New Orleans NYG July 2010
Dates: July 17 - July 22, 2010
People: Mark, Sarah, Andrew G., Kara E., Julia W., Anna K.
SATURDAY JULY 17
Our trip began with an early 7am meeting at church. Though Sarah and I had good intentions to be there early, after saying good bye to Luke on the way out we ended up being the last ones there. We gathered last minute papers, took a group picture, said good bye to the parents, and said a prayer. We left for the airport at 7:15am and were at the terminal by 8. We survived bag checks and security without any issue and soon found ourselves catching up to the Trinity group at our gate.
We enjoyed time with the Trinity group and also saw 2 other groups headed for NOLA from Detroit. Our flight to Nashville went without event and we even arrived a few minutes early. Headed out of Nashville we were delayed almost 15 minutes because their baggage check lines had problems. They wanted to make sure all the bags made it to the planes, which of course made us nervous about losing ours. After leaving Nashville late we were still able to make it into Orlando on time. We were actually still a few minutes early which made us happy to have time to make the transfer of planes.
In Orlando we walked on down to the food court with Mark, Sarah, and Andrew grabbing lunch at Sbarro's, the girls grabbing from McDonald’s. The flight out of Orlando was delayed 5 minutes as it also arrived in late. On all our legs this morning we had good boarding numbers which allowed us to get seats together as well as saving seats for the Trinity group, who did not have good boarding numbers.
We arrived in New Orleans which was again a few minutes early, about 3:35pm. We met up with Pastor Walsh who waited for the Trinity group and we grabbed our bags, which thankfully did make it from Nashville. We headed outside looking for the Airport Shuttle which would take us to our hotels. They ended up loading us, Trinity, and several other groups onto a large bus to head downtown to the hotels. Lucky for us we were the first group to be let off making it a short ride. This gave us all time to get checked in at the hotel and drop bags before heading to registration. At the Convention Center Sarah and I headed into the registration room while leaving the others out in the main hallway. We grabbed our wristbands, backpacks, t-shirts, etc. and breezed on through.
After registration time was passing quickly to get dinner and then head to the dome. We walked to the Riverwalk Shopping Center (next door to the Convention Center) and found supper at various places in there. By then it was around 7pm and definitely time to head for the dome. We walked up Poydras St. the entire way for this first adventure to the dome and arrived at the Superdome about 7:50pm. Everything looked very full for seating so we headed to the second level and found enough seats for our group. The view wasn't great and we had some young kid blowing a vuzuzela horn every 5 minutes.
The Mass Event this first night had the theme “What Do You Believe?”. It began with some singing and then one of the highlights of the week “Gathering News” with Jeff Meinz. He gave several hilarious news stories and began a week-long gag of picking on the participants from the Indiana district. There was a great montage about creation which featured images, sound effects and Scripture. The Sand Painter, Mark Dremel was drawing images as well during this time and he was quite impressive giving images of Jesus as well as images of animals during creation. Rev. Greg Manning gave the keynote speech about belief, using examples of his own physical condition of 96% blindness.
We had a long walk back to the hotel after the Mass Event waiting near the main entry ramp for much of the crowds to clear and then following the crowds down the streets. We didn't end up doing any of the night life activities. We concluded our day with a Bible study and discussion in the hotel.
SUNDAY JULY 18
Sarah and I started the day with a 7am adult leaders meeting in the hotel. This would happen everyday as the CLB's (Community Life Builders) would meet with the group giving us leaders any news or updates needed. We headed over to the Convention Center and found out we hadn't registered fully for the servant event and so we could not go. Apparently Sarah and I were supposed to hit the servant event registration desk during registration time to get orientation and directions. We messed up and so we attended plan B which was Bible Study in the CC Auditorium. This was led for Rev. Dr. Dien Taylor and Rev. David Hinz.
This was our first day of the three-day cycle going through “Live – Look – Listen”. We would be doing “Live” today which meant going through the “Saved to Serve” exhibition area which included many service activities as well as a few basic craft activities. We did the Play-doh for the Kids of NOLA service activity. A few in our group gave blood during the morning. We did the “Natural Knick Knacks” table which involved taking pine cones and decorating them up to look like animals. Sarah made a turkey-like animal.
At 11:30 we headed back to the hotel and had lunch in the Atrium Restaurant. Our hotel served us wonderfully in making basic meals available at a reasonable price. While a basic burger+fries meal was about $8.50 in the convention center, a burger+fries+DRINK combo was only $6 in our hotel. They also had hot dogs, nachos, chicken tenders, turkey subs and even corn dogs throughout the week.
After lunch we headed back to the convention center for more time in the Saved to Serve area as well as a quick stroll through the Commons. The commons had the CPH store as well as all the exhibitors and other physical activities. At 2:00 we went to the “Dignity Revolution” session with Bob Lenz and then Lost and Found in concert. It was the first time I'd seen Lost & Found in many years, possibly since my time at River Forest. Bob Lenz's talk was moving as always as he pushed across the message that all life has value and he used his disabled sister as emphasis.
We did dinner again at the hotel, trying a few other options on their menu. We had taken a peek at the subway next to our hotel as an option but the lines were immense. We did dinner at 5:30 and started our walk to the dome at 6:15pm with the hope of getting in there right when the doors opened. We took more of the side streets to the dome this time and the trip went much quicker. We went to the G gates and found hundreds of people waiting outside in a massive crowd. When the doors opened at 7pm we found that one must move away from the building and head directly in front of where the doors have opened, and the crowd funnels in much quicker from the middle than from the sides. We went into section 146 and got in the 2nd row with much better seats than the night before.
The Mass Event tonight had the theme “When Life Seems Unbelievable”. I found the messages this night to be exceptional. Everything was about how we can handle the unbelievable in our lives. Brock Gill, a stunt magician was one of the highlights as he did a disappearing trick in the midst special effects simulating Jesus' calming of the storm. Later he took three volunteers on stage, one of which happened to be President Kieschnick, and he tied himself up in a straightjacket while walking on glass and successfully got out. At first he started to joke about putting Kieschnick into the straightjacket.
The keynote speaker of the evening was Kellie Stocker. She's a pastors' wife who lost her daughter Makenzie last June in a car accident. Makenzie was a dancing star, and evening danced on stage for the 2007 gathering in Orlando. Kellie talked about dealing with the unbelievable thought of losing a child. She proclaimed Christ well in teaching the group how to deal with this.
This night we were also introduced to the Jesus' Painter as well as the Skit Guys. After the Mass Event we walked to the Hilton and saw more of the Skit Guys who were absolutely hilarious.
MONDAY JULY 19
We began our day with quick breakfast meals in our hotel rooms. We headed over to the CC for the 9am Bible Study. This was our first of two days with Rev. David Hinz. He did today's study on John 9, Jesus healing the man born blind. This Bible Study worked with today's theme for our group, “Look”. We are seeing how God is at work through all things, good and bad, and how our eyes need be opened to “Look” and see God at work.
After Bible Study we had the wise idea of hopping in line early at Subway to get our lunch and dinner food. The girls got in the Starbucks line for a quick drink so the guys got in the line at Subway at around 10:15. It took forever. We may have had only 40 people or so in front of us. But we come to find out that many of that group were individually buying 10-15 subs for the rest of their group, not present. It was about 11:45 when we finally got our food and sat down there to eat. We saved our extra subs for supper and dropped them off at the hotel and then headed back to the CC.
Our next activity for the “Look” track was to head into “The Spectacle” area. This was an entire hall in the CC full of activities. As we got started in there the girls found some tables with cross-making and bread-making fun. Mark explored the physical activity areas and found a “tractor pull” which involved large tricycles pulling sleds with sandbags. There was a “Set a Record” area where they were playing quick skill games from “Minute to Win It”. There was a climbing wall, a joust area, and some of the large inflatable courses. Mark and Andrew tried out the mini-golf which was a very low-key setup and sadly we spent the whole time waiting behind two large groups who took their time. As the girls made it to the scrapbooking area Mark made a go with the climbing wall and made it up the hard route they had designed. The guys finally ran out of things to try in The Spectacle so they headed over to walk through the Commons and see the exhibitors for the next hour. The girls continued work on their crafts until it was time to ready for our 4pm sessions.
The girls and Andrew went to see the Stellar Kart concert at 4. This one was crowded and loud. They loved it and even were able to stick around afterwards to get t-shirts autographed. Mark went to the session called “Altared Reality” with Rev. Landon Ledlow. It was all about marriage and was very good. He took lots of volunteers to help with things up front. The first four were asked varying questions about dating and marriage and the group was intrigued with their varying answers. He then had a group of volunteers walk through the wedding service with him as he explained God's Word through it. He finished with examples from Scripture on the marital relationship. He used Job to explain the Genesis 2 doctrine of the “two becoming one.” When the devil took everything from Job including his children's lives, he did not take his wife's life as Job's life was also off-limits. Rev. Ledlow also made the comment “Did you know God dated?” He explained how guys seeking girls go through this “look at me” attention-grabbing phases. While Israel was in slavery in Egypt this was a time when God was “courting” her. As many other false gods were around her in Egypt God grabbed her attention. Each of the plagues was directed at false gods of Egypt and God triumphed unquestionably in this time culminating with the deliverance at the Red Sea. This relationship was confirmed at the “altar” at Mt. Sinai as God made his covenant with Israel. The OT describes God's Covenantal relationship with Israel as a marriage for every time Israel worships false gods they have “whored” themselves out, committing adultery (and idolatry!) against God. A great talk in all!
From 5:30 to 6:15 we rested up in the hotel. I was planning to eat my sub from lunch but found that the ice I had put around it to keep it cool had melted and soaked my sub. I ended up eating supper in the hotel atrium again with Lisa, Taylor, and Sarah. The girls in our group during this time were over in the convention center getting autographs and t-shirts from one of the bands.
At 6:15pm we made our nightly walk to the dome to get seats and we ended up in the same section as the night before, just a few rows back. The theme for this evening's mass event was “What's God doing in Your Story”. They began the evening talking about favorite movies and getting everyone into the mood of movies and stories. Jeff Meinz did another fantastic “Gathering News” continuing his gimmick of picking on Indiana as well as Colts fans for losing to the NOLA Saints. President and Terry Kieschnick came out and talked for just a while. The Skit Guys came out and did a mock-up of Adam and Eve and their “story”. Then there was an actress who came out and did a drama on John 4 and the “Woman at the Well” which was very good. They did a montage and had one of the emcee speakers come out and explain the idea of “My Story” as being defined by Setting + Character + Plot = Story. This was then tied together by speaking of every epic story has a hero. Who is the hero in your story, they asked? This led to the connection of Christ as being the hero in our stories.
The drama for this year was called “The Network”. It involved a young man who had disappeared for more than a year, with everyone thinking this organization called “the Network” had taken him. The plot then follows his sister who gets a text message from him asking for help.
The keynote speaker was Rev. Matt Popovits who hammered home the idea that Our Story is not about us. This is the biggest lie we've been told, to think that our stories, our lives, are all about us. The problem with this is if its about us, its all on us to be the hero, to make it work. That's a big problem. He talked about how we are living two stories each day, the one about us and the one about Christ, in other words the sinner+saint doctrine. He closed with sharing a story about being at his friend's bedside after his friend had had a heart attack. He was praying with his friend and his parents until he heard his school friends coming down the hall, who weren't church-goers. He got afraid and stopped praying when the friends entered the room. It was his struggle between being in the story with Christ as hero, and being in his own story without Christ.
We had to leave this Mass Event about 5 minutes early to start the long walk to the river for the District Event. The Michigan and Ohio districts teamed up to do a boat ride on the Natchez Steamboat. Boarding started at 10:30 (which we made it for) and the cruise started at 11. It was interesting to see the rivalry between the two districts with their various chants supporting their side.
On the boat we found nice seats on the back deck which would provide a nice view and atmosphere once the boat was underway. We also were treated to a light meal of chicken fingers, cold-cut subs and ice cream. We went a few miles downriver, turned around, came back up river, passed the dock, went up river a mile and turned around just before the interstate bridge. We were back at the docks by midnight. The girls ended up taking a cab home while the guys walked.
TUESDAY JULY 20
After a late night on the riverboat yesterday it was a blessing for this to be our sleep-in morning. Everyone got to sleep in til at least about 9, except for Mark who was up early again for the Adult Leader meeting. Our first task of the day was to beat the Subway lines for lunch. So we headed over there about 9:40am to grab our lunch to carry with us. Sarah didn't join us til about 10:30am because of headaches. Almost no line this time at Subway and we were able to head into the CC just before 10am. This gave the ladies time to head into the Commons and finish up their “Backpack Buddies”, which were small dolls to decorate and attach to the backpacks.
Bible Study was at 10:30am with Rev. David Hinz again. Today's main topic was “Listen” and the Bible study focused on John 4 and the woman at the well. Rev. Hinz focused upon this woman hearing Jesus in all her needs. He asked us the questions “Are You ready to listen to God? Where are you going to Listen? He also hammered in the phrase “Faith is always personal, but never private.” We are saved by the faith in our own hearts, not the church's or our parents, but this faith is not something to keep private or stay private. After Bible study we ate our Subway lunches out in the hallway on the 2nd floor of the convention center while we discussed our afternoon plans.
For the noon session the girls went to Pam Stenzels talk on “Sex has a Price Tag.” Andrew and myself tried to get into Chris Ownby's “MythBusters: Faith Edition” but it was full and then tried Bill Yonkers' session and it also was full. So the guys ended up walking the commons for awhile and then hit the hotel for an hour to rest.
For the 2:00pm session Mark and the girls went to “Planet of the Apes: The Truth about Creation and Evolution” with Brad Alles from Milwaukee Lutheran High School. It was very good. Mostly it was a rehashing of the basics that Answers in Genesis teaches, but he was a very interesting speaker and kept people engaged. After this 2pm session we again hung out in the commons, taking some time to talk to the exhibitors in the Concordia area. At 4:00pm we went to Prof. Thad Warren's session (he is from Seward) on “Just Think – We Could Have Been Hanging Out Naked”
For dinner we met up with Lisa and Taylor in our hotel. They ended up walking with us on our normal walk to the dome at 6:15 as well. We got our normal seats in Section 146. Tonight's Mass Event was the worship service. Things still began with Jeff Meinz on Gathering News and some singing. The worship service was a mix of traditional liturgical parts, Scripture dramas, and singing. They did a fantastic job of beginning the Scripture drama with Christ on the cross and being taken down and buried. They then read John 20 and started into Easter with us singing “I Know that My Redeemer Lives.” The actor playing Jesus reappears and the celebration is great. They then continued the reading into John 20 with Doubting Thomas and tied this to the Thom character in “The Network” drama. Also used this to tie to the gathering theme of “we Believe”. The communion distribution was a bit hectic as they ushered us from our row across one section and down onto the floor. It was a major logjam getting everyone back up single file through the steps to our section. They misdirected Kara during this time and we had to go and find her. Worship concluded with John 20's final verse which was the gathering theme verse. This tied things together quite nicely. We made our normal walk abck and stopped at the Cajun Market for snacks. At 11:00pm we did a recap of the day in our rooms and then called it a night.
WEDNESDAY JULY 21
We were up early this morning and out the door at 7:15am for our last walk to the dome. It was hot and humid already. Julia had a fall on the way there and banged up her knees pretty good and scratched up a hand. The Mass Event started at 9:00am with the theme “So... Now what?”. There was again Jeff Meinz's last Gathering News and plenty of singing. We heard from the Mayor of New Orleans who commended the gathering for being a blessing to New Orleans. There was also a brief letter from President Obama. The highlight of the morning was the keynote speaker, Jeff Meinz, who gave an incredible talk on now taking all this that we believe and sharing it forward. In five minutes he did this amazing talk on how we share the Gospel of Jesus. He went from Genesis through Jesus' life in five minutes explaining the story of Salvation. It was funny, it was insightful, my reaction to it was that he had made sharing the Gospel the most fun thing in the world to do. The “Network” drama was concluded as well leaving plenty to be desired. The other special highlight of the morning was the boomwhackers. Every person in the dome received one of five colors, each of which was of a different length and thus a different tune. An energetic man was on stage leading the entire stadium in playin g different combinations of tunes/sounds with these devices. The gathering as a whole closed around 10:30am with singing and crowds sticking around til 10:45am. On the way out everyone was encouraged to trade boomwhackers with other groups to get one of each color.
We were back to the hotel by noon and took some time for showers and rest. At 1:00pm we walked over to Mulate's and had lunch there. This was our attempt for the week to eat local and try some of the New Orleans cuisine. Kara had a bowl of gumbo, Mark and Sarah tried po-boys. By 2:30pm we were back in the rooms for naps till about 5:30pm. We then walked over to the Riverwalk Marketplace. We went through all the shops and even ran into the Trinity group one more time. Because of their prices we decided not to eat supper over there. We spent time walking and shopping there till 7:00pm when we went back tired to the hotel. Mark and Sarah grabbed some Subway on the way back for supper. We spent the shor t evening packing and socializing in our rooms. We tried to get a game of Euchre in until we got a chance to talk to the boys on the phone. Mark and Andrew made a special trip to the Cajun Market for bandage supplies to help out Julia from her morning injury. We were mostly lights out by 10:00pm until Mark realized his Droid was not working. He stayed up an extra hour doing a hard reset and reinstalling apps. We went crazy setting every alarm we had to ensure we would be up in the morning.
THURSDAY JULY 22
Sure enough we all made it up successfully by about 3:15am. We confirmed with each other at about 3:35am that we indeed had made it up. Mark and Andrew were downstairs at 3:50am to start checking out. The girls joined a few minutes laters. Our shuttle driver showed up at about 3:58am and we were quickly out the door loading. We were apparently the last pickup for the shuttle as it then proceeded on to the airport. We arrived around 4:30am at the terminal. We soon realized Anna could not find her wallet. It had only ID and money in it, but we were frantically checking bags to find it. We even called the hotel to have them check the room but to no success. We had to move on and proceeded to check bags and head through security. We had about a 90 minute wait at our gate till boarding and our flight left on time from New Orleans at 7am.
Flight into Chicago arrived about 15 minutes early. This gave us a good 2 ½ hours to meander around Midway. We held some seats at the gate while parts of our group to walks up and down the concourse. Sarah and I had lunch at King Mah Express which was good as always. The flight to Detroit left on time and we arrived right around 1:45pm. We arrived back at church around 2:30pm after a wonderful week together.