Hi y'all! So, we've been home from Houston since Monday afternoon. I would say our Gathering experience was a success! I hope you followed the posts Pastor and I made to Facebook to catch a glimpse of our Trinity youth interacting and engaging with over 31,000 other Lutheran youth. The video livestreams of our nightly Mass Gatherings should be up on YouTube by now as well, and I would encourage everyone to check them our for an idea of the quality and caliber of speakers and musicians we were able to see. More importantly, talk to the youth who attended (Ana, Isabel, Laura, Kirsten, Marlee, Nate, Ryan, and Sophia). Find out from them what their favorite speaker was, or what their favorite activity or booth was. Our eyes were opened to a much wider Lutheran world than we are easily exposed to in Meadville. I know several of the kids had the life-changing experience that we were told would happen. We will be putting together a presentation for the congregation to thank you for all of your support and show you what we saw at the Gathering. Be on the lookout for that before the end of summer!
For the future of this site--there was a reason we named it the Trinity Youth Fund Drive. The youth fund was created to be a way for the chuch to support all of the activities of our youth including camp, and a youth group. We will keep this site live, with the idea that this might be an easier way for our congregation to help us with future endeavors. And of course, we thank you for everything you've already done.
On Monday afternoon, after a blessing from Bishop Cussarow of the SWPA Synod, our group boarded one of two buses at the Synod offices in Pittsburgh. The ten of us were surrounded by forty of our new friends. And when I say surrounded, I mean the bus was completely full! Without a seat to spare, we settled in for a bus ride that took us 24 hours nonstop. Our drivers traded off, one sleeping while the other drove. The only stops were for meals, but we did manage to hit a Skyline Chili outside of Cincinnati. When in Rome, you eat spaghetti topped with chili and a mound of shredded cheese! The bus continued on throughout the night, and many of the kids found that the floor of the bus was preferable to the cramped seats they'd already been sitting on for 10+ hours. As we traveled further south through Louisville, Nashville, Memphis, and Little Rock we all made note of how much more hot and humid the air became. After the sun rose again we were finally crossing from Arkansas into Texas, and it felt unbelievable that we'd made it that far in the same bus we'd boarded the day before.
We arrived in Houston around 1:00 on Tuesday, and began the process of checking in. I say process because we arrived at the same time as 100 other guests of the same hotel from our bus, and we weren't the only ones there for the Gathering. The lobby desk was a line of church youth leaders with their backpacks and packets of important information, and the large lobby was a sea of high school youth and all of their luggage. Our hotel has 30 stories and a lot of rooms! The glass elevators give a view either of the atrium on the inside of the building or downtown Houston, and we are on the 24th floor. When we finally got everyone into their rooms and settled we decided food was in order, and took off on foot into downtown Houston. We wanted Whataburger, but we missed closing time by 10 minutes! We were greeted on the street by Downtown Houston ambassadors whose job is to ensure that citizens and vistors to downtown Houston are safe, and having the best time. They gave us maps, and literally walked our group to a little grocery/ eating spot for dinner. The attention to detail was impressive, but our meal, after having set our mids on burgers, was not as much. But we weren't hungry anymore, and that was good.
We walked back to the hotel, and the group decided it was pool time. Our hotel has a nice pool on the roof of the 6th floor. The group hung out in the pool or poolside, enjoying the cooling air as the sun went down behind the surrounding skyscrapers. After the pool, everyone got cleaned up, and chilled out for the evening. By the time we met for our Final 15, the closing devotional for the day, everyone was pooped! We went over the schedule for the next day, prayed, laughed and admitted how crabby we all felt all day after the bus ride. They all were in pajamas and back in their rooms before 10:00! And this adult leader was out before 10:30.
Today we are definitely doing Whataburger for lunch, catching the Metro train to NRG Center, and hitting the Community Life building for the afternoon. At Gathering, Community Life is the chill out and have fun space. It is in a building that is 700,000 square feet, and has things ranging from a hammack village for naps to lifesized MarioCart. I anticipate we will have a fun afternoon. We plan on food trucks for dinner, then over to NRG Stadium for Mass Gathering of 30,000+ Lutherans for live music and speakers. Today will be our first real exposure to what the Gathering is all about, and I am so excited!
Expect more updates as we continue on our week, and as always, we are so grateful for all of your offerings that helped us get to Houston. Please continue to pray for our group to have a positive life-changing experience while we are here. In God's peace, Sam
Sunday was a special day for our group. Marlee, our most recently joined member, was baptized today! This is exciting for many reasons, obviously. But especially because now she can receive Holy Communion at the Gathering with 30,000 of her closest Lutheran friends! That is an experience we do not want her to miss out on.
We also met one last time to go over final details of travel and packing needs. Trinity has been so incredibly generous in their giving. I asked for donations of breakfast and snack items to take with us to mitigate the cost of at least one meal per day. We have had an overwhelming response to our request. Thank you all so much! As always, the support of our congregational family is so important to our youth. They are reminded frequently through your kind actions how loved they are by all of you. Getting through the difficulties of growing up is made so much easier with a firm and loving foundation.
Keep in touch with us through this site, and our Facebook page (Trinity Youth Ministry).