Every three years the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod hosts a National Youth Gathering (NYG) where, you guessed it, youth from all over the nation gather together. I was lucky enough to attend the gatherings in Orlando in 2004 and 2007. This year it was in New Orleans (NOLA) and my role was a little bit different than in the past. Instead of participating this year, I had the opportunity to serve as a Young Adult Volunteer (YAV, pronounced like “yam” but with a “v”) and quite literally be the hands and feet of the gathering and, more importantly, of Christ.
What does this mean?
Read: Long days, short nights, and sore feet.
B. At 7am every morning I was headed into the community to serve and help rebuild in the wake of Katrina. Vegetation removal, landscaping development, etc. They let me be in charge of a bus. One day I almost left a group in the bayou. The next day a different group left me at the woods. The first day I was actually able to give away my Bible to a New Orleanian!
Read: Physically exhausting; spiritually exhilarating.
C. At 7pm, I was wearing the same orange shirt with a pretty yellow vest as I tried to make sure no one was trampled as they invaded the Superdome. Basically that meant I was the first one trampled. I’m 5’8″ and 120 lbs. There’s not much I can do to slow down 25,000 excited teens except to be a speed bump. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Superdome, but what is considered the first floor is filled with dangerous catwalks that I had to stand next to for five hours every day. Sure, there’s a railing but it’s was almost exactly at the top of my hips. Since my body naturally bends there, it would not have been hard to push me to a nice soft landing on concrete a floor below. I will admit, there were some people I would have preferred they knocked me to my death than forced me to deal with them…
Read: Crowd control = Fear. Lotta fear. It is only by the grace of God that I survived.
Welcome to the National Youth Gathering, the place where all of those rules your mother taught you do not apply. Talking to strangers is encouraged (hugs welcome). Running, dancing, and jumping in the concourse are totally acceptable. Oh, and no indoor voices. Buckle up and get ready for a wild ride.
I’ll be honest, it’s hard to be friendly, fun, and flexible when you’re working eleven to twelve hours a day and sleeping five to six hours a night. It’s hard to be spiritually fed while you’re worried about making sure you’re physically fed. However, hard is not synonymous with impossible.
Even though the trip was last week, free time was sparse. Instead of updating you while I was there, I’ll use the next week or so to tell some of the great stories from my trip to New Orleans.
What are you looking for?