Last week, I had the opportunity to travel to Detroit, Michigan with Mallory Nelson, the treasurer of our synod’s LYO Board; and Mackee Hoffmann, former LYO Board President and current member of the ELCA’s Youth Core Board, for 2014 ELCA Youth Leadership Summit. During our time together, these young people had the chance to serve as part of a pilot group for the “Proclaiming Story” synod day that will be a part of the 2015 ELCA Youth Gathering in Detroit next summer. We heard the stories of the rich and complex history of Detroit; we engaged in conversations about leadership around complex issues such as race and justice; we participated in workshops and dialog about the wider work of our church together through ministries like ELCA World Hunger, Lutheran Disaster Response, the ELCA Advocacy Office in D.C., ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission and Lutheran Services in America. We heard about the plans being made in partnership with the people of Detroit for this summer’s youth gathering. As we listened to the stories of the people of Detroit, the stories of our church at work in the world, and told our stories, we saw how it was all wrapped up in God’s story which embraces us all.
The theme for the upcoming gathering is “Rise Up”. The Service projects being planned will engage our young people and the people of Detroit – side-by-side in hope – producing service that witnesses to Christ’s redeeming work in the world, in neighborhoods, and in individual lives. In a city with no recycling progam for automobiles, young people will partner with an organization that turns tossed aside tires into flip flops that leave behind foot prints of hope. In a city with more vacant homes than school children, participants will help board up homes to reclaim safe paths for children to walk to and from school.
I have to share one story about the day of service that was shared by Lisa Jeffereys, synod staff in the Southeast Michigan Synod who is coordinating the service projects for the event. When Lisa met with one of the local agencies about partnering, their board responded with the attitude that was basically, “This sounds great, but people won’t come.” Lisa assured them that the event is being planned; people are registering. Still they were hesitant – Not at all confident that people from outside their city would care enough to come. So, Lisa shared the story of 35,000 young people in t-shirts cleaning up neighborhoods in New Orleans side by side with local residents during the last gathering. While she was sharing the story, most still looked skeptical until one young man asked, “Hey, were you in Atlanta in the early 2000’s?” He remembered the service work of the young people in Atlanta during the 2003 Gathering and told the story of being a young person in Atlanta and seeing the sea of young people in his neighborhood and the impact they made. As Lisa said, ” We’re the ELCA. We’ve made a promise; we need to show up, and we will.”
God’s Work indeed will be done through the hands of those who “show up” in Detroit next summer. I hope youth from your congregation are considering being part of this amazing event. If you have not yet registered, visit www.elca.org/youthgathering. For more information about the event, contact our Synod Gathering Coordinator Gracia Johnson or our Synod Day Coordinator Rev. Christina Martin. I am confident that it will change lives, both the lives of those in the city that will host us and in the lives of those who attend, as we “Rise Up” together.
submitted by Beth Anderson, DM, Synod Ministry Coordinator