Wayne Zion enjoys ELCA 2018 Youth Gathering

On July 27, 10 members of Wayne Zion Lutheran Church attended the ELCA 2018 Youth Gathering in Houston, Texas. The gathering is held every three years, each in a different location around the United States. Pictured from left are Dustin Starn, Jasper Nietert, Levi Temple, Maddie Stadmueller, Kaitlin Guyer, and Ally Bartachek. (Photos submitted)

During one of the five days, the group helped clear up Buffalo Bayou State Park. The park was flooded during Hurricane Harvey in 2017. The group helped cut down trees, vines, and excess vegetation so the park could flourish again. Pictured are Kaitlin Guyer (left) and Shannon Guyer.

Jasper Nietert (left) and Pastor Wade Reddy enjoy a treat while on their trip. The gathering was five days long and was held in the NRG Stadium in Houston.
Hannah Gray
Express Intern

     On June 27, 10 members of Wayne Zion Lutheran Church landed in Houston, Texas, for the triennial ELCA 2018 Youth Gathering. The gathering was hosted in the NRG Stadium, which consisted of over 30,000 youth and adults.

     Those who attended the Youth Gathering included: Pastor Wade Reddy, Kaitlin and Shannon Guyer, Jasper Nietert, Levi Temple, Maddie Stadtmueller, Dustin Starn, Ally Bartachek, Holly Knouse, and Brooke Holub.                                                         

     The trip was five days long, each one packed with activities and learning events for the youth. Every night in the NRG Stadium, the youth and adults would meet for worship, led by three youth emcees, as well as guest speakers and musical entertainment.

     The guest speakers talked about personal battles they’ve faced such as drug addiction, depression, bullying, immigration, and how their faith has helped them recover. Some of the musical guests included Ryan Brown, Rachel Kurtz, Tenth Avenue North, and AGAPE.

     One of the days was set aside for a recovery project, where the youth helped restore some of the damage done by Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Members of the Wayne Zion Church worked at Buffalo Bayou, one of Houston’s most popular parks, which was completely underwater when Hurricane Harvey came through.

     The group worked at the 150-acre state park, cutting down dead trees and vines to clear walking and biking paths. They also removed overgrown vegetation to help the park flourish again. Other service projects included were painting fences, helping at women’s shelters, and volunteering at Houston’s Food Bank, the largest food bank in the world.

     Kaitlin Guyer and her mother, Shannon, are two members of Wayne Zion who decided to go on the trip. This was the first time they had gone to a youth gathering and they agreed the experience was both positive and eye opening.

     “There were big messages about how it doesn’t matter if you’re an immigrant, a refugee, part of the LBTQ community, if you have disabilities, if you are quirky, you are all welcome,” Shannon said.

     Katlin said her favorite day had been the interactive day, where everyone could visit over 100 different booths and learn about different problems happening around the world and how to help. There were also games and activities to enjoy like bouncy houses, rock climbing, ziplining, and mechanical bull riding. Kaitlin enjoyed learning about current issues around the world as well as meeting new people.

     “Even if you aren’t friends or don’t look the same or you’re not the same as someone else, it doesn’t mean you can’t learn from them. People are different and you need to expect that from everyone,” Kaitlin said.

     Pastor Reddy of Wayne Zion recalled using virtual reality headgear at one of the booths to visit an African Village. This specific booth was to spread awareness about farming, hunger, and survival in other areas, especially Africa.

     “I thought ‘whoa’ and here’s the church helping. Here we send farmers over to Zimbabwe to teach people how to cultivate the land and teach them to feed themselves, to be self-sufficient. We help women in third world countries to learn an occupation or a service so they can get out of poverty,” Pastor Reddy commented. “As a youth, if helping is something they want to do, then these are ways they can go about doing that.”

     The group raised money ahead of time by selling pizzas during the Super Bowl, serving meals, holding an ice cream social, and many other fundraisers. Enough money had been raised to cover the entire cost of the trip, which was around $12,200.

     The overall theme for the 2018 ELCA Youth Gathering was “This Changes Everything.” Each day had a different focus based off that theme; God’s Love Changes Everything, God’s Grace Changes Everything, God’s Hope Changes Everything and Jesus Changes Everything.

     Of the 10 people who attended from Wayne Zion, two helped as volunteers for the ELCA Youth Gathering. Holub worked as a Volunteer Coordinater by leading various groups to their service projects. Knouse worked as a Gathering Volunteer Corps Captain. This is the first time she had volunteered for the gathering but the fifth time she has attended. She assured all the volunteers had everything they needed and that they were everywhere they needed to be at all times.                  

     “I think the purpose of this trip is to show kids what the church is doing, not only in Houston but globally,” Knouse shared. “I think kids come back with a different perspective.”

     The gathering was over on July 1 and the group headed for home the next day.

     One moment each member of Wayne Zion will remember was when they were just about to eat supper on their last night. They just got done saying a prayer when a homeless woman named Ellie came up to them with a crumpled-up dollar bill and asked for a slice of pizza. The group welcomed her in without taking the money and gave her pizza and prayed for her and her safety. When they were finished, Ellie prayed of thanksgiving and the group sent her with the left over pizza.

     “To me, that’s the purpose of this trip; to recognize God’s grace through our weakness and I think we all felt that we’ve been given this great privilege to go down to Houston, but when it comes down to it, those who are the least, the last, and the lost, they’re a gift and they’re just as precious and we need to be there and to allow God to use us to help,” said Pastor Reddy.



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