Last Summer close to 25,000 youth and adults took part in the LCMS National Youth Gathering in New Orleans. High school aged youth were able to listen to Christian speakers, bands and Bible Studies. They had the opportunity to take part in local service projects. In the exhibit area they could learn more about foreign missionaries, Lutheran colleges, church work professions, and hundreds of other Lutheran ministry entities. The LCMS National Youth Gathering is for high school aged youth, but it took thousands of adults to make it possible. A great number of those were young adults who served in various roles as youth leaders, planners, speakers, and as Young Adult Volunteers (YAVs).
YAVs are all post high school aged (no upper age limit) who serve in an official capacity. Brandon Heath, DCE coordinated the recruiting, training, and mentoring of the 416 YAVs who gave up a week to serve the youth of our church body. I interviewed Brandon about his experience working with the YAVs. Here is what he had to say.
YAVs are the hands and feet of the Gathering and worked in all levels of the event. In the Convention Center they ran many of the floor activities, introduced speakers and bands, and worked with on-site service opportunities. 100 YAVs also went into the city every morning with the off-site servant events, leading the work and Bible Studies. A large group also worked with the mass events in the super dome, including being part of the band, choir, dance troupe, ushers, and served as support staff to the Mass Event team. YAVs also worked with the city of New Orleans to keep the traffic flow going quickly. They were also involved with the evening activities like the dances, DDR, concerts, games, and speakers.
It was a blessing and truly life changing to work alongside these adults. The Orange Nation first got its name ORANGE NATION because of the color shirt the Young Adults wear while serving the National Gathering but as I spent late nights and early mornings (and all the hours in-between) listening to their stories, I quickly realized that it explains where they live in life too. Orange is a mixture of two colors (red and yellow), just like the Orange Nation is a mixture of barbaric Christian youthfulness (red) and adult wisdom (yellow). Because they live in this land between, they are able to do amazing, unique ministry for the Kingdom of God. Also because they are in this land between, they have a great need to be mentored, disciple and loved. I have a new found passion for young adult ministry and it truly was because of the 400 plus young adults I met this summer.
Brandon went on to share some of the stories that YAVs wrote about in their post-event evaluations. These experiences are best shared in the first person, as they were written. They were asked to share ways they saw God at work while they served at the National Youth Gathering. Here are a few of the responses:
- I worked in the Lower Ninth Ward with the off-site servant events, and on the second day one of the girls working in a group near us had a medical emergency after their bus had left. I offered her our bus even though all of my groups’ things were still on it and we’d driven it more than two blocks away from our work site. When I asked my group to walk down and get their things they dropped everything and ran down to the bus immediately – by the time I caught up with him back at our site, the only thought on their minds was worry for the girl in trouble. We prayed for her, and although we had lost both our transportation and our AC, I never heard a word of complaint. Their compassion and willingness to sacrifice their own comfort for someone who needs it were inspiring.
- On my way back to my hotel a taxi driver pulled up to give us a ride. I didn’t have money on me but he gave me a free ride and talked about how he didn’t ever pick people up for free and this was a first for the nine years he had been working here. He told me that he got his first Bible two days ago because somebody left it behind in his cab. I encouraged him to read the book of John.
- <I saw God at work> while talking with my group members during Bible Study sessions and hearing their stories. I enjoyed listening to <the missionary’s> stories and I could see how God had led them to their work and that they loved their work.
- <I saw God at work> everywhere! God worked through the support team who always encouraged us and in the teammates we were given. Our group had deep spiritual Bible Studies, we would go for an hour sometimes discussing scripture, relating it to life and our time here at the gathering as well as sharing our stories of where God was working here this week. I could go on.
Want to learn more about Young Adult Volunteers (YAVs) or want to become one yourself? Join the facebook group ORANGE NATION: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=283170924827