LSA Blog

The Power of Mission and Impact at the ELCA Youth Gathering

Blog Date: 
Thursday, July 30, 2015
By Liliana Pettenkofer, Senior Manager of Marketing and Events

Earlier this month I was lucky enough to represent LSA at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Youth Gathering in Detroit, Michigan. The gathering brought together close to 30,000 youth, adults and volunteers from across the world to serve, reflect and raise awareness on issues like water, poverty, homelessness, hunger, disabilities, among others. I don’t think I have ever been in an event of this magnitude. From main gatherings at Ford Field Center to experiencing part of the Proclaim Community and Proclaim Justice activities, inspiration and impact radiated from every corner of the gathering.

ELCA Walk for Water

I was moved by the Walk for Water effort hosted by the ELCA’s World Hunger team where teens simulated the experience of Sub-Saharan women who walk an average of three miles every day to collect water for their communities. I was also excited to see the ELCA’s Global Mission team reproducing the burdens and decisions of families that are forced to flee their homes when disasters occur. Teens were able to reflect on how and why people become refugees and how Lutheran Disaster Response provides relief and hope.

From interactive experiences to service projects to donating blood, there were many opportunities to get involved and help out. I volunteered as part of the Proclaim Justice Team, the team in charge of sending 10,000 kids each day for three days to different parts of Detroit to serve in the community by cleaning neighborhoods and boarding up abandoned houses, creating community gardens, painting and cleaning schools and community centers, packaging food into family-sized portions, collecting diapers, and helping install mosaics on the backstops at a neighborhood baseball field. Rain or shine, the city was dressed in orange as the young adults went out to serve wearing their "Raise-Up Together" orange t-shirts. Energy was everywhere and energy is what the city received.

During those three days 600 neighborhoods were served. 1 million diapers collected; 1,425 backpacks distributed; 3,200 vacant lots cleared of debris; 319 vacant homes boarded; 1,847 mural boards painted; 36 urban gardens installed, 99 picnic tables built, and 26 dumpsters filled, just to name a few. Some of the work will help feed over 4,000 people in southeast Michigan, and the packaging food project alone will service about 150 families in Detroit.   

ELCA Youth Gathering

Overall, what stayed with me the most is the power of mission and of community. Everyone "Raised-up Together" to create change and serve, and this reminded me of the work that the LSA members do every day – working together to help those who need it most, touching the lives of one in 50 people every year, all within God’s mission to love and serve our neighbor.  

This is the future of Lutheran social ministry and it speaks volumes. Coming back to DC, I’m not only proud for being part of such impactful work, but I’m energized to think of the young adults that will soon become part of the LSA network.

To learn more about the 2015 ELCA Youth Gathering, visit

The LSA Network’s work spans the spectrum of care, providing critical services in communities across the country, from health care to disaster relief, senior care, refugee resettlement, disability support, housing, veterans' services and more. We invite you to learn more about our members here and read our latest news and updates here.

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