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Gathering Face-to-Face in Community

 Christine Frye 

I was 16 years old and out to change the world. It was the summer of 2006, and I was traveling with my youth group to San Antonio, TX for my first ELCA Youth Gathering.

I remember arriving at the convention center for registration and being fascinated by every detail. There were energetic volunteers with walkie-talkies and attendee wrist bands advertising a 24 hour info-line. There was big, professional looking signage and welcome backpacks with information about the city inside.

I remember thinking “Wow, this is no amateur operation! Who organizes all of this?”

My fascination grew as I entered the stadium for the Mass Gathering for the first time. I stared in awe at the large stage for worship, as well as the rows and rows of people. I had never seen so many Lutherans (let alone, young Lutherans) in my life.

Fast-forward to a few years later when I was changing my major in college for the third time. One late night, I came across a degree in Tourism and Hospitality Management, which had a concentration in Event and Convention Management.

That’s when the lightbulb went on! Immediately, memories of the ELCA Youth Gathering replayed in my mind… the sea of people in their brightly colored shirts walking through the streets, the dynamic speakers during the Mass Gatherings, and the police officers collecting pins from the youth who had travelled from all over the country to attend.

These memories sparked my interest in a brand new career path.

During college, I volunteered for the 2009 Youth Gathering in New Orleans with my best friend. I got a glimpse of on-site operations to pull off this massive undertaking. The experience further solidified my passion for convention and tourism management.

After graduation, I worked for two Convention and Visitors Bureaus (CVBs), organizations that promote cities as convention and tourist destinations. CVBs often need to demonstrate to their local community how conventions and tourism positively affect their local economy. I felt confident in promoting these statistics because of my firsthand experiences with the ELCA Youth Gathering.

I now work for a trade show management company where I create marketplaces for businesses to connect and grow.

I feel that God has called me to help bring people together, face-to-face, for transformative experiences. The ELCA Youth Gathering taught me firsthand about the impact that conventions and tourism can have on a community.

I am proud to serve on the Operations Team for the 2018 Youth Gathering and offer my professional skills to an event that helped shape my vocation today.

See you in Houston!