Photo essay: A Powerful Presence

Participants gather for a Mass Event in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome during the 2016 LCMS Youth Gathering in New Orleans (LCMS/Erik M. Lunsford)

Participants gather for a Mass Event in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome during the 2016 LCMS Youth Gathering in New Orleans. (LCMS/Erik M. Lunsford)

By Amy Gray

Over 22,000 youth and adults from all 35 LCMS districts and 14 countries flocked to New Orleans for the 13th triennial LCMS Youth Gathering, held July 16-20 with the theme “In Christ Alone.”

“The LCMS Youth Gathering was a celebration of God’s gift of grace, faith and life in His Church,” said LCMS Youth Ministry Executive Director Rev. Mark Kiessling. “LCMS young people joyfully expressed their thanksgiving to God for His gift of faith and forgiveness. LCMS congregations showed their support and care for young people through prayer, financial support and words and acts of encouragement in preparation for and throughout the event.

“The city of New Orleans expressed thanks and gratitude for our young people’s attitudes and acts of service,” Kiessling added. “As we left the city, we heard numerous times how much our young people and the event are appreciated in New Orleans.”

“Being a part of God’s family means that I’m His child,” youth participant Grant Ingersoll of Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church, Livonia, Mich., replied when asked what “In Christ Alone” means to him. “Jesus Christ died for my sins, and I’m a chosen child of God, free to have eternal life.”

Grant Karsten of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Decatur, Ill., said, “Finding my hope in Christ means I don’t have to trust in any human power, just Him alone.”

“It’s really great to know that there are many people outside of Guatemala who are faithful, that there are millions of people around the world who share our faith in Christ,” said Sofia Orozco of the Lutheran Church of Guatemala.

During the event, participants were affirmed in their baptismal identity as children of God, encouraged by being part of such a large community of believers and inspired to echo the humility of Christ in service toward others.

“Serving their neighbor while growing in faith was at the heart of the Gathering,” said the Rev. Bart Day, executive director of the LCMS Office of National Mission.

In just five days, participants:

  • filled more than 900 backpacks with school supplies;
  • built a frame for a Habitat for Humanity home;
  • donated 791 pints of blood, with a significant portion of that going to relief efforts after the police shootings in Baton Rouge, La.;
  • made 1,000 fleece hats for children with cancer; and
  • packaged 500,906 meals with Feeding Children Everywhere.

Items collected or assembled at the Gathering for distribution among 12 organizations included 7,000 diapers and wet wipes; 500 health kits with soap, wash cloths, socks, shampoo and lotion; 3,500 pairs of socks; 2,000 underwear items; 2,000 rolls of toilet paper and paper towels; and 1,000 toothbrushes.

In total, participants spent 33,000 hours volunteering and had an estimated economic impact of $29.4 million on the city of New Orleans.

Also at the Gathering were 580 Young Adult Volunteers, 220 Community Life Builders, 250 Gathering Planners and 580 other volunteers who served the young people and their adult leaders throughout the event.

The next LCMS Youth Gathering is set for July 11-15, 2019, in Minneapolis.

LCMS Youth Gatherings have taken place every three years since 1980.

Amy Gray is media and publications project coordinator for LCMS Youth Ministry.

Posted Aug. 8, 2016

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4 Responses to Photo essay: A Powerful Presence

  1. Dick Koehneke August 8, 2016 at 3:40 pm #

    I was a hotel life leader at the Youth Gathering in New Orleans in 1992. As we were leaving at the end of the Gathering, the hotel manager at our hotel said, “Usually when groups leave New Orleans we’re glad to see them go, but your group has changed this city for the better.” Sounds like it’s the same story 24 years later. Praise God, and high compliments to our young people and everyone involved with the Gathering.

  2. Jeanette Meggers August 9, 2016 at 5:37 am #

    I love this…God’s people, loved by Him and showing their love to others. In Christ alone through His mercy and grace!

  3. J. Schudde Mt. Vernon, Wa August 20, 2016 at 3:29 pm #

    I love it when people are sad to see us go instead of the other way around. We can be proud of these Christian youth. . . changed ONLY by the Love of Jesus in their life. What a blessing they can be. . .

  4. arynne pitman November 1, 2016 at 12:50 pm #

    hi my name is arynne pitman i attended the 2016 lcms youth gathering i learned what it was like to have an identity in Christ alone this was truly a life changing experience thank you to all the people who made this trip possible fore me

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