The group left Paynesville by bus on Wednesday, Aug. 30, and returned home on Sunday, Sept. 3. They spent Friday touring Washington, D.C., seeing the monuments, the White House, the U.S. Capitol, the Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian Institution.
Attending the gathering were Jessica, Josh and David Kerzman, Joanna Lang, Megan Pelz, Mike Smith, David Gilroy, Jon Knapp, Jen Roberg, and Brittany and Taylor Ernst. Chaperones were Pastor Rich and Karen Hubert, Sharon Ihrke, Barry Christianson, Shirley Pelz, Larry Roberg, and Seth and Sandy Elmhorst.
Despite spending more time on the bus traveling than at the gathering, Josh Kerzman and Mike Smith said the trip was a really good experience. They especially liked the singing and praising of God.
"The touring was great," said Barry Christianson. "But I loved the praise atmosphere, bands, and challenges the speakers gave us." Christian musicians Michael W. Smith and Rebecca St. James performed, as well as a band from Australia, and other bands from across the country.
Speakers appearing were Darrell Green of the Washington Redskins; Bill McCartney, a college football coach; the father of a Columbine victim; and Bill Bright, president of Youth for Christ.
Loud speakers and large screen televisions were placed so everybody in the crowd could see and hear what was happening on stage. One day it rained, drenching the crowd. According to Sharon Ihrke nobody moved when it started raining, everybody kept listening to the music.
Christianson said the speakers issued several challenges to those attending. Among the challenges were to spend 30 seconds in prayer at your locker each morning before school.
Another challenge dealt with a 40-day "fast" for the nation. For this "fast" a person could eliminate an item of food or something else like watching television, allowing them more time with God.
A third challenge urged the group to save 10 people before the end of the year and another challenge encouraged them to be bold in their faith. Christianson said the students were also challenged to bring their Bible to school.
Ihrke said the speakers asked the adults in the audience, mainly baby boomers, to confess how they brought up their children. Many baby boomers let their kids do what they wanted to do; they did not always place God first in their lives, said Ihrke.
"We were encouraged to look at ourselves and to be responsible for what was going on in our lives and our children's lives," she added.
According to Ihrke, the speakers asked this to all age groups, making them reflect on what direction their lives have taken.
Christianson said there were four themes they heard while they were there: repentance, reconciliation, revolution, and revelation.
Upon returning, Christianson said the group has challenged their church congregation to a 40-day fast. Each member is asked to sign up for a different day.
Joanna Lang said the main purpose of the celebration was to unite the two age groups, young and old.
David Gilroy felt the best part was meeting new people and making new friends.
Pastor Hubert said it was a great trip for those who went. It was a time to draw them nearer to God. Reminding everyone how much the country needs to get back to its spiritual roots. "It was great to stand at one end and see the masses of young people give themselves to the Lord and pray for changing hearts," he added.
"I have seen changes within the group that went. They are more concerned for others and the Lord and what he wants for others," Pastor Hubert said.
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