Skip to content
ELCA Blogs

ELCA Youth Gathering Blog

A Home Can Change Everything

– Chris Heavner 

I love coming to the Gatherings and staying in a hotel!  My family didn’t stay in hotels that much (even now, I snatch all the tiny shampoo bottles for my kids).  This luxury would probably not be so thrilling if my stay only reminded me that I lack a permanent place to sleep.  For too many families, “home” is a couch in the home of a friend or relative.  For too many of God’s children, it is a dream to have a thermostat which controls the temperature and a bathroom with running water. 

“This Changes Everything” about the way we understand our stay in the hotels in Houston. Those of us staying in the hotels will “change everything” about the lives of three Houston families. 

Three Habitat for Humanity Houses will be constructed in the Interaction Center. Youth will swing the hammers that will frame the walls for bedrooms, kitchens, and living rooms.  I love coming to the Gathering knowing that a part of me and my heart will stay in the hosting city when I am gone.  

This is the fourth Gathering at which such a project has been one of the Interaction Center offerings.  The leadership is provided by Lutheran Campus Ministry and Lutheran Disaster Response. Twelve college students for whom Lutheran Campus Ministry has become an avenue for civic and community engagement will be serving as crew leaders. In addition to the work completed in Houston, we will tell you how you can organize similar projects in the places you call home. 

I love coming to the Youth Gatherings and meeting folks from across our country and our Church.  And I love working with you to change so many things in the city which serves as our host. 


Chris Heavner is campus pastor at Clemson University in South Carolina. This will be his eighth Gathering. He also serves as the faculty advisor for Clemson’s Habitat for Humanity, with whom he as built thirty-three homes.

Hurricane Harvey: How You Can Help

The number one question heard after a major event like Hurricane Harvey: “How can I help?”

As followers of Jesus, we are called love our neighbor and to serve those in need.

First, thank you. On the Gulf Coast, your love and support are appreciated during this time.

Second, as people of faith, please pray. Pray for first responders, for those who had to evacuate flooded homes, for people worried about family, and for those who are trying to pick up the pieces.

Third, financial gifts are more helpful than gifts of goods right now. Financial resources are portable and used for many different purposes. Consider donating to Lutheran Disaster Response (for case management).

Finally, wait and listen. The disaster isn’t over. It is still raining. During the first stage following a disaster, search and rescue (typically first 72 hours), there is not much that can be done. Some areas may not even be accessible yet. With a hurricane or flooding, flood waters may still be rising in some areas while receding in others.

Once the water subsides, communities will begin the process of assessing their needs. Once needs are determined, the synods will work with local congregations to help care for their communities.

For the most current updates, please connect with Gulf Coast Synod on social media:


The Desire to Serve

– Michael Stadie

When I have been at the ELCA Youth Gatherings, I like to look into the eyes of the participants. They usually tell me about their connection to Lutheran Disaster Response. I see excitement in their eyes, from people telling me how they have gone to places impacted by a disaster, to helping families rebuild their homes and their lives, to watching participants hammer walls for the local Habitat for Humanity, to those who have just come back from their service project. They have been able to serve their neighbor, make a difference, and put “God’s Work Our Hands” into practice.

Service projects are a key component to the Gathering. The service component of the Gathering not only helps to change the community where it is held, but it also changes the lives of the participants for the good as it helps them experience the joy that comes from service to others.

I believe that it is by practicing to serve the neighbor that a deeper desire to serve is developed and strengthened.

It is clear that the impact of the Gathering stays with the youth and sponsors for the rest of their lives in many ways, not least of which is the desire to serve their neighbors no matter where they may be.


Pastor Michael Stadie is the Program Director for Lutheran Disaster Response.