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Lutherans ‘Live Love(d)’ at San Antonio Youth Gathering PDF Print E-mail
Written by Darci Tomky   

Eight local high school kids joined 25,000 other students in San Antonio, Texas the first week in July for the 12th triennial National Youth Gathering with the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

These LITE youth group members from Holyoke’s Zion Lutheran Church were part of a sea of blue backpacks as they emersed themselves in the beautiful Texas city and a life-changing conference at the Alamodome.

Making the trip Friday, June 28-Friday, July 5 were Becca Weaver, Kody Timm, Dakota Gipson, Zach Roll, Trevor Dalton, Xander Nelson, Megan Vieselmeyer and Anastasia Conklin along with sponsors Laura Roll and Marcia Dalton.

They learned how to live loved and live love—a focus of the “Live Love(d)” theme based on 1 John 4:9, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.”

The event was “very uplifting,” buzzing with “lots of energy,” according to the local students, and it was certainly never hard to find a high five or hug waiting for them throughout the week.

Each evening, the youth, adult sponsors and volunteers from 49 U.S. states and 13 other countries gathered at a “Mass Event,” with speakers, dance groups, the Skit Guys, the Jesus Painter, BMX bike riders and more.

Holyoke LITE youth group members who attended the National Youth Gathering in San Antonio, Texas are pictured from left, Becca Weaver (in front), Kody Timm, Dakota Gipson, Zach Roll, Trevor Dalton, Xander Nelson, Megan Vieselmeyer and Anastasia Conklin.

Rev. Daniel Weber, associate pastor at King of Kings Lutheran Church in Omaha, Neb., led Bible study. Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, president of the LCMS, was the preacher for the Divine Service celebrated July 4. Special guest speakers included Rev. William Yonker, Mia Koehne and Jessica Stevens.

Participants said they were impacted by Stevens, who told her story of her fight against a rare disease. “Your identity does not lie in who you are but whose you are,” she said.

The kids liked how skits and other performances really helped to visually act out the message of that evening’s Mass Event. It was also memorable for them to take communion with over 25,000 other people during the Divine Service.

Workshops, or “Interest Centers,” on a variety of subjects that youth deal with on a daily basis were also available throughout the week, and when students weren’t involved with one of those, they could browse booths, games and service activities. Themed dances in the different hotels also kept kids busy at night.

Gathering participants really did “Live Love” in San Antonio that week by participating in more than 100 servant events throughout the city.

The Holyoke group spent a day working at the King of Kings Lutheran Church. They got their hands dirty tearing up grass for a butterfly garden. Sponsors were impressed and said the kids worked really, really hard and never complained about anything!

While out and about in the city, Gathering participants could easily be spotted by the blue backpacks they got at registration. Groups also came up with creative banners to help identify where their students needed to be, and with 25,000 students, it was always pretty crowded, especially on the elevators!

SeaWorld was the destination for a group event for the Rocky Mountain district. The Holyoke group also enjoyed Six Flags, the river walk, a river boat tour, the mall and the Tower of the Americas.

Since the conference was held over the Fourth of July, they got to see fireworks—both inside and outside—at the Alamodome, which was one of the best spots in the city.

Sponsors were impressed with how much fun the kids had with each other throughout the week, even if they don’t hang out or participate in the same activities at school. The Youth Gathering was a chance for them to connect with one another.

The Holyoke group also got to meet up with Wendy Hahn Burns, a former Holyoke resident who now lives in the San Antonio area. It was fun for them to hear her stories of when she went to the Youth Gathering as a student many years ago.

New Orleans, La., will be the destination for the next National Youth Gathering in 2016.

Holyoke Enterprise July 18, 2013