The 2018 ELCA Youth Gathering is a trip I will forever remember. As I reflect on my experience, the memories fill my mind and joy surrounds me. Participating in worship with over 30,000 young people, gardening a prayer labyrinth, exploring the Interactive Learning space, and connecting with youth from across the country were some of the best experiences ever. 

The theme, This Changes Everything, was integrated into every activity and service which I attended and it continues to empower me each and everyday through my endeavors. Since the Gathering, my faith has grown in so many ways and I patiently wait until we can do it all over again. I look forward to experiencing and seeing the new ways in which God is working through me and all of my siblings in Christ.

Throughout my life, my home congregation, Trinity Lutheran Church, has placed many opportunities in front of me to become a leader not only in my church but also in the ELCA. The Gathering allowed me to learn about the programs and services within the larger church and how I, as a young person, can get more involved to expand my love for ministry and service.

I am currently serving on the ELCA Youth Core Leadership team which has further given me the keys to connect and build relationships with youth from across the country and strengthen my leadership skills. Becoming a leader in the church is a true gift from God and I cherish my ability to share those gifts with the people of God.  

The ELCA is a church of love, hope and service, and I pray that the young people in the congregations will get to experience the Gathering like I did. Young people matter and the work we contribute brings new perspectives to this church. Like Bishop Eaton said at the 2019 Churchwide Assembly, “Youth are not just the future of our church, they are the church today.” 

Kendyll Ward is a high school youth who serves on the ELCA Youth Core Leadership team. She loves to share her gifts and passions with the church in hopes to inspire people through her ministry.