A message from Tammy Jones West, 2024 ELCA Youth Gathering Program Director—

I’m just, It’s just… 

Hello world. My name is Tammy Jones West. I am a Deacon in this church, from North Carolina, and I am serving as the Program Director for the 2024 ELCA Youth Gathering. I am honored to have been asked to serve in this way and a little terrified at the responsibility and scope of the work. I also know the impact and importance of this ministry and I will do my best to encourage, support and clear a path for the thousands of volunteers who make this event a reality. 

I’m just overwhelmed by the welcome and support. I want the adults who accompany our young people to this event to be just as overwhelmed – in a good way. Overwhelmed at the privilege it is to walk alongside them as they experience the magnitude of God’s grace, abundance, and love. That is holy ground and adults, you are walking it. As people of faith, you matter in their faith journey. You are there in their laughter, joy, tears, and pain. I am in awe of each of you. That’s why I will stop you if you ever say in my presence – “I’m just a volunteer.” You are so much more.

I hope Betty Lohr never uttered those words because she was so much more than “I’m just”. She took me to my first Gathering at Purdue University under the theme of “Power in the Cross”. She loved me even as a bratty teenager and she is literally why I was involved in youth ministry. She cared and kept taking me to all the events that shaped my friend circle, my world view, and my faith.  

This event happens because of you. Adult leaders, volunteers, and partners make the Gathering more than just an event.  

It’s just a time to widen our perspective on what a Lutheran looks like.  

It’s just a time to be a part of something bigger than ourselves as we learn about partners such as ELCA World Hunger, and so many more. 

It’s just a time to get to know our congregational group and share our lives with one another.  

It’s just a time to worship in new ways and understand that worship might look differently in other places yet it’s still worship. 

It’s just a time to experience scripture differently, shared by different voices, and heard in a new way. 

It’s just a time to go somewhere new, experience a different city, learn about the history and the stories of their people.  

It’s just a Gathering led mostly by volunteers. Full stop – it’s so much more and you are too. Thank you for your ministry and I hope to see you in 2024.