Sept. 19-26: Discuss the ELCA National Youth Gathering with author Nicole Adamson.
I spent five days tagging along with high-schoolers at the ELCA Youth Gathering, hitchhiking my way into conga lines and eavesdropping on Bible studies. I re-expereinced high school, sharing my views on body image with 15-year-old girls and rushing the stage to get a closer look at the band Hawk Nelson. I learned how kids understand faith, how they handle peer pressure and what cruzando means to them.
Still I managed to keep my distance. Maybe it was my notepad and pen, or the perpetual anxiety of converting this massive event into a five-page magazine article, but it wasn't until the plane ride home that I crossed over.
Leaving for the airport, I was riding high on self-confidence for pulling this trip off. Me, a 22-year-old, traveling alone on business—staying by myself in a hotel room, recording expenses and crossing borders with my first-ever press pass. God must have known that I didn’t quite get the message of cruzando.
I arrived at the San Antonio airport at 5:30, two hours before my 7:30 departure to Chicago. But I realized my mistake when I got out of the cab. My flight to Chicago was at 7:30—but it was a connecting flight out of Dallas. I had missed my flight to Dallas at 4:56.
I didn’t panic—at first. I thought this kind of thing happens all the time; people just get on the next flight. But when I approached the ticket counter, the agent informed me I would be stuck in San Antonio until the next afternoon. With 24,000 kids leaving the city, nothing was available.
I pleaded unsuccessfully with the gate attendant for the next flight to Chicago, but my press pass wasn’t going to do me any good this time. I dropped my bags, sat down on the floor and cried. I gave up my grown-up act and showed my “scars” while groups of kids boarded the plane. Suddenly the image of the poor woman from Juarez popped into my mind.
Orando. I prayed.
Orando means “praying” in Spanish. Gathering participants had watched a video of a woman in Juarez, Mexico, who sang about prayer: “Si tu hablaras con Dios, las cosas cambiaron. Orando” (“If you speak with God, things will change. Praying”).
After praying, I decided to try again. Still a wreck, I wandered around looking for someone to help. Then I heard: “Nicole!”
It was a chaperone from a group I had sat with during morning Bible study. And here I was, crying like a baby. So much for being a professional journalist. Instead of hiding my tears, they poured out as I explained my situation. I let him console me and try to find a solution—he talked to everyone he could find. I ended up taking an open seat on a flight to another Dallas airport, Love Field. But I still needed to get to Dallas/Fort Worth to catch a flight to Chicago. I didn’t even know if I’d be able to book a flight, but it was better than spending the night in San Antonio.
With no idea what would happen next, I boarded the plane to Love Field. The woman I sat next to must have noticed my tear-smeared face—she asked what was wrong. I started to explain that I had missed my flight, and before I could finish, she and the man next to her offered me rides to Dallas/Fort Worth from Love Field. The man, Erik, said he was renting a car and driving there anyway so it would be no problem.
Seconds later, another woman came down the aisle and informed me I was in her seat—apparently I had been sitting in 11C instead of 10C. She didn’t mind switching, so I stayed where I was, beside two modern-day Good Samaritans.
Still, was I really going to get into a car with a guy I’d just met on a plane in Texas? But something told me to do it, to cross over. It was like God was saying, “Go ahead, Nicole, he’s with me.” I had sat in row 11 for a reason.
Before we left Love Field, Erik helped me arrange a flight from Dallas/Fort Worth to Chicago. As I walked with Erik through the airport to pick up his rental car, he asked why I had been in San Antonio. I told him about my experience at the Youth Gathering and how I had freaked out at the airport, wondering how I was going to get home.
“Did you pray?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“Christ was with you all along. He works in mysterious ways and everything happens for a reason. God just wanted to do this extra little thing to let you know he’s there for you when you need him,” he said.
A different kind of tear slid down my cheek. I could get into a car with this guy.
Erik dropped me off at the airport and reminded me one last time: “He delivers.”
Going through security I looked down at my wrist and saw the words “Vaya con Dios” (“Go with God”). I hadn’t taken off the metal bracelet since receiving it, but somehow it didn’t set off the detector. As I boarded the plane for Chicago, everything started to make sense. So this is cruzando.
Editor's note: Adamson's article about the ELCA National Youth Gathering, "Cruzando: Journey with Jesus," appears in the September issue of The Lutheran.
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