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ELCA Youth Gathering Blog

Accompaniment After Harvey

– Jessica Noonan

This past August as the summer was winding down and a new year of school was beginning, life along the Gulf Coast came to a standstill.  It was like time froze. Everything was a blur.  No one knew what day it was or what the next day would bring. When you come to Houston this summer, you will learn quickly that everyone has their “Harvey story.”  Living through it and seeing the devastation that followed Hurricane Harvey it still seems unimaginable—the rain that kept coming, rising waters, tornadoes… and the waiting.  My neighborhood had no physical damage.  It was pure luck that our house was just a little higher in elevation than the neighborhood one mile way with lots of flooding, or the neighborhood four miles away that was completely obliterated. There is a lot of guilt when your home is fine and your neighbor down the road has no home. Everyone has a story.

You might be wondering how has the hurricane changed our approach to how we walk alongside our Service Learning partners in Houston?  It hasn’t.  One of our values has always been accompaniment.  We are in relationship with our partners.  We listen to their needs. We still want to focus on the needs of our partners whatever they might be come June 2018.

Jessica Silverio is part of the Service Learning Team; she is helping to secure service learning projects for the Gathering.  She said, “Many people are still out of their schools or homes and some lost it all. Getting to see 30,000 youth come out to the streets and help in whatever way they can will be a great sight to see. It’s important to give people a chance to talk about their lives and how its changed since Harvey.”

We are a people of story—Jesus teaches us through story, the Bible is filled with the stories of our faith—we are a people of story.

When Gathering participants go to project sites our hope is that the partner shares the story of their organization, mission, and why this work matters.  We hope that Gathering participants share their story with partners.

We hope that participants go home and create new stories in their communities.


Jessica Noonan is the Service Learning Team Leader for the 2018 Gathering.

Listening to God’s Voice in Service

– Jessica Noonan

jessica-noonanHey y’all, my name is Jessica Noonan. I will be the Service Learning Team Leader for the 2018 ELCA Youth Gathering. I will oversee the development and execution of Service Learning for all students and adult leaders coming to Houston. In 2012, I also served in this role in New Orleans. It is definitely a privilege and an honor to be a part of this holy work.

Listening is a huge part of the work we do from the very beginning—listening to churches, listening to leaders, and listening to organizations doing amazing work in big and small ways in every part of the city. We need to hear what God is already doing through awesome people and organizations, so that we can join them in the journey. God is working all over the city of Houston in some pretty incredible ways.

A little bit about me: I live just west of Houston with my husband, three kids, dog, cat, and hamster. My everyday job is as a Director of Children’s Ministry. This is where I get to work with families from birth to fifth grade and walk with parents and families through faith journeys. Life is pretty full, but when I get a chance, I love to read all types of books, dance with my girls in the living room, take a nice walk, and spend time art journaling. I am looking forward to seeing all of you in Houston in 2018!