ELCA NEWS SERVICE
July 19, 2012
ELCA youth celebrate diversity, abilities and faith
NEW ORLEANS (ELCA) - For Emily Schmidlin of Trinity Lutheran Church in Kent, Ohio, it is important to know that people with disabilities have a lot in common with those who do not. "Although we in the definitely abled community may look or act differently than (what) you're used to, we still have the same hopes, dreams, goals and a lot of the same abilities."
Schmidlin was a volunteer July 16-18 at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's (ELCA) Definitely Abled Youth Leadership Event, popularly known as DAYLE -- one of two preceding events of the 2012 ELCA Youth Gathering taking place in New Orleans, July 18-22. The Multicultural Youth Leadership Event or MYLE was also held July 16-18. Both events are designed to empower young people to claim their identity and cultivate their gifts for the purpose of becoming leaders in the church and world.
About 20 young people with a wide range of physical, cognitive and emotional differences attended DAYLE, participating in workshops, service projects and worship before joining the larger ELCA Youth Gathering, where 35,000 youth, adults and volunteers are meeting.
Schmidlin described DAYLE as an opportunity "for youth with a variety of abilities to gather together and empower them to use the gifts they have to make a difference in the world."
Participants are playing an important role under this year's theme, "citizens with the saints" by helping Hands On New Orleans, an organization that matches volunteers with local non-profit organizations. DAYLE participants assembled personal hygiene kits for homeless youth in the city. The kits will be delivered to the Covenant House, an organization that engages homeless youth with medical services, housing, food and more.
"We're excited," said Peyton Juneau, a project manager at Hands On, about ELCA youth returning to New Orleans. "The difference the youth made here back in 2009 was breathtaking," he said, "and we wanted to create a service opportunity for DAYLE participants that would offer a tangible contribution to New Orleans."
"The homeless population in New Orleans doubled in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the flood. Not only were people out of their homes but work, as well," Juneau told DAYLE participants. "We work hard at empowering our partners like the Covenant House, enabling them to keep doing what they're doing on a regular basis and add to their capacity to further engage and make a difference in people's lives."
"We all dat!"
The theme for MYLE, "We all dat!" comes from the city's National Football League's team. The New Orleans Saints have a saying, "Who dat?" MYLE leaders said at the opening festivities.
"We are black, white, brown and red," they told the gathering. "We are from single family homes, multi-parent homes and broken homes -- we all dat. You are welcome here."
Amilcar Matos-Moreno of Zion Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, enjoyed the opportunity to share his culture with others. "I've enjoyed meeting people," he said, "It's been a great time to talk to them and learn how they live the Lutheran life as I do in Puerto Rico, but in another (place)."
Isaac Johnson of St. John Lutheran Church in Kailua, Hawaii, said he came to MYLE "to renew and empower my faith, to have a lot of fun and, you know, meet a lot of other kids. These things are always a blast, and you make new friends."
In addition to sharing in one another's cultures, the event had a particular emphasis on service work -- a centerpiece of all three ELCA gatherings. Participants of MYLE made a point to visit New Orleans, connecting with residents of all ages. They took part in 16 service projects throughout the city, ranging from painting murals to cleaning schools and parks, participating in voter registration drives and meeting with local activists, advocates and community leaders.
John Thomas, 14, a member of a joint youth group between two ELCA congregations in St. Louis, said, "My favorite part (of MYLE) is getting out into the city, going out and helping the people that are out there with whatever they need, like painting and handing out food."
At MYLE, culture is celebrated, leaders are formed, identify is claimed, faith is deepened and fun is had.
Watch an ELCA video about the MYLE and DAYLE events at http://www.youtube.com/user/ELCAVideo.
- - -
About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with 4.2 million members in 10,000 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer, Martin Luther.
For information contact:
Melissa Ramirez Cooper
773-380-2956 or Melissa.RamirezCooper@ELCA.org
Living Lutheran: http://www.livinglutheran.com