REFLECTIONS ON THE 2019 NATIONAL YOUTH GATHERING
When I boarded the Miller Transportation bus at 5:30 am to leave Our Shepherd a couple weeks ago, I had some idea what to expect. I had been to a National Youth Gathering before. I remembered the rough daily routine from New Orleans three years ago. All the same, when we arrived in Minneapolis that evening, the first mass event blew me away. We headed to U.S. Bank Stadium, the home of the Minnesota Vikings, to gather with over 20,000 Lutheran youth. My favorite part of the mass event Thursday night was the live painter. When he began painting, he divided the canvas into three sections dominated by words like “confused” and “rejected,” but over the course of the evening, he covered those words with the theme of the gathering: “Real. Present. God.” This painting fit one major emphasis of the mass events. Many mass event speakers discussed difficulties like the loss of loved ones, severe bullying, and school shootings: issues that matter to young people. When we encounter suffering, our first instinct is usually to ask “why,” but we learned that God is often more interested in answering “what.” God rarely reveals the exact reason for our struggles, but we know that they find their ultimate resolution in Christ alone.
Every morning, our youth group gathered in the hotel lobby and walked to the Minneapolis Convention Center for morning Bible study. These morning sessions centered on Psalm 46, the theme passage of the entire gathering. The Psalm describes natural disasters, political turmoil, and the entire world falling into disarray-scenes fit for an apocalypse movie. But the Bible study leaders encouraged us to trust God’s control over all the chaos that seems to rule in our lives and in the world around us; we were encouraged to, “be still and know that He is God.” (Psalm 46:10)
Throughout the day, our group split-up to attend various sessions, check-out booths and activities in the interactive center, and play games in the recreation area. I really enjoyed the sessions on contemporary worldviews and the intersection of science and faith. We live in an age where many spheres of life seem hostile to the truth claims of Christianity, especially in the academic realm. As a soon-to-be college freshman, it was encouraging to hear from college professors that I don’t have to be ashamed of my faith if I want to be an intellectual person. Christians can still engage the twenty-first century culture with dignity.
In the interactive center, our group visited booths of various organizations. Many of them offered service opportunities, like writing letters to soldiers deployed overseas and donating hair to Locks of Love. On Saturday morning, we completed a group service project with Feed My Starving Children, an organization that feeds hungry children all over the world. Over the course of the gathering, all the youth groups who worked with Feed My Starving Children packed over one million meals! This was a great way to unite the body of Christ to help those in need.
Before we left on Monday morning, all the gathering participants filled the stadium one more time for a worship service. I find it difficult to find the right words to describe just how awesome it felt to sing hymns, read the liturgy, and commune with thousands of people. The physical assembly of a group that large is simply a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But I was reminded that every Sunday, while physically scattered, each of us share a spiritual unity through Christ’s body and blood and a common confession of faith.
I want to thank you for your support of Our Shepherd youth ministry and the National Youth Gathering. Our trip would not have been possible without the support of our congregation and many generous donors.
Ben Dubke is a recent graduate of Covenant Christian High School in Indianapolis, and will attend Concordia University, Wisconsin this fall to study Secondary Education with an emphasis on mathematics and theology.