In a few weeks I will observe the thirtieth anniversary of my ordination. Thirty years! Where did that time go? Anyway, I thought I would write about my top ten ministry moments and memories from the past thirty years, beginning with the first LCMS national youth gathering I attended in 1989.
I had only one youth from my church (Prince of Peace, Coventry, CT) ready to attend that year, Jason Garay. Since you couldn’t attend with just one leader and one youth, I “adopted” a group from a church in Danbury, CT, and we flew to Denver with the rest of the New England District.
The mass events were held at McNichol Arena in Denver, the old home arena of the Denver Nuggets. The gatherings weren’t as big as they are today, so we could fit everyone in an 17,000 seat arena. Even so, it was unbelievable to walk into that venue for the first time and see so many other LCMS youth groups in one place! Even so, I remember actually finding my brother Jim, who was chaperoning another youth group, on the floor in the middle of that crowd.
Not long before, the leader of the gathering band, Jim Woodruff, had been at a New England District youth event, so we got to go up on stage with him. When a person playing the part of Christ rode into the arena on a donkey, to reenact Palm Sunday, the five-minute roar was deafening. At an outdoor concert event at Red rocks, we were among those who got caught in a sudden violent and torrential thunderstorm. Our group became separated and we had to wait for hours before the busses came back to get us. We all were famous for about fifteen minutes because we survived Red Rocks!
I’ve taken youth to five other national gatherings, but none are as memorable for me as that first one in 1989.