I'm in the deep throws of packing. I have clothes, T-shirts of every color and style for a group of ten; I have boxes of breakfast foods, and boxes of books. I have coolers of beverages--lots and lots of bottled water. I even have a gazillion yo-yos for trade. I'm getting excited. Tomorrow morning before the rooster barely has time to drum up a cock-a-doodle-do I will be rolling down the highway on my way to New Orleans for the Youth Gathering. While I pack I start to think about the conversation D and I had two weeks ago...
Around my youngest daughter's neck hangs a silver gold trimmed circle pendant that has her first name engraved on the front and on the reverse side her confirmation verse: Jeremiah 29:11-- a gift from her daddy and I.
As we were driving to church to make copies and chatting about our service event assignment we had just received I looked at her and said "your confirmation verse kind of fits into our service experience". "Not for me" she said. "How about for the children we will be reading to and with, can't you see the message in: For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future? Isn't this what our hands and hearts are opened to here in New Orleans, to show to these young children, these people--hope and a future?" I guess IT IS fitting,” she said. Then we began talking about reading and how it is hard to imagine a time when we couldn't read. We seem to take for granted a skill we posses, that it is just an innate part of our being. Truth is it isn't. It is something we all must work hard to cultivate the skill must be nurtured. For every ten people in New Orleans only three is literate…a very sad but real statistic. I told the story of how in elementary school I was for a time in the lowest reading group, but with the loving attention of good caring teachers and self practice of those learned skills I came to love reading-- all because someone cared enough to offer me the hope with a future so that I should be fit to prosper.
Cultivate. Nurture. Practice. Share. All these words do more than describe our servant area and event at the Jefferson Parish Public Schools. They really attest to the Gathering in the whole. We come to New Orleans to share, practice, nurture and cultivate our faith, our relationship with Christ. And the cool thing is...we aren't doing it alone, we have 36,000 friends in Christ to grow with. While many of us may walk into our service areas viewing, thinking, and feeling--"chaos" all our hands and loving hearts together put a "peace" of "holy" on it. Holy chaos is uplifting, fulfilling.
I can think of nothing better than holy chaos! You?
I also imagine the question on many young people's minds will be-- can we make a difference here, in our short time? If we allow ourselves to step back and evaluate why we have come to New Orleans it truly is a good feeling to know, to hope that our presence and the work we have come to do on there behalf will open hearts to the knowledge; not only [for us] in the sense of education and vocation, but that God does have a PLAN for us all, a PLAN for us all to prosper and to give the HOPE for a future.
So I say...New Orleans or Bust!