Fifteen-year old grandson Nick just returned from a five-day trip to Houston, Texas, with the Youth Group from Emanuel Lutheran Church, Pleasantville. They had traveled with the group from The Lutheran Church of the Resurrection of Mt. Kisco.
Some 30,000 teens and their chaperones came from all over the country as part of this ELCA Gathering—Evangelical Lutheran Church Association.  I sat with Nick a few nights ago and “interviewed” him regarding this memorable trip.  Nick is an articulate, savvy and well-brought up young man; I was impressed with his description of this gathering.  According to Nick, the purpose of the event was to strengthen faith and build and establish community connections.  He mentioned this objective several times during our interview.  

One day there was a service with groups from Metro New York; another day there was an interactive learning experience, e.g. awareness of current events and global hunger, at the NRG Center.  On another day, under local police supervision, Nick’s group was assigned to pick up trash in a Houston neighborhood which was then picked up by truck.  Each day was concluded with an evening gathering at NRG Park/Stadium; one evening in particular was devoted to “taking a break,” meeting new friends and just “hanging out.” 

The last day of the gathering was on Sunday when a mega church service was held in NRG Stadium. There were Christian bands from across the country, speakers and lots of singing—Nick said it was a great send-off.  Everyone departed Houston that afternoon with renewed faith and hope for making a difference.

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In summing up his unforgettable experience, Nick said the emphasis was on strengthening faith and working toward a common goal.  He made new friends and was able to explore some areas of Houston.  In all, it was a memorable trip and he looks forward to the next one in three years: Here they come, Minneapolis!

After hearing about his experience in Houston and having other conversations with Nick, I can’t help but feel hope that the future of our wonderful country lies in this upcoming generation.  Keep the faith, young people, and work together to make this Earth a better place.  God bless!

Note:  Nick left on July 23 for three weeks in Australia and New Zealand.  He is a member of the hand bell group from Emanuel Lutheran Church; the group is taking part in the International Hand Bell Symposium.  Watch for another Nick “interview” after he returns on Aug. 12.