These last five Lutheran Youth Gatherings include some ups and downs and of course the unknown.
2006 San Antonio – By this time I was serving my first call in rural Western Iowa, looking for a way to stay connected to the larger church. Family friend Margie Fiedler asked me to serve on the Planning Team for The Party on the final evening of the Gathering. She and my cousin Jim Lindekugel had coordinated The Party first in Dallas, when it landed on July 4 and was under the umbrella of the Interaction Center, and for several additional Gatherings. Our team split up the area by the four seasons and then tried to incorporate Latino festivals and various kinds of music into our areas. My Winter Season co-leader backed out which was a bummer but my mom agreed to be on my subcommittee. As is often the case, the people you work with can make an experience worth it and that was certainly true for me in San Antonio. The theme was Cruzando: Journey with Jesus.
2009 New Orleans – Four girls from my congregation and I met the Western Iowa Synod buses and headed to New Orleans for the post-Hurricane Katrina Gathering. I learned how to text on this trip thanks to some pastor friends. I absolutely loved how the Gathering adapted to post-Katrina New Orleans and that service learning became not an optional part of the Gathering but an integral part. Our service day included treating the under side of several new houses built up on stilts. This was not my first time at a Gathering but it was my first time as an adult leader and I was clueless in some ways. I have never felt so lonely in a crowd and will never be the only adult leader for a group again. It was not until I left the girls to get their palms read in Jackson Square and sat in a pew in St. Louis Cathedral that I understood my loneliness, in that moment and built up after six years serving in a town of 200 people. I wept like what seemed like forever. The theme was Jesus, Justice, Jazz.
2012 New Orleans – A few years into my call at Trinity Lutheran in Nampa, Idaho I had walked into a congregation that was enthusiastic about Gatherings but relatively new to them. 2009 had been the first time they had sent youth, thanks to a parent who had been impacted by attending the ALC Gathering in Denver as a teen, but it had been a great experience. So a parent and I took a large group on a plane to the Big Easy. The Getting Ready curriculum was solid and the pre-work paid off. We had a fabulous group of youth who cared for one another despite their differences. The Gathering brought back a theme song, thanks to Rachel Kurtz. The theme was Citizens with the Saints. I love New Orleans but was happy when they announced that we would be going somewhere new next time.
2015 Detroit – We had a smaller group from Trinity, just four, but I was not going to be the lone adult so I paired up with a Boise colleague who serves Redeemer Lutheran. We became Trideemer. You can read about our very positive experience here. The highlight for me was the impact we had on the city of Detroit and the impact the city had on all of us. It was accompaniment in the best sense. The theme was Rise Up Together.
2018 Houston – We have three wonderful youth attending from Trinity. We have joined up with Faith, Caldwell; St. Paul, Ontario; Redeemer, Boise; and Hope, Eagle. Our group of sixteen will take the bus with the group from Shepherd of the Valley, Boise. The list of speakers for the Mass Gathering was already exciting but today they announced author and activist Bryan Stevenson! I am excited to see the city of Houston on our service learning day. We are fortunate in that the team who leads our synod day is experienced and excellent. And our third day will be in the Interactive Learning Center, which always makes me nostalgic for the days I wondered around there all week as a kid.