The 2019 National Youth Gathering has officially begun!
Hello to all of our many followers--we appreciate you joining us in the journey and we discover what amazing things God has planned for us and our youth this week! Seeing as our day began early with registration and ended with such an amazing (and amazingly large) Mass Event, I'd say God's already on the move. Can't wait to write about all the things to come!
As priorly mentioned, our day began with finally receiving our "easy passes" into the event: our purple backpacks! Onced armed with these, we felt official enough to venture throughout downtown Minneapolis via Light Rail (similar to a metro--I refer to them as "trolleys" but that might just be a strange San Diegan thing), heading towards Mall of America.
While at the (large, slightly overwhelming) mall, we hopped into line for the high ropes course. Good thing, too, because we ended up waiting in line for over an hour. However, general consensus from the youth: it was worth it. The course was complete with two giant slides and a zipline that flew over the top of the Mall of America--it was a blast to zip across the amusement park part of the mall and see all the purple NYG backpacks dotting the crowds.
After grabbing a quick lunch (we wanted to save our appetites for dinner), we split into groups to explore the mall. Highlights included an aquarium complete with aggressive stingrays, two competing Minnesota gift shops, an amazing cheese/Green Bay Packers store, rivaled by a Minnesota Vikings store (which I guess makes sense that it's located here), and a Legos store (which the Sievers and Ben thoroughly enjoyed).
We enjoyed a delicious dinner at FireLake Grillhouse, where we were slightly underdressed, but appreciated the nice atmosphere and quality food nonetheless. Returning to the Light Rail, many of us fell asleep on our way to the Mass Event after already a full day of events...but the high energy had not yet begun.
The Mass Event was at the US Bank (Vikings) Stadium, and for good reason. There are so many youth here--groups from Louisiana, Texas, Iowa, Michigan, Illinois, California, and Maryland, to name a few. Ben nicely highlighted key aspects of the event, which I will expound upon:
- The topic of the mass event was the Psalms. More specifically, many of the speakers focused on how we can turn to them in every situation and find comfort in them (God, versus the world) in our questioning. This led into very good conversation about tough questions that we all struggle through--which, I'll predict, will be a continuing theme throughout this week.
- Meanwhile, we are called to "live in hopeful and purposeful expectation" of God's fulfillment of His promises. God doesn't always give us the why, but he always gives us the what: which is fulfillment of His promises. We know that despite whatever struggles we may face and changing turmoils that may arise, God stays constant.
- A quote we all agree stood out significantly to us: "We don't need to fully understand God's plan in order to trust it completely." A good reminder that we are called to love the Lord with our mind and heart, which sometimes offers the more direct route to what God is calling us to do in our lives. As Lutherans, we like to accumulate as much head knowledge as we can--and this week especially the youth will learn that--but sometimes those difficult questions are answered by a God who first calls us to trust in His promises.
As we prepare for tomorrow, we continue to pray for God to be at work in all of us (youth and leaders). It's been a blessing already to be able to spend time with these youth and talk about so many different things. The scheduled sessions sound extremely interesting, and I'm sure our topic of conversations will be all over the place, but hopefully always land back on the fact that we are loved by the Real. Present. God.
Holy Cross youth group