Today was a full day at the ELCA Youth Gathering!We started the morning by taking the train to the NRG Center.Once we arrived, we grabbed some food and hung out in the Interactive Center.And guess who I got to chat with for a while: Kalleb Miller (former E.C.T. Youth who is at the ELCA Youth Gathering as a representative for his college Valparaiso). It’s such a gift to be able to see youth grow into the people they are as young adults!Several of our youth took this time to prepare for the rally and march they would lead later that day in response to the family separations and family detentions.Since today was Synod Day, we gathered with the ELCA Metro-Chicago Synod for worship, fun bonding activities, and small group discussions.There, the ELCA Metro-Chicago Synod Bishop Wayne Miller preached about the woman at the well, who was isolated and shunned and yet Jesus appeared to her and showed up for her. This woman was a witness to his radical love.But this woman was not the kind of witness who just sees something take place but doesn’t do anything in response. Bishop Miller explained that being the kind of witnesses of Christ’s love that we are called to is not that easy.
He said: “We don’t remember the woman because of what she saw or heard. We remember her because of what she did.”Bishop Miller explained that the kind of witnesses we are called to be are those who don’t just see and hear things. Rather, we are called to be witnesses who respond to the injustices we see in the world and who speak out and take a stand.When we take the risks of being witnesses working for justice for all people, change can happen.The theme for Synod Day is “We Belong Together,” which seems like no coincidence, given that the National Families Belong Together day of action is June 30. So immediately after the synod day worship, our E.C.T. Youth and a few other youth invited the synod to be witnesses of God’s radical love and justice by speaking out and taking a stand against the separation of families and detainment of families at the border. We belong together! Families Belong together and in community (not in detention centers!)First, Ngbarazere and a youth from another church asked the synod to call their legislators and then to participate in a few action stations (put on a yellow Families Belong Together wristband and share one with someone they meet that day, decorate cards for children in detention centers, sign letters to legislators, and participate in a social media campaign.)Following the action stations, the group gathered together for a picture with Bishop Miller…And then we prayed with our feet by going on a short march, which was led by the processional cross.We ended in front of a statue of a family being reunited.Several of our E.C.T. youth spoke and/or led chants and songs during the rally, including Melanie, Xanath, Jenny, Maku, Johnny, and Ngbarazere.And Melanie and Xanath were interviewed by Telemundo and Houston Chronicle.
Houston Press also picked up the story and published:
1. Slideshow with 40 pictures featuring ECT and other Chicago area Youth found here.
2. This article quoting two ECT youth (who were key leaders/speakers/chanters/singers in the rally and march) found here.
These youth did an incredible job and truly were bold witnesses proclaiming the good news of God’s love for ALL people! This is what it means to be the Church: the body of Christ.
I am sooo incredibly proud of all our youth for showing up and bearing witness, leading us in what Jesus said is the greatest commandment- loving God and loving our neighbor – and showing us what it means to live out our call to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God! In times such as these, it is these youth who inspire me, teach me, and give me hope that we will indeed have a better world!God’s Love Changes Everything! This Changes Everything!
After the rally, we ate, chilled a bit in the interactive center, and then headed to our mass gathering with 30,000 ELCA youth and leaders in the NRG Stadium.The theme for the night was God’s Love Changes Everything. We heard from Rev. Aaron Fuller, ELCA pastor and command chaplain, who said:”Life is hard, but we shouldn’t have to do it alone. It is because of the people who have shown me love, that I experience God’s love…
We all know that people in our world need us to walk alongside them. They don’t need us to try to fix their problems. They just need us to love them.We love people so they will know their lives are a gift, so they know that their lives matter, and so they know that they are not alone.God’s love moves us past our fears and prejudices.”We were reminded by Deacon Erin Power that in times like these, people (including us) need to hear over and over and over again: “you belong here.”
And we heard from Marlon Hall that:
“You were born to make an indelible mark on the world that no one else can make. You do this by the love of God.God’s loves can grow up from the ashes of our burnt expectations.”We were also led in some incredible worship.placeholder://After our mass gathering, we took the train home and ended our night checking in with each other about our day.And of course there was some fun during free time at the hotel:We are looking to forward to what tomorrow brings us!
Today was our last day at the Multicultural Youth Leadership Event.
After breakfast, we packed our bags and headed to our closing worship.
There, Pastor Yehiel Curry from Shekinah Chapel in Chicago led us in a Libation Ceremony.
The theme for MYLE today was “ONE in Christ,” based on:
“For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. 15 He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, 16 and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it] 17 So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18 for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God.” – Ephesians 12:14-19
So Pastor Curry PREACHED about our oneness in Christ and reminded us that Christ brings down the walls of hostility that divide us.
“It is not black families alone affected by mass incarceration; we are affected by mass incarceration. Why? Because we are one in Christ.
The Virgin Islands, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Houston: ‘they’ didn’t have a hurricane; we had a hurricane. Why? Because we are one in Christ.
It is not just immigrant families being separated; we are being separated. Why?
Because we are one in Christ.”
He explained that if we want to create change, we need to start within us.
“When you change your heart, you can change your mind. When you change your mind, you can change your community. When you change your community, you can change your city. When you change your city, you can change your state. When you can change your state, you can change your nation. When you can change your nation, you can change your world.
When you can say this is my brother, this is my sister, this is my family: THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING! We are ONE in Christ.”
Pastor Curry explained that it is when we immerse ourselves with others who may look, speak, talk, and act differently than we do and get to know them, that we will begin to realize that we are more alike than we are different.
He saw this taking place at the Multicultural Youth Leadership Event this week.
Pastor Curry said last night he saw black, white, Latinx, and Asian youth dancing together. And when we can dance together, share music and fellowship and call each other a siblings, THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING!
We ended MYLE with a blessing to go out into the world and proclaim Jesus’ peace and justice for ALL people.
The rest of the afternoon was spent getting ready to head to the ELCA Youth Gathering main event.
At 2:00pm, we finally arrived at our hotel. And as we waited for our rooms, some of us swam and others watched some World Cup games.
We grabbed dinner nearby.
And then, since our hotel is in the Medical Center, we hopped on the metro rail as headed to the NRG Stadium for our first mass gathering.
With 30,000 youth and pastors/adult leaders gathering in one place, we had to do a lot of waiting… but we found lots of ways to bond while doing so!
Our first mass gathering was excellent!
We began with some fun music:
We were greeted by ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton:
And throughout the night, we heard the ELCA Youth Gathering theme: “This Changes Everything.” We also heard this evening’s sub-theme: “God’s Call Changes Everything” through multiple call stories.
We worshipped together:
And then we heard a powerful message from Bryan Stevenson, founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama. (He is a widely acclaimed public interest lawyer who has dedicated his career to helping the poor, the incarcerated and the condemned. Under his leadership, EJI has won major legal challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent death row prisoners, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill and aiding children prosecuted as adults.)
Bryan explained that our call is to change the world.
He explained that there are four things we need to do to change the world:
1. God calls us to get closer to the margins. There is power in proximity. We need to get close to those who are being excluded and suffering. This is how we can change the world.
2. When we see injustice we need to speak out and talk about/address our history of racial injustice.
3. We need to stay hopeful. This can be difficult because hope requires us to believe things we cannot see. Hopelessness is the enemy of justice. It holds us back from doing what we can to make change.
4. We have to be willing to do things that are uncomfortable and difficult in order to pursue justice.
He concluded: “I believe with this room full of 1000s of young people who are willing to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God, we WILL change the world.”
We concluded the gathering with more worship.
There is something s powerful about singing “This Little Light of Mine, I’m gonna Let it Shine” with 30,000 young people.)
We ended the evening with a lot of walking and waiting. But we found ways to make it fun!
We look forward to our first full day at the ELCA Youth Gathering tomorrow!
MYLE’s sub-theme for today is: One household, many rooms (John 14:2).
Again we started the day with “Jumpstart” and were led in powerful worship that celebrates the diversity of the Kingdom of God.
While each of us is different and has our own uniqueness to bring to the table, as one household, this is the sound of one voice, one people, one voice. A song for every one of us. This is the sound of one voice:
After worship, youth participated in affinity groups based on their racial identity. There, they heard stories and shared with one another about the shared joys and struggles they experience.
After affinity groups, we had some fun bonding over our lunch.
The rest of the afternoon included participating in Discovery Worship (a contemplative worship experience that included prayer and reflection stations), workshops, and small groups.
Following dinner, we headed back to our evening worship, which included global music, spoken word, and a beautiful reminder story given by Mary Huntington and a reminder to fill our full authentic selves.
You can view the full worship service here.
After worship, we bonded at community life activities:
You can hear more about our day from Jenny:
Our second day of the Multicultural Youth Leadership was packed with fun, worship, service, and learning.
After breakfast, we started out with “Jumpstart,” where the worship group “Ase” from Shekinah Chapel – an ELCA church in Chicago – led us in some incredible music to get us ready for our service learning project. (They rocked the house!)
And our very own Hope and Ngbarazere, helped lead us in dance!
Oh, and so did Jordan!
After Jumpstart, we hopped on a bus with a few other church groups to head to our service learning site.
Our group was assigned to work with the Prestige Learning Institute, which offers ESL classes and other skills classes to new immigrants and refugees in the immediate community. We ended up weeding and planting a community vegetable garden in the backyard of the home of one of the teachers at the institute. Refugee families from the institute will be able to work in the garden once a week and have free and fresh vegetables. Additionally, this garden will serve as a wonderful space for community building.
When we arrived, we were overwhelmed at how much weeding and work was to be done.
However, we got to work!
And made some new friends while doing so.
And despite the heat and the rain, we worked together and created a beautiful community vegetable garden! Shannon and her husband were so grateful for how much all of our hands could get done in one afternoon!
God’s work, Our hands!
After our work project and a little down time, we heard a really important story from Nomar, one of the MYLE volunteers who helped us with our service learning project today. Nomar is a college student in Puerto Rico, and he told us a little about what it’s been like as a Puerto Rican after the devastating Hurricane Maria.
Very little attention and media coverage has been paid to the stories of Puerto Ricans. So please listen to his story here:
After talking with Nomar, we did a little youth group bonding over dinner in the University of Houston dining hall.
Then we headed to the U of Houston’s Cullen Performance Hall for another night of amazing worship.
Today’s sub-theme at the Multicultural Youth Leadership Event was: One mission, many gifts (1Corinthians 12:4-11).
Rev. Patrick Gahagan reminded us:
“YOU are a gift because of who you are, not because of what you do. YOU are a gift, not because of what you do, but because you ARE.”
At the end of worship, we heard from the pastors and leaders of the Latin American and Caribbean congregations that are attending MYLE. They presented a beautiful dance:
After worship, youth met with their small groups and then we gathered together to celebrate Graciela’s birthday!
Then we headed back to the Cullen Performance Center for an awesome talent show. Although there wasn’t enough time for them to perform in front of the entire group, Steve and Ngbarazere did a private performance for our youth group:
Go Darth Vader! (Steve wrote this song on his own! We are so proud of you!)
Finally, we ended the night checking in with each other about our day. We were so grateful to have Kalleb (college student, MYLE volunteer, and former E.C.T. Youth Group member) join us!
What a wonderful and blessed day!
Listen to some of the day’s highlights from Maku and Xanath:
Meet the 13 Edgewater Congregations Together youth, 2 young adult leaders, and pastor who are going to the Multicultural Youth Leadership Event (MYLE).
MYLE is a pre-event to the triennial ELCA Youth Gathering, which “empowers multicultural youth groups, youth of color, and youth whose primary language is other than English to claim their story as God’s story” and to grow as leaders who serve and work for justice when they return to their home communities.
As described on the Youth Gathering website, at MYLE:
– Culture is explored. Participants will experience an inclusive community that seeks to build understanding and appreciation of the various cultures and ethnicities that are a part of this church.
– Leaders are formed. Youth and adults will learn about the issues in their communities and how to effect change.
– Identity is claimed. Participants will be encouraged to uncover their story and live out their God-given calling in the world.
– Faith is deepened. Youth and adults will explore the intersection of faith and life and how our faith calls us to act justly in the world.
– Friends are made. Participants will connect with peers who are looking to build relationships and have a good time.
This year, the ELCA Youth Gathering and MYLE are taking place in Houston. So today our group started the day at 3:00am in order to catch our 6:10am flight.
Despite how sleepy we were, we still had a lot of fun bonding over new experiences (no matter how scary some of them were.)
Here, John and Maku talk about their first time flying (or first time flying since they can remember.)
And here’s the infamous first response video to the flight taking off…
We definitely had some fun times on our flights to Dallas and to Houston!
And then it became official! We finally arrived!
Once we landed, we took a shuttle to the University of Houston, which will be where we spend our time for the duration of MYLE.
And guess who greeted us and showed us around when we did:
(Kalleb, right, one of E.C.T.’s original youth group members and now incoming junior at Valparaiso University! He is serving as a volunteer for MYLE and the Youth Gathering.)
The theme for MYLE this year is “ONE,” based on Ephesians 2:14-19, which ends by staying: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God.”
Each day has a sub-theme, and today’s sub-theme is: “One body, many parts” based on 1 Corinthians 12:14-26. Each one of us matters, is important, has so much to offer the world, and is needed by God JUST THE WAY WE ARE!
Here, young adult leader (and former E.C.T. youth) Ngbarazere and youth Lillian and Hope explain some of the highlights of the day:
There were so many powerful moments during worship:
Following worship, youth broke out into small groups (which consists of youth from many different churches and locations.) They will meet with these small groups throughout the rest of our time at MYLE.
And of course, we had to end the evening with a little fun!
We can’t wait to see what tomorrow has in store for us!
“So let’s talk about that Bible verse that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions quoted to justify the separation of families at the border…
Many Christians throughout history and across the world actually uphold the theological belief that Jesus is Lord. In Ancient Palestine, this notion of Christ’s Lordship was a radical and political statement. To claim Jesus’ Lordship was to challenge the Roman Empire (and the oppressive “laws of the government”). To profess that Jesus is Lord was to state that Caesar was NOT Lord. In other words, Jesus is Lord over all human authority figures and governmental systems. To claim that Jesus is Lord was basically saying: “I will submit to Jesus and not to any human authority or governmental system that does not uphold Jesus’ law.”
And as Paul urged his readers in Romans 13 (just a few verses after the ones Sessions quoted): “Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet’; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.”
… Separating children from their families is NOT “very biblical.” (Actually, it’s not biblical at all). Rather, it is downright cruel and pure evil!
… Jesus must be weeping as he watches our national leaders and other Christians continue to use the Bible to justify such cruelty and hate!”
You can read the rest here.
Separating children from their families is NOT “very biblical.” (Actually, it’s not biblical at all). Rather, it is downright cruel and pure evil!
What IS very biblical:
“Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.” – Mark 9:37
“When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” – Leviticus 19:33-34
“‘Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan, and the widow of justice.’ All the people shall say, ‘Amen!’” – Deuteronomy 27:19
“Thus says the Lord of hosts: Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another; do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.” – Zechariah 7:9-10
“Thus says the Lord: Act with justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor anyone who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the alien, the orphan, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.” – Jeremiah 22:3
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me… Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” – Matthew 25:35,40
Also… Jesus’ parents – Mary and Joseph – were immigrants seeking refuge in a foreign land in order to protect their child (the baby Jesus) and their family… To take children at our border away from their parents as they seek refuge for the safety of their families is to take the baby Jesus away from his parents as they sought refuge for the safety of their family. “Just as you did it to the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”