“God really did change everything, including me.”

“God really did change everything, including me.”

My name is Heather Swartz, and I’m a junior in high school who went to the 2018 ELCA National Youth Gathering in Houston, Texas.

God’s Radical Grace

A place so far away from Good Shepherd couldn’t have felt more at home. I was surrounded by strangers from all over the country with a wide range of personal beliefs, but despite our differences, we were gathered in agreement of the most important and radical belief of all–God’s love, grace, and hope changes everything.

The guest speakers covered broad and narrow beliefs, as well as controversial topics that directly affect teens today. Gender and sexuality. The Love of God. Gun control. Addiction. Eating disorders. Self harm. I felt supported and uplifted even through the controversy, because of God’s message for us: there’s grace for that. God’s grace contradicts everything the world understands about sin and consequences; that’s what makes it so radical.

Witnessing this mass gathering of high school Lutherans proved to me that I’m not alone in my generation for what I believe in, and that I shouldn’t be ashamed to rejoice about it.

One in Christ

This gathering confirmed that I belong in The Church. Not just specifically Good Shepherd, but the Christian Church. I belong to the church that gathers for worship, forgiveness, reflection… I belong to the church that then goes out into the community and offers everything they have for the benefit of others, not to “fix” people but to walk with them.

I belong to the church that is one in Christ and is not easily divided by narrow beliefs. That is the kind of church I experienced at the national youth gathering. If 30,000 teens in Texas can do it, so can we.

Thank you for supporting us financially through the chili cook off, pie auction, and the BYFY sale, but more importantly, thank you for supporting us spiritually through prayer. God really did change everything, including me.

Read the Trip Journal

Learn more about the Good Shepherd Youth experience at the 2018 National Youth Gathering

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