For about 600 of the 25,000 Gathering participants, the first full day of the NYG started at 5:00 am, arising at that hour (remember, we went to bed after midnight) to register for and run the NYG 5k.  (That would be about 3 miles for you Americans…) Six of the Rochester delegation began their Gathering by running six laps around the Superdome in 90 degrees. The rest of the week could only get better.

Breakfast, by the way, is a group affair consisting of granola bars, fruit, and peanut butter bagels.  This not only saves money, it lets us plan and converse while we eat an entire day’s worth of fiber in one meal.

Following our meeting, we left for the convention center.  We started with a large group Bible study about Jesus’ healing of the blind man.  We learned how the disciples LOOKed at the blind man as a source of debate ( see John 9:2) and Jesus LOOKed at the man with compassion (John 9:4).

The NYG offers many choices. Speakers, concerts, service events, college fairs, challenge courses, and Bible studies happen at the same time all day long. Too often, awesome sessions occur at the same time. We are blessed with so many chances to learn about God’s Word and meet new, interesting, and inspirational people. (Some people meet special people at NYGs; we hear many stories about relationships that started at NYGs.)

With so many options, the day passed quickly and we soon found ourselves at the final afternoon session, a Stellar Kart concert. After the concert, we returned to the hotel to prepare for the evening’s mass event. Last night we had a difficult time finding each other in the crowd, so we devised a simple, yet dignified solution: balloon hats!  We donned our colorful apparel, along with a few ball0on swords, dogs, turtles, flowers and bugs, and walked our favorite mile to the Superdome.  The hats worked magnificently, and provided great conversation starters.  Unfortunately, our personal balloon guy couldn’t resist twisting balloons for several non-Grace people on the way, slowing us down and deleting the uniqueness. We soon had balloon hats orbiting all around the group.

It was a powerful evening. The Jesus Painter moved us with his dramatic art, painting a five foot portrait. Asnthe music played, the portrait changed to reveal the messages of the song and ultimately the portrait of Christ. Brock Gill, an illusionist, recreated Jesus’ calming of the storm and the Skit Guys entertained us with the hilarious two man plays about Bible stories. The plot of The Network drama took a decidedly dark turn. Throughout the night, the music and singing energized our worship.

We saw and listened to many people who had experienced great personal tragedy, from the loss of homes and possessions in hurricane Katrina, to the loss of a daughter in a car crash. We saw how God revealed himself through these events. We saw destruction and healing, devastation and joy, despair and opportunity. Our youth seemed to take it to heart and our adults are encouraged by the depth of the compassion of our youth.

The event ended with the question, “How do you believe when you are facing the unbelievable?”

After a fifty minute ride down the human river, we arrived back at the hotel. The Skit Guys performed at our hotel and the day drew to a close.

All of our youth met the midnight curfew and no one turned into a pumpkin.

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