MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — For the first time, more than 20,000 teenagers from around the world are in Minneapolis for the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod Youth Gathering.

From the food to the fun to the fellowship, the party is in Minneapolis this weekend– but they came from all over. Twenty-three thousand teens from 49 states and 13 countries are gathering for the Lutheran church’s once event that happens every three years.

“Our gathering has never been in the Midwest. It’s always typically been in the south. So this is really the first exposure for a lot of our kids to be this far north,” said Derek Broton, who plans the National Youth Gathering.

They choose the location because of US Bank Stadium and booked it five years ago, before it was even built.

“When we came here we just fell in love with the city. Wefell in love with the leaders of the city, and we were excited to bring our event to the Midwest,” Broton said.

And the youth seem excited to be here.

“I like the sights and structures of how the buildings look,,” said Camille Merrell, a freshman from Oklahoma.

Blessed Iraduhaye came from Grand Rapids, Michigan and said he was impressed by the Mall of America.

The students spent their first evening in a jumbo sized worship service, but they’ll be taking their faith outside the stadium, packing one million meals for Feed My Starving Children and serving at dozens of charities.

Maddie Shearer and Ulyssis Palacios from Texas said, “We’re just like showing our love of God though the things we do. And the people, and helping people who need help.”

Teens who plan to serve others and enjoy themselves. The conference runs through Monday. About 6,000 of the students and volunteers are taking the light rail, so keep that in mind if you take the train.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield