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Youth Learn The Love Of Helping

By Staff | Aug 21, 2015

From left to right (with backs turned) John Mueller, Corina Bell Facing camera: Pr Sharon Baker, Madalyn Pretzer, Tristin Lunde, Sara Stier, Shailah Strand, Karin Selland, Elizabeth Skjelver, McKenzie Oppen.  Participants not pictured are: Alecia Pretzer, Anders Johnson and Morgan Oppen.

Eleven youth: Shailah Strand, Madalyn Pretzer, Sara Stier, Karin Selland, Morgan Oppen, Elizabeth Skjelver, Corina Bell, Tristan Lunde, McKenzie Oppen, Jon Mueller, Anders Johnson and two adults Alecia Pretzer and Associate Pastor Sharon Baker, from the First Lutheran Church and Bethany Lutheran Church, the Lutheran Youth Organization (LYO) traveled to Detroit, Mich., July 14-20 for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America National Youth Gathering. The “Gathering”, which included nearly 30,0000 participants, provided opportunities for worship, service, fellowship, study and holy play and is for many a pivotal moment in their life of faith and understanding of vocation.?With the theme “Rise Up Together!”, members of the Gathering the group experienced “God’s work, our hands”, especially on the service project day. Along with dozens of other volunteers, the Rugby group travelled to the Brightmoor neighborhood of Detroit and cleared brush and garbage from abandoned homes. These blighted properties create health and safety risks for the people who live in the neighborhood. Abandoned properties also attract crime and depress properties values. After the debris was cleared, any open windows and doorways were boarded up and painted with murals and words of encouragement. (The group was told that Detroit has demolished 30,000 homes in the past year with a cost of $10,000-15,000 per home. With only 18 percent occupancy, this neighborhood has low priority on that list) The service day was hot (mid 90’s), the work was hard, but the neighbor’s expressed gratitude- in-tears. That is a forever memory for all involved.

Gathering participant Madalyn Pretzer, from Rugby, shared, “I loved our LYO trip to Detroit! It was very shocking to see the neighborhood where we did our service project.” Pretzer continued, “We learned that the area only had 18 percent occupancy. The windows were broken which allowed squatters to move in and live in the houses or use them for illegal things. We boarded up the windows and painted messages of encouragement and symbols on them. We also cleaned trash out of abandoned yards. It was very surprising to see the amount of garbage in the yards!”

Madalyn also commented that the nightly worship was one of her favorite parts of the Gathering. She said, “Every night we went to Ford Field and listened to good music and amazing speakers. They all had very powerful messages and I enjoyed all of them. They taught us to not wait for opportunities to help people, but to find them for yourself.” She continued, “At the COBO center we were able to have fun as well as do service projects. I helped to make a fleece hat, a care package that will go to a victim of human trafficking, and I painted small murals of hope to be hung around the city.” She concluded, “We also participated in the walk for water and a refugee simulation. The city was amazing, but shocking to see.”

The gathering provided an amazing opportunity for youth to see and experience faith in action and understand that the Christian witness of Jesus Christ as Good News for the world truly changes lives, according to Baker. She also shared, “The First and Bethany LYO are especially grateful to their congregations for supporting them all the way to Detroit and back!”

You can’t count the ways the gathering impacted Detroit, nor can you count the ways that Detroit impacted the gathering, only to know that both felt that the impact will stay with all for years to come. But, there are some facts that can be expressed in numbers, like, 1 million diapers collected; 425 backpacks distributed; 3,200 vacant lots cleared of debris; 319 vacant homes boarded up; 2,976 square feet of boards painted for abandoned homes; 36 urban gardens installed; 99 picnic tables built; 26 dumpsters filled; 600 neighborhoods engaged; 650 people donated at least eight inches of hair; 607 pints of blood donated; and 4,000 hats constructed for local churches to give away.

– Tribune Staff Report

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