by Vicki Biggs
Over the course of the five-day event, NYG participants followed each of three program paths, tagged ‘Look,’ ‘Listen,’ and ‘Live.’
Some 24,000 young people, adult leaders, staff, and volunteers converged in New Orleans July 17–21 for “We Believe,” the 11th triennial National LCMS Youth Gathering (NYG). The NYG, which is the Synod’s single largest event, brings together young people between the ages of 14 and 20 for worship, learning, and service opportunities.
Photos courtesy LCMS District and Congregational Services—Youth Ministry
Not only does the event contribute to the host city’s coffers, but the hundreds of servant events performed in and around New Orleans and thousands of donated items brought to the city by NYG participants for area nonprofits and individuals will leave a lasting impression.
“Of course there are the economic benefits such a large group brings to the city with thousands of hotel rooms booked, countless meals consumed, and souvenirs purchased. But our relationship with [the] LCMS runs much deeper with attendees rolling up their sleeves to participate in over 100 service projects,” said Jennifer Day, director of communications and public relations, New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau.
About half of the NYG participants volunteered at the servant events, which benefited local churches, schools, parks, cemeteries, summer-camp programs and other service organizations, and individual homeowners. The servant events included cleaning, grounds maintenance, home repairs, painting, and assisting at day camps and with neighborhood outreach programs.
Also, in addition to nearly $140,000 collected for the special gathering offering, NYG participants amassed thousands of items that will be donated to New Orleans-area residents and organizations. This includes:
- 3,000 personal-care kits for area shelters and community organizations
- 2,000 placemats for local nursing homes
- 1,000 units of blood for southeast Louisiana hospitals
- 400 fleece blankets
- 50 haircuts for Locks of Love
- 125 baptismal banners forlocal churches
- 3,000 pounds of non-perishable food items for Second Harvest Food Bank
- 200 batches of playdough for local preschools and Boys & Girls Clubs
- 2,000 thank-you notes for local oil spill recovery workers
In addition, the LCMS Youth Ministry office sponsored an “Art4Haiti” project. NYG participants spent the first two days of the gathering decorating wooden tiles to be affixed to handcrafted crosses that then were sold during the remainder of the event. All told, 144 crosses were assembled, raising nearly $5,000. The funds will be donated to LCMS World Relief and Human Care to be used for Haitian relief work.
Servant events are just one of the components of the gathering. Over the course of the five-day event, NYG participants followed each of three program paths, tagged “Look,” “Listen,” and “Live.” Within these tracks, participants experienced hands-on activities, high-impact speakers and performers, and meaningful learning opportunities, including 18 Bible-study options. By the end of the event, all participants had the opportunity to experience each of the tracks. Daytime activities were held at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
Evening mass events, held at the Louisiana Superdome, included Divine Service on Tuesday night. Word, witness, and celebration were key elements of each of the mass events.
“The National LCMS Youth Gathering is an amazing event. When you’re in the middle of it, I am always simply amazed at how God has blessed those thousands of people. It is so encouraging for the youth, and you hear it in the comments over and over, ‘I didn’t know there were so many kids who believe like I do.’ Five days in July were a tremendous confession of faith that ‘WE BELIEVE!’ is a reality expressed in so many wonderful ways,” said Dr. Terry K. Dittmer, director for LCMS District and Congregational Services—Youth Ministry, the office that oversees the National LCMS Youth Gathering. “We look forward to continuing the tradition when we travel to San Antonio in 2013 for the next National LCMS Youth Gathering.”
About the Author: Vicki Biggs is the LCMS director of public affairs and media relations.