1,248 units of blood donated. 437 hair donations. 200 grace bags and 100 kindness project rocks. 40,000 books donated. $260,000 raised for the ELCA’s Global Farm Challenge. Over 150,000 hours of service. This is what can happen when 31,242 high school youth and their chaperones come together!
The National Youth Gathering happens every three years, and our group of 17 recently returned from Houston, TX, where we were a part of those big numbers! The Gathering is a big undertaking, and sometimes we hear honest questions wondering if it’s worth it.
If those numbers don’t speak for themselves, I can say: Yes, it is worth it. The numbers, as impressive as they are, don’t tell the whole story. The whole story is teenagers meeting other Lutherans from across the country, exchanging contact info, trading buttons, realizing that their faith is much bigger than one church. The whole story is inspiring speakers, covering difficult topics with honesty, empathy, and hope.
The whole story is youth learning that they are not alone in their struggles and that having questions and struggles does not make them bad Christians—it just makes them human. The whole story is our Final 15, devotions at the end of the day, where our youth digested and processed their day.
The whole story is Houston natives marveling on social media about this horde of neon t-shirt clad teenagers giving high-fives and singing songs throughout the streets. “Their joy is infectious,” one wrote on Facebook.
The whole story honestly won’t ever be known. Seeds were sown at this Gathering that we won’t see the fruits of for years or even decades. In Jesus parable of the sower (Matthew 13) this sower scatters seed with abandon. Some of it doesn’t take. But what does yields miraculous results.
That’s the Gathering to me. Sowing seed with abandon. Some might not take root. Some might take years to grow. But grow they will.
Thank you to the people of St. Paul’s who helped us get to the Gathering. You are a part of sowing those seeds, of providing a foundational experience for our young people (and the adults that went). We might not get to see the end results of the seeds we have sown, but in time the harvest will come, bringing with it 30, 60, and a 100 yield growth!