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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Cruzando: ServantLife

The ServantLife component of the Youth Gathering crossed the boundaries of traditional work projects, incorporating service as a way of life. Through three types of experiences—care, culture and construction—more than 1,000 youth ventured into San Antonio each day to serve and learn from their neighbors. Armed with water bottles, boxed lunches and a thirst to serve, groups departed from the Alamodome to their unique destinations.

At the Guadalupe Community Center, youth from Trinity Lutheran Church, Robesonia, Pa., donated books and spent the afternoon reading and playing games with elementary school kids. Making instant friends seemed to be on the agenda of the kids, who jumped into their visitors’ arms without hesitation.

“It’s really cool just to talk to them, just to see how they were brought up,” said Chelsea Carl, 15, of Trinity. “It’s a lot different from at home,” said Carl, who comes from a self-described “small, rural town where everyone knows each other.”

Taylor Martinez, 15, and his group from Our Saviour Lutheran Church, Durant, Okla., read to kids at Good Shepherd Day School. Martinez was struck by how happy they were to have visitors.

“They didn’t want us to leave, ’cause I don’t think they get that very often,” he said. “When our bus left, all the kids were lining up waiting for us.”

Other youth participated in construction, such as painting over graffiti and cleaning up neighborhoods. Cultural experiences included tours of neighborhoods, murals and missions.

Maricela Alarcón, a fourth-grade teacher who is pursuing a master’s degree at Our Lady of the Lake University, San Antonio, took some groups on a walk through her neighborhood on the city’s west side.

“I choose to live here because I see the young people on these streets and I want to be a role model to them. I want to break the cycle,” Alarcón said, leading kids from St. John (Northfield, Minn.) and Redeemer (Columbia, S.C.) Lutheran churches past barred windows, rundown houses, and bright colored buildings.

“It makes you realize what you have and that you need to be more thankful for what you have,” said Amy Schultz, 17, of Redeemer. Schultz’s group said having Alarcón as their guide helped them better understand the cycle of poverty.

Emily Moss, 15, of Trinity Lutheran Church, Ashland, Ohio, whose group took a tour of San Antonio’s missions, summed it all up: “It’s not just about serving people, but learning to respect them and love them and honor their cultures.”


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