God’s Hope Changes Everything

Brunch at Harry’s

A trip to Hermann Park and the zoo gift shop

The Interaction Center

Another amazing night in the stadium

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God’s Grace Changes Everything

This morning we all had to be up earlier for our service project, but we did have a late start because it was so early all of us slept through our alarms and a lot of us were leaving with an empty stomach. Our service project was helping in a small local garden called Harry Holmes Healthy Harvest Community Garden. The work we had to do was thankfully not very laborious and it wasn’t stressful, it was only pulling the weeds in the beds. Even though it wasn’t much we all had a lot of fun and it was a good time to get to know the city a little bit more. There were three very sweet old ladies that we got to know and we had some great discussions with them, they talked about the hurricane last year which was very interesting. When lunch came we all were very exited for some food and enjoyed the tasty local sandwiches. Later we went to the service party and got to wonder off in groups and enjoy the activities set up, there were some familiar games like Gaga ball, nine-square in the air, and four-square. They also had a whole room with blow-up obstacle courses and some really interesting active games. Waiting in the line before the Mass Gathering was hard because of the extremely hot weather and all the body heat surrounding all of us wasn’t helping much. Tonights Mass Gathering was personally my favorite so far, we had good seats, we were more energetic and all the speakers and performances were awesome tonight. I can not pick a favorite thing from tonight.

“You are magnificently imperfect.”-Nadia Boltz-Weber

“There’s Grace for that.”-the Rev. Will Starkweather

“It makes no sense, but this is God’s grace”-Michaela Shelley

“You matter, you are loved, and there is no limit to God’s grace.”-Elizabeth Peter

-Madelyn Wambolt, Redeemer Lutheran

photos from the leaders

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God’s Love Changes Everything

June 28th 2018

We all woke up in the Whitewall Hotel, where our denomination booked out for our trip. We were required to meet in the lobby before we started our day. Once we met, we all chatted with our neon green matching shirts(there were about 16 of us), and walked around downtown Houston for Synod Day. We fit right in with the other people in the East Washington and the Idaho region. We worshipped together and shared our beliefs in small groups for the morning. In the afternoon, we took our presence to a restaurant, even though it was far past lunch. Even in the restaurant, the waiters seemed to have the same emotion and influence we had in the worship center an hour before. After our late lunch, we took the metro to the Astrodome. In the train, people asked us “What’s up with all the kids in matching shirts?”. We simply told them it was a nation wide youth gathering with about 30 thousand participants. They were astonished that the ELCA was right in their hometown; Alike the same attitude of waiters in the restaurants. For a few moments, we had some self-fame. After we left the metro and went to the NRG Stadium where we worshipped that evening, several guest speakers preached about how God touched their lives. With one man, it was being blessed with something he already paid for, and bearing a daughter. With another, it was health. Whatever the scenario, God is always with us!

-Colter Sprague, Hope Lutheran Church

Some photos from Pastor Meggan  to accompany the journal entry above (not necessarily in the order they happened).



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God’s Call Changes Everything


A long drive across Texas.


Made it to our hotel in Houston




Opening Night (including keynote speaker Bryan Stevenson)


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Seeing the West

Travel Day 1 – June 26


Pastor Meggan’s first meme ever


Ogden stop




Building Community

Beautiful Colorado

Dinner near Fort Collins


Sunset near Denver








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15 Youth Gatherings – Part 3

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.

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15 Youth Gatherings – Part 2

Or, Why I will be riding a bus for 27 hours June 26-27

These next five Lutheran Youth Gatherings are the reason I keep going back and taking youth with me.

1991 Dallas – My congregation in Custer had never sent youth to a Gathering before, but six of us signed up, a small group compared to our massive youth group, and joined the Bear Butte Conference trip, taking the bus from Rapid City, SD to Dallas. We were in two arenas for the mass gatherings but our group was, in my opinion, fortunate enough to have the Jay Beech Band as our music leader for all but our last mass gathering. I can still remember Jay teaching us the actions to his song Baptized, probably the fist time I made the sign of the cross on myself. Called to Freedom was the theme of the Gathering and the Interaction Center theme was The Fair.

1994 Atlanta – I spent the summer after high school graduation working at YMCA Camp St. Croix in Hudson, WI (just across the St. Croix River from St.Paul) but I flew to Atlanta mid-summer and joined my youth group. Dakota Road, who had led the music at every South Dakota Synod Youth Gathering of my youth, was the house band and they were fabulous. I had one of my mountain-top experiences one evening in the dome, so blown away by the speaker and the connection with my peers. I love the YMCA but I think the juxtaposition of working at that camp and then attending the Youth Gathering was formative; it convinced me to spend my college summers at a church camp in intentional Christian community. The experience probably steered me to the particular camp at which I ended up working. The theme of the Gathering was 2 Be Alive and the Interaction Center theme was Noah’s pArk.

1997 New Orleans – I spent three summers on staff at Christikon but between my junior and senior years I worked at the Dodge Nature Center in West St.Paul. I was going through a lot with my epilepsy diagnosis and it was good to be near my doctor in the Twin Cities. This also allowed me to serve on Hotel Life at the Youth Gathering. Tom VonFischer was the head of Hotel Life that year and he had all of us volunteers take turns telling stories during morning worship in the hotel ballrooms. I had given messages as a camp counselor but this was different because I was specifically instructed to tell a personal story. I ended up talking about the Habitat for Humanity Spring Break Trip I participated in as a sophomore at Concordia College. An adult leader came up to me afterwards and told me he had grown up in a community like the one I described–the power of story! On the last night, a big party for all participants, Pastor Marilyn Breckenridge, the head of Hotel Life for my property, and I walked all over and talked about, among other things, life as a parish pastor. Several years later, when I was writing my entrance essay for ordination candidacy, this conversation was woven into the essay. I never got to see the kids from my home congregation in 1997 because they did not get chosen in the lottery (see 2000 St. Louis). The Gathering theme was River of Hope and the theme of the Interaction Center, the last one my parents coordinated, was Tuesdays.

2000 St. Louis – Because so many churches did not get to attend the 1997 Gathering, in 2000 the ELCA started putting on two Gatherings back-to-back. I had finished one year of graduate school and was working as a chaplain at Sky Ranch Lutheran Camp but the director gave me the time to go to St. Louis. My Hotel Life team of four was posted at Henry VIII, an airport property soon to be bulldozed to make room for an expanded runway, so they were not fixing anything. Not only that, but someone had died in the pool the week before so it was off limits. Thank goodness the four of us got along really well. Dance With Me, because of the theme, was a popular song during the mass gatherings. The theme was Dancing at the Crossroads. I have never experienced such mugginess in my life as those two summer weeks at the convergence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.

2003 Atlanta – To make up for Henry VIII, the four of us were posted in either the downtown Hyatt or the Marriott Marquis three years later. I had just finished my Lutheran Year in St. Paul, spent three weeks as a volunteer in the kitchen at Holden Village, and was going from Atlanta to Duluth, MN for a Split Rock Writing Workshop. That was a great summer with a great two weeks in Atlanta. I absolutely loved our Hotel Life team and appreciated being at a downtown hotel. The theme was Ubuntu: I am because we are.

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