In a display of empathy and compassion, the Southwestern Minnesota Synod's annual November Junior High Youth Gathering has established a service project that reaches out to homebound members of the synod. At Thanksgiving, nearly 500 recipients (mostly elderly) benefit from the effort.
Since more than 1,200 youth attend the overnight event — held the weekend before Thanksgiving — it is split into two gatherings (Friday-Saturday and Saturday-Sunday). It centers on a theme determined by the Lutheran Youth Organization board of 15 youth and 15 adults. Last year's theme was "Take My Hand," based on Psalm 40:1-3.
The board breaks into teams that organize various aspects of the gathering. One of the most challenging, said Sarah Hausken, synod youth ministry coordinator, is determining a service project. Last year's team discovered a project so successful that it will be repeated this year: making and sending Thanksgiving cards.
"We focused on finding something that could be useful, that could be accomplished in that time and in that space, and that made a difference for people," Hausken said. "And we decided that there are so many people who are isolated — away from home or in a nursing home or living alone — and we wanted to reach out."
By the end of the gathering last year, the young people had made more than 465 cards using stickers, markers and construction paper in all shapes and colors. Synod congregations provided names of elderly, homebound or overseas members, and the gathering created cards for nearly all of them.
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