On April 24, the youth going to the National Youth Gathering will be holding a chili cook off at St. Luke. It will be a great time with great food and a bunch of other things being planned. It starts at 1:30 and is a great late lunch time with your family. We hope to cover a big chunk of the $5,000 we need fundraise for our trip to the National Youth Gathering.

In 2013, 18 of us got into the two vans and made the 24-hour drive to San Antonio, Texas. Our church body, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, holds a national gathering every three years. Three years ago, thousands of high school kids from around the U.S. came to celebrate our faith in San Antonio. Our faithful leader, Andrew Osborne, led the way. Last week, we said farewell to Andrew and sent him on to a new ministry. I know he will not forget the 24-hour van ride and the gathering in 2013. He has a true heart to encourage the faith of our kids.

On the way down, we made two stops–St. Louis, Missouri, and Dallas, Texas–and on the way back, we made one stop–Joplin, Missouri. The stops in Missouri were short and sweet, but gave ample time to bond with one another through games and conversation. In Missouri, we slept on floors and benches, but the hotel in Dallas was much more comfortable. Beds are always better then benches.

We did have some leisure time at the pool and the workout room. And we had some fine Tex-Mex food. For me, stopping at the Alamo and remembering what happened at that place in the 1840s was really fun. I absolutely love history.

Over 25,000 of us gathered for the three-day conference. We enjoyed great worship and great speakers, and the small group sessions to recap each day provided great conversation and intimacy within our group. The evening small groups really impacted my faith, and I hope they impacted the faith of others as well. The workshops had a lot of variety–varying from social to theological topics–and were very practical and helpful. Honestly, the individual classes were my personal favorite, and I can’t wait to see what this year’s youth gathering holds!

The memories made on this trip are priceless and unforgettable. There is something about the bonds that are built on trips like this that are unbreakable, and I very much appreciated the opportunity to go. I believe the Lord used this trip to push me to reflect on the things most important to me as a husband, a dad of young kids, and a faithful youth leader.