National Lutheran News

Young adults make disciples in all nations through ELCA Global Mission program

Young people these days. That’s a refrain often heard by “older adults” who lament that current generations don’t share the values of their predecessors.

Anyone who voices that concern about the church’s future, however, doesn’t know participants in Young Adults for Global Mission (YAGM), a program of the ELCA. In program year 2010-11, 43 young persons will be headed to about eight countries, offering a year of service and relationship building.

The YAGM program provides ELCA young adults with a year-long international mission experience that contributes to their development as servant-leaders, according to the Rev. Heidi Torgerson-Martinez, associate director of global support. “The participants learn cross-cultural skills through service and developing relationships,” she added.

These young people then bring back and share the stories of their global experience to U.S.-based ELCA faith communities. The church universal thus begins to feel like the church universal.

Young adults, ages 19-29, are appointed to serve in an international program for one-year terms of service. Each participating country has teams of four to eight volunteers. An in-country coordinator provides support for the volunteers, and handles the logistics.

Companions in finding solutions

YAGM stresses a spirit of international companionship. These missionaries don’t come with answers to the struggles facing the people in the countries they are living; instead, they work with people already engaged in finding solutions.

The 2010-11 program year participants were just announced, and several have Twin Cities-area connections: Anne Doering, Servant of Christ Lutheran Church, Champlin, Minnesota, will work in Mexico; Laura Glasebrook, Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, will be in either Hungary or Slovakia; Amanda Meyer, Jacob’s Well, Minneapolis, will also be in Central Europe; and Elizabeth “Biz” Sorenson, St. Matthew Lutheran Church (LCMS), Esko, Minnesota, will serve in the United Kingdom. (Although LCMS does not formerly participate in YAGM, Sorenson has been a student at Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota, and is connecting through the school.)

Anne Doering, who by press time will have graduated from Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota, was considering an application to Peace Corps when she “stumbled upon the YAMG program.” She was immediately interested in this opportunity to “learn about people and listen to their stories, be with them, and share in love.”

Doering plans to apply for medical school soon after she returns from Mexico. She believes that “when I come back, I can serve these [immigrant] communities with greater empathy.”

Laura Glasebrook finished her studies at St. Olaf College, also in Northfield, a year ago. She is currently working at Transitional Resources in Seattle through the Lutheran Volunteer Corps (LVC). She believes that YAMG will be an opportunity to work internationally consistent with how she has worked domestically through LVC.

Glasebrook is planning on a career in social work, perhaps working with refugees and immigrants; she sees this international opportunity as a way to work toward that goal. Glasebrook will work with the Roma people in Central Europe.

Our Saviour’s “played a large role in my spiritual development,” offers Glasebrook. YAGM’s “emphasis on personal spiritual growth and the practice of the accompaniment model” attracted her.

This response fit perfectly with Torgerson-Martinez’ vision of YAGM: “The program strives to provide young adults with opportunities to grow in their faith and to better understand their place in God’s world,” she explains.

Hmm. Kids these days!

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