San Antonio July 2013
Dates: July 1 - July 6, 2013
People: Mark, Sarah, Jane K., Jake L., Kameron O., Anna K., Laura S., Megan C., Nick S., Jon M., Zech Y., Annalyse A., Kat K., Maggie W., Julia W., Kara E.
MONDAY JULY 11
Our trip began very, very early on a Monday morning. We wanted to ensure ourselves plenty of time at the airport, and a buffer for late arriving travelees, and so we set to meet in the church parking lot at 3:45am. On the previous Saturday morning we had picked up Julia and Kara at their homes around 4:30am for a similar 6:50am departure, and they ended up waiting so long in Southwest’s check-in line that they were nearly late for their flight. Everyone was prompt in arriving at church, we took a few pictures, said our good byes, had a prayer and were off to the airport. We had several wonderful parent drivers.
When we arrived at Detroit Airport there was a fairly sizable line at Southwest’s check-in but it moved well for us. When we purchased tickets we bought them in a group of 8 and a group of 6 so we divided up into these groups for check-in and this worked very well. The time at the airport went by fairly quickly and we did already run into another few groups that were headed for San Antonio. At check-in we saw the group from CTK Southgate, and would find later in the day that their flight on AirTran was heavily delayed that morning because of technical issues and they didn’t arrive in San Antonio til nearly supper time.
Our flight to Nashville was mostly uneventful with the exception of Zech who had never flown before. He was sort of our in flight entertainment being the good guy he is and his nerves about his first flight. In Nashville we had time to grab some breakfast and sit back and relax. I ran into President David Maier in a coffee shop while there and come to find out he would be on our flight to San Antonio. When we boarded our flight we also come to find Pastor Mat Hayter’s group was on our flight and we sat near them on the plane.
Our arrival in San Antonio was on time and we found much of their arrival terminals under construction, but with much potential for the future. In baggage claim I learned on facebook that my cousin Sara Wendte was also on our flight and I found her and said hi while we waited for bags. After getting our bags we found our people with Allied PRA shuttle and they did a nice job of having people stationed at several points in the airport to help us find our way to the appropriate shuttles. They loaded us and another 2-3 groups onto a very large bus and we headed for the downtown hotels.
Check-in at the Hyatt Grand was simple for Sarah and I, but they only had 3 of our 4 rooms ready. So we moved everyone upstairs to our rooms on the 10th floor and got them settled. Jane and I decided to head to the convention center to pick up our materials there. Though it was next door to the Hyatt we had a little trouble at first figuring out where to go. Down on the river level we found ourselves at the bottom of an escalator with a service person sitting there giving directions. They told us to go back outside to an elevator and then another direction to find registration. Well we did that and meandered around in the CC until finally someone gave us directions back to the real registration area. We come to find out it was at the top of the initial escalator we had found and were turned away from. There Jane and I got us checked in with the NYG, grabbed our groups wristbands, backpacks, t-shirts, and all and lugged it back to our rooms.
We took the group across the streets to the Rivercenter Mall and its food court for supper. This food court would be pretty packed the whole week but the lines always seemed to move fairly well. The food court even extended their hours to 11pm every night to help accomodate the gathering. While the group finished eating and began shopping Sarah and I went back over to the CC to register the group for the 5K. We were successful in that and also ran into Julia and Kara who were doing YAV duties. Julia showed us around a bit in the big CC halls while we looked for Kara. Sarah stayed in the CC and went to an Adult Leader Informational Mtg while I went back to the Mall along the Riverwalk to help Jane with the group.
After the mall we split up with one group returning to the hotel to swim and relax, the other went with Mark to CVS and Walgreens for supplies. We found the CVS literally on the Riverwalk while the Walgreens was another few blocks away just off the Riverwalk. We grabbed some drinks and snacks for the upcoming week.
At about 6:45pm we sent one group on over to the Alamodome to work on seats while myself and Jane and a handful of kids went over to Subway to get supper. We ended up standing in line for an hour waiting for food, but as we learned in NOLA in 2010, it was worth it. It wouldn’t just be supper but lunch for the next day as well. The Mass Event tonight had the theme of beLOVED. They introduced us to Sarah Salzberg the emcee for the week, Rev. Dan Weber the Bible study leader as well as the old favorites like the Skit Guys and Jeff Meinz on Gathering News.
After the Mass Event some of the group went to the Remedy Drive concert in one of the hotels while the others went back to the rooms to rest.
TUESDAY JULY 2
This morning was one of several early mornings for this trip. We were planned to spend the morning on an off-site Servant Event. The buses were leaving at 8am and we were to be at one of the parking lots to the east of the Alamodome by 7:45am. This meant leaving our hotel at about 7:20am to make the walk over. Part way there I realized I had forgotten some of the Event information in our hotel room, so I left the group to run back to the Hyatt, and then run back to catch up to the group. As we waited in the already warming sun in the lots we ran into Kim Holdeman, our former DCE. Many of the kids in the group were excited to see her again.
We loaded the buses finally with 2 other groups headed to our site. We ended up at King of Kings Lutheran Church which was on the northeast side of San Antonio. We arrived to find 3 or 4 other groups already there. Some were working on landscaping and pulling weeds. The bulk were working on moving the pea gravel from a large playground area to a baseball diamond. We were in this group. We spent pretty much the entire 3 hours of work time wheel-barrowing pea gravel to the backstop area of the baseball diamond. It actually was pretty decent work. Everyone got involved in their own ways. Some of the guys really took to the heavy-lifting wheel-barrow job and they had a fun cheer of “Dump day” every time they offed a load.
They boarded us up on time and had us back to the Convention Center by noon as promised. Laura and Sarah stayed in the CC to walk around while the rest of the group returned to the hotel to refresh. I was back in the CC at 12:45pm with a few of the guys. I had a leftover Subway for lunch and several of the others hit some of the cafe food in the CC.
At 2pm I found a talk called “Once Upon a Time” with Joel Beyer. It shared several clips from various fantasy movies and TV shows related them to Biblical theology. They had a great clip from the TV show Once Upon a Time that Sarah and I watch between Henry and the man who was Pinnocchio that was rich with Biblical allusion. They also brought in Lewis’ Narnia and Tolkien’s Middle Earth as well as some Disney and Harry Potter. Some of our kids listened to this one on Wednesday and really enjoyed it as well.
The whole group met up in the exhibition halls til about 3:30pm. Several of us tried the 321 Improv show at 4pm but it was already full. We would learn that a very early arrival was necessary to see this one. A number of us ended up in Bob Lenz’s “By Grace Through Faith” talk which was very typical Bob Lenz stuff.
Just after 5pm the group walked over to the Guadalajara Grill for supper which had come recommended to us. We arrived just early enough to get two nice big tables outside with no wait. The waiter caused us some trouble when he basically pleaded that we not do individual bills. We acquiesced but then learned that the next group of kids that arrived after ours, with similar number did receive individual bills. Jane, Sarah and I sat at an “adults” table and ended up inviting a youth leader from the next group to sit with us. We enjoyed our conversation. The food was pretty good there with exception to the surprise Zech received. A worm was found in his entree, which we were kind in keeping fairly quiet about. But Zech did receive a free meal for his troubles.
After dinner we split and half the group went to the Dome to get seats while the other half hit the hotel. Tonight’s Mass Event was the best of the week, its theme was “deLOVED”. There was a heavy theme on distractions this night and how these distractions don’t fill us up, don’t satisfy us, yet we somehow try to give them our love all the same. Mia Koehne was one of the main speakers and she shared about some of her troubled past and all the dead ends she had sought after in her life. But she spoke of being renewed in Christ and having turned her life with her family around. One interesting moment tonight as they talked about distractions was in the midst of Pastor Weber’s Bible study they put on Katy Perry’s firework song and everybody started singing to it, a clear and obvious distraction, and this proceeded for a minute or two until they returned to Weber having made a very pointed illustration of the main point.
We stuck around in the Dome after Mass Event for their new feature called “Mass Event+”. In an effort to help with congestion outside the dome and finding easy late night entertainment they started this new offering this year. The Sand Painter and Jesus Painter both performed and as always were excellent. The Jesus Painter did a particularly wonderful routine themed around a Tree with large roots.
WEDNESDAY JULY 3
This morning was more leisurely as our first events really didn’t start until 10am. I offered to take a group to CVS and Subway to get reinforcements for the day and we had a handful that went along. We left at 8:15am to accomplish these tasks. The whole of the group didn’t meet until 9:30am on Floor 4 in the hotel to talk about the day. We spent a few minutes on this and then headed over to the CC.
I took care of our 5K check-ins. Each person running needed to show up and sign a waiver. If we had registered ahead of time we may also have picked up our t-shirts today, but we didn’t register until we arrived at the Gathering. We would end up being able to grab our shirts after the race on Thursday. I spent the 10am window walking around the convention center. I tried the climbing wall today and had fun with that. Actually I did the climbing wall once each day. Once on the main and timed route, which I did in 18seconds. That felt good except some kid sprinted up the wall in 8 seconds setting the fast mark. The other times I tried the hard route up the wall which had fewer good holds.
At 11am I ate the Subway sandwich I had and continued to meander the CC keeping an eye out for the kids in our group. At 12pm I went to Bill Yonker’s talk with several of the kids. As usual Yonker was very entertaining and engaging. At 1pm we went outside into Hemisfair Park to walk around a bit. At 1:30pm I met up with a few of the guys and walked them back to the hotel. At 2:30pm we got smart and we hopped in line extra early for 321 Improv. There was already a growing crowd even at that time. It was worth it, however. We were literally first in line. When they opened the doors, at near 3:30pm, a few in our group made the “push” to the front of Ballroom A and we ended up having front row seats in a Ballroom that seated several hundred (maybe 1000) for 321 Improv’s show. They were worth it. They did a lot of the standard Improv routines that Sarah and I are used to from watching “Whose Line” on TV. They took several creative ideas from the audience and made for a great hour show.
At 5:15pm we got everyone met up at Hall BC at the Youth Ministry area to figure out supper plans. Much of the group wanted Denny’s. I wasn’t too into that, but I did have an offer from Concordia Chicago to go to their Alumni party at Mia Maria Cantina near the food court. I headed over there quickly and ran into Aaron Schellhas. We were able to talk for nearly an hour and Sarah even joined us toward the end. As we were finishing up we got word that Denny’s was too crowded and so the whole group ended up doing supper at the food court at Rivercenter Mall.
As we finished eating again we split in half, some going to the dome, some to the hotel. We arrived at the dome at 7:10p to get seats. The theme for Wednesday night was LOVE lived and it was heavily centered on Jesus’ life and His works. President Matt Harrison made an appearance at the beginning with Jeff Meinz and Gathering News. He also played his banjo for a bit.
We stayed again for the Mass Event+ tonight which was the Skit Guys. Along with Jeff Meinz, the Skit Guys may well be one of the most beloved parts of the Gathering. They performed for almost 40 minutes and then the group headed back to the hotel to crash.
THURSDAY JULY 4
Today was our earliest morning of the Gathering. It was the 5K run/walk morning. We had about 8 from our group of 14 who decided to participate. We set a 5:30am meeting time in our hotel so we could have time to walk to the start. Everyone was ready but the guys who weren’t in my room. Jake and I went over to give them a wake-up call and at first I had the feeling they were going to bail on us, but they did make it.
We walked to the staging area which began to the west of the corner of Alamo St. and Nueva St. which was on the western edge of Hemisfair Park. They told everyone to be there by 6:00am and we were. I was concerned how they were going to register 3000 runners/walkers by the 6:15am start and sure enough it was a mess. When we crossed Alamo St. we entered into a huge mess of people with little clear direction what to do. Over the next 15 minutes we gradually moved forward. Finally we heard someone say if you were just walking and didn’t need to be timed you could head to the north side of the street. At first everyone in our group but me did this. On my own I finally meandered my way forward to where I could see the registration tables and got my race badge and time chip. I then found my way over to the start line and was actually able to find a spot right at the start.
The 5K didn’t actually begin til about 6:45am and I started amongst the first group of runners. I was quickly passed by a number of serious runners whom I wouldn’t see again. The race went west for a few blocks and then ran south for several blocks. For its northward leg the course ran on the small pavement walk along the San Antonio River back to Nueva St. The course finished at the same spot it started. I ran it in 20:46 which was a new personal best. I was pleased. When I looked for myself on the scoring sheets I found I wasn’t on there however, which meant my time chip had malfunctioned. Comparing my time to others though I found I finished 8th place amongst adult leaders, and 64th out of all participants which was estimated at 3000 or so.
I waited for the rest of the group in the finish area and Laura came in next around 30 mins, a good run. I found out that the rest of the group did get race badges and time chips and the timing was set that it didn’t matter where you were when the true race started, you were timed based on your chip and your own time. After the race we were able to head back all together to the hotel to shower and clean up for the rest of the day.
The entire group met at 9am from the hotel for morning worship at the Alamodome. This was the first gathering where the communion worship was separated from the evening Mass Events. Worship started at 10am. It was a nice worship service and good mix of familiar hymns and newer contemporary songs. After worship the group headed back to the hotel to get ready for the afternoon sessions. We split up around noon for everyone to head in their own small group’s ways.
I quickly ate my Subway leftovers for lunch in the room and walked a group of guys over to the Convention Center for Yonker’s talk at 1pm. I took that hour to meander the CC hall’s and then met up with the guys at 2pm. I walked them over to Subway to grab dinners for them and then we made it back to the CC. With a little more free time here Kameron and I hopped in line for the small zip line. It was a nice opportunity with the line finally shortened. We got suited up into the harnesses and then climbed their portable staircase to the top of the zip line. Perhaps 40 feet up? It was a short line that angled slightly down to the ground perhaps a 100 feet away. It was brief but I enjoyed it for what it was.
The whole group met up at 4:30p again to make plans for supper. Most wanted to eat light since we were getting food at the District Event later that night. I walked with a group over to the Food Court and waited in a long line at Luciano’s for a slice of pizza. At about 6pm we headed over to the Dome. It was really starting to get hot outside for the first time this week. We found some shade under a tree to wait things out. We almost got a chance to run into Jeff Meinz doing taping for Gathering News but just missed him. There was a Lutheran Mariachi band playing nearby that some of our group went and participated in their dance lines.
As we entered the Alamodome tonight the Gathering Leaders were having everyone do an odd thing. They wanted the whole of the dome seated by districts. We were grouped with the Ohio district and sat in the rear left decks of the dome. Michigan District tried to capitalize on this by seeking a District photo as we were seated. I’m not sure if that ever happened as we were heavily mixed up with the Ohio District.
The main theme for Thursday evening was Live LOVED and the speaker was Jessica Stevens. She did a fantastic job. She was living an ordinary teenager’s life when suddenly an incredibly rare and painful neuromuscular disorder struck her. She nearly lost her life and the pain was so unbearable that at times she wanted to. She spent more than a year in the hospital recovering. She is doing well now but she lives in a wheelchair. She shared a great message of knowing God’s love through all her troubled times.
After the gathering we were all “invited” to the city of San Antonio’s fireworks which were put on over Hemisfair Park. They wanted all the gathering participants to exit into the north and south plazas outside the Alamodome. They were closing the walkway under the highways from the Alamodome so the 25000 NYG participants wouldn’t overrun the city of San Antonio residents in the park. The Michigan and Ohio district participants were supposed to try and leave the dome first to get as close to the bridge as possible for their event later after the fireworks.
We were fairly close to the bridge to see the fireworks. They started just after sunset and lasted just over a half hour. It was an impressive show with heart-shaped fireworks and other dazzling displays of light and sound. As the fireworks ended they opened up the walkways and our group made a beeline for the city streets.
Our district event started at roughly 10pm at the Buckhorn and Texas Ranger Museum which was on the same block as the Walgreens we’d been visiting. We were one of the earlier groups to make it there and quickly hopped in one of the food serving lines. They had a variety of tasty food in various lines like chips & queso, brisket sandwiches, soft taco mixes, and even a milkshake line. As more and more groups arrived we quickly found the place overcrowded and seating was an impossibility. After eating my fill I meandered through the various rooms of the museum. About half of our group quickly tired out and Sarah walked them back to the hotel. The rest of the group stayed til just past 11:30pm til we finally headed out as well. All in all the museum was okay, the whole event was way overcrowded, but at least the food was good.
FRIDAY JULY 5
After last night’s late night we were able to sleep in some for the Gathering’s last day. Our group met up at 8am and walked to the Dome for the 9am closing event. We weren’t too woried about seats and found ourselves with decent enough seats along the right side.
The closing service went til about 10:15am. It was shorter than expected. They didn't have any greetings from the Mayor or the President like past gatherings. They didn't say anything about the next Gathering Locale as they have in the past. Bill Yonker was speaker and he was very good. After the event walked back to hotel and met on level 4. We had an excellent group discussion about favorite events and favorite talks of the week. We got into some good personal discussions about abortion and homosexuality and some of the other talks.
After our great group time we sent a handful over to Denny’s to get us reservations. The whole group eventually met over there and the wait wasn’t too bad. They had us split up over 3 different tables and we enjoyed a nice big meal together for one of the first times all week.
The group split up after lunch. Some went to hotel to swim. Some went to the mall to shop. It was mostly free time in the afternoon for everyone. I went with the mall group to help supervize and during that time was able to make our flight check-ins for tomorrow afternoon. I made it back to the hotel about 3:30pm and actually napped for about 10 minutes.
The group left at 4pm to walk to the Alamo. It was now very hot out and sunny. As we arrived at the plaza before the Alamo about a dozen snow cone vendors were there and most of the group partook. We took some group pics outside the Alamo. We waited in line for the walk to the inside. It was supposed to be quiet inside and no photos allowed out of reverence to it being an old chapel. The line exits you from the Alamo towards the back side into the park. We spent some time in the park around the Alamo as well as the gift shop.
It was just late enough we decided to walk from there to our supper locale which was intended to be Dick’s Last Resort. My NYG group back in ‘95 had been there and my memories of it were it was an enjoyable time for our group. So we walked to the nearby Hyatt (not ours) and sat in the A/C to cool for a bit. One group then walked to Hard Rock Cafe to see the pins they had with the NYG LiveLoved logo. They wanted $12 for them. We saw Dick's Last Resort across the river from there and hopped in line.
The rest of the group joined us there and we waited outside 45 minutes. When we were finally seated much of the group was overwhelmed. The floor was littered with white paper towel and napkin trash. It was very loud. And the waiters were overly rude. The prices were also sky high and much of the cheaper and simpler fare was apparently on a lunch only menu. We decided to bail and left. I felt bad for having gotten the group into the situation and in hindsight figure my memories of it from ‘95 were either limited or the place was even more overwhelming now.
After that confusion we got the majority to decide on ordering pizza at the hotel. I walked into Luciano's in the food court at the Rivercenter Mall and ordered three of their 16" pizzas and waited for them, the rest went back to the hotel to swim for about 40 minutes. We had pizza in the other guys room and hung out in our rooms for the rest of the evening.
SATURDAY JULY 6
One group left about 9:45am to hit the mall. The rest finished packing and met up about 10:40am to check out and hit Fuddruckers. Though last night the hotel had told Sarah we could use some of their rooms on floor 2, as they had done yesterday for NYG people, today they were not doing that anymore. So they allowed one of our rooms a late checkout. So we piled everyone's bags into our room.
We met the mall group at Fuddrucker's at 11am and that was a hit with most everyone. Sarah had found coupons for a 1/3lb burger and fries for $5 and most of the group tried that. I left a few mins early to head back to the hotel and start looking for our shuttle. The rest of the group tried out the Five & Dime store for souvenirs.
I got a call from the gal with Allied shuttle about noon saying they'd arrive in 15 minutes. I grabbed my stuff and waited outside and met them. The rest of the group arrived and made it downstairs by 12:20pm. Ours and a group from Ann Arbor loaded up and we were off to the airport. We were to the airport just before 1pm and had no check-in or security issues.Met up at 4pm
Flight from San Antonio left on-time, we arrived about 10 minutes early in Phoenix. While in San Antonio still we caught word of the Asiana Airlines plane that had crash landed in San Francisco. We hoped this wouldn't get our group too worked up and indeed, other than a little discussion about it, people weren't too worried. That incident did however cause our plane's flight out of Oakland to be delayed on its route to Phoenix. Air temp was 109 outside in Phoenix. We found a Panera Bread, though named Paradise Bakery in the airport for food. Because of the earlier delay our plane arrived about 30 minutes late. This had us boarding 30 minutes late. As we were ready to push back they came on and said big storms east of us were going to cause our flight plan to be moved south towards El Paso which would create the need for more fuel. This cause us another 15 minutes on the ground. We finally left about 46 minutes late. This put us into Detroit 45 minutes late and our pickup vehicles were there waiting for us. It was well past midnight and a tiring night for everyone involved.