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Vocation, Calls and the Gathering

by: Sophia Behrens

The ELCA Youth Gathering is an excellent resource for youth to explore their vocations. After attending the 2018 Gathering, I had a better understanding of how big our church was. I also realized that youth can have an empowering opinion about their faith life and how to carry that voice out through our vocations. The Gathering gave me a space to further explore my vocational call of social justice.

I’ve been involved in social justice issues since middle school, beginning with learning about women’s rights and later expanding horizons to be more involved with social justice issues relating to world hunger and diverse representation. The Gathering aided me in finding a way to better connect these issues to my faith life. During my Interactive Learning day, I was able to explore and talk with different organizations and ministries of the ELCA in the social justice space from immigration law to advocating for a better life for farmers across the globe. Along with my peers, I learned how I can get involved with these organizations. 

For me, the speakers at Mass Gathering emphasized the importance of faith communities and the support they give in relation to an individual’s vocation. We heard from strong speakers about a range of subjects, but the one that still sticks out to me over a year later is Maria Rose Belding. Maria founded and directs MEANS database, which helps distribute food across the country. Her words about the struggles of being a teenager and finding a way to fix and advocate for a unique problem inspired and reminded me of my vocation and how to find parallels with faith life and vocation instead of keeping them separate. 

While these were the areas of the Gathering that inspired me personally, there were countless other activities and speakers that could speak to other youth which is what creates the vast outreach of the Gathering.


Sophia Behrens is a freshman at Valparasio University. Throughout high school, Sophia was active in the ELCA Youth Core Leadership Team, her home congregation, and supporting ELCA World Hunger. Sophia was also a part of the 2021 Theme Discernment team for the ELCA Youth Gathering

Giving Changes Everything


One of the ways to express the values of the Gathering is through giving.

Giving can change everything.

There are multiple ways to give an offering: in-kind, Sunday morning, and a special offering. Get to know the organizations that will be in relationship through the stewardship of the Gathering.

In-Kind Offering: Blast Off for Books
Lifting up literacy in the Houston area will be part of the Service Learning experience. The Houston Independent School District estimates that 74% of the students in the district come from families who struggle to provide books for their children. New or lightly used books from the Amazon Wish List and this flyer will be accepted. Gathering participants can bring books with them, or they can be shipped to:
Faith Lutheran Church
Blast Off for Books
4600 Bellaire Blvd
Bellaire, TX 77401

Sunday Morning Offering: Local, National, and Global
Local: Texas Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod
One third of the Sunday morning offering will go to the hosts of the Gathering, the Texas Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod, also hosts to the 2009 and 2012 New Orleans Gatherings.

National: Prison Congregations of America
Another third of the Sunday morning offering will go to Prison Congregations of America, an ecumenical organization that establishes worshiping communities in prisons across the country. The worshiping community is both financially supported by churches on the outside and by visiting the community as worship guests.

Global: Global New Starts
From Houston to around the world, the Lutheran church is bringing people together in faithful community. One third of the Sunday morning offering recognizes that God’s work not only happens in the United States, but also all over the world.

Special Offering: Global Farm Challenge
The Gathering will be partnering with ELCA World Hunger for the Global Farm Challenge. Many youth groups will raise funds before the Gathering in June and many will bring their offerings when they get to Houston. This offering is so special that at the Interactive Learning Space in the NRG Center, youth and young adult leaders can engage in an experience that will immerse them in the experience of what it’s like to be a farmer in different parts of the world.


Thank you in advance for all that you do and for all that you will bring to the Gathering!

Gathering for the Global Farm Challenge

– Ryan P. Cumming

In a world that seems unchanging with so many challenges, it can be hard to believe that change is possible. But “We are a church founded on change.

We are a church committed to sharing in the work that God is doing to transform our world. All those who hunger can be fed. Everyone living in poverty can one day have enough.

This year, youth across the ELCA have the chance to be part of that change through the ELCA World Hunger’s Global Farm Challenge—a challenge to raise $500,000 to support communities around the world and here at home through gifts given at and ahead of the ELCA Youth Gathering.

At the Gathering in Houston, youth and adults will have a chance to experience for themselves God’s grace at work through ELCA World Hunger’s exhibit in the Interactive Learning space. Here, they will learn about Paul, a farmer from Central African Republic, who was given a scholarship to learn about sustainable farming in Japan and brought his education back to serve his community at home. They will learn about Lince, a mother of five children, who found a way to afford their education and meet their needs by raising pigs given to her by ELCA World Hunger’s partner in Indonesia.

They will hear about refugees in the United States, indigenous families in Malaysia, and so many other farmers whose lives have been changed because “a church founded on change” accompanied them.

To learn more about how you can be part of this change, take a look at ELCA World Hunger’s Global Farm Challenge brochure. Our church will be working throughout 2018 to raise the gifts needed to support this work. I hope you can be part of it, and I hope to see you in Houston this year!


Ryan P. Cumming, Ph.D., is Program Director for Hunger Education with ELCA World Hunger.


Transformation Through Walk for Water

– Iain Chester

My first experience of the ELCA Youth Gathering was less than two years ago in Detroit. I learned quickly that a Gathering is unique and that there is nothing quite like worshiping in an NFL stadium filled with 30,000 people. As children’s rights activist Marian Wright Edelman walked out on to the stage during worship, she summed it up perfectly saying, “You are incredible.”

My role at the ELCA Youth Gathering was to help with ELCA World Hunger’s Walk for Water. This interactive experience invites participants to learn more about access to clean water by following the story of someone who does not have easy access to clean water. Participants can feel what it is like to collect water by carrying a five-gallon jug of water (about 41.5 pounds when full).

Looking out at the crowd, Marian Wright Edelman challenged us saying, “With your energy we are going to transform America and make it understand that God did not make two classes of children.”

Since the Gathering, many congregations, youth groups, and high schools across the ELCA have hosted their own localized versions of ELCA World Hunger’s Walk for Water. I believe that this experience, taken home by so many who came to the Gathering, has been a small part of the transformation Wright Edelman spoke about.

Congregations and youth groups have also been part of transformation through giving. Many who attended the 2015 ELCA Youth Gathering brought gifts to support ELCA World Hunger’s Walk for Water. To date, over $1 million has been raised to support ELCA World Hunger water-related projects. This transformation all began at the Gathering and will continue to provide clean drinking water like spring boxes and boreholes, support for irrigation systems, education about sanitation in rural villages, and so much more.

God did not make two classes of children, some with access to clean water and others without.

As we look toward Houston and the 2018 ELCA Youth Gathering, I am excited to see the ways in which God will transform us, our world, and our understanding of one another.