A few months ago, we announced that several groups from the Eurasia Region would be traveling to New Orleans to attend the LCMS National Youth Gathering, In Christ Alone, for 2016. During the Gathering, we posted some photos of their participation. Now, Rev. Craig Donofrio, Communication Director for LCMS Eurasia, has created a short video highlighting the adventures of the three groups. Here is a summary of their experiences:
Seven students from many different countries who attend the English-language expatriate congregation, Trinity Lutheran Church, in Frankfurt, Germany, traveled with LCMS Missionary and Director of Christian Education, Kendra McNatt and the music director from Trinity, Johanna Tierling, and another adult leader. Due to generous donations, the students and their leaders were not only able to participate in the Gathrering, but also visited Kendra’s home church in Florida, and were gifted a trip to Walt Disney World.
Kendra notes in her latest newsletter that one student’s reaction to a Mass Event was “It’s a lot of Jesus.” Another student, Noah, exclaimed, “Hands down my favorite thing was Mass Events, because seeing 23,000 youth all praising God is awesome.”
These students live in a country where few of their peers confess Christ, and it may be even fewer in their home countries. Jillian noted, “I learned I’m not alone and there are other Christians. I don’t need to be afraid to say that I believe.”
The students participated in the Parade of Nations one night at the event, and a representative from the group presented the NYG hosts with some traditional German food to try – blindfolded – during a Mass Event. The students are extremely grateful for the donors who helped to send them, and they were strengthened in their faith.
The group from the Czech Republic was led by LCMS Career Missionary, Benjamin Helge, and two adult native leaders in the English Talk Group from their area. They traveled to New Orleans and then on to Ben’s home congregation in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Ben had hoped that his group would be strengthened in their faith and energized to return to the Czech Republic in order to share the Gospel with others. But an unexpected benefit was that the encouragement went both ways – American students who heard the stories of their brothers and sisters from the Czech Republic were also encouraged in their faith. In fact, Ben and one of the students, Tomáš Přeček, actually shared about Tomáš’ conversion from the main stage during a Mass Event. They spoke about Tomáš’ journey from unbeliever to baptized child of God.
The group also participated in the Parade of Nations, with Mirek, a student who helped to proclaim the Gospel to Tomáš, placing the Czech flag on the stage with the words “We believe in God the Father, we believe in Jesus Christ” being sung in the background. In that moment, Ben was reminded of the bond we have in the common faith with Christian brothers and sisters from all over the world.
The final group from a Lutheran High School in Hungary where the LCMS has previously worked, was led by two teachers. Aisling Dundee, a Christian English teacher who accompanied the students, shared with us about her students’ experiences, which were made possible by generous donations from Redeemer Lutheran Church in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
Aisling explains that
the highlight of the trip for me was seeing these young people grow in their understanding of both themselves and of Christ. None of the students that came with me had professed to be Christians before the trip, although they had participated in English camps and bible studies at school many times. During the week I was so encouraged to see them openly and freely discuss the word of God both with me and with other students from the redeemer youth group. The most striking realisation for them came after the first mass event – you are not alone if you’re in Christ! In Hungary, although church attendance is relatively high for Central Europe, very few people have an active, fruitful faith in God, and so to see so many young people on fire for God and not ashamed to express their relationship with him made a real impact.
Aisling hopes that the Holy Spirit would continue to work to call these students to faith and a confession of that faith.
Like the other groups, the group from Hungary participated in the Parade of Nations one night during a Mass Event. During the practice time, they were able to meet and talk with other groups from Guatemala, Germany, Canada, and Australia. This reinforced the truth that we are all one In Christ Alone. One of Aisling’s students, Aron, said that representing his country that night was one of the proudest moments of his life.
In the video, you’ll see a picture of three girls holding a frame around them. Aisling says: “These girls had a great time at the gathering. From a teacher’s perspective, their English improved immensely during their time in New Orleans (if you can have a conversation about what identity in Christ means to you in your second language at a morning bible study after four hours of sleep, you’re pretty much fluent in my book), but more importantly their understanding of themselves and their worth in Christ grew immensely.”
Tags: Benjamin Helge, Craig Donorfrio, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, In Christ Alone, InChristAlone, Kendra McNatt, LCMS, National Youth Gathering, New Orleans, NYG 2016, NYG2016, students, travel, video