As the summer comes to a close and I prepare to take some time off, I’d like to reflect on some of the great things that have happened these last few months; things which have given me even more confidence that our Lord is at work in his Church through the Holy Spirit.
First, I was pleased to accompany two of our youth to Camp Lutherwood Oregon for a week-long confirmation camp at the beginning of summer. After losing their main lodge which included the kitchen and dining area to a fire in April, Andrea Scofield, the camp director, secured portable kitchens (the kind used at forest fire camps, disaster response, etc.) and a large framed tent in order to be able to feed up to 200 campers. I was greatly impressed as to how camp operations, including meals were conducted almost as if the fire hadn’t happened. The food was just as good as before, timely served, and cleanup was done efficiently. We had a great time and the kids got know other Lutherans from different parts of the state.
Almost immediately after camp, I was off to Minneapolis Minnesota with nine of our high school youth, three young adults and two leaders for the LCMS National Youth Gathering. We had a fantastic time in a major U.S. city most of us had never been to before including myself. In the coming weeks you will hear from the youth about their experience at this vitally important event. In the meantime, I’ll tell you my favorite part of the gathering was the worship service at U.S. Bank Stadium. Over 20,000 people, Lutherans from all over the country, and some from overseas worshipped and communed together. I was privileged to be able to serve the Lord’s Supper along with three of our youth during the service. Imagine trying to serve 20,000 people communion! How did we do it? Me and my three assistants were one of about fifty teams consisting of a pastor and three helpers stationed at different locations throughout the stadium. Each station served about two hundred people seated in their assigned section. Seems complicated but it worked very well and every time a person who I’d never met before in my life drank from the chalice, I was thinking one day I will know them in heaven—amazing! I must also mention that if it weren’t for your support for the National Youth Gathering, particularly in that it is mostly funded by the congregation through the annual budget, not as many youth would’ve been able to participate. So my heartfelt appreciation goes to you for continuing to support this vital ministry to our young people.
Two days after returning from Minneapolis it was off to Tampa Florida for the LCMS Triennial Convention. I have attended three district conventions in Portland but this was my first national one, and what a learning experience it was! It was also my first visit to Tampa. I was very impressed with the leadership of our denomination. We have much to be joyful for namely, that unlike many of the other large, mainline Christian church bodies in our country, we are not divided over Biblical, theological, or doctrinal things. The biggest contention that arose was the closing several months ago of Concordia University in Selma Alabama. I believe much was learned from the way it was handled and our heated debate over it during the convention might benefit the church in the future if another Concordia University has to be closed or merged with another. Hopefully with the help of God that won’t happen. But this matter shows all of us that higher education in this country is a tough business; and it’s getting harder for smaller colleges, particularly religious ones to stay viable in the midst of so many other options such as online and other non-traditional degree programs. Along with that is the decline in students training to become workers in the church, which is what our Concordia university system was set up to do from the beginning. So please keep all the Concordias (Portland, Irvine, St. Paul, Seward, Austin, Ann-Arbor, Mequon, Chicago, and Bronxville) in your prayers.
Finally, it was home and VBS! I have many fond memories of the ten Vacation Bible Schools I’ve had the privilege to work at here, but this year was by far the best. My vision a few years ago was to partner with Camp Lutherwood and have their offsite camp program be our VBS. That worked well for 2017 and 2018, but it appears God has other plans. This year Lutherwood discontinued their offsite teams in order to refocus and strengthen their summer program at the main campus in Cheshire. So myself and all our volunteers had to dig in and conduct this VBS in a more involved way than ever before. But I’ll tell you it was a blessing. I got to sit for a couple hours each day and talk to the kids of our community about sin, death, the devil, and God’s solution to all of that for them is in his Son Jesus Christ. They really responded this year with joy at hearing the Gospel. And what’s more amazing is our own youth, who for years have grown through and with our VBS, lead the opening and closing each day with song, prayer, and enthusiasm that was amazing to watch. I’m very proud of them and you should be too.
So now it’s time for a break. I’ll see you again later this month, and yes, when you do see me, you can ask, “How was your vacation?”
God’s peace be with you,