Today was our final day at the ELCA Youth Gathering in Detroit. We had breakfast and then checked out of our hotel before we headed to the Ford Field for our closing worship. And we FINALLY got the chance to sit on the floor for a mass gathering!
During worship we sat with our friends from Luther Memorial Church (which is in Lincoln Square in Chicago). We participated in a powerful worship service led by an amazing gospel choir and the presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton. The theme for today was Rise Up to Bring Hope. Ending the service with communion with 30,000 teenagers from all across the world and from many different backgrounds and walks of life who are inspired to rise up to proclaim good news to the world definitely brings me hope!
After the service, we got to try Detroit’s famous Coney dog at Coney Island…
And we cooled down with a little gelado.
Then we headed back to the hotel and took a nap before we got on our Amtrak train. The trip home was much more quiet than the trip to Detroit on Tuesday!
The ECT youth had an incredible time in Detroit this week! They were pleasantly surprised to find out that Detroit was not the city they had heard about in the news and had expected it to be. Rather, they had encountered God there and found the city to be full of wonderful people, so many great things to do and see, and so much hope.
This week, the Heitz-Squad had the opportunity to get out of the city and neighborhoods they are familiar with and experience a new city, new culture, and new food. They met new friends from around the country and (some even across the world) and saw old ones from the synod. They developed very close relationships with one another, worshiped in new meaningful ways, and learned about systemic injustice that is still oppressing so many people around our country and across the world. They went out of their way to care for one another, they had deep and thoughtful conversations about important issues of injustice, they rose up together to lead hundreds of their peers in proclaiming Jesus’ good news, and they talked about how they wanted to continue rising up to proclaim justice when they return to Chicago.
On our Proclaim Story Day yesterday, we were asked to think about and write down the people who have helped us encounter God. I very honestly wrote down each of these youth. They are such a blessing to me, to one another, to our congregations and neighborhoods, and to the world!
Here is a reflection by Val from Ebenezer Lutheran Church:
My experience in Detroit was very unique and interesting. Seeing about 35,000 Lutherans together made this trip unforgettable. I have never been to Detroit before, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect while we were driving there. Another thing that was unforgettable was some of the neighborhoods. Abandoned houses, abandoned buildings, and abandoned lots. It was very interesting learning the history as to why these areas and buildings were the way they were. I didn’t see what I thought I would see: the “bad” side of Detroit. I saw the new, hopeful and good side of Detroit. I hope and plan to visit again sometime.
Here is an update from Ngbarazere from Unity Lutheran Church:
This trip gave me a synopsis of the providence radiating everywhere. I realized that ignorance to your surroundings contribute to power imbalances which ultimately leads to poverty, violence; sin. But even within the chaotic catastrophes, I realized that God helps motivate and guide those who recognizes unfortunate events only as obstacles to overcome. Detroit resonates a virtue of hope. It reeks of the smell of vitality, and contagiously affects all in it’s perimeter. If I’m ever searching for a deep sense of hope, I will flip through the recollection of memories experienced in Detroit.
Here is an update from John from Immanuel Lutheran Church:
Detroit: it was one of the best weeks in my life. I met loads of people and heard and saw some of the most inspiring things in my life. The speeches brought people to tears and the music brought people to their feet. Hearing the stories of the speakers and the people we were helping out encouraged me to want to help out loads more in Chicago when I get home. Also, just being able to have fun with my friends and play around in the COBO center was great. It was all an amazing experience, and I could not imagine being the same person in the future without this event being in my life. I can’t wait for Houston in 2018!
And here is a reflection from Maku from Unity Lutheran Church:
Detroit was an amazing experience and I can proudly say it was one of the most amazing experiences in my young life. We got to meet cool people, eat great food, see new sites, and meet in mass gatherings on the nightly basis. And I believe Detroit has given our group and the whole ELCA a deep bond with one another. I believe people were motivated to do God’s work as well back in their hometown. And most importantly, we’ve learned that in order to exceed in God’s work, we have to bear burdens, build bridges, break chains, and bring hope. The ELCA has been amazing and without it I think I would be a completely empty person without the feeling of God’s love.