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Reflecting on “Made Free”


The Multicultural Youth Leadership Event (MYLE) will gather under the theme of “Made Free” in the summer of 2022. Gathering leadership asked a few people to briefly reflect on what it means to be “Made Free” and to live into the scripture verse of “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17).


Isabelle El-Yateem from the Association of Lutherans of Arab and Middle Eastern Heritage

Isabelle El-Yateem, Association of Lutherans of Arab and Middle Eastern Heritage

“As an Arab American youth, I think the theme of “Made Free” is awesome. We need to be released from all the things in the world that hold us back from our true potential. We need to be freed to call out for and demand justice and equality for all people, in all places and in all times!”


the Rev. Joann Conroy, President of the ELCA American Indian/Alaska Native Lutheran AssociationThe Rev. Joann Conroy, ELCA American Indian/Alaska Native Lutheran Association

“Paul in a letter to the Galatians said, “…we should use that Freedom (of Christ) to serve one another in love and live a Spirit-filled life.” As we come to MYLE, we come sharing the freedom that Christ gave to us – love through a Spirit filled life rich in our Lutheran traditions and celebrating all of our Indigenous gifts of culture with the church.”

To learn more about the 2022 Multicultural Youth Leadership Event, visit our website:


Intentional Chaplaincy Work in Minneapolis


This blog post was written by our 2021 MYLE team leader, Kelly Sherman-Conroy, and is in response to the chaplaincy work being done in the Minneapolis and St. Paul after the murder of George Floyd. She discusses the need for cultural competency before volunteering, so that we create a space of empowerment and comfort for those that need it.

According to Western Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women and Children, “cultural competence is the ability to understand, communicate with and effectively interact with people across cultures. Cultural competence encompasses being aware of one’s own world view, developing positive attributes towards cultural differences, gaining knowledge of different cultural practices and world views and developing skills for communication and interaction across cultures.”


When local pastors, religious leaders and spiritual care leaders stepped up and took the call to help the communities of Minneapolis and St. Paul during the weeks following the murder of George Floyd, I don’t think they knew what they were in for. The call was not just about needing volunteers with shovels and rubbish bags in hand or handing out food and other supplies. The call for chaplains was very intentional.

As a Native American and an activist, I know first hand the harm that well intentioned people of faith can do when they come in to “help” communities that have been marginalized or minoritized. I remember at Standing Rock and the protests in North Dakota, a group of well-intentioned people of faith came to “help” and support. However, what many that came to help did not see, was that their own unintentional actions were creating more harm than good.  A deeper trauma than the trauma they were there to address.

So as a team of Rapid Response organizers met to address the needs of the communities during the uprising, this experience came to mind. How do we prepare a group of intentional volunteers that can be culturally aware as well as spiritually ready to care for all people regardless of beliefs? The call was made, and people responded.

I began with 4-5 Zoom trainings a day that talked about how to be culturally aware, understanding your actions, understanding the trauma many ethnic people were already coming with, what it is like to care for people in the midst of a large crisis such as this, and most importantly, non-violent communication for volunteers in the midst of a crisis. Their calming presence felt, and their aid was sought in helping other volunteers understand their actions.

So before you send out your volunteers to help in your community, find someone to lead in cultural awareness so that you are not unintentionally creating a space that is dehumanizing to those you are helping, but that you are creating a space that is empowering and comforting. Thank you to the over 100 volunteer chaplains for your work and intentionality.

Kelly Sherman-Conroy serves as the 2021 Multicultural Youth Leadership Event team leader and as Minister of Social Justice and Advocacy for CYF at Nativity Lutheran Church in Minneapolis. Kelly is a Luther Seminary PhD Candidate as well.


Made Free

by: Kelly Sherman-Conroy, MYLE Team Leader

In October of 2019, the Multicultural Youth Leadership Event leadership team, including youth, young adults and adults, gathered at Luther Seminary to discern a theme for MYLE 2021. Before we began our conversations as a group, we took the time to learn about and understand the history of the land where MYLE will be hosted in Saint Paul, Minnesota. This was led by an effort from Healing Minnesota Stories, to bring healing between people of faith and the Native American people who call Minnesota home. Native people have suffered deep trauma over many years, losing their land, language and culture. While many people and institutions contributed to that trauma, it happened with the full participation of Christian churches. As Pastor Jim Bear Jacobs mentioned to our group, “We all still need healing, healing is doable, and churches have a role to play in healing.”

As leaders of MYLE we believe in the power of healing stories. Stories heal because they make invisible pain visible. The listener and storyteller are both healed by their acts. This was a needed experience for our team and our theme discernment. We learned that churches and all faith communities can play a key role in promoting and experiencing healing by opening ourselves to our own history and listening to the stories of Native people. Through the sharing and retelling of traumatic stories, we can create new positive ones.

And this is how our theme for MYLE 2021 was created. Made Free. Our stories, our experiences matter. And together as leaders, we want to be able to nurture community and inspire healing with all our MYLE participants, leaders and volunteers.  We realize that our ethnic cultures are rich in community and family bonds. Made Free to me is an understanding that our MYLE community can be a pathway for healing and brings a time for celebrating the diverse expressions and many facets of our community which are woven through the Holy Spirit.

The scripture chosen for this theme says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”  What this says to me is that the Spirit empowers us and when we feel empowered, things begin to happen. The soul is very much a part of the body, and the Spirit awakens our soul and gives us life. As a body of Christ, our soul is not fully complete unless the rest of the body is also in harmony. Together at MYLE, we emerge as a community to listen courageously and create Spirit-Filled relationships of healing.

MYLE 2021 is going to be a space that will inspire and create liberating relationships with all in attendance and beyond. We want to characterize these relationships by equity, difference, mutuality, communion and oneness. MYLE aims to be an exciting Spirit-Inspired community, inclusive and accountable to all. Celebrating our cultures together we will literally be breathing Spirit into our own healing.


boundless: God beyond measure

by: Molly Beck Dean, Gathering Director

In April, a group of creative youth, young adults and adults gathered in Minneapolis to discern the theme for the 2021 Gathering. After reading through 2018 evaluations, listening to locals share about their city and much discussion about the spiritual lives of young people, the theme “boundless: God beyond measure” was chosen.

As I have pondered our theme over the last few months, it speaks to me more and more. It challenges me to think about how big God really is – from creation of the universe to crucifixion for sins, from death defying resurrection to the Spirit that continues to guide us today. It reminds me of the wonders of creation – certainly the beautiful Boundary Waters in northern Minnesota, but also rolling plains, dusty deserts, crashing waves of lakes and oceans, lush forests and majestic mountains. God knows no bounds. God is all powerful and all knowing.

Our theme makes the almost incomprehensible hugeness of God personal. In our scripture verse, Paul writes “I want you to know all about Christ’s love, although it is too wonderful to be measured. Then your lives will be filled with all that God is.” Christ’s love for us is so abundant it can’t be calculated, quantified or even estimated. A love that couldn’t be contained in heaven so God came down and became human. A love so huge it was willing to suffer a gruesome death amongst taunts and jeers. A love so magnificent and glorious that death could not contain it and so Love was resurrected and changed everything humans knew about life, love and forgiveness.

To be honest, I don’t know all about Christ’s love or what it’s like to live a life filled with all that God is. I am bound daily by my sins and weighed down by the struggles of our world. But I have caught glimpses of it. I have stood on the beach and been brought to tears by the beauty and vastness of the ocean God created. I have held each of my new babies and cried because I have been entrusted with two of God’s miracles and in that moment knew a love greater than I could imagine. I have been in worship with a heart so full of the Spirit that my whole body danced in praise and my eyes glistened. I have been brought to my knees and cried the ugly cry over mistakes I’ve made and the wickedness that exists in the world, only to feel a calming in my heart and mind that could only be the forgiveness of God.

These brief moments of being filled with all that God is not only point me to the tissue box evidently, but give me hope for my life and our life together. God doesn’t hoard God’s boundless goodness, but rather shares it with God’s beloved – us – in real ways.

Paul’s words are my prayer for the young people of this Church.  As they prepare for this ministry and as they attend MYLE, the tAble and the Gathering, I hope they get closer to knowing all about Christ’s love and what it can look like and feel like to live a life filled with all that God is.

Molly first attended the Gathering in 1997 and has served at the Gathering in various capacities ever since. She’s worked at the congregational and synodical levels in youth ministry before transitioning to the Gathering Director in 2015. Molly enjoys beaches, spending time with her family and finding the best ice-cream shop in town.


The Mission and Goals for the Gathering


The Gathering’s mission, faith formation in teens, is the hub from which all things come for the tAble, MYLE, and the Gathering. Our goal is to create environments and opportunities for faith formation through worship, Interactive Learning, Bible study, Service Learning, and fellowship. While some of the experiences can be replicated at home, some are unique and special to the Gathering because of the size and scope of this ministry.

There are five core goals that we have for this ministry. We hope that all participants can be both affirmed and challenged in their faith, experience new perspectives, ponder their vocation, bond with their congregational group, and learn more about the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

While some participants may accomplish these goals during our two pre-events, MYLE or the tAble, some will at Mass Gatherings, where participants come together for music, speakers, and worship. Others might tackle these goals in the Interactive Learning space, where they can experience exciting things that the ELCA and our partners are doing. Or maybe it’s being God’s hands and feet in the Twin Cities on their Service Learning day. It might even be during Synod Day, where participants are in community with those geographically close to them or it might just happen during the nightly congregational devotion and debrief called Final 15.

Wherever it happens, we know that this is a powerful and transformational ministry if you are brave enough to let your guard down long enough for the Spirit to enter in, if you can be quiet long enough to listen to someone different than yourself, if your prayer is to be open to what God is calling you to, if you realize the strong roots of a community will ground you no matter the strength of life’s storms, if you imagine yourself as part of something bigger than you.


One in Christ: Day Four of MYLE

– Megan Brandsrud

MYLE came to a close with a final worship service that celebrated being “One in Christ,” the theme for the last day. Participants gathered for worship while singing songs in multiple languages with the Glocal musicians, a group of musician educators formed by the ELCA Global Mission Unit that provides music and worship leadership.

After a reading of Ephesians 2:14-19, Yehiel Curry, pastor of Shekinah Chapel Lutheran Church in Riverdale, Ill., gave the message.

“I’m so grateful for this opportunity and so grateful to see you,” Curry said.

Curry talked about how he was inspired after seeing the MYLE participants dancing together during their celebration last night. “The world wants you to be divided,” he said. “But when you can lock hands and dance together and say, ‘This is my brother or this is my sister, and I know we don’t look alike but we are family,’ now THAT changes everything.”

“I always say that immersion kills stereotypes,” Curry continued. “If you can change your town, you can change your state. If you can change your state, you can change your nation. And if you can change your nation, you can change the world.” Everyone in attendance rose to their feet with applause and cheers.

Deep connections and relationships were formed during the three and a half days MYLE participants spent together, which were beautifully visible as everyone spent many minutes sharing the peace of the Lord with each other, walking in and out of aisles to give hugs and high-fives.

Trevour, a first-time MYLE participant from Luther Place in Washington, D.C., said his favorite parts of MYLE were the worship services and making connections with people from all over the country. “To be honest, I loved it,” he said. “I got even more out of it than I thought I would. I loved meeting new people who have the same love of God and Jesus that I do.”

Follow the 2018 ELCA Youth Gathering on social media:

Don’t forget to follow the hashtag #ELCAYG2018!

Follow instructions to download the ELCA Youth Gathering app here.


One Household, Many Rooms: Day Three of MYLE

– Megan Brandsrud

“In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2). On the last full day of MYLE, participants gathered under the daily theme of “One household, many rooms” and talked about how there is a place for everyone in God’s house.

Part of the discussion took place in affinity groups (African descent, Latino/a, European American, Asian/Pacific Islander, Multiracial/Multiethnic, American Indian/Alaska Native) where participants shared reflections, joys and struggles with each other.

During Discovery Worship, MYLE participants went through a series of stations designed to help them build their personal faith life and learn how they are all connected through their relationship with God. Some of the stations included writing a letter of encouragement to a modern-day social justice activist and walking a labyrinth to focus on personal reflection and centering oneself.

Beyonnie, a MYLE participant from St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Washington, D.C., walked the labyrinth during the Discovery Worship time. “We walked in a circle and reflected on life and getting rid of negativity,” she said. “When you hit the middle, you release negativity and stress, and I only felt filled with positive thoughts and feelings.”

In the afternoon, MYLE participants also chose different skill shops to attend that focused on finding and understanding their place and their path. Workshops ranged from social justice theater, which focused on activities to help break down walls and build bridges, to a simulation where participants pretended aliens came to earth to learn how to help see themselves from the outside and see what values shape their behavior.

Ciara, a MYLE participant from Christ Lutheran Church in Upper Darby, Pa., attended a session called “Preparing for college.”

“I’m going to be a senior and I want to go to college, so I thought it would be good to hear what they had to say,” she said. “It was really helpful in explaining some things I need to know in preparing to apply to schools.”

Many participants said that the music during worship and the morning Jumpstart has been their favorite part of MYLE so far, and that they’re connecting with the theme of “ONE” and feeling like it’s an important message for today.

“It’s very encouraging,” said Joshua, a MYLE participant from Toledo, Ohio. “It’s all about bringing in all different groups and seeing that together we are strong. Today’s theme is all about that, I think. There’s one household and many rooms—just like there’s God’s kingdom and we are all God’s children. It doesn’t matter what ethnicity you are.”


One Mission, Many Gifts: Day Two of MYLE

What does it mean to be one in community, but to have a variety of gifts expressed in a group of people? On the second day of MYLE, the theme was “One mission, many gifts,” which explored how to be unified as a people of faith that come a diversity of talent and skill.

The day’s theme was embodied as MYLE participants traveled around Houston for Service Learning projects. Ten sites were selected around the Houston area where participants could not only offer the city their gifts as people of faith, but could also learn about accompaniment and service.

Stephen, 18, of All Peoples Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, WI, felt energized by Jumpstart (the opening worship service at MYLE). He said it wasn’t just fun and a chance to feel hyped up in the morning, but it was also a wake-up call to start his day of service, which was at The Life Center. MYLE participants at The Life Center worked with residents of the homeless shelter to paint, landscape, and beautify the facility. Stephen was looking forward to what he could do to help the community. His hope for his time at MYLE is to “show equality for what this nation could be and that no matter what race or color, we are as one.”

The day was also filled with intense conversations. Over dinner in the University of Houston dining hall, participants from the East Bay Lutheran Youth Program in Oakland, CA, had very honest conversations on identity, who we are as created in God’s image, and defying stereotypes. They reflected on their Service Learning experience that took place at the Star of Hope, a non-profit organization that works with people experiencing homelessness in Houston. They were joined at dinner from new friends they made from Christ Lutheran Church in Washington, D.C.

After sharing a meal, participants went to worship. Worship was filled with songs of love, justice, prayer, and liberation. Jennifer and Noah from Mediator Lutheran Church in Philadelphia shared their experiences at their Service Learning site, Spring High School. Jennifer talked about making the school’s campus look beautiful through gardening. Noah expressed that it was God’s work through their hands to bring hope to the school’s campus. Rev. Patrick Gahagen spoke at worship, taking about gifts and passions in a life rooted in faith.

The overall theme of ONE continues to resonate strongly at MYLE. The second day was filled with a multitude of gifts and unified as one community.

Follow the 2018 ELCA Youth Gathering on social media:

Don’t forget to follow the hashtag #ELCAYG2018!

Follow instructions to download the ELCA Youth Gathering app here.


the tAble and MYLE Begin!

What does it mean to truly belong? What does it mean to be a part of the one body of Christ in the midst of the diversity of God’s creation? These questions are a part of the foundations for the tAble and MYLE, the pre-events to the ELCA Youth Gathering. The pre-events embody the full expression of inclusivity within the church.

The theme for the tAble is “You Belong.” With this theme, there are a series of questions for young people who live with a wide range of physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities within our church to ask, “where do I fit in?”, “why am I different than others?”, and “what gifts could I possibly bring?”.

the tAble reminds us that we are all welcome at Christ’s Table and that we all belong in the fullness of who God created us to be. The daily themes, questions will be the areas of wonder to be explored during the pre-event are:

  • Who do you belong to?,
  • Why do you belong?,
  • Your gifts belong at the table. How do you belong?, and
  • Who belongs with you?.

MYLE’s theme is “ONE,” with the foundation in Ephesians 2:14-19. What does it mean to be a part of the one body of Christ when God expresses the fullness of God’s diversity in cultures and languages? How is unity in God expressed within the many people around the world who follow Christ in a number of beautiful and meaningful ways?

Each day, MYLE will focus on “ONE” in a number of ways:

  • One body, many parts (1 Corinthians 12:14-26);
  • One mission, many gifts (1 Corinthians 12: 4-11);
  • One household, many rooms (John 14:2); and
  • ONE in CHRIST (Ephesians 2:14-19).

MYLE and the tAble express and embody that You Belong at Christ’s Table, and that we are unified as ONE in the beauty and diversity of God’s creation. These are vital pre-events to express the fullness of expression of God’s church, and there is reason to rejoice as these pre-events begin today.

Follow the 2018 ELCA Youth Gathering on social media:

Don’t forget to follow the hashtag #ELCAYG2018!

Follow instructions to download the ELCA Youth Gathering app here.


Connected to the Gathering

The time has come! The ELCA Youth Gathering is just days away, and MYLE and the tAble begin programming tomorrow.

After bake sales, car washes, crab feed dinners, parent meetings, planning meetings, laughter, maybe some nervousness, definitely a lot of excitement, and time of intensive planning and prayer, it is now the appointed time. Team leaders have been in Houston putting the plans and activities they’ve been working on for the past two to three years to life. Youth are beginning to arrive. The city of Houston is prepared to welcome us.

Make sure to follow us in a number of ways on social media. Find information and follow the faith formation and fun at the following places:

Don’t forget to follow the hashtag #ELCAYG2018 on social media.

You can also follow instructions to download the ELCA Youth Gathering app here.

For those who have offered your prayers, your resources, and of so much more to provide the youth from your faith communities a unique and formative experience, make sure to continue to connect to what is happening in Houston!