Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Time Flew By

We stayed very busy in New Orleans. So busy, we hardly had time to keep you up to date. You can look forward to future posts by our team with reflections on the rest of our time in NOLA. Stay tuned!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Seattle storms have nothing on NOLA.

Hi Y'all! (oops the southerners are rubbing off on me...)

We've been so busy having fun that we had no time to blog about yesterday! Actually, it was because we got back to the hotels around 11:30, soaking wet...

So yesterday morning a few of us got up early and tried to go find a grocery store to get snacks and breakfast foods...with a little bit of difficulty. It worked out in the end and we had a speedy breakfast in the hotel room before heading off to the convention center for a small(er) worship service to start our Peacemaking day. We were then released to the huge area full of booths and activities. Girls were having their hair cut to donate to Locks of Love, kids were donating blood, there was an art walk with different projects to make, tons of charity organizations educating us about their causes, and opportunities to learn how we can make a difference (while having lots of fun!)

After wrapping up a game of mini-golf (all in the convention center!) we headed to a nearby restaurant in the pouring rain to fill our tummies with everything from alligator po-boys to chicken gumbo. Our group then split, some returning to the excitement of the convention center and others taking some downtime in the hotel.

We went to the SuperDome for the whole Gathering....gathering...we heard some more amazing bands, and listened to some very moving speakers. Shane Clairborne stood out especially to us (look him up!) After the SuperDome stuff, we headed to iHop for a late dinner. Because they were so packed, it took a long time to get our food, which was totally fine by us. We made tons of friends with other youth that were eating, and enjoyed watching Paul take 10 half-and-half shots (pictures on facebook.)

We headed back to the hotel in pouring rain, and fell asleep by 1, which didn't give us enough sleep time for our 6am wakeup this morning...

we woke up so early this morning because it was our practice Justice day. It began with some music and discussion about what justice is, and how we can make it happen. The service projects that the Gathering did ranged from building houses to sorting books to going to cooking school. Lucky us, we went to the New Orleans Cooking School (not actually an institute) and learned all about the history of New Orleans from an amazing chef while she cooked jambalaya, bread pudding, pralines, and corn & crab bisque (we all got copies of the recipes....yum.) Then we got to dine on the amazing food. We had to grasp the concept that this WAS a service project, even though we felt like we were being served. As Laurel put it, if we don't understand a culture, how can we help them?

After an important debrief about hunger in society and brainstorming ideas of what we can do in our home congregations to bring justice, we headed to the Jackson Square int he French Quarter to admire the Saint Louis Cathedral and do a little shopping. However, this didn't last long because it was truly pouring...the roads were beginning to flood. We waded through shin-deep water in the sidewalks back to our hotel. Rain was coming down at a rate of 3 inches an hour, and a flash flood warning was in effect. We (along with many other groups) ordered pizza delivered to our hotel for our dinner.

We feared that the SuperDome gathering would be cancelled tonight, but praise Lord, they were able to drain the streets. Which was amazing for us, because tonight's large Gathering was personally my favorite. There's nothing like hearing 30,00 other Lutherans softly sing Jesus Loves You to the simple melody of a saxophone, or the rousing song of Hallelujah. We heard from more inspiring speakers, on bullying and making a difference and the strength of God in us. We are the hope for this world, and we can make a difference if we reach out and love like Jesus.

Now we're back in our hotels, winding down for the night. The rain has ceased (for now) and we're all looking forward to a good night's sleep in preparation for tomorrow, practicing discipleship. Thank you for all your prayers and notes, we have thoroughly enjoyed them.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Lutherans and Lightning

 It started off as a normal, hot day in New Orleans. We staggered out of bed and met in 1309 to receive our backpacks that held maps and mini-bibles. Later, this blue drawstring pack became one of the easiest ways to identify other Gateherers. Setting off with no food in our stomachs, we went to go to Cafe Du Monde.With a seemingly endless line, we went to a restaurant across the street. Now fueled and ready, we set off to go on the Katrina Tour, which features the recovery and damage that the hurricane left which would have been forgotten by this point. (The tour guide thanked "all of us ladies for coming", and we tried not to laugh too hard at Paul and Jared.)

After this, we returned to the hotel, got ready, and merged with the swarming body of teenage Lutherans. The superdome was quite impressive and they thanked us all for coming. One speaker in particular stood out to us all. A woman who you would question if she appeared in the church... and she was a pastor! Nadia Bolz-Weber. She had a rough past, but she had moved beyond it. Just how she said what she said, it connected. It is no stretch for me to say that we loved her.

Sometime during our service, a storm had moved over the dome. It prevented us from leaving for a full 30-45 minutes. Thunder was heard. After much waiting and bored stares around, we finally got the good-to-go. The storm had passed, but that didn't mean we didn't catch part of it. As thirty thousand kids marched their way back to their hotels, warm rain dumped over us, and lighting caught the sky. A few of us have said that if not for our things that we wanted to keep dry, we would have been proudly marching about without a care in the world.

Dried off, we met for the "final fifteen" which ended up being around and hour. But such is life.

So much happened today, that my mind pauses to wonder what to think of first. It felt so lively and powerful to be in the city with so many other people. (The entire population of the city went up 7% due to all of the Gatherers.) The food is quite good, but we are finding it hard to get enough to not be starving across the day.

But so far, the thing I can think most about, is the Lutherans and lightning.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Day One

After a long day of traveling we have finally arrived in New Orleans. We have all had dinner, met to talk about what to expect from the trip, and have begun preparing ourselves for sleep. A sense of excitement permeates off of all of us as we grow closer and closer to the beginning of our first activities. The day started early for us at Sea-Tac airport, with everyone arriving by around 6:20 AM (No one was late and had to sing and dance). We got a little backed up moving through security and getting our bags checked out but no serious delays slowed us down. We flew out of Seattle at 8:20, and arrived in Houston at 12:50 local time. We then ate some lunch and moved to get on the plane to New Orleans. As one can expect, Lutherans packed up the entire plane and we all had a great time mingling with one another down to the city. Unlike our arrival in Toronto last year, everything ran extremely smoothly once we got out of the plane from the point that we left the plane to when we grabbed our luggage, and entered the cars that took us to the hotel. After getting situated in our rooms, we ate some dinner, and sampled some of the unique cuisine of this part of the country. People tried out grits, shrimp wraps, and other exciting dishes. Later, we met in Emily and Joanne's room to talk a little about some of the expectations we needed to follow on the trip. Don't worry the expectations involved simple stuff like not going outside in a crime ridden neighborhood, not doing drugs, etc. We also got advised to write down some of the ethical questions and thoughts we come up with in the coming days so we can make the most of our experience and truly wrestle with the question of where we fit in in God's world. Hopefully, some of these questions will make it on here so that anyone at home following this can think about the same things that we are.

Monday, July 2, 2012

2 Weeks to go!

We are 2 weeks away from the 2012 ELCA Youth Gathering in NOLA. We have been working hard to prepare our hearts and minds for the journey ahead. Our family and friends at home can keep up with all our exciting experiences by following our blog. We will post an entry each night with a reflection on the day.