The youth who attended were Lindsey Zamzow, Garrett Wieding, Jonathan Sulaica, Adrianna Sulaica, Landry Newport, Ty Brown, and Krissy Arnst. Christie Wieding and Pastor Norm Sulaica were the adult sponsors. On their first full day, 12,000 youth and their sponsors worked throughout the city of New Orleans painting inner city schools, cleaning the Ninth Ward, reading to the inner city youth, and many other projects. The Our Savior Youth spent the day in St. Bernard Parish, serving at the Catholic church.
This once vibrant congregation of over five-hundred members was devastated by hurricane Katrina. At one point in the storm, the church and its cemetery were under 20 feet of water. The side walls of the mausoleums, where people were laid to rest, were shattered by the powerful floods.
The task of the youth was to clean the cemetery and paint the mausoleums white. Why, you may ask? This vibrant congregation lost its youthful families to the flood. No jobs were available and the family home was destroyed. Even today many businesses are hollow, dark and empty. The tradition of gathering on All Saints Day, is to clean the cemetery and paint the mausoleums. The young families are gone and the elderly members are physically unable to maintain the property. One elderly couple told Pastor Norm, “Our son died over a year ago. We are moved to see the youth respectfully clean the cemetery.” Tears fell from their cheeks as they watched the youth work.
The OSL youth and sponsors gathered every night in the New Orleans Superdome with 37,000 other youth and sponsors to worship God through Jesus Christ, listen to the Christian music, and be moved by speakers of faith. Several Christian bands were on hand including: House Band, Group1Crew and Skillet.
One special speaker was Pastor Don Miller. Pastor Don is an author and a disciple of Jesus who feels that Christianity has been reduced to principles and ideas that can be mass marketed. Instead, he calls on the youth to reconnect to the Jesus of the Bible. With the use of story, Don Miller challenged everyone to think about God and Jesus in a new light.
The youth also heard from 20-year old, Michel Chikwanine. a former child soldier of the “Great War of Africa.” Chikwanine has seen and experienced more suffering and violence than any human should see. Forced to leave his home country as a refugee at the age of 11, he traveled to 35 African countries, witnessing first-hand the problems faced by the developing world, but also the beauty of the communities and the people who live there. Chikwanine, a brother in Christ, believes we can change the world for the better and he has hope for his native Africa.
Another powerful speaker was Spencer West. West knows what it is like to be bullied. Having lost his legs at the age of five, he had to overcome bullies and stereotyping. Through it all he never lost the hope, courage or faith he needed to overcome obstacles of all sorts.
Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson closed the event by heading Holy Communion Worship Services. He called on the youth to continue to exemplify God’s justice by sharing the Word of God through their words and action. He challenged them to return to their homes, congregations and communities and serve God with “Jesus Justice Jazz.”