The day started bright and early for our most adventurous youth as we braved the almost deserted streets of the city for an early morning trip to Cafe Du Monde to get caffe au lait and beignets. As we left the restaurant, the streets were already beginning to fill with youth groups from all over the country.
Our group reunited at the morning meeting where we discussed the plan of the day before heading downstairs to meet with the large group for a tour of the city by bus.
As we boarded the bus, fond memories of the trip south came cascading
back, but this time the trip was much shorter. Our tour guide Inez shared the history and colorful stories of the area, people and architecture
of the city. We stopped and toured through a cemetery where Inez revealed the mystery of the above ground burial customs. Think recycling…. We saw the house used to film Gone with the Wind, and we ‘saw’ many
missing buildings that were notable prior to Katrina. (Note: The most common words one hears in New Orleans are “Before Katrina…”).
After the bus tour, the youth whiled away the final hours before the Gathering opening with time-honored pastimes of shopping, wandering, and swimming.
Late in the afternoon in sweltering heat, we walked the mile to the Superdome for the Gathering opening service. People with green backpacks were everywhere! We crammed onto the entry area of the stadium as a band energized the growing crowd. Our biggest challenge was staying together as people pressed toward the gates. At last the doors opened and we had our first view of the Gathering: the vast arena, lights, smoke, giant flashing screens, REALLY loud music, and 25,000 Christian youth filing into their seats.
From the beginning, the mass event had us singing, stomping, shouting, and clapping. We watched an amazing sand painter rapidly create Biblical scenes and just as rapidly morph them into the next. We listened to Gregory T. Manning tell us of being born blind, just like a certain man in the Bible, and how Jesus healed his spiritual blindness. The Gathering Worship Team acted out the first episode of “The Network”, a serial drama that will unfold during the event.
We explored the question of the day: What are some of the truths the world would like you to believe? And we began to explore the Gathering theme, ‘We Believe’ and examine just what it is that we believe.
Imagine 25,000 youth and chaperones holding hands and singing and praying together.
The Superdome sent forth an incredible outpouring of believers at the end of the event, as a river of youth moved elbow to elbow down Poydras Street. It took us 50 minutes to walk the mile back because of the crushing crowd and the often narrow sidewalks. People still sang and shouted praise, and observers could not possibly miss the excitement in the crowd.
Back at the hotel, we enjoyed a dance until midnight and played cards until Lights Out. Not surprisingly, we fell asleep as soon as…zzzzzzzzz