After just a week and a half into my internship, I was blessed to be able to go with my church’s group of 34 youth and 6 adults to the 2013 National Youth Gathering in San Antonio. I hadn’t had the opportunity to attend one myself when I was in high school, so there were a lot of firsts for me throughout the week. I was quickly amazed by how many people I knew there, from either back home in St. Louis or from school at Concordia University- Nebraska. It was like a big family reunion! It got to the point where I had to budget extra time whenever I traveled from place to place because I figured I would run into people I hadn’t seen in a while.
As awesome as it was to see all these dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the most exciting thing about this family reunion called the National Youth Gathering was the opportunity for me to meet my new family from Christ the King. Throughout the week I was able to connect with the youth and adults that I will be serving for the next year, and they really are amazing children of God. One of the ways I did this was to give all the youth my cell phone number and have them text me their name, a picture of themselves and (a great suggestion from my pastor) a theological question of some sort. This knocked out a whole flock of birds with one stone. It gave them my phone number, it gave me their numbers, it helped me to learn names and faces easier and it started a dialogue between us about spiritual stuff. Not all the youth took me up on this offer, but a lot of them did and it really helped me to be able to learn their names, since that doesn’t come easy to me naturally.
It is also an interesting transition from being just a member of the family to being kind of a “head of the household,” to stick with the family terminology. There’s a lot more responsibility with being in charge of the youth rather than just being a chaperone or one of the participants. You have to be “on” all the time in order to keep the kids safe, make sure everyone knows the schedule, answer questions that come up, re-explain the schedule to the kids who weren’t paying attention, count often so you don’t lose anyone, organize the meals and other events and the list goes on and on. There were so many positive things on the trip and it really was a lot of fun, but there’s also a lot of work involved if you’re in charge, even when you’re not the one who planned the whole trip (God bless my associate pastor for all his work with that). It’s certainly not a vacation, even though most of your congregation may think it is. It was important for me to take some time afterwards to recover, rest and recharge before jumping right back into things in the office.
I learned a lot through my experience at the NYG and it laid a great foundation spiritually and also relationally with the youth that I can build on throughout the year. Helping to lead a group of strangers to the NYG was a daunting task at first, but as we got to know one another more and become family at this great family reunion called the NYG, it became clear that nothing is daunting with God. He makes all things new, and He certainly is at work in this new faith family of mine at Christ the King. To Him be all glory!