Valley-wide youth lock-in at Esperanza was a night of fun, reflection and service

As darkness fell on March 26, a group of teens gathered around the labyrinth on our campus for prayer. It had been a busy evening. Now the group paused to reflect.

“We meditated on what it means to not just survive in the changes of life but thrive into what God is calling us to be,” said Casey Gosling, youth director for Phoenix Lutheran Youth Ministry, or PhLY.

PhLY is a ministry offering monthly events for high school youth throughout the greater Phoenix area. Last year, Esperanza became one of the nine participating congregations. The ministry is designed to augment the youth program in each church by facilitating a monthly night of fun, food and faith.

Esperanza hosted the March lock in, with a dozen youth and three adults attending, including Pastor Annemarie. The Paradise family provided a pasta dinner with all the fixings.  The Tinsley family provided yummy garlic bread and the Gemma’s provided delicious morning breakfast muffins.

“I’m so glad PhLY is our youth group with Casey as our youth director,” Pastor Annemarie said. “Teens have so many options for spending time with their peers and making new friends—through school, extracurricular activities, social media and more. But what we have to offer is a place for them not only to make friendships and know that church is a place where people care about them — which it is! — but to come to know about the love of Christ. How that love transforms us and sets us free. How Christ in our lives shapes us to be people of peace and hope, who try to make a difference in the world.”

Casey said that Esperanza’s location away from the buzz of the city gave the kids the opportunity to enjoy our beautiful desert environment.

“We spent more time sitting out in the courtyard talking, playing games and connecting with what God wants for our lives than we did inside,” he said.

“The youth played volleyball across the street, including a version where, instead of our hands we used a blanket to catch and toss the ball over as a group,” he said. “Once it was too dark to continue, we came back to the church for team-building games.”

Crowning the evening was a service project. The group assembled kits for those who struggle with food shortages and homelessness: pairs of socks held water bottles and granola bars — items always needed..

But was it fun?

Christopher Tinsley from Esperanza said yes!

“We played a lot of fun games and we got to know people from all over the Valley,” he said. “I made some new friends.”

Taite Paradise agreed.

“The people that are involved in PhLY are really nice and accepting,” he said.

Taite added that at the labyrinth, Casey led them through a meditation that encouraged them to pray about real-life situations.

The next morning, the group attended our worship service, and brought the sock packages to the alter for a blessing.

“We felt so welcomed by your smiling faces and conversations during the coffee hour,” Casey said.


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