From June 26-29, Bowling Green State University (BGSU) in Bowling Green, Ohio, hosted the 2018 WELS International Youth Rally. Approximately 2,100 WELS teens and youth leaders gathered for praise, learning, and fellowship under the theme “Never Alone.” This theme was based on the message of Matthew 28:20: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Attendees were assured that God is ever-present in their lives and that they are not isolated in their belief.
Organized by the WELS Commission on Discipleship, teens and leaders alike were encouraged and entertained by the events of the rally. Attendees took part in daily worship, devotional sessions, keynote presentations, educational workshops, networking opportunities, and fun activities across the BGSU campus.
“It’s been really incredible. I’ve never been with so many people who share the same faith,” says Sophia Busse, a member at Trinity, Waukesha, Wis. This was Busse’s first time attending the rally, and she called it a “really cool experience.”
Tabitha Vannieuwenhoven, Luther Preparatory School, Watertown, Wis., enjoyed discussing topics of faith with new people at the rally. “I loved all the workshops and hearing everybody else’s point of view on stuff that my friends and I talk about.”
Young adults weren’t the only ones to grow from this experience. David Denninger, a youth leader at Redeemer, Maple Grove, Minn., gathered a great deal of knowledge from other leaders to take back to his home congregation, “It’s eye-opening, and you know you’re not alone. There are resources out there, and they’re plentiful. People are giving you ideas about what you can do, and you can do it in your church no matter what the size.”
Donn Dobberstein was installed as the director of discipleship for WELS’ Congregational Services on the final day of the rally. Affirming the mission of the event, he shared a story he heard from a Florida pastor about his group of teens: “One of them was a teen girl who had just been baptized six months ago. To be able to see this event through her eyes—the eyes of someone who is new to the faith—and then to experience it on a large scale with youth from all over the nation . . . to me, that is what the event means: To let the kids know, like the rally theme says, ‘You are never alone.’”
John Boggs, a member of the rally planning committee and chairman for the WELS Commission on Discipleship, hopes that the event has a lasting impact on the attitudes of all the WELS teens who were in attendance. “It’s to give them—even if it’s just for a few days—an opportunity to celebrate the fact that their God knows who they are, their God deeply loves them, and he has put people in their lives who want to build them up instead of tear them down,” says Boggs, pastor at Divine Savior, West Palm Beach, Fla. “That’s hopefully something they’ll take with them throughout their lives.”
The next WELS International Youth Rally will be held in 2020.
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Volume 105, Number 9
Issue: September 2018
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