Saturday, November 24, 2012

Our Trip to New Orleans: ELCA Youth Gathering, Citizens with the Saints, July 2012

In a continuation of my photo dump from July 2012, I wanted to touch on the trip my DH and I took to New Orleans.  Shortly before our wedding, the pastor of our church e-mailed me to ask if I would act as the third chaperone during a mission trip/youth gathering in New Orleans in July.  He said I was the first person they thought of when deciding to ask an additional chaperone to attend (yes, I was shocked by this!).  I was pretty harried at the time and said "sure" but only if my soon-to-be husband could come as well.  My pastor said "yes" and like that, I was suddenly about to be in charge of a bunch of teenagers when I often feel like one myself!

Suffice it to say, my husband and I both agree this trip was life-changing.  Along with with our pastor, our friend C, the hubby and I herded chaperoned 17 (yes, seventeen) kids ages 14-17 from the Main Line to New Orleans.  We learned so much during this trip--patience (something I don't have any much of and God definitely used this trip to test it/develop it), a little about the culture and feel of New Orleans, grace, the mission of the Lutheran Church, and a bit about what it's like to be a teenager in the Twitter/Facebook age.

The theme of the youth gathering was "Citizens with the Saints" and it was eye-opening.  We were invited to come to New Orleans and I believe there were about 33,000 teenagers from all around the U.S. (not counting the chaperones) and the city and people of New Orleans were incredibly gracious hosts to our massive crowd.  The gathering centered around service projects (ours was cleaning up LaFreniere Park) and various activities to open the eyes of the attendees to be more accepting and loving of our peers.  The speakers at the gathering were absolutely amazing and proof you don't have to look or act a certain way to identify yourself as a Christian.  I loved this message and it really spoke to the teenagers from our church as well.  I was particularly impressed with Nadia Bolz-Weber and Shane Claiborne and their messages of acceptance and Christ's love.

I kept up a live Facebook page during the gathering so our generous church family who helped raise the funds to send 21 of us to New Orleans could follow along.  I think I took a couple hundred photos, and I wanted to share some for posterity.  In light of privacy of our chaperonees, here are some photos of our trip:

Awesome self-pic while waiting for the economy parking bus at the airport! 
My pastor and I at our hotel in New Orleans upon arrival
Pool in the central courtyard at our hotel
The Superdome, home base for the Youth Gathering
Nightly church services in the Superdome... gives you an idea of the size of the event!
Only part of the 33K teenage attendees!
A delicious Ferdi sandwich at Mother's Restaurant
The DH and I!  Love those Lilly Pulitzer shorts
New Orleans had some minor flooding while we were there; scary to say the least
Gives you an idea of how easily this city floods
My first (and so far only) hornet bite of my life during our service project
Ready to work!
Our hotel was on Bourbon St., this is the aftermath each morning that has to be cleaned up every day
Sleepy chaperones waiting for beignets!
Cafe du Monde!  They were DELICIOUS
Swamp tour time!
Beautiful scenery on our swamp tour
Yes, it was alive!
Bourbon St at night
My sweet husband wearing his heart (almost literally) on his sleeve!
INSANELY amazing bread pudding at Court of the Two Sisters during our brunch by ourselves before we flew home!
Live jazz music during brunch!
Tired and headed for home!

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