Youth Recap of Houston

Reflections about the ELCA Youth Gathering shared in worship at Trinity Lutheran, Nampa July 8, 2018
Day 1
I honestly didn’t know what to expect in Houston I was so exited. After we got to houston from our 34 hour drive we all wanted to take showers and relax for the rest of the day. But when we got there we had 30 minutes to get ourselves situated and moving.
No one told me that we had a youth gathering at this part of the day. The youth gathering was like a concert with all sorts of differant things going on but it was mostly a bunch of people explaining how god affected their lives with lots of awsome music and preformences. The youth gathering lasted about 3-4 hours and we didn’t get home until 11-1 at night.
Day 2
Today was synod day today we had to meet up with our senete and wear bright green shirts. We were with the Washington, Idaho synod. I had lots of fun today.
Day 3
Today was community service day. Today we had to wear our orange shirts. For community service we cleaned out flower beds. I had lots of fun. I thought it was a good idea to get teenagers outside and away from their phones.
Day 4
Today we had to wear our blue shirts. We went to a celebration. There was lots of fun things to do like dancing, volleyball, yoga, puzzles and plenty more. It was fun. When we got back from that we waited outside to get inside the youth gathering building. It felt like it lasted forever because of all the heat and humidity. It was like this every time we went to the youth gathering but this one felt like the longest. Also today we got to get on the floor and watch it up close. It had alot of emotional speakers like the girl that was transgender and created a community of people just like her to help the world become a better place.
Day 5
Today is when we go home. I had loads of fun that week and I have learned plenty of things.
Also I have felt God everywhere this week.
Shelby Lageson, Entering 9th Grade
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Youth Reflections on Houston


I was really excited about the trip to Houston because I love exploring new places. Even the 34 hours on the bus was fun at times. We played games and got to know one another. Houston was so different from Boise. People walked everywhere. You don’t see that much here. There were some really tall buildings. I experienced the subway/train system for the first time. The residents of Houston were really understanding about all of the kids packing the trains. Passengers asked us questions about where we were from and why we came to Houston. We were able to tell them about the ELCA Youth Gathering.

It was amazing to be with thirty thousand other kids who believed what I believe. At school I usually don’t talk about religion because my friends and I are not the same religion. In Houston everyone could understand my faith. The worship services were very meaningful. One evening we sat on the floor and we could hear the speakers much better and walk right up to the performers. The speaker’s stories were about overcoming fear and becoming a better person. Jesus made a big difference in their lives.

They reminded us that Jesus is with us, too.

The service learning day was my favorite day. Our group went to help at a community garden. I don’t know that much about gardening but was happy to help pull weeds. The thing I liked about being there was hearing the story about how the hurricane affected the people who lived there. It must have been really scary. The women told us about the violent winds and pouring rain that damaged homes and property and even the garden we were working in. It was nice to hear how the community helped them out, rebuilding.

I am happy that I am one of the kids that gets to attend the Youth Gathering as a freshman and again when I am a senior in high school.

Mwajuma Dusabe, Trinity Lutheran Church member, entering 9th grade

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God’s LOVE Changes Everything


A reflection from Colter Sprague, 10th grade.

Thanks to Hope’s generosity, I was able to attend the 2018 ELCA Youth Gathering in Houston, Texas. This was my first time to attend a youth gathering. During this week, I saw God’s love emerge in many different ways.  When we first arrived, we joined 31,000 Lutheran youth and I witnessed their compassion and support of each other even though we were complete strangers. One of the things we did in our congregation was to help weed a garden and do landscape maintenance of community members needing help. The Treasure Valley youth all cooperated and showed love towards these people we barely knew. We ate with them and talked with them and became friends in a very short time. In my opinion, I thought that was amazing that our congregation helped these people in God’s name.


On Sunday of our visit to Houston…

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God’s HOPE Changes Everything


A reflection from Ben Miller, 10th grade.

Hope. What a fascinating concept. Desmond Tutu said, “Hope is being able to see the light despite all the darkness.” Being able to see the light in the dark. During the youth gathering I listened as half a dozen people stood in front of 30,000 high school students and told us about the most embarrassing mistakes and how they fought through them using hope. Even when they lost it for the longest times. Even when they couldn’t see God. God was there to let them see the light in the dark. Whether it was physical like drug or pill abuse, mental like starving yourself because you think you will never be good enough, or emotional like letting yourself fall because of what people say. God was there to let them lean on a stable arm. To hold out the light of hope for…

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7 Encounters at the Youth Gathering

Leah Schade’s article in Patheos paints a beautiful portrait of what the ELCA Gathering was this year for people coming from places (such as her home, Kentucky, and my home, Idaho) where ELCA Lutherans are not the majority. My colleague Casey Cross did a great job in her Gathering Roundup of describing the experience the youth and adults from Hope, Trinity, Redeemer, Faith, and St. Paul had. I commend their articles to you. My Gathering 2018 wrap-up is going to introduce you to seven specific people/memories/moments.

  1. The DJ at the Mass Gatherings – I cannot find his name anywhere but this guy was amazing and so well prepared. Thanks to the television show Glee and the multitude of parents who have introduced their youth to earlier music, we were all, multiple generations, belting out classics like Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing and Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. We also sang This is Me from the film The Greatest Showman. What a gift to share this singing with the youth. It truly energized us. Thanks DJ.
  2. The amazing night desk manager, SooJin Han, at The Whitehall Hotel- I regret not taking a photo of this woman. I asked her for a few places we could go for brunch, with a group of 16, and have an authentic Houston experience. She sent us to the District 7 Diner one morning and Harry’s Restaurant another morning. Both meals were delicious. We supported local establishments. We did not have to wait long. Then I came to her asking about where we could purchase souvenirs and she suggested we go to the Houston Zoo gift shop, one of the stops on the Metro between our hotel and NRG Park.

    The Whitehall

    District 7 Diner

  3. Ms. Johnson – One of the things I loved about our Service Learning Day was meeting the people who coordinate and volunteer regularly in the Harry Holmes Healthy Harvest Community Garden. Long-time volunteer Ms. Johnson was asked how long she had lived in Houston and she clarified that she lives in Sunnyside, a neighborhood south of downtown.

    With groups from Idaho, California, Pennsylvania, and New York.

  4. A Servant Leader – None of our previous posts have talked about how transportation home at night was sometimes challenging. The first night, the Houston Metro simply was not prepared for the number of people heading back downtown. Night two was super smooth because the Gathering staff and city fixed the problems. Then, the next day, a semi-truck hurt part of the track so it could not run at a high capacity. On one of the evenings we were standing in a long line of participants, we saw ELCA Youth Gathering Director Molly Beck Dean. This was the high stress-point of the Gathering at that moment and here was the leader supporting her volunteers, showing them that she had their back and was working with them to find solutions. As someone who has volunteered at four Gatherings, this made a big impression on me.
  5. The woman in the car – After brunch at Harry’s Restaurant, we headed to the closest Metro stop. We were wearing our turquoise Treasure Valley Cluster matching shirts and I was the last person to cross the street, sweeping the group. A driver leaned out of her car and asked me, “Is this the Gathering?” I answered a quick yes and she said, “That’s wonderful.” This was Saturday morning and I knew the Gathering had been featured at least once on a local news station and in the local newspaper. It was fun hearing a Houstonian make the connection between our bright colored matching shirts and the positive press.

    In our turquoise shirts at Harry’s Restaurant.

  6. Vestments Photo Booth – Speaking of photos. I have a soft spot for the interaction center because my parents coordinated it for many Gatherings. It was in fine form at this Gathering and what epitomized it for me this year was the Vestment Photo Booth organized by the Worship Team of the ELCA. I ran into a pastor who moved away from our synod and he could not wait to show me photos of the youth from his church dressed up as pastor. How brilliant! The Interactive Learning Center is supposed to be a place for youth to experiment, learn, ask questions, and play. Well done ELCA Worship Team! I also heard great things about People on the Move: A migrant and refugee experience (put on by AMMPARO), conversations Lutheran Outdoor Ministries volunteers had with youth and adults about camps, and the ELCA World Hunger booth. On the bus ride home I listened to some of the podcasts recorded in the Interactive Learning Center by To hell with the hotdish

    Claire, pictured here, will be a sophomore at UW-Madison. She’s been told she will be going to seminary one day soon. 

  7. The Final 15 – It does not matter how exhausted I am. I love the Final 15, the time each day when Casey, Ken, and I asked the youth and one another to reflect aloud on the day. Sometimes we used the questions offered by the Gathering and sometimes we simply asked people to share what they appreciated and what was challenging. I have been a camp counselor, taken youth to four ELCA Youth Gatherings, talk often about how we never give kids and young adults enough credit for what they are absorbing in any given situation. I may no longer be astonished but I am always gladdened by what they say in that holy time of sharing. Their gratitude for the hospitality shown by the people of Houston and the Gathering volunteers, their delight in things like air conditioning and flavorful food, and their insights into what the evening speakers were communicating all brought me the deepest joy.
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The History of the Youth Gathering

Network is a Verb

StadiumThe ELCA Youth Gathering has a long history, and an even longer lineage, going back to 1902.  Do you think that the Youth Gathering will be coming to Minneapolis in 2021 for the first time?  Think again.  This will be the 14th time that this event will be held in the City of Lakes.

Thanks to John Hulden, who sent us this information.  Thanks to David Halaas for requesting the information from the ELCA Archivist.  And thanks to Joel Thoreson, the ELCA’s Archivist for Management, Reference, and Technology for keeping track of this great information!

Here’s the history of the Gathering in the ELCA and its predecessor church bodies, including the themes (when available) and any special, notable facts:

ELCA Youth Gatherings (1988-Present)

  • 1988 – San Antonio, Texas – “Rejoice in the Lord Always”
  • 1991 – Dallas, Texas – “Called to Freedom”
  • 1994 – Atlanta, Ga. – “2 Be Alive”
  • 1997 –…

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Gathering Roundup



Just over two years ago, I presented the dream of Hope sending youth to not one, but two youth gatherings – the 2017 Western States Youth Gathering with the theme of DREAM BIG and the 2018 ELCA Youth Gathering in Houston with the theme of THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING. Hope captured the dream and answered the call, supporting us through our various fundraisers and buoying us in our journey with prayer. Thank you! We will never forget the experiences shared and the ways we have grown during these two summers.

It is fitting that our first night at the Gathering in Houston focused on call. It was God’s call that brought over 31,000 of us to that one specific time and place. On this first night, we heard from six speakers, including the ELCA’s Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton. They shared their unique stories of God’s call in their lives. Our…

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