– 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.