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Helen Keller once said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” I’ll be honest — I’m not always the most adventurous person. Sometimes I like routine, structure and predictability. I don’t generally seek experiences too far from what I’m used to and good at. This week is an exception.

Last Friday, I arrived in the City of New Orleans to work behind the scenes at the 2012 ELCA National Youth Gathering, an event that only comes around once every three years and draws some 34,000 people into one place. There’s music, speakers and videos. It is huge and overwhelming and undeniably awesome. For me, it’s the culmination of a year-long journey that began with a phone call and an invitation to step 1,650 miles outside of my comfort zone.

Being backstage is unlike anything I have ever done. The days are long and the blisters are painful, but it’s worth it. I’ve moved boxes and wrangled high schoolers. I’ve escorted speakers both well-known and obscure. I’ve thrown balloons and counted chairs. I’ve given acting advice and told crowds to “please step aside.” I’ve asked people for their twenty while wearing a cool-looking headset that makes me feel like a Secret Service agent. I’ve done a few crossword puzzles. I’ve yawned, gritted my teeth, laughed and cried my way through this beautiful chaos.

You simply cannot fathom the enormous task of putting this show on. Ninety minutes of content every day for five days requires a small army of specialists and gofers (powered by gallons upon gallons of coffee). We are a force of nature; a machine that works exactly as it should (most of the time). Being here will change me forever — through what I have seen on stage, what I have done off stage and through the family I’ve been adopted into. It has been an honor and privilege to be a tiny little cog in that machine and above all, it has been an adventure.

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Jonny Eberle is a writer, photographer and restless soul in Flagstaff, AZ. When he isn’t at the Super Dome (and even when he is), he lives in Twitterland, where his friends call him @jonnyeberle.

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