From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Lutheran Youth Encouraged to Lead Through Service

Date Mon, 27 Jul 2009 14:50:47 -0500

Title: Lutheran Youth Encouraged to Lead Through Service

>July 27, 2009  

Lutheran Youth Encouraged to Lead Through Service

NEW ORLEANS (ELCA) -- All 37,000 Lutheran teenagers, adult leaders
and other volunteers had completed at least one day of service in as many
as 200 community projects when they gathered July 25 in the Louisiana
Superdome. Speakers had words of thanks and encouragement to continue
that work when they returned to their homes across the United States and

They were here July 22-26 for the 2009 Youth Gathering of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). "Jesus Justice Jazz" was
the theme of activities at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center and the

New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin brought greetings to the
gathering. "We have many groups who have come to see about us and to do
special things, but we have never had a group like the Lutherans to do
what you have done this week," he said.

Nagin recalled the words of poet Maya Angelou that the best time to
see a rainbow is when the sky is half dark and half sunny. Looking across
tens of thousands of Lutheran youth wearing brightly colored T-shirts,
Nagin added, "I see your colors, your T-shirts. You are our Katrina
rainbow. God bless you."

The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, read a letter to the
gathering from U.S. President Barack Obama: "I am pleased to send my
warmest greetings to all those attending the 2009 ELCA Youth Gathering.
Thank you for your service to the people of New Orleans."

"You've done what caring requires, what justice requires, and that's
work," said Donald Miller, author of "Blue Like Jazz," Portland, Ore.
Many people are satisfied with just writing a check and feeling they
are "doing justice," he said.

Miller provided the vision for The Mentoring Project which works
with faith communities to provide positive male role models to boys
between the ages of seven and 14. "I've come here to thank you," he said.

"The song that you have sung this week is a beautiful song," Miller
said. "It is a song of freedom. It echoes through the buildings of this
city. So much so that the mayor had to come and say 'I like your music.'"

Venice R. Williams reminded the youth that God imagined the world
and created it. "God has never stopped imagining. God has never stopped
creating," she said.

Williams is executive director of Milwaukee's Kujichagulia Lutheran
Center, which helps individuals and families discover self-determination
(Kujichagulia) through spiritual, cultural, artistic and academic

"Everybody is talking about 'going green.' Everybody's talking about
this 'green movement,' but for faith-filled God-centered gorgeous
creatures, that's not what it's about," Williams said. "This whole
movement is about honoring God's imagination."

Anne Mahlum moved to Philadelphia to take a job that she wasn't sure
she wanted. She told the Superdome audience she felt God's direction
while taking her morning run.

Mahlum ran past a homeless shelter, and, after time, got to know
some of the men. She rounded up shoes and running gear for nine of the
men and started "Back on My Feet," engaging them in running as a means to
build confidence, strength and self-esteem. The running group has grown
to more than 25.

"I didn't have faith, and I didn't have anything guiding me two
years ago. Now I do. I get why you're here," Mahlum said.

"Whatever you're doing, it's working. Keep doing it. God bless you."
-- -- --

Information about the 2009 Youth Gathering is at on the ELCA Web site.

For information contact:

John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or
ELCA News Blog:

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