Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Whom shall I send?

Posted on: February 9th, 2016 by Brad Peterson

So I must admit I had no idea what to write for my Musings this week. No idea had popped into my head over the past few days and I had nothing. (This is not fully true. I have plenty of thoughts on Star Wars, Bacon, and Football, but didn’t want to go to that well AGAIN). So I went ahead and did something I have done before: I randomnly opened my Bible and wahtever I saw on those two pages, I would write about. Today my Bible opened to Isaiah chapter six, one of my favorites. Here is what it said:


In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. 2Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. 3And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” 4The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke.

5And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” 6Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” 8Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”


I love in that last verse as the Lord asks a question: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Who indeed! Who will go to proclaim the word of the Lord? Who will go to serve the poor, comfort the grieving, welcome the stranger, lift up the orphan and the widow? Who will go to spread hope and love, to proclaim the saving grace of Jesus Christ? Who will embrace a child and share God’s love with them? Who will remember people in prayer? Who will give of their financial blessings to further the ministry of the church or to do something as simple as allow the church to pay its mortgage payment? Who will be an ambassador for Christ in word and deed? Who?

When we see that question posed, I bet our initial reaction is this: not me. Maybe that one over there or that person over there. But not me. We often know the needs and we hear the call. But our answer is rarely, “Yes. I’ll go.” We rarely answer as Isaiah did. We don’t answer God’s call not because we can’t or we don’t have the means or the gifts or the talents or the time or anything else. I believe we answer “no” or pass the buck because we are afraid. We are afraid to live out our faith. We live in fear of what we don’t have instead of what we do have and what we have been given. We live in fear of being judged or ridiculed and so it is safe to do nothing or wait for someone else to do it than for us to do it.

Fear is a powerful motivator and too often that motivation stops us from answering God’s call. Fear paralyzes us. Fear makes us apathetic. Fear makes us not take responsibility to the ministry that we have been entrusted. Fear stops us from answering God’s call. There is fear here in this reading from Isaiah before he finally answers. Fear made me question my call to become a pastor for a long time too.

God knows this. In the Bible, the phrase “Do not be afraid” appears 59 times and the phrase “Do not fear” appears 43 times. That is over 100 times! And we don’t need to fear because God promises to be with us. God promises to take away our fear and help us. We do not need to fear because the Lord is with us.

As we begin our Lenten journey, ponder the question God asks: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Think about how you will answer that question and who you might answer that question differently than you have been. Remember that you do not have to be afraid, because the Lord is with you.”

The Power of Bible Camp

Posted on: February 2nd, 2016 by Brad Peterson

This past Saturday I attended the Luther Park Bible Camp Annual Meeting in Chetek.  It was the my first annual meeting as a Luther Park Board Member and it has been a great experience so far.  The camp is growing, the bills are paid, and we are looking to the future with a capital campaign on the horizon to help bring them camp into the future and expand our programming.

Speaking of expanding programming, we have been blessed to send our confirmation students to Luther Park for camp every summer.  It is one of my requirements for confirmation and I was super happy when I came to Trinity that it had been a requirement for some time.  Camp can provide an experience that we cannot duplicate and I see it as one of the most important experiences we can give our youth.  Again, this is nothing new to most of you.  I wouldn’t be your pastor without my experience at Bible Camp as a youth and then as a counselor.

Of course, for almost a decade we have had Luther Park come to Trinity to lead our Vacation Bible School which has been an amazing experience.  When I was the annual meeting I ran into a counselor who had stayed in the past with Pat Rettke and asked about how she was doing.  One of my pastoral colleagues led VBS at Trinity as a Luther Park counselor and even though she is now in Northern Minnesota in her first call still asks about Connie Lystrom, whom she stayed with.  Not only have we been impacted by Luther Park, Luther Park has been impacted by us.

But, like many of our churches, we are underutilizing Luther Park.  We see it as just a place where we send our middle school youth. But they have amazing programs for kids of all ages and even adults!  Last year we had a youth go to the special MADD camp week which focuses on music and she absolutely loved it!  We had a fourth grader who came for a week when I was there with our confirmation students and his mom and dad were already asking about when we are going this year.  Luther Park has a lot of amazing programs that just aren’t using like we could.

Camp is an amazing experience and it helps in building a foundation of faith.  Most of the time I hear that people don’t want to send their child to camp because of cost.  Yet, there isn’t much thought to cut a check for a sports camp for something that their child might not really use after high school.  Bible camp gives a foundation of faith that will last a lifetime and impact youth in ways we can’t possibly imagine.  When I was looking for a faith experience seven years after I was at Bible Camp, it was Bible Camp that I thought of and sought out.

Cost should never be a factor in sending a child to camp.  Trinity has committed to helping reduce the cost of camp.  Luther Park is committed to help any child that wants to go to camp to be able to come, regardless of financial situation.  The money is out there.  We will help you and make sure your child gets this amazing experience.  You just have to be willing to give your child an incredible faith experience.

The week that I will be at camp with our youth will be July 10th-15th.  During that time there are programs for kids from 1st grade through high school.  You can register by either grabbing a brochure in the Narthex or going online at

Give you child an amazing faith experience.  Send them to Luther Park Bible Camp, where faith is nurtured through holy play!

What do we sow?

Posted on: January 25th, 2016 by Brad Peterson

1 Again he began to teach beside the sea. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the sea and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. 2 He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: 3 “Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” 9 And he said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”  Mark 4:1-9


Above is a very familiar parable, the Parable of the Sower.  I’d like to say two things about this parable really quick.  One, the sower is a TERRIBLE farmer.  I mean, who just starts tossing seed everywhere?  C’mon.  But second, and most importantly, I think that I have, and maybe all of us, have thought of this parable in the wrong way before.

So often when I have read this parable I think of myself as the soil and God as the sower.  I have to get my heart ready to accept the seed that God sows, which is the Word of God..  In other words, the success of the sowing is all up to me.  I have to prepare and get my heart ready so that I can grow faith in my own heart.  It makes some good sense.  But what if, in reality, we are the sower?  What if God’s job is to harvest, but it is our job to spread the word, to sow the seed?  What if instead of worrying about the final planting and what will come of it, what if our focus is to be on spreading the word as much as possible, no matter the soil?

But then I had another thought: since we might be the sower, the one spreading the seed, what if what we are sowing isn’t the word of God?  What if we are sowing something else?  I thought of this because I see in the world an increase in fear and paranoia.  I see seeds of distrust and hatred that are creeping into every fabric of life: home, schools, community, politics, media, everywhere.  I see the sowing of bigotry and hatred and a lack of compassion and willingness to talk to each other.  Even worse, I see that being sown in the hearts and minds of the people of God and calling it “Christian.”  I see thoughts blooming in our culture that somehow being a Christian means hatred, exclusion, and fear.  I think that sometimes we have forgotten the seed we are to be planting is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and this seed is one of hope, acceptance, compassion, and forgiveness.  This seed is not about stiff arming the other but welcoming them.  It is about loving our enemies and about praying for those who persecute us, not revenge or hatred or violence.  It is a seed that is about changing hearts with grace and love, not bigotry and persecution and power.

We are the sowers.  God is the harvester.  What will God find to harvest if the seed we are sowing is not his Gospel of hope, grace, and love?  The seed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, of a God of hope who sends his only Son to defeat sin and death to bring us to everlasting life, who calls us to lead lives of compassion, faithfulness, and love. This seed can change a heart.  This seed can change a life.  This seed can change a world.  But it must be sown.  It must be scattered.  And it must trust that God is at work.

Go out into the world, brothers and sisters, with a huge bag of seed.  May that seed be one of new life and hope, of love and forgiveness, of acceptance and joy.  The world needs it.  God will grow it.  Scatter that seed.  For that we can say, “Thanks be to God!”  Amen

Do Not Fear

Posted on: December 22nd, 2015 by Brad Peterson

It is always pretty neat when someone comes up and compliments me on the Christmas lights and decorations that we have on our house.  They often want to find out how long it took me to put them all up!  The funny thing is that I didn’t’ grow up with a ton of lights outside of our house for Christmas, if at all, but I have always been fasicnated by Christmas lights.  I used to sit on Christmas morning, just staring at the Christmas tree all light up in the darkness.  When I was super sick a few weeks ago, I just stared out the window at our lights and it made me feel a little better.

I think I put up so much stuff because I know that others enjoy it.  I remember as a kid walking down the street from my grandparents to see the huge Christmas light display on this house.  They had all sorts of moving figures and everything and there was always a decent crowd.  I know that people like to drive by the house to look at the lights and if it gives people a moment of joy, then it is worth all the work.  For myself, I know there are times when I have come home from a long day and it is just a little uplift when I see the lights on the house.

Christmas is often a time where we shine our lights in the midst of darkness, and as I reflect and think about life and the world at this moment, I have been feeling and seeing a shroud of darkness that threatens to envelope our world.  That darkness is fear.  President Franklin Delanor Roosevelt once said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  I see fear creeping into every part of our lives.  I see it in our schools, our workplaces, our neighborhoods, our families.  I see it in the way we interact with each other.  I even see it in our churches.  The scent of fear seems everywhere.

Frankly, I can understand it.  Mass shootings seeminlgy every week.  Terrorist attacks at home and abroad.  War and conflict that seems to be never ending.  Rhetoric from politicians and the media that inflame and stoke our deepest fears and insecruties.  Family strife, cancer and other health issues, natural disasters, tragedy and death.  With all of this and more occuring, no wonder we have started to live as people enveloped and consumed by fear. It seems that the light has almost gone out in the world.

As Yoda once said in the Star Wars movies, “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.”  And that is what troubles me so much.  Fear will always be there but now we are letting it rule us, we are letting it guide our actions and betraying our own selves.  Fear is making us target people different than us and having people put forth proposals that would have made the Nazi’s proud.  Fear is starting to make us turn on the concept of religious freedom which America is founded on.  Fear is starting to make us suspect our neighbors and to shut down dialog with people that think differently than us.  We think of people with different views from us as our enemy.  We are starting to deal in absolutes instead of listening to each other and trying to understand each other.

Even worse, we are starting to betray our own faith as disciples of Jesus Christ.  Christ came to shine light into darkness and to drive away fear and to bring hope.  Instead of seeing the best of each other, instead of looking at the world of eyes of compassion and grace, we are seeing only the worst of each other and having no compassion.  We are not living in hope, a hope that comes in trusting and believing in something greater than ourselves.  We are forgetting that we are all our God’s children, all of us, and that instead of fear we are to bring love, forgiveness, grace, and hope to a world that needs it.

Jesus tells us to be the light of the world, to be the Christmas lights that shine brightly in the darkness.  And we need to proclaim a voice of hope in a world that is steadlily losing it.  We need to stand up to hate, to bigotry in all its forms.  We are called to welcome the orphan and the stranger, the hopeless and the sinner.  We are callled to proclaim peace and to serve ALL in need.  We are called to proclaim something greater than fear: hope.  We can proclaim hope because we belong to Christ.  Jesus says to us in John 14, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

The prophet Isaiah proclaims God’s word in chapter 43 when he says, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” “YOU ARE MINE.”  We belong to God and because of this, fear cannot and should not rule us.  We have nothing to fear because Christ has taken care of everything.  The angels sing and the shephereds rejoice in the Christmas story because the Messiah has come to destroy fear, sin, and death.  As it says in John 1, “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”

Do not let darkness overcome this world, people of God.  Do not fear and hate become the norm.  Shine your light.  Proclaim the Good New of Christ and the love of God for all people.  Remind others that our nature is not fear but compassion, grace, and love.  Be that house full of Christmas lights that gives a little joy.  Shine brightly trusting and knowing that you belong to your Savior who has given everything for you.  As it says in again in Isaiah 43, “Dor not fear, for I am with you.”  For that we can say, “Thanks be to God!”

Have a very Merry Christmas!  Let your light shine!



Posted on: October 25th, 2015 by Brad Peterson

Anticipation.  That feeling of waiting, of knowing something could just be amazingly awesome.  Waiting for a piece of news, or an experience, that feeling in the pit of your stomach that sometimes fills you with energy and sometimes fills you with dread.

I love that feeling, the feeling of anticipation.  I feel it in a variety of ways.  When you smell a delicious meal cooking in the kitchen and you can just tell that it is going to be awesome.  Before the start of a big game, like the beginning of the Cubs playoff games, I have felt anticipation with a sense of dread and fear.  It might be something like the start of a vacation, of a new adventure or experience.  As a kid, I loved the build up to opening Christmas presents (even though I knew what I was getting every single time) because I couldn’t wait to open them up.  Even now, I love the nervous feeling I get in my stomach right before I preach a sermon, any sermon, whether it be on a day like Easter or Christmas Eve, a regular Wednesday night worship, or to a group at the nursing home.  I figure that when I no longer feel that feeling of anticipation, I should call it a day.

I think the thing I love about anticipation, even when it is filled with fear or dread, is that it means something is going to happen.  Something is going on, something important.  In many ways, the feeling of anticipation reminds me that I am alive.

Sometimes the feeling of anticipation, especially when fear is involved, can almost overwhelm me and make me not appreciate what is going on around me.  Sometimes I put so much importance on what is coming that I forget to stop and revel in it.  This often happens with stuff that, in the end, doesn’t really matter, like sporting events or the release of a new movie, like the new Star Wars movie coming out in December.  Sometimes it sets unrealized expectations so high that nothing can match what is in my mind.

Anticipation often means something new is about to happen.  What new things is God doing in your life?  What are you anticipating?  What are you anticipating that causes you fear?  Remember that God is in the midst of it.  God is there to remind you that you are not alone when you are filled with fear, that you will be given strength.  When you are anticipating something joyous, remember that God is there to help you appreciate what is about to happen.  Most of all, because of the saving grace of Jesus Christ, we can anticipate that day when we will be brought to our heavenly home.  Maybe our whole life is all about anticipating that final gift of glory.

No matter you are anticipating today, remember that the Lord is there for you.  For that we can say, “Thanks be to God!”  Amen

Being a Servant

Posted on: October 19th, 2015 by Brad Peterson

“Jesus said, ‘But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’”

Mark 4:43-45

What is one thing you could do today to be a servant to someone else?  Often when we hear that word “servant” we think of big things, of doing big tasks for someone else.  We might think of Pat Rettke, who last week brought materials and took time to teach the kids of The Crew about bread and making it.  We might think of the group of guys that hauled wood and rock a few weekends ago or all the ladies that came out to spend a couple of hours putting together mission kits and boxing them up.

But we can be a servant in small ways too.  There are small, seemingly minor things that we can do every day to be a servant for someone else, to show them the love of God in Christ Jesus.  An example could be holding the door open for someone who is carrying stuff out of a store or into a building.  Smiling at someone as you wait in line for your coffee.  Shooting a text of encouragement to a friend or neighbor.  Complimenting someone on how they look that day.  Telling someone you care about them.

We can all be servants in ways both big and small.  So, again: What is one thing you could do today to be a servant to someone else?

Trying to Live

Posted on: September 20th, 2015 by Brad Peterson

As I have watched the news recently, especially the situation of marriage licenses and Kim Davis in Kentucky, I have many thoughts that have come through my head.  But one of the biggest is that at the core of what is happening is how do we live out our faith every day?  How does our faith impact our behavior in the workplace, home life, and our role in the larger community?

I feel that the best way to live out our faith, at least to me, is based on four different scripture passages.  I believe that these scripture passages can help us as we work day to day to live as disciples of Jesus Christ.

We start at the heart: our salvation.

8For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— 9not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. Ephesians 2:8-10

We must always remember that our salvation does not depend on our own work but only on the work of Christ.  Because of what Christ has done for us, we are free to live our lives for good works, not to earn any sort of favor, but in thankful and faithful response of the gift of salvation given to us by the grace of God in Christ Jesus.  It is extremely helpful to me to remember every day that I’m saved by grace through faith.  Everything starts from there.

36“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37He said to him, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38This is the greatest and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40

This scripture reminds me of what my center should be.  The center is to love the Lord, the same Lord who has already saved and redeemed me.  But my center also rests on loving my neighbor as myself.  And who is your neighbor?  Everyone.  Everyone is your neighbor.  Everyone deserves love. Everyone deserves respect.  Everyone is my neighbor.

1 Corinthians 9:19-23

For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. 20To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. 21To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. 22To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. 23I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.

So, we are freed from all things through the work of Christ, saved by the grace of God through faith, and called to love our neighbor as ourselves. So what does this love look like? It is to not only be a servant, but to become like our neighbor, to understand them. In this passage from 1st Corinthians, Paul talks about becoming all things to all people so that they might be saved, so that they might know the love of God. It is about understanding our neighbor, putting ourselves in their shoes, and showing compassion. It is not about putting ourselves above our neighbor, but in the same shoes as your neighbor, just as Christ enters into our sinfulness to bring us to everlasting life.

Matthew 7:1-3

Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. 2For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. 3Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?

In the end, what connects us all is that we are sinful. We all make mistakes. To judge someone else is to not only ignore your own sinfulness, but also to exclude them from community. It doesn’t matter what has gone on in their lives. In Christ, forgiveness is there for everyone. So why do we exclude instead of include? Why do we think that we are better than the person next to us? Why do we constantly say that we are somehow morally superior? Judgement is reserved for God alone. I hope that we all live as disciples of Jesus Christ and make good decisions that benefit our community, ourselves, and most especially, our neighbor. But when we fail, or when our neighbor fails, instead of banishing them to the depths of hell, we should embrace them and remind them that there is hope in Jesus Christ. For when we judge others, we judge ourselves.

So, if I was going to sum this all up, it would be this: we are saved by God’s grace, called to love and be a servant to our neighbor, and to leave the judging to God. And, if we fail at all of these things, which we probably will, to trust in the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. Amen.


Posted on: August 31st, 2015 by Brad Peterson

Lately there has been lots of talks about walls, about barriers.  Presidential Candidate Donald Trump has proposed building a wall between the United States and Mexico to keep illegal immigrants from coming to the United States.  For centuries, people have built barriers to keep people out, from the Great Wall of China to walls around cities like Jerusalem or Italian City states, and even the Berlin Wall.  These walls, these barriers, are meant to separate people from one another, to keep them apart.

Why all the talk about barriers?  Well, in our reading from Hebrews, the writer is describing the barriers that existed between God, who resided in the holy of holies, and the people.  In the ancient tent of the tabernacle and later the temple, God was walled off from the people.  The reason?  The majesty of God was too much for the sinfulness of humanity.  It was to protect the people, which is why only the high priest could go into the Holy of Holies and only after offering sacrifice.

But what the writer of Hebrews is getting at is that the barrier between God and humanity has been destroyed.  Jesus, the great high priest, has come not with the blood of goats or lambs but with his own blood.  By sacrificing himself for the sins of humanity, the Son of God has destroyed the barrier between God and all people.  Now, we can approach God with boldness because we have been cleansed and redeemed by Jesus Christ.  Our sin had closed the door between us and God, but through the saving work of Christ, that door, that wall, that barrier has been destroyed.

I was in middle school when the Berlin wall started to fall and I remember the joy that I watched on TV as people gained their freedom and a barrier was brought down.  We have joy because our great barrier, sin, has been destroyed by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  WE are free from the bondage of sin and death and so we can live freely, boldly, lovingly, and for our neighbors.

Some believe Barriers will always exist between humans, whether man made with concrete and steel or through thoughts and actions.  But, by the grace of God, there is no barrier between us and the love of God in Christ Jesus.  Maybe, being freed from all things, we might work to tear down the barriers that separate us and together give thanks for the love we have in Christ Jesus our Lord.  For that we can say, “Thanks be to God!”  Amen

Come and Play

Posted on: August 28th, 2015 by Brad Peterson

Last Friday, I went with our group from Trinity to Wakanda Waterpark in Menomonie. It was a great day for this as it was hotter than the surface of the sun. However, I was looking forward to getting just a little wet and then, frankly, taking a nap on a lounge chair. I love naps.

Anyways, when I thought this might happen I started getting pestered by Isabella Feeney. She kept saying to me, “When are you going to come and play Pastor Brad?” “Come play with me,” she was say and give me the puppy dog eyes. Well, you can’t resist those eyes, so I went out into the water with her.

What was interesting about it was that it wasn’t even that I was doing anything. I was just standing with her as she dove under water, went down a couple small slides, and jumped around. She would take her mask on and off her head every 35 seconds. It was a lot of fun. But I never would have gone out there if she hadn’s kept nagging me. And, I also realized, that it wasn’t about doing anything, it was just about being there. To be present.

Sometimes I think God in Jesus Christ is doing that to us. God just wants us to play, to get out into the world, to come out of our comfort zones or the things we want to do and be present in the world. The only way to change the world, or even to change a person’s life, is to actually be there. The only way to see the world as a blessing and to see the blessings in our own lives is to willing to be a part of it, to not shut ourselves away. It is like God is pulling on us and saying, “Come play.”

One of the things I am excited about for this upcoming fall is the ways in which we, as a congregation, will be present in the our community and the wider world. I’m excited for the school backpack program that we are a part of with the Boyceville Ministerial Assocation and WestCAP as we try to help kids with food needs when they are not at school. I look forward to our new ministry, “The Crew,” as we look to connect with youth 3rd-6th grade in an intentional way. We will be getting high schoolers together to start thinking about another trip to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation next summer.

Come and play. Come and play in the wonder of God’s creation, come and play in the blessings of life, come and play and be a part of what God in Christ Jesus is doing through you. It is going to be fun!

Rise Up

Posted on: July 27th, 2015 by Brad Peterson

There are some generalizations that are often spoken about people, places, cities, areas of the country, even entire generations.  Think about the state that we live in as an example.  You mention Wisconsin to someone and they will ask you about cheese, snow, and the Packers.  This was said to us often as our group of 12 met others at the ELCA National Youth Gathering in Detroit.  Just as we had generalizations about people that we met and where they were from like California.

One interesting thing occurred along these lines early in our time in Detroit.  We might have been there a day when one of our kids got a text message asking, “Have you been shot at yet?”  Now, my guess is the text was meant to be a joke, but it underscores the assumption about Detroit: it is unsafe and full of criminals.  But I bet if you ask every one of our kids that were there for our six days and they will tell you a different story.  Was there run down places?  Of course.  We saw many abandoned buildings and places that had seen better days.  But they will also tell you how surprised they were that Detroit was so beautiful.  Parks in downtown.  Sculpture.  Cool buildings.  A walk that has been made beautiful by graffiti art.  Amazing pizza in a not so great looking area.

Detroit has problems, many that they acknowledge, but they are also trying to “Rise Up” and they embraced our presence in their city.  They smiled at us, greeted us warmly, danced and sang with us.  They videotaped us as we walked down the street from Ford Field, full of multi-colored shirts.  Check out or to see the stories that people wrote about our time in the city.  There is hope in Detroit, no matter what anyone else says, and I’m proud to say that we got to be part of that hope and make a difference, however small, in the lives of the people.

Another generalization that I hear is the current generation of young people don’t care about anything.  They don’t work hard, they only care about texting and tweeting and watching things on Netflix.  But if you stood in Ford Field on any night of the Gathering, you would have your mind changed.  If you watched them work in neighborhoods in heat and humidity, for hours at a time, you would feel differently.  If you walked down the street with them as they sang and high-fived and hugged, you would feel differently.  They have hope.  They want to change the world.  They just need a reason too.  They need others to believe in them and to not only encourage them, but accept them for who they are.  To embrace them.  This group raised over $400,000 to help bring water resources to people in Africa, an amount matched to take it over $800,000.  They collected and brought with them over 1 million diapers to start a diaper bank in Detroit.  They made hats for the needy, learned about a myriad of social causes, and learned about things like human trafficking and disabilities.  They weeded and painted and hauled and sang and worshipped and thanked and praised.  They radiated the joy of Christ.

There are some who say that National Youth Gatherings aren’t worth the time and energy and money anymore.  That they are useless and frivolous.  I disagree.  They bring hope, not only to a city, but to the kids and frankly, to adults like me.  I wish every parent that wouldn’t send a kid to Detroit because of racism and fear was in Ford Field and in the streets with us.  I wish every person who said, “Detroit, really?” and wondered if people were going to get shot, were with us to experience what we experienced during six days in July.  I think their minds and hearts would have been changed.  I think they would have seen Jesus, and hope, and maybe the dawning of something new.

After all, if you want to change the world, you have to experience it.  You have to risk.  You have to put yourself out there.  You have to be willing to trust in the God who has created, saved, and sustains you. You can’t sit on the sidelines and judge and point a figure and shower blame to those that are different than you.  You have to act.  You have to rise up.  30,000 people rose up in Detroit and the city rose up with them.  For that I say, “Thanks be to God!”