It’s hard to believe that fall has started, the first quarter is almost over in some school districts, and we are over two months removed from the LCMS Youth Gathering. Those of you who plan ministry projects or events like weekly worship, vacation Bible school, and youth events know the blessing of a time for evaluation to reflect and give thanks for God’s providence and grace.  It is also a great time to review feedback and plan for the future.  Gathering planners are in this time of reviewing feedback you provided (thank you!), connecting with the city of New Orleans, giving thanks, and planning for 2019.

At a later date, we will give an overview of the feedback you provided and what we learned as we look forward to the 2019 LCMS Gathering and other LCMS Youth Ministry events and resources. For now, I wanted to provide reflections on some things for which Gathering planners and participants have lifted up for giving thanks to God and for continued  prayers:

We give thanks for the mutual love shown between adult leaders and young people, and how LCMS congregations are places where the love of Christ is shared.

We give thanks for LCMS young people and the love they showed to the city of New Orleans and her residents.

We give thanks for LCMS young people’s excitement in their role as witnesses of Jesus Christ to their friends and others they love. This is such an encouragement to all who are part of the Youth Gathering and the Church.

We give thanks for the city of New Orleans and our LCMS partners in the Gospel who call NOLA home.  The city and our churches provided such wonderful hospitality and care.

We give thanks for the roughly one-thousand volunteers who served at the event. Our Community Life Builders and Young Adult Volunteers add a component to the event that always exceeds expectations. We have again heard appreciation for their service from the city and the facilities.  These volunteers provide a vivid example of the Body of Christ at work, serving those whom He loves.

We give thanks for volunteer Gathering planners who dedicated countless hours, seemingly unlimited energy, and incredible wisdom and insight to the three-year planning process. It is wonderful to see these servants of Jesus Christ humbly give of themselves for the good of LCMS young people, the city of New Orleans, and each other in planning of an event like the Gathering.  We also give thanks to their families and congregations who allow them to serve on these planning teams and give of their time away from home and career.  I hope they have returned encouraged and refreshed for their congregational service and life in the Body of Christ.

We pray youth and adults continue to bear one another’s burdens.  You shared the hurts and concerns you carry in your local contexts as you strive to serve your neighbor and live out your vocations.  We give thanks for how congregations and the Gathering “family” are important sources of encouragement and healing.  We pray for God’s blessings upon further time in His Word and conversations as “ambassadors of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:11-21).  May the peace and love of Christ be shared amongst you all.

We pray you will encourage each other in the joy given in Christ alone.  It was a blessing to study that little word “joy” in Philippians and hear the stories of how Jesus restores us and gives us peace in His victory (John 16:33).  May you be encouragers of each other in the journey.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. – Phil 4:4

In Christ Alone!