Looking Forward to the National Youth Gathering

by Halle Randall and Ava Blankenship

After months of preparation, the 2019 LCMS National Youth Gathering (NYG) will be in full swing tomorrow night. NYG provides thousands of youth and adults the opportunity to come together as a community of God’s people to learn more about Jesus Christ, the Christian faith and their Lutheran identity. Our youth and leaders will meet at the airport at 7 a.m. for their flight to Minneapolis, where they will spend the next six days together. Two of our own who will be attending, Halle Randall & Ava Blankenship, each took a few minutes to share some thoughts about their expectations. While they each have varying perspectives, one being a leader and one a student, both have made some sacrifices in order to attend and both are looking forward to the upcoming trip.

This is not the first time Halle has been to NYG. She says, “I am so excited and blessed to be attending the 2019 NYG with Zion. Zion has been such a light to my life ever since I moved to Cincinnati from Akron. I have been a member of Redeemer back home since I was born, so switching my membership to a new church was a big step for me. However, Zion has filled the need for a good church in my life, and I am so thankful for that. I jumped right in volunteering with the youth because that is something I have always been passionate about. Even when I was a youth myself, I was very involved in my church and youth group. I knew that this year was a NYG year, so I applied to be a chaperone and I was ecstatic when I got a spot as an adult leader. I have been to the last three NYG’s (two as a participant and one as a YAV), so it was important to me that I go to this one in some capacity. I cannot wait to experience the growth in faith that I know will take place in the students, other chaperones, and myself as well. There is just something about being together with so many people of the same faith worshiping the same God that makes a person overwhelmed with joy, adoration, and awe.”
Halle views this as an opportunity to build on her relationships. She says, “I am looking forward to being with the kids and getting to know each of them better. I know a few of them well, but most of them I have only met a handful of times. I am a big people person, so getting to know new people is one of my favorite things. I am also looking forward to the mass events. They are held each night of the gathering, and we get to sing, listen to amazing speakers, and connect with each other. They always stand out to me the most from each gathering I have attended.”
Ava is also excited to attend NYG. She explains, “I’m so excited to go to NYG and get closer to my peers and grow in my faith. I know others who have gone to previous gatherings; they have said being together with fellow believers around your age and worshipping together is an extremely empowering experience.”
Saying you want to attend NYG may be easier said than done. Halle explains, “Being able to attend the gathering was quite a process for me. This year, I am an AmeriCorps Member at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens. I serve in Public Programs in the Education Department. When I told me supervisors that I would be attending the NYG back in January, they were very reluctant to let me take time off in the heart of summer camp season. That is our busy time of year, and most people are not able to take time off then. They did not approve my time off request form until mid-May, which was stressful considering I was the primary adult leader. I was relieved when my supervisors finally approved my trip, and even though I will miss the craziness of summer camp, I am so excited to be heading to Minnesota with a great group of people for an experience of a lifetime.”

Ava too had some commitments that conflicted with NYG. She explains that her decision to attend NYG did not come easily. She says, “Going to the National Youth Gathering is very important to me. When I was younger, I heard about how older youth had attended NYG, so I have always wanted to go. The gathering only happens every three years, and as an incoming Freshman I know I will be a Senior the next NYG. I know that Senior year may bring with it other conflicts and I may not be able to go. It is important to me to go now – even if it means giving up things like pre-season soccer and it costs a lot of money, that my parents made me earn to pay for the trip.“

For the next six days, as Halle, Ava and the other leaders and youth from Zion and St. John’s come together with thousand from across the country in fellowship, service, worship and time in God’s word, we ask that you pray for them. Prayers are needed – for safe travels, for growing faith, for fun, for fellowship and for blessings of this event.