Our last day in New Orleans for the National Youth Gathering began with checking out of the hotel and eating breakfast. We then walked to the Superdome for Worship using the Divine Service. This service included the full liturgy (including communion) with a massive choir and orchestral band made up of high schoolers.
While the service was familiar to that used at Holy Cross, with us singing many well known hymns, it was drastically different in that the worship was the combined voices of 25000 people. Words cannot accurately describe the experience of such a large crowd raising their voices in one accord to give praise to our God. The best way I can think to describe it, is that the service was an immediate foretaste of what Heaven will be like; in which the combined church throughout all time will raise their voices together in eternal praise of the Lamb who was slain. As St John describes Heaven in the book of Revelation:
“Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing! And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever! And the four living creatures said, Amen! and the elders fell down and worshiped.” Rev 5:11-14
The experience of worship and celebrating the Eucharist with such a large crowd was amazing and we hope and pray that it will prove to be formative in the youth’s faith development.
After the celebration of the divine service the worship continued with further songs and closing remarks by the emcees. They discussed how the experience of the youth gathering will most likely prove to be very difficult to put into words, making it hard to tell family and friends about the experience. They encouraged us to take time to pray and consider how to best describe an experience which has been so powerful. It is our hope and prayer that God will bless the youth with help processing their experience and help sharing that experience as a witness to what God is doing in their lives.
The emcees also relayed statistics related to how the youth/leaders served in New Orleans, with the youth/leaders having:
- Donated 791 pints of blood
- Contributed hair for wigs from 52 individuals
- Packed 900+ backpacks with school supplies
- Made 1000 fleece hats
- Built 1 Habitat for Humanity frame
- packed 500,906 meals for feed my starving children
- Put in 33,000 volunteer hours helping around the city
The gathering ended as it began with the song “Christ Alone”, which was a huge hit with all the youth. Below is a studio recording of it:
After leaving the Superdome we returned to the hotel to spend time in fellowship discussing the week and playing games. A majority of the youth joined in an intense game of slapjack which led to much laughter. As we approached our departure time we left to go to where our shuttle would pick us up and we got Froyo along the way. We then took a shuttle to the airport, checked in, and flew to Seattle and then Spokane. We arrived safely shortly after midnight and were very glad to be back in Spokane where it is much cooler and less humid than New Orleans!
Please keep us in your prayers! Specific prayer requests/praises:
Things we give praise and thanks for:
- All the wonderful and not so wonderful experiences of the week
- The amazing time in worship
- All the work of volunteers, New Orleans P.D. and other local organizations.
- The work of God in the youth and leaders on our trip
- Continued blessings on New Orleans and that our witness in their community may bring others to Christ.
- That God would help the youth and leaders to process their experience: that it may lead to a deeper relationship with Him and be a transformative.
- Speedy recovery for youth and leaders who are suffering from sleep depravation and many aches and pains from walking many miles this past week!