There and Back Again: A Pastor’s Sabbatical Adventure #9

Lutherstadt Wittenberg and the ELCA Luther500 Youth Event!

Part 1


Since you will no doubt be hearing directly from our youth participants about what we did day by day at the Luther500 Youth Festival, and since only they can tell you what it meant to them I won’t repeat or try to do that. Instead, I thought I would share some impressions and expressions of what the week meant to me.

The first  is how thrilled I am that God at work through Good Shepherd and in our youth ministry was able to pull this off! I know that God is all-powerful and all-knowing and can do all things but still…..this was a dream come true for me to have an event/opportunity/experience like this happen for our youth and families  at Good Shepherd. To God be the glory of course but I don’t think there is another congregation that is providing more varied and meaningful and quality programs/experiences/activities to explore the history, meaning and relevance for today of the Reformation than we are and have been for the past year and our Luther500 youth trip is another great example of that.

As you may know this trip represents the completion of one full cycle of summer youth trips that is an important component of our youth ministry strategy at Good Shepherd and one that I hope will continue to be an ongoing part of the program. The cycle involves a trip each summer that alternates between the ELCA Youth Gathering, a Mission Trip and an “adventure” trip.  We accomplished this beginning with the ELCA Youth Gathering in Detroit in the summer or 2015; our Youth Works Mission trip to Mingo County, West Virginia last summer 2016 and now the Luther500 trip to Wittenberg that we have just completed.

With different emphases, each of these trips provide unique experiential opportunities for faith formation that include varying amounts of learning, service, worship, personal and spiritual growth, bible study and group building (with a lot of fun thrown in for good measure).  By their very nature trips like these are deeply impactful, transformative and create life long memories and connections to what our faith is all about for our youth (not to mention for the adults who accompany them (and me)).

We had a great group 10 high school youth, two middle school youth and one just one year out of high school young adult. I am also very thankful for the 7 adult leaders who were with us all of whom made significant contributions to the experience so that there was a minimal loss of blood, no broken bones, no one left behind at the Wartburg Castle and we all returned with our sanity intact (or at least as intact as it was when we left). It was especially nice to have Laurie Wilhelm’s mother Anne along with us – not just because she was such a consistently positive part of the group (not to mention such a surprisingly good ping pong player as some of our young men discovered), but it also meant I wasn’t the oldest one in our group ? – although I was the oldest one of our group on the high ropes course!

In addition I want to say a big BIG  thank you to our Youth Coordinator Lisa Long who along with God is the biggest reason we were able to accomplish this trip. Doing a trip like this is a huge undertaking from recruiting to fundraising to planning to organizing. I believe just about everyone in the congregation participated in some way in making this trip possible – whether by giving money or coming to the German dinner or supporting us with their prayers and advice but it would not have been possible without God at work through Lisa’s gifts and efforts. I came up with the idea and did a lot of cheer leading but it was all the rest of you and Lisa through whom God made this happen. Thanks be to God!

2 Replies to “There and Back Again: A Pastor’s Sabbatical Adventure #9”

  1. Thanks be to God for our amazing youth, youth leaders, and you, Pastor Mark! The youth who went to Germany did a great job sharing about their incredible journey! Lisa put together a beautiful slideshow! All of the interactive posts about the fruits of the spirit made us feel like we were part of the trip! Thank you for your dedication to our congregation, and especially to our youth!

  2. Wow! I have to say I agree with Pastor Mark. God is at work through our youth ministry at Good Shepherd and it is AWESOME. Getting everyone to the Luther 500 Festival was definitely a team effort. God did his God thing (sometimes He and the youth coordinator were on the same page. Other times she had to figure out what chapter or even book He was in) Pastor Mark had the vision and constant encouragement, Brian – as always – had the fun (and ability to talk the youth coordinator down off the ledge more times than I can count) and me – I just did my job. But.. absolutely none of our program would be possible without our incredibly supportive and encouraging congregation. To me, the best part of my job is ministering to the kids and providing them with opportunities to explore their faith beyond our church walls. I love that members of our congregation – many of whom do not have children in our youth program – want that for our youth too. That’s truly what being a church is all about – sharing God’s love and enabling others to grow to be the best person they can be in that love. I am blessed to be a part of this wonderful ministry. The Luther 500 Festival is in the books. Bring on Youth Gathering – Houston!

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