play some but also spend time learning about all kinds of people and places. Can't wait to share them with you.
Until then, peace!

P.S. The pictures with the river is Canada.

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Rise Up Together
National Youth Gathering, 2015

July 16th 

Today was our day Proclaim Community! Jesus' first words in the Gospel of Mark are, "The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news." (Mark1:15). Proclaim Community invites us to join this kingdom community by participating in God's work building bridges,bearing burdens, breaking chains, and bringing hope. Through a variety of mediums, we were able to engage in the life of the church, the community of God. Art, technology, sports, role play,  fellowship, fun and reflection were just a few of the activities. We learned about unsafe water, living with a disability, urban gardening, sex trafficking, refugee camps, and immigration issues. We packed hygiene bags and book bags, crafted quilt squares, made hats, and much more! I'll let them tell you about it.
Pp pp Andy, Kevin and I 
And of course, we ended the day with another great worship service. 
Our final 15 took 45 minutes tonight  because everyone had something they had learned to share with the group.  But that's a great problem to have! 
Tomorrow we proclaim Justice and hit the streets of Detroit to be the hands and feet of God. I'll tell you all about it!

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Rise Up Together
National Youth Gathering, 2015

July 17th

Today was Proclaim Justice and it was, as the kids say, "the best day ever!"
We made our way downtown this morning and gathered in the rain with 10,000 others at Hart Plaza for orientation for our service activities. We were honored that Bishop Yoos had signed up to work with us. We sang, danced, heard stories, etc. Finally, after waiting for what seemed like forever, the rain stopped, the sun came out, and we boarded a bus to head for our unknown destination. We discovered that we be working with groups from Chicago and Minnesota.
As soon as we started moving, Marshall, our servant companion told us that we would be boarding up houses. The bus cheered. We were excited that we would actually get out and work! As we were driving there, we noticed that these neighborhoods weren't all that that different from ours. Nice houses and yards. Except on each street, there would be several abandoned houses, sometimes boarded ip , sometimes burned. It was sad. 
Upon arrival at our destination, we found that we were actually cleaning up yards. There were 4 houses on the same street that had been abandoned and foreclosed. The yards were overgrown and full of trash, and were being used for nefarious purposes. Once the yards were cleaned, the houses would be boarded up.The neighborhood council believes this will deter crime. 
We worked hard! We didn't have many tools and had to share  between the four groups. What was realm special was that two young men from the neighborhood joined  us. Antoine's mother came to see what we were doing and then asked if he could help. He joined our group. James was his 14 year old cousin and he came along too. 
You can see what we accomplished in the pictures (I only have pictures of my group; Andy and Kevin have picture of the other group that we will share later.) It was unbelievable! I never thought we would get as far as we did.
Besides the boys helping and meeting new people, one other  special thing happened. We had loaded the bus to leave and an elderly woman climbed on. She lived across the street. She stated that she was not really religious, but"God bless you for what you have done today." She thanked us and spoke for several minutes. The kids were very touched by her words.
We were dropped off at Cobo Center, and after a quick wash and a change of clothes we went to dinner. Then it was time for the mass gathering. It was the best yet! The theme was building bridges and we heard four fantastic speakers talk about building bridges across racism.  Again, the kids were inspired. One, in particular, told the story of Darius, a 13 year old African American boy shot and killed in front of his mother by their white neighbor because he THOUGHT Darius stole from him.
The service ended with a song by Rachel Kurtz called Building Bridges. She sang with a young boy and it was powerful! 
And I haven't even told about the appearance by the Motown All-stars. There was an original member of the Capitals, one from the Miracles, and two from the Temptations. They absolutely brought down the house!
Well, it's almost 2am and I'm tired. Tomorrow is Proclaim Story Day.  Until then, blessings from Detroit!

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