The high school youth of St. Mark’s took a trip to Houston for the ELCA National Youth Gathering during the last week of June. We had a wonderful time worshiping alongside 31,000 Lutherans, serving the Houston community, learning more about our faith, and growing in friendship with one another. Read below for a recap of events:
Tuesday and Wednesday: Travel to Houston on a charter bus with two other NC congregations.
Wednesday: We checked into our hotel before heading over to NRG Stadium for worship alongside 31,000 people! We returned for worship each of the following three nights as well. We heard sermons and faith stories and worshiped with great musicians. At the end of each day, we joined as a youth group at our hotel for discussion and reflection upon the day.
Thursday: NC Synod Day. We joined the 800+ participants from the NC Synod in worship, faith activities, and small group discussions. Bishop Smith from the NC Synod joined us to share a message on the woman at the well. This was a great experience!
Friday: Service Learning Day. During each day of the Gathering, about 10,000 participants went out into Houston to serve those in need. We went to the Third Ward to pick up trash, paint at a community center, and take care of a bike trail that went through this under-served area of the city. 30,000 people serving in a city over three days really adds up! After our service activity was completed, we went to the NRG Arena for an afternoon of games and a Bible Study.
Saturday: Interactive Learning Day. We were free to explore 700,000 square feet of faith activities. These included musical acts, prayer activities, learning about spiritual gifts, touching base with Lutheran colleges, learning about outreach ministries of the ELCA, and enjoying games. There was even a room to just relax and rest, and I think most of our participants visited it for a little while since we were so tired from our full days!
Sunday: Closing Worship. We met back at NRG Stadium for closing worship. ELCA Bishop Eaton delivered a message and we took community with 31,000 people–in only 22 minutes! This church service was a special time, and perhaps a once in a lifetime opportunity for many of the participants in the building.
Sunday and Monday: We left Houston on Sunday around 1:30 pm, and returned to Charlotte on Monday at 9:00 pm. We were exhausted from the travel, and so happy to be back home with our families!
Our younger youth who are eligible to return said they’d definitely like to go to Minneapolis in 2021 for the next ELCA Youth Gathering. Many said that the trip is one they would never forget. Thank you to everyone who made this trip possible: the parents of our youth, those who supported our fundraisers, and our Church Council. We are so thankful to have made this trip, and to be a part of a congregation which supports its youth in such a way!