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ELCA Youth Gathering Blog

One Gathering, Many Members

– Tuhina Verma Rasche

Emcees. Speakers. Musicians. Dancers. Producers. Coordinators. Guides. It takes a community with numerous talents and skills to create a lively and meaningful experience for each night of Mass Gathering. It also takes time, patience, humor, and grace. The Mass Gathering team brought people together to embody what the Mass Gathering will be. There was singing, dancing, and speaking. There was also space and time to get to know one another and to create new friendships as preparations continue for our time together in Houston.

As one of the speakers, this gathering has been a sacred space of sharing the stories and experiences that have brought us to this place of preparation. We’ve been able to care for one another in ways that are representative of the church. We’ve held space for one another to share our gifts in this space.

This space and time of preparation has been holy ground.

It is this memory of sacred and holy ground I will take with me to Houston.

There have been tears of joy and a lot of laughter. There have been so many conversations over breaking bread together (and also over Swedish Fish and gummy bears). So much care and preparation has been taken by the Mass Gathering team. It’s at this foretaste of the feast to come that I cannot wait for all of you to see what will happen each evening of the Gathering.

Meet Gathering Emcee Ben

– Ben Bernstein

Hello ELCA, my name is Ben Bernstein. This will be my second Gathering and I am ecstatic to experience this one as an emcee. I felt that God called me to apply to be emcee because I felt that God wanted me to use my voice within this church. God has blessed me in so many different ways since I have been named one of the emcees. With only two months approaching before the Youth Gathering, my excitement levels are going through the roof.

My life was changed through the 2015 ELCA Gathering in Detroit. I can’t begin to describe the feeling of worshiping our awesome God alongside over 30,000 different siblings in Christ. In those moments, I was able to see that I was not alone in this journey of faith. My fellow Lutheran youth on the other side of the country were experiencing the same high school struggles as I was.

People in our church are passionate about the Gathering. I have had the honor of seeing God at work through so many different people within our church to allow the Gathering to be a success. The ELCA understands that this Gathering of over 30,000 youth from all across the denomination can impact the community of Houston in so many positive ways. I am excited to see how the Spirit of God can lead us together this summer to impact lives in the city of Houston. God has given us youth the ability to change everything.  My hopes and prayers for those who experience this Gathering is that they will take what they learn in Houston and use it in their very own communities.

Looking forward to seeing you all there!

Meet Gathering Emcee Abigail

– Abby Botten

I am beyond thrilled and blessed that I will be at my third ELCA Youth Gathering, this time as an emcee. Being an emcee for this summer’s Gathering brings a whole new excitement to my experiences, and most importantly, to my faith journey. I was so excited to see this year’s theme “This Changes Everything,” because it is a big testimony to the amazing things God does in my life daily. 

Sometimes God works in the most unexpected waysI did not understand what it meant to have a truly intentional relationship with Christ and how much Christ does for me until this past summer. I ran weekly mission trips in St. Louis with an organization where I got to hang out with 70 high school students each week. This past summer was the most difficult experience I have had thus far in my life, yet it was the most rewarding time because of the Lord’s work in it. Having a relationship with God changes everything, because God becomes our strength, our peace, and our encouragement through the easy and difficult times. God changes everything because God draws us near and places us in some weird situations so we can learn and grow in the love God has for us.

I am excited to be an emcee at the Gathering because this role is a little outside my comfort zone, but that is the best part! We grow SO much as Christians by leaving our comfort zone and putting full trust in the Lord; that God will support us wherever we are, and ultimately, trust that God wants us in that position as well. I cannot wait to walk alongside all of you throughout the week and experience the goodness God has to bring us.  


Abby Botten is a senior at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. In her free time you can find her leading youth group, being active, drinking lots of Caribou Coffee, and pretending she is a better dancer/singer than she really is.

Gathering Interviews: Meet Joy

Gathering interviews continue with Joy Emenyonu. Joy attended the 2015 Gathering in Detroit; that experience led her to apply to be one of the Gathering emcees. Get to know Joy before you see her at Mass Gathering.

Tell the Gathering blog readers a little bit about yourself.
Like most people my age, school consumed my life. I always had my hands full with extracurriculars and a rigorous academic schedule. This work has simultaneously destroyed my mental health and built me up as a person I am proud to be today.

Where do you see God most active in your life?
attribute my academic success to God and God alone. I wouldn’t be here getting ready to take on my bright future if I hadn’t turned to God every step of the way.

What is your favorite thing about your church/ faith community?
My youth group, the place where my relationship with God first took place is probably my favorite thing about my community. It’s a group of beautiful kids with different personalities and aspirations who all just want a deeper understanding of God. It is in my youth group that I expanded my faith and learned about the true love of God.

What are you most excited about being a Gathering emcee?
I originally applied to be an emcee because I had a great experience in Detroit. I learned so much and it was practically life-changing. I had an amazing time and I knew that participating in the Gathering would only further my enjoyment

The theme for the Gathering is “This Changes Everything.” How does this theme and these words connect with you as a member of the church?
The theme “This Changes Everything” to me means that even with the slightest understanding of God’s love, a whole new world of possibilities is opened. With God’s love, there are no boundaries, no borders, no room for prejudice, and no room for racism. Anyone can do anything and simply understanding that changes everything. 

What is your biggest hope for you when you come home from the Gathering?
I hope that this Gathering will allow me to meet more empowering people. People whose faith is stronger than mine in every sense and who I can learn from and aspire to be like. 

With the theme “This Changes Everything” and your hopes and expectations for the Gathering, what is your biggest hope for your church/ faith community when you return from Houston?
I hope that my faith community can grow in wisdom and understanding from this great experience and that we grow closer because of it.