“Water, water everywhere, we’re going to get wet!” These are words from a childhood song and lately, our cups runneth over with water and water stories. Here is one for today.
A few months ago, Pastor Ron Glusenkamp from Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hill Village, Colorado visited the churchwide offices. We had a chance to meet Pastor Ron, shared some preliminary conversation and invited him to bring his youth group by the 100 Wells Challenge space at the ELCA Youth Gathering. Below is a reflection shared this past Sunday by Lindsey, a member at Bethany and matriculating 9th grader.
“The verse for our trip to New Orleans was Ephesians 2:14-20 14For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.15He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace,16and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.17So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near;18for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father.19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God,20built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.
The verse, along with our summer mission verse Hebrews 12: 1-2, explains the purpose of our trip to New Orleans very well. We ran through the rain, the streets, and the crowds, and we ran with the citizens. We were always surrounded by a crowd of enthusiastic Lutheran teens, weather it was in the dome, a bus, or just on the street. The energy was amazing, every single person in that place was excited to do God’s work. God was reconciling all groups into one body through the cross.
Being from Colorado, sometimes I think we feel there are only a few other Lutheran churches, but being in the dome made me feel that we could conquer the world. Our first night in the dome, I remember thinking how amazing the cross was and how it was a huge glowing reminder that we were there for god. Every night there were speakers. Some of theme talked about bullying, some about how they came to be pastors, others told us that we were the future and hope of the world. There were also inspirational speeches done by teens; speeches about fear, truth, and listening. There were speakers like Nadia Bolz-Weber, the pastor who isn’t exactly what you’d call “normal,” Who spoke about what Lutheran “look like.” She compared Lutherans to Unicorns and Vampires. She hadn’t been exposed to people who actually lived by what the Bible says before she was introduced to Lutherans, to her, we were unnatural, mythical creatures.conciling all groups into one body through the cross.
On the day we were supposed to clean a neighborhood, we got stuck on a bus with a bunch of Minnesotans and had a opportunity to get to know them. We became unified as one group as we drove home in the rain. On the way back to the hotel we noticed people rushing to keep their store fronts dry despite the flooding water from the rain. Although we were concerned about all the water, the people of New Orleans appeared calm. Even though we didn’t get to complete our service project due to the rain, in the dry convention center, we experienced service through building framing for Habitat for Humanity houses. We also participated in the walk for water challenge. Each of us carried a five gallon jug of water for several hundred feet through a small hot tent, and over a homemade hill. I don’t really know how to explain how the challenge made me feel, but I suppose I could say that it changed the way I think about what life is like for women and children in those countries, and how hard it must be to actually live there. I guess you could say it was an eye opener. The point of this activity was to know what like it would feel to carry that much water home every single day. The Walk for Water Challenge is part of the 100 Wells Challenge. The idea is to build 100 wells all over Africa so that people can have clean water closer to their villages.
Our trip to New Orleans was an amazing experience. We saw God everywhere we went, especially in the dome when we sang, and when we listened to the speakers and their inspiring stories. As my life continues to rush past me, I think that going to New Orleans is one of the best memories that I will always have.”
The 100 Wells Challenge was created to lift up and support the water projects of this church where needed most, including wells and including the region of Africa as Lindsey mentions. The 100 Wells Challenge has engaged and continues to engage the youth and congregations of this church in ways we had not even been able to imagine, and we are so thankful to be part of it.
The tide is rising and the current is bringing us closer and closer to health, wholeness and reconcilitation for all. So, hop in the boat with Lindsey and Pastor Ron, friends on the journey—there’s plenty of room!