Saturday, July 28, 2012

Sunday School Rally Day, August 19, 2012

AUGUST 19, 2012

Jesus Blesses Little Children
13  Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But Jesus said, “[i] Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 15 After laying His hands on them, He departed from there.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Practice Discipleship

Saturday started with bright eyes as the activity was only two blocks from our hotel and it we were due there at the relatively late time of 8:30. Besides we were going to interact with our fellow Lutherans from the Southeastern Synod. As we waited outside the ballroom waiting to go in, we chatted with Pastor Keith Cook from All Saints. Upon entering the ballroom for worship, we were greated by the music of the Starboarders.

There were boxes set up in the middle of the room that, as the service progressed, were taken down and rearranged to form a cross. A recurrent theme of the gathering was "breaking down the walls".

During the worship we had two reflections from Bishop Julian Gordy. One comment that he made that really resonated with me is that no matter how old we get and no matter how many bible studies, worships and other church activities we attend, we are still always learning about God and "practicing our faith" in the sampraye way we practice piano or some other endeavor. We heard the words of grace from Bishop Gordy and I agreed as Randall said "everyone ought to be Lutherans". After all, we believe in the grace of God, we are saved by what he has done for us because nothing we can do will ever be good enough. We proudly watched Rebecca Kolowe, Diaconal minister, assistant to the bishop and raised in the community of Messiah also led worship.

She led us in a prayer exercise that Randall and I participated in (Apparently Diane was not as involved in it as she had time to take this picture). After worship was over, we moved into small group study. I had agreed to be a small group leader but thought I was off the hook until I came upon a group of 14 when all groups were supposed to be 10 or smaller. Four of our youth seized upon this opportunity telling me "We love you, miss Rhonda". The cynic in me said sure they can stay with familiar people rather than mingling with the others.

We did have Anne, an adult from Messiah Lutheran Church in Knoxvill, Tennessee join us to discuss the faith practices of 1) worship, 2) invite, 3) encourage, 4) study, 5) serve, 6 )give, and 7) pray. We only made it to five, however, before our time was up.

I wandered out of the ballroom for a break at one point and found Randall in conversation with Bishop Gordy. I think they were talking about resources available for worship that was similar to the worship we were experiencing at the gathering. I joined them and Rebecca told us that she was looking for a reason to visit Messiah but that she only visited congregations in trouble. I asked her what kind of trouble that was required as I could probably cause some. Before we left the Marriott, we took a picture outside of our worship space as part of our discipleship tour.

Anyway, we went from the Marriott Convention Center to our lunch location where we had the room upstairs that had an extra place set for Jesus.

After lunch, we headed to Jackson Square in the van to see the cathedral and do a little shopping. We had no rain on Saturday and the Jackson Square area was packed with Lutherans that had done the bare minimum in the rain but now seized the opportunity to sight see.

I dropped the group off at Cafe Du Monde and arranged to meet them at 4:30 so that they could get to the dome at 5:00 because it was our night to get in early to dome activities. Unlike other gatherings, they assigned three different color wristbands to each group so that each group got an opportunity to sit on the floor and Saturday was our day. I drove back to the hotel then walked over to the mall to make a purchase for Kay Spence and then got back in the van to pick the group up. I got to the agreed upon spot a little early, had to do some circling around and ended up following a horse and carriage to the pickup spot. As i pulled over, I watched another carriage start to pull off from the curb after dropping off passengers. All of a sudden, the horse didn't want to go where the driver wanted to go, pulled over to the left, stumbled, and the carriage fell over dumping the driver on the ground! The crowd reacted quickly: one man quieted the horse, another picked up the man, a large group of people righted the carriage. I tried to let Diane get out as she is a medical professional but she couldn't open her door because of cars next to us. The driver got up on his own so we hope he is okay. Needless to say, we were all shaken by this episode. We collected ourselves as best we could and proceeded on to the dome. I dropped them off, drove back to the hotel and proceeded on my walk to the dome. As I walked, I got a text from Randall that said "God be with us" and thought that's a weird text so I texted back "Context?". When I got to the dome, however, and saw the scene there, I understood. The doors would open and the crowd surged forward only to have the doors close again. I had only myself to worry about but keeping a group together was an extreme challenge. Our kids were great about protecting Claire in this situation which could be life threatening to her. When I got in, I made my way to the floor to meet the group. Sitting on the floor was amazing. We were mightily entertained by the junior Preservation Hall jazz band with renditions of I'll Fly Away and the quintessential New Orleans anthem When the Saints go Matching In. Switchfoot played for more than half an hour and rocked the house. It was past 9:30 by the time we got out of the dome so we decided to skip Community Life activities and go back to our hotel and had some pizza. We were then sad that the gathering would end after worship the next day.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Practice Justice

Friday started bright and early as the group was slated to meet at the dome at 7:45 AM for their service project.

I hadn't slept hardly at all the night before, getting up for good at 4:45 AM and watching TV in the meeting room lounge so I volunteered to stay at the hotel with Claire while Diane got to go with the group. They worshipped at the dome in prepartion for service, a special feature of which was anointing their hands and feet.

They then boarded a bus for Chalmette Battlefield.

On the bus, Maggie demonstrated her encyclopedic of the history of the battle of 1812. While the group was held on the bus due to heavy storms and lightning, Maggie regaled the group with many tales after Justin asked the simple question "Why is there a British flag on the flagpole?"

 In the calm between two storms, they explored the visitor's center.

They experienced the floods of New Orleans firsthand as we saw people walking in knee deep water in the lower fourth ward, one of the areas most devastated by Hurricane Katrina. They saw first hand how quickly flooding could occur. It eventually became clear that they were not going to be cleaning any headstones in the cemetery so they got back on the bus to eat lunch and be taken back downtown. We thought they might get dropped off at the hotel due to the inclement weather, but the bus driver had a strict schedule to adhere to and all of a sudden were uncermoniously dropped off in an unfamiliar city on an unmarked corner in the pouring rain. That's when I got the phone call from Randall asking me to "come get us now". With Claire in tow, and my shoes in my hand, I immediately went down to the lobby to get the van from the valet attendants that became familiar with us with all of our comings and goings. When I picked them up, they were sleepy and disappointed that they were unable to complete a service project. After all, when I had asked them the first night what inspired them to come to the gathering, most of them mentioned the service aspect of it. So we met in our room had some reflection time and shared highlights of the previous day.

As the afternoon wore on and as there was no break in the weather (it rained 2.36" that day) and high winds and storm warnings, we decided that there was no going out for dinner and ordered in. We also decided that I would drive them to the dome, pick them up afterwards and watch the video stream of the dome activities from the hotel. It had taken a long time for us to walk back the night before and the rain appeared to be a permanent fixture and I wanted to get the group to the Agape concert on time as there was no morning worship with Agape at this gathering.

HIghlights of the dome activities that night included a rendition of "Jesus Loves Me" by the saxophone player that was hauntingly beautiful and "This Little Light of Mine" during which everyone in the entire dome let their light shine by raising up their cell phones. We also heard from the "Kids off the Block" program in Chicago and a Liberian peace activist who won the Nobel prize. I headed off in the van to the appointed corner which had looked fine when I had driven by it in the day. By night, it was a little frightening. As it turns out, the group exited the dome in a different spot than the night before and was swept up in the river of Lutherans that carried them in a different direction.


Thank God for cell phones! After a few moments of communicating, I found the group and whisked them to the Agape concert after wending my way though a new part of New Orleans that we had  not previously seen. Randall rode back with me to the hotel and walked with me to the concert to join the rest of the group. The halls of the Marriott were packed and we thought we might not get in, but I was determined to introduce Randall to the music of Agape. We jumped, we danced, we sang and fun was had by all. Just another great day at the gathering.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Flash Mob Video

Flash Mob Video

Practice Peacemaking

This is us at the Courtyard by Marriot getting ready to sally forth into the humidity of New Orleans.We took the trolley to Cafe Du Monde where, after some hovering and maneuvering, we all sat at tables close to each other and feasted on beignets. However, I first had to convince Morgan that all of the incredible number of bugs we saw weren't going to attack her.

We had plenty of time to get to our next acitivity at the Convention Center so we walked along the shore, passing the aquarium, sighting a departing cruise ship and enjoying the view of the mighty Mississip. Our route included a detour through the Riverwalk Mall to take advantage of its air conditioning. You think once you're inside the Convention Center that you're there but it stretches out for a mile or so so we still had a ways to go and had to deal with a mass of Lutherans that were all waiting to go up two escalators for worship.

While we waited for worship to begin, we tried starting the wave as we in the first rows one one side of the space. After a few tries, we had the wave going from side to side and back. Our location was great for starting the wave but not so great for sound, but we enjoyed it anyway. After worship, we made our way though the UpZone, stopping to pray around the cross and then made our way to the Interaction Center. In the center, we split up into three groups, for the three adults. (Claire and Diane Davis went back to the hotel as Claire needed to rest.) The pictures here are just from my group. I'm trying to get pictures from others but we're still sorting out the logistics of transferring everything. Ben and this clothespin mohawk was a hit. We saw Bishop Gordy driving the shuttle, yes, the space is so big they have airport type shuttles if you need a ride, and Rebecca Kolowe also driving. We'll be spending time with both of them when we Practice Discipleship on Saturday.

We were planning to meet at 1:00 and go to lunch at the mall but some of the girls wanted to participate in a flash mob. I have the video on You Tube but haven't quite worked out getting it linked in to the blog. I'll post it when I figure it out. Anyway, lunch followed but due to heavy rain (a theme of this gathering), we had lunch in the food court of the convention center and hung out there for a while.

We did make it to the mall for a while and then headed off to dinner at Mulate's "the original Cajun restaurant". I bought fried alligator appetizers for everyone to try. Some, like Kyle, liked it so much they ordered it for dinner. Some, like Morgan and Heather Neely before her, were very skeptical. Great picture to come. After many faces, much trepidation and Randall's comforting "it tastes just like ferret", Morgan finally tried some. When she did, she went back for more because "that stuff's good!". We had a great dinner and a show as Ben was pulling pranks on Lauren and surrounding tables. (He tied napkins together and put them up his hoodie sleeve and had them pull it out.) It was time to head to the dome but surprise, surprise, it was raining. So, Randall went and got the 15 passenger van and drove the group to the dome and dropped them all off but me. I walked back to the dome with Randall and we arrived just in time for dome time.
For an hour and a half we sang and listened to several inspirational speakers including a singer who plays the guitar even though he was born with one forearm, a woman who served as missionary in South Africa and an 18 year old woman whose family is serving as missionaries in Tanzania. The bishop concluded the evening with inspirational words. Memorable words included "In the west, they have watches, in Africa we have time". The gift of being present with someone is one of the greatest gifts we can give and sometimes rare in our 27 seconds ago culture. We were also urged to remember that the greatest gift is to love and that means even people who are different from us racially, culturally, and physically. After the dome, the kids went to the Hilton Hotel for fun time: inflatables, karoake, sumo suit wrestling, velcro wall, etc. We concluded with final 15 devotion in a hotel room and agreed it had been a "great day". This is most certainly true.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


We made it to New Orleans after a long, very rainy drive. We spent extended periods going 40-50 miles an hour and wondering at times whether we should pull over because the visibility was so bad. We didn't make it to the dome tonight but were going to go to Community Life events but heavy rain and lightning kept us in our hotel where the kids played cards. We're looking forward to Practicing Peacemaking tomorrow. The people who did get to the dome stayed a long time because they weren't allowed to leave in the weather. Tomorrow, Cafe Du Monde for breakfast!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

National Youth Gathering

At 9:00 tomorrow morning, the Messiah group takes off for the National Youth Gathering. I am going to try my first blog ever and keep you informed of the group's activities. If you'd like to see what we'll be seeing every night at the Mercedes Benz Dome in New Orleans, it will be streamed at . I've been to the last two gatherings and I know that we will come back invigorated!