Wednesday: We are in New Orleans!

After a late night on Tuesday, our youth got to sleep in a little today while the adult leaders hiked across town to the Convention Center to get registered. They learned a little bit about the city, a lot about the Gathering, and then returned to the hotel with 26 backpacks and 26 t-shirts. It is official: WE ARE HERE and READY TO GO!

We had the rest of the day free until the opening night festivities in the Superdome, so we set out to explore.

We walked to the French Quarter, admiring the pretty buildings, taking pictures of all of the French-named street signs, and yes, working our way toward Bourbon Street.

Bourbon street was definitely a controlled adventure. A mix of really delicious restaurants, really tacky gift shops, plenty of bars, and signs for some pretty skeevy establishments (if you catch my drift.)

When we left Bourbon street and walked the one block over to the gallery district, it was amazing how you can go from dark and yucky to artistic and beautiful over the course of one block. And some of the youth were talking about how God is present both in the dark places and in the light places.

We ate lunch together at a restaurant in the French Quarter and did some “adventurous eating,” as we all tried and shared good Creole and Cajun food at our tables.

Then off to Jackson Square, where we watched a street performer, all dressed up in gold, with gold paint on his face, giant wings, and fangs, perch on a pedestal as a living statue. We browsed artwork created by street painters, and Erik commissioned a poem from a streetside writer.

Then back to the hotel for some cooling off, swimming, and getting ready for opening night at the Superdome!

It is hard to explain what it feels like to enter a huge arena with 35,000 other people, and to see the screens and the stage and the giant cross hanging down. We cheered together, sang together, danced together, prayed together. Bishop Mark Hanson (the presiding bishop of the ELCA) kicked things off. We listened to fantastic speakers: Bishop Michael Rinehart, Rev. Yehiel Curry, and Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber.

The best way to describe our first night in the Superdome is to send you to the ELCA Youth Gathering page. Watch the videos there to see what we saw!

On our way out (after a weather delay as they held us inside b/c of thunderstorms), we walked down the ramps toward the exit, shoulder-to-shoulder with tons of other groups. What do you know – our group were instigators in getting the WHOLE TUNNEL to sing. Everything from Christmas carols to “Don’t Stop Believing.” Fantastic. From there, we braved the rain back to our hotel, where we went to a big dance and a big room full of inflatables before doing closing devotions and heading off to bed.

So as I said. A busy day. A full day. A hot and humid day. And an AWESOME day. And this is just the beginning…

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