The ELCA Youth Gathering will be in New Orleans in 2009. The LCMS Youth Gathering will be in New Orleans in 2010. This means two years in a row Lutheran youth will have an unparalleled opportunity to live in relationship and service with each other in the name of Jesus Christ.
I just returned from a week in New Orleans in training as our synod coordinator for the Gathering. Being in the city is really an overwhelming experience, and takes some time to process. Much of the tourist/central section of New Orleans, is completely rebuilt. So if you stay in the hotels near the French Quarter you can get the illusion that all is back to normal. Since we were in New Orleans the week before Fat Tuesday, there were already a lot of parades going on. It felt like the New Orleans that is so often celebrated, with jazz and festivities.
But you don't have to go very far from this district to see the places where there is still much work to be done.
While there, we worshiped at Bethlehem Lutheran Church. You can hear an interview with their pastor, Rev. Patrick Keen, on Grace Matters. It was very meaningful to worship with this congregation. We did not get to spend a lot of time there, because we had to catch our train back to Chicago shortly after noon. Nevertheless, we were incredibly thankful for their hospitality.
I do not want to imply that I know tons about New Orleans or Hurricane Katrina. In fact, I confess that before we visited, I was much less informed and involved than I should be. When the disaster struck, like many people our family donated money for disaster relief. I kept thinking of volunteering and traveling to the Gulf Coast to help with clean up effort- but a variety of factors kept me from doing so. Most of them were excuses. Nevertheless, I was thankful for a reason to be in New Orleans and learn about the continuing ministry and necessary work being done there.
God bless you if you have been involved in the reconstruction efforts. Feel free to share your comments here, or tell your story.