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June 4, 2003 ELCA News Service
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John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958
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ELCA News Archives

Thousands of Lutheran Youth Will "Do Life" this Summer

Resources:
Definitely Abled Youth Leadership Event
2003 ELCA Youth Gathering
Multicultural Youth Leadership Event

Chicago (ELCA)-MR — The Youth Gathering of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) will bring together about 40,000 high-school-age and adult Lutherans in two back-to-back events this year: July 16-20 and July 23-27. The gathering, "Do Life! Ubuntu," will take place at the Georgia Dome and Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.

"Youth are people of great vision. They are evangelists, teachers, preachers, seekers and generous hosts," wrote the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the ELCA, in a letter to registered participants. "The Youth Gathering is a unique and treasured tradition in our church." Hanson will preach at both of the gatherings' closing worships, July 20 and July 27.

The ELCA Youth Gathering is held every three years. At it youth and adults from Lutheran churches around the world gather to nurture faith, celebrate global diversity, and support, celebrate and strengthen youth ministry. The 2003 gathering will feature activities built around the theme of "Ubuntu: I am because we are. We are because Christ is."

The word "Ubuntu" is from the Bantu language of sub-Saharan Africa. Roughly translated it means "humanity" and carries with it the concept that in order to be fully human, one must be in community. According to retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a keynote speaker at the 2000 ELCA Youth Gathering, St. Louis, true human identity comes only through absolute dependence on God and neighbor.

From 1978 to 1985 Tutu served as general secretary of the South African Council of Churches. In 1995 President Nelson Mandela appointed Tutu to head the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and chair the Human Rights Violations Community. Tutu won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.

Young Lutherans from Australia, Brazil, Egypt, Finland, France, Hungary, Iceland, India, Kazakhstan, the Middle East, Namibia, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Samoa, Suriname, Sweden, Tanzania and Zimbabwe will attend the gathering. ELCA congregations from across the United States will host international guests.

Each day of the gathering will begin and end with a mass gathering at the Georgia Dome. Morning mass gatherings will feature "technology enhanced" Bible study, evening gatherings will feature guest speakers, and both will include music, dance, drama, video and special effects, storytelling, audience participation and worship.

Guest speakers include Craig Kielburger, founder of Free the Children, and Stephen Lewis, United Nations Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa.

At the age of 12 Kielburger became a spokesperson for children's rights after he read about the murder of a boy from Pakistan, who was sold into bondage as a carpet weaver and murdered for speaking out about child labor. Now 19, Kielburger has traveled to more than 30 countries visiting street and working children and speaking out in defense of children's rights.

In 2001 Lewis was appointed to serve as special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa by the U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. From 1995 to 1999 Lewis was the deputy executive director of UNICEF. As Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations from 1984 to 1988, Lewis chaired the committee that drafted the five-year U.N. Programme on African Economic Recovery. In 1986 the U.N. Secretary-General appointed Lewis as his special advisor on Africa.

The Rev. Andrea L. Walker-Senakwami, St. John's Lutheran Church, Summit, N.J., will serve as the Gathering's "teaching pastor." The Rev. Barbara K. Lundblad, associate professor of preaching, Union Theological Seminary, New York, will lead Bible study.

Afternoon activities include participation in the "interaction center," "learning village," and service projects in and around Atlanta.

Located in the Georgia World Congress Center, the interaction center is a place where participants can fix cars for single moms, play beach volleyball, climb walls, learn martial arts, visit with college and seminary representatives, get a massage and hang out in coffee houses.

The learning village will offer participants time to discuss health concerns with a nurse, move through a prayer labyrinth, and learn about ELCA ministries in an interactive way.

Service opportunities are one-hour to five-hour work projects in the Atlanta area. Projects will include cleaning parks and neighborhoods, painting houses, serving in soup kitchens, visiting nursing homes and helping in day care centers. Participants will also help build new homes through Habitat for Humanity. A new program called "2x2 Service" will offer participants an opportunity to work in one location for two-and-a-half days before the gathering. That work includes home repair for elderly people.

"Quarters for Hunger," a special program designed to raise awareness about hunger and poverty, will be a new feature at the 2003 ELCA Youth Gathering. Participants are encouraged to bring two rolls of quarters and invite others to match one-for-one what participants save. The goal is to collect $1 million in quarters (four million quarters) to support the ELCA World Hunger Appeal and "Stand With Africa: A Campaign of Hope" — a Lutheran focus on issues significant to Africa, including HIV/AIDS, food security, and peace and reconciliation. Stand With Africa is being coordinated in part by the ELCA World Hunger Program.

To help guide some participants in their understanding of the Gathering's theme, Ubuntu, a group of 22 teenagers and 16 adults traveled to Africa, April 7-19. The group will share their travel experience and understanding of Ubuntu at the gathering's learning village.

Breakfast, exercise and worship are some activities being planned prior to the morning mass gathering for young people staying in Atlanta's hotels. More than 500 volunteers will secure the safety of and transportation for "Ubuntu! Do Life!" participants and participants in related events taking place before and during the gathering.

A leadership event for "definitely abled" young people will take place July 13-16 at the Omni Hotel CNN Center, Atlanta. The event, "Definitely Do Life Day-By-Day" is open to all young Lutherans with physical, visual, auditory, mental or learning disabilities. Its main purpose is to build a community of young people who live with disabilities and equip them to use their gifts in congregations and the ELCA's 65 synods.

The Multicultural Youth Leadership Event (MYLE) will take place July 13-16 at the Sheraton Hotel Atlanta. African American and Black, American Indian and Alaska Native, Arab and Middle Eastern, Asian and Pacific Islander, and Latino/Latina young people will come together with international guests and White youth from multicultural ELCA congregations under the theme "Bathed in His Image: Washing Away MYLEs of Hate."

Participants of both leadership events will also attend the ELCA Youth Gathering.

Under the convention theme, "N-2-1: Joining in Weakness, We are Strong," about 500 delegates — Lutherans between the ages of 15 and 18 or who are in grades 10 through 12 — from synods will conduct the business of the ELCA Lutheran Youth Organization (LYO). "N-2-1" — pronounced "into one" — will take place July 20-23 at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Business sessions, led by the board of LYO, will include the election of officers, action on resolutions submitted by delegates representing synods and congregations of the ELCA, and reception of reports from the board and its three advisory committees -- Multicultural Advisory Committee, Definitely Abled Advisory Committee and Council of Synod LYO Presidents. Other highlights of the convention include keynote presentations, workshops, music, Bible study and worship.

The LYO holds its triennial conventions in conjunction with ELCA Youth Gatherings.