Eighteen young people from St. Stephen Martyr Lutheran Church, Canton, Ohio, returned from the ELCA Youth Gathering touched by a 5-year-old boy they had met on their service project.

They had been assigned to clean up a 100-block area of mostly abandoned inner city homes in Detroit, where they met Emerson, who Allie Harpster, director of lay ministry, said “chatted them up, entertained, charmed, and basically introduced a group of teens from the burbs to a different way of life.’”

With no prompting from adults and with their own money, the teens sent Emerson a care package of school supplies and snacks. They didn’t know his last name or exact address, but the post office persevered and found the right home. Emerson even sent back a thank you note.

Of all the lessons learned at the gathering, the Canton group “learned to disregard the seemingly impossible task of finding a small child in a large city, and the impact of what can happen when a 5-year-old talks to strangers, releasing in them a spirit of thoughtfulness and generosity,” Harpster said.

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