The banner at the front of worship on Sunday morning, was a mosaic of tiny photographs, reading Are You Changed? After almost a week studying, playing, and reflecting on the theme This Changes Everything, the 31,242 youth and adult participants at the ELCA Youth Gathering could resoundingly reply, “Yes!”
One of the questions that bubbles up after the Gathering is over is “Was it worth it?” Was it worth the expense? The travel? The early mornings? The late nights? The long lines? The buckets of sweat the instant you stepped outside? And the answer is always, Yes! Each day was full of opportunities for worship, service, learning, play, music, and unity. We heard and lived the message that God’s call, hope, grace, and love change everything.
The Youth Gathering was an eye-opening experience for the youth and adults. Youth got to experience something they haven’t seen before and were able to bond and learn something new about their faith and their community as well as the communities around them. Adults not only got to watch youth get an eye-opening experience but were able to be filled with faith themselves. The Youth Gathering covered many social problems of today’s society and ways youth like themselves were able to solve it. I strongly recommend sending a teenager and youth group to the next Youth Gathering because it is not only fun but is a major learning experience for them as well. ~Laura Nelson
I’ve never really been into church-y things and I don’t like to participate during worship but at the Gathering it was actually fun and I did participate. What I really enjoyed about going to Houston was that I got to make so many new friends that I still talk to today. What stuck with me was definitely the heat, so now anyone from Washington talks about how hot it is here, I can say, try being in Texas for a week. ~ Emma Hodge
Going to Houston really put into perspective the phrase “many hands make light work.” The most impactful thing was our service day because even though we played with kids and did some yard work, it is something that those kids will remember and it was cool to think that we made an impact in a way they don’t normally experience. Houston was hot and sweaty and consisted of very long days but I wouldn’t have traded it for any other experience! ~ Mackenzie Graf
Thanks to the congregation, I was able to listen to many wonderful and insightful speakers which have opened my eyes and pushed me to explore my faith in new ways. After helping out with the school’s landscaping, I got to hear the laughter and see the joy of everyone as we played water games in the hot and humid Texas weather. This is but one of the many memories that will remind me that I am part of something bigger than just me. I am grateful for all of the support and generosity in making this happen. It is an experience that will live with me forever. Thank you. ~ Claire Barnard