C.S. Lewis, renowned author, and Christian apologist believed that the world’s youth were of utmost importance, declaring that “Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.” Indeed, many share that sentiment and it’s why they funnel so much of their time, energy, and resources into the next generation. How those developmental years are spent are critical for shaping and influencing not only their future but the futures of those around them. When a potter’s hands work with clay, every movement is helping to mold and form a work of art. Like a potter, working with our youth should be intentional, helping to guide them through life, pointing them to purpose.
Realizing the importance of investing in today’s youth, Betsy Jacoby-Greenleaf of Jacoby Expo is currently planning an event with ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America), specifically for high school youth. This won’t be Greenleaf’s first event with working to help transform lives, who has worked with this mission twice previously after the devastating hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Louisiana in 2009 and 2012, and also when it was held in Detroit, Michigan in 2015.
The ELCA Youth Gathering is a three-day-long event meant to engage and challenge the faith of young people and to encourage them to live that out on a daily basis. Since 1988, the ELCA has been holding a Youth Gathering event every three years all around the USA with the help of various Lutheran Churches around the U.S. Growing in size and influence, over thirty thousand youth and adult leaders will descend upon Houston in 2018, the next host city.
Seven years in the making, each day of the event will have a different focus, giving the youth a broad range of character development opportunities. The days will be broken down into the following program areas:
Service Learning-Participants will be partnered with a local organization that will share with the youth about the specific mission of their organization and how they are accomplishing it. After the training session, it will be time to go out and serve the community together. Hands-on service opportunities are an excellent way to instill the importance of giving back.
Interactive Play-Students are given a day with focused interactive play and creative outlets that encourages fun in a God-centered environment.
Worship and Study-Worship and Bible-focused study is an important aspect of having a relationship with Christ. Students learn how to integrate it into their lives as a part of their daily walk in faith and service to God.
Be The Change
Following the aftermath of tremendous disasters, countless stories of heroism and divine intervention often emerge as reminders of God’s faithfulness. Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and other areas of the south when it reached the shores on August 29, 2005, affecting all in its destructive path. Not to be deterred, the ELCA did not cancel the Youth Gathering that had been planned to take place in New Orleans shortly after Katrina, seeing it as a spiritually timed opportunity to help and give hope to a struggling community.
Recently, Houston has also seen unprecedented damage from a hurricane. Harvey barreled down on the gulf coast in August of this year, causing flooding the likes of which Texas had never experienced before. In what can be only seen as an orchestration of God, ELCA youth will be gathering in Houston to a hurricane-torn city once again to be the change that provides a message of love and redemption.
God often calls His people in times that require great faith to make a difference that can change the world. In chapter four of the book of Esther, Queen Esther is asked to put her life in jeopardy to save the Jewish people from annihilation. She responded with great faith, trusting that the outcome would be greater than her fear, knowing that her unique position put her in the right place “for such a time as this” (verse 14). May we all be willing to reach out and go forth in courage wherever we are. Even the smallest effort can make a tremendous impact on those around us; with the support of the ELCA and leaders like Betsy Jacoby-Greenleaf, you can help pave the way for such a time as this.