This past week the city of Detroit welcomed 30,000 members of the largest Lutheran group in the U.S. , Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), for a youth gathering. Throughout the week teens were scattered across metro Detroit in brightly colored t-shirts carrying out various community service projects to benefit the needy. They have had a strong presence in the city and hosted nightly gatherings in Ford Field. Lutherans of the ELCA gather every three years in order to boost communities, by painting walls, clearing debris and other activities. Logistics is often a concern considering the large number of participants.The previous convention was held in New Orleans in 2012. “The ELCA has a phrase, God’s work, Our hands, and this is the embodiment of that phrase,” said Jimmy Sanborn, 17, of Fresno. “We are doing God’s work right here with our hands.” The convention is a great way for the Lutheran youth to connect through faith. The teens were accompanied by adult supervisors who are also volunteering and local church leaders lent a helping hand as well.
Rev. Matt Bode of Spirit of Hope Church spoke at Cobo Hall and assisted in overseeing the volunteer work being carried out at his church last Thursday. He said “The Lutheran Church wants to be in places where they can speak about and learn about justice, and what it means to be God’s people in relationship to justice and love.The gathering is amazing, a way to worship together, to have fun, and experience Detroit …We’re also doing lessons about racism and classism and sexism, and how our values as Christians push against that to seek justice.”
The convention was a wonderful way to improve Downtown Detroit’s image. Evan Economos, an 18 year old Iowan volunteer, said “I was definitely affected by the bias that other people outside of Detroit have” before arriving here. I was surprised by how nice it was. The downtown area is beautiful.” Hannah Brunsen another teenage volunteer shared some positive words about the city “I feel awesome that we’re helping the community and all of Detroit.” Julie Werfelmann, an adult volunteer from California said that the kids “care so deeply for other people. They want to alleviate injustice. They want to be part of a group that changes things and makes a difference.” With so much negativity occurring in society it is refreshing to hear of such selfless work.