But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name. -John 20:31

During the holiday season it is good to take time and reflect. As I think back on previous Youth Gatherings, I think back to New Orleans in the summer of 2001. I was a DCE intern then, and I was fortunate to travel to the Gathering with my home church — Grace Lutheran in DeWitt, Iowa. That year we teamed up with a neighboring church from Grand Mound, Iowa, and went down to New Orleans together in a big charter bus. On the trip that year was my buddy’s son, Cory Selby.

The first night of the “Higher Ground” Gathering was awesome. Pastor Tom Rogers gave a wonderful message which included the famous chant, “Who dat sayin you gonna beat God’s saints!” I remember our kids being so fired up; in fact, later, one of our youth remarked at how Cory was jumping up and down praising God like crazy! But, suddenly the mood changed. As he was running up a flight of stairs at the hotel, Cory collapsed and died — he had an enlarged heart that nobody really knew about. To say we were shocked is the understatement of the year.

That trip has been the biggest challenge in my ministry to date, and one of the biggest in my life period. I know God was with us during that trip. Somehow He got us through and not only did He get us through, He used Cory in a huge way during that trip. To quote his father, Mike, “God used Cory as a special tool to witness to others, especially the kids that went to the Gathering.”

Cory was a typical 15 year-old kid who was well liked and had a strong heart for the Lord. He had a strong faith and wasn’t afraid to stand up for it. As we remember Cory, I again quote his father from a letter I received later in 2001. “It is so comforting for us to know through Cory’s death, people’s faiths were strengthened. And in time, as you remember that boy who went to the Higher Ground at that Gathering back in 2001, you would continue to witness about our Great God and in turn strengthen your faith. So you, too, can give all glory to God, as He works through you to bring people to Him, just as Cory did. And someday, have that ultimate reunion, all together, walking with Jesus in Heaven.”

Blessings as you continue on the Road to the Gathering!