Alright, so summer is almost over and I am not allowing myself to leave you guys hanging with everything else that happened in Houston.
I, sadly, didn’t get to donate my hair and I was very disappointed. Or see NASA, that was also disappointing. God’s creation goes further than the Earth, you know.
Getting there, we stayed in the Omni Hotel with the rest of the Western North Dakota synod. It was pretty nice, rooms there are 400 dollars and breakfast is 20.
Day 1 we had interactive learning day where we got to walk around this big building and visit booths from Christian colleges, scientists, bible camps, play games, zip line, learn about other religions, and a whole lot more. We also had a lot of Chick-fil-a, but we were all fine with it because the nearest one is 4 hours away.
After interactive learning we went to community life and that just had more games and karaoke battles (go Cheyan). They put wedding dance songs on like Cotton Eyed Joe, Wobble, and others and it was fun to dance with people from other states.
We went to both multiple days. I collected 13 bracelets from other churches and a few pins for my backpack too.
The next day we had synod day and represented with our purple shirts! They are comfy!
The Synod Day we had a worship with everyone from western North Dakota really early in the morning and learned about how God’s Grace changes everything.
God forgives us for everything we do, and expects us to forgive others for the things they do. We learned more at the mass gathering as well.
The primary scripture was Ephesians 2:8
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”
Each day had a different theme.
Day 1-God’s call Changes Everything
Day 2- God’s Love Changes Everything
Day 3-God’s Grace Changes Everything
Day 4- God’s Hope Changes Everything
Day 5- Jesus Changes Everything
The speakers talked about injustice and mentioned how we’re gonna have to say things when it would be easier to stay quiet. How we as Christians have to reach out to those struggling, those in jail, those homeless, abused, those who are afraid to speak up, afraid to take the call. There was even a former Hindu, now a Lutheran Pastor, who told her story and how she answered the call by just being curious.
The speakers this night had all gone through something. One of them was a Navy Chaplin, wrestling coach, and pastor all in one. He talked about how hard it is to do all the things he loves, but God gives him the strength to fulfill his gifts. He talked about how he struggled with his demons and how having people walking with him, helped him through. He said “the world needs to be courageous and walk alongside others in dark moments, but what they don’t need us to do is fix their problems and save their world. What they do need is love.”
God’s love isn’t earned, it’s welcomed, another speaker taught. He told us about the eight year struggle him and his wife had to conceive. He also told the story of Joe, who stole his phone in the convenience store, and then proceeded to try to give it as a gift in the parking lot. He was trying to give him a blessing that he already had, which is also true for God’s love.
Another speaker reflected on her battle with anorexia. And how while in the hospital being fed from a feeding tube, she began noticing God. He was there in her friends and family. It helped her see that he doesn’t give us hardships, he just promises to be there.
This was the most eye opening day for me because it’s what really helped me to forgive myself and let go.
The gathering speakers included a girl struggling with Mitochondria disease. She was angry at God, until she reached out online and found other kids her age with the same disease and made a support group. “No matter how many times you curse God, he loves you no matter what. God’s grace is not only about forgiveness but about the way you can become the person you are meant to become”
Next, was a Lutheran pastor who struggled with depression and cut from a young age and whose pastor told him he was “going to hell” after reaching out about it. My favorite words I took from his speech was “There’s Grace for That.” He inspired me by saying those four words. (They’re even in my instagram bio) “We’re all recovering from something, and there is grace for that” He reminded me that there is no such thing as “too broken’, those places are where God brings out beauty.”
This was our service day, we built a butterfly garden for a multi-cultural park down in Houston. They even fed us when they weren’t supposed to.
The mass gathering had an 11 year old transgender girl named Rebekah who spoke. She reminded me that God does not make mistakes and that she was created in the image of God to be her. She called everyone of us 32,000 people there to make a difference in our communities and spread and show others hope.
Joe Davis told us that we were there for a purpose and reason. “You may have been told to shut up and sit down, but I wanna tell you to stand up and speak out.” He told us to have more reasons to hope than be sad, and to practice hope like discipline in our communities.
Tenth Avenue North ended the gathering that night with a live concert.
This was the day we got to have communion with 32,000 people. We were so far up that I couldn’t hear a lot of it, but it was a traditional church service. The sermon was about how Jesus Changes Everything. *
I took a lot of the mass gathering information from the ELCA Gathering Blog. Just citing my sources.
On the way back we stopped in Sioux Falls and had a night worship in front of them.
We made it back faster than we made it there. The next morning we took a picture of all 4 bus fulls of us and headed home.
We actually stopped for food at the mall in Fargo, North Dakota and I bought myself some Chacos because I was so disappointed in not having spent any money the whole trip since I saved and wasn’t allowed to wear sandals. I was so happy to be home. ( I was even the most awake during the bus ride)
That’s all for the trip, my friends. This is a longer read, but it’s because I have a lot to say! God bless!