Hand in Handhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/HandInHand/Greetings from TokyoTimothy and Mari McKenziehttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/HandInHand/435http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/HandInHand/435<div class="ExternalClass343361CF4B0C42E69E718D236BD84862"><p>​<em>Timothy and Mari McKenzie are ELCA missionaries in Tokyo. To support them, or another of the ELCA's more than 240&#160;missionaries in the global church, click </em><a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/Our-Work/Global-Church/Global-Church-Sponsorship"><span style="text-decoration&#58;underline;"><em>here</em></span></a><em>.</em></p><p style="text-align&#58;right;">&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;Season after Pentecost, July 2014</p><p>Dear Friends in Christ,&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; </p><p>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; We send you greetings in the name of Christ Jesus from Japan Lutheran Theological Seminary and&#160;Japan Lutheran College in Mitaka City, Tokyo. We thank you for your sponsorship and support of our work in Japan and of the wider Global Mission of the ELCA. We are currently journeying through the season after Pentecost, giving thanks for the work of the Holy Spirit in the church.&#160;&#160;&#160;<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; Related to this, one of the responsibilities of my work in theological education at the seminary in Tokyo is preaching and teaching at local congregations throughout Japan. The seminary has a program named &quot;kodan hoshi,&quot; which in translation means &quot;service&#160;through teaching.&quot; One way that&#160; seminary faculty serve the Lutheran church in Japan is through preaching and lecturing in local churches. This creates&#160; a sense of&#160; ongoing&#160;theological dialog between local congregations and the seminary.&#160;<img alt="church_HiH_7-22-14.jpg" src="http://search.elca.org/blogs/SiteAssets/Lists/Hand%20in%20Hand/Browse/church_HiH_7-22-14.jpg" style="margin&#58;5px;vertical-align&#58;auto;float&#58;right;" /><br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; On Pentecost 4 (July 6th) I traveled to Kurume&#160; City on the southern island of Kyushu to preach and <br>teach at&#160; Kurume Lutheran Church. Kurume Lutheran Church was founded in 1901, eight years after American Lutheran missionaries began mission work in Japan in 1892. This work was supported by predecessor bodies of the ELCA,&#160; the United Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church in America as well as the United Lutheran Church in America. The current&#160; sanctuary was built in 1918, and was designed by William Merrell Vories, an American architect and&#160; missionary who worked in prewar Japan. The &#160; beautiful&#160;red brick church building survived the US bombing of Kurume on 11 August 1945, and is still in use today.&#160;&#160;&#160;<br>&#160;&#160; In the Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church (JELC), the appointed Gospel text for July 6th , Pentecost 4, was Matthew 9&#58;35-10&#58;10, which recounts Jesus' healing&#160; of many and sending&#160; out his disciples to preach&#160; the Good News of the Kingdom of Heaven. As familiar hymns were sung and heavy rains fell on the church during worship,&#160; I thought about Kurume Lutheran Church and its 113 years of proclaiming this Gospel of God's love for all people&#160;no matter the season&#160;or era.&#160; I thought about Kurume Lutheran's&#160; surviving the&#160; rain of&#160; bombs during the war, and its role in becoming a place of God's&#160;healing message after the war.&#160; In Matthew's text, Jesus&#160;instructs his disciples to greet any home that they enter with words of peace. The disciples are sent out with only Jesus' authority and the peaceful Gospel message of God's Kingdom alive now for all people. Kurume Lutheran Church has preached this message for over a century, and Lutheran churches in the US have been a part of Kurume Lutheran Church's mission through prayers, gifts and the missionaries who have served there.&#160;<br>&#160;&#160; Japan Lutheran Theological Seminary in Tokyo&#160; participates in the JELC's mission through equipping seminarians to become pastors <br>sent out with Jesus' authority and the peaceful Gospel message of God's love for all people. On July 13th&#160;(Pentecost 5), our 3rd&#160;year seminary class will begin internship in local congregations. Like Jesus' disciples,&#160;every year seminarians are sent out after a Service of Holy Communion &amp;&#160;Sending, and&#160; begin to experience the mission of the church outside of the classroom in local churches.&#160;<img alt="mural_HiH_7-22-14.jpg" src="http://search.elca.org/blogs/SiteAssets/Lists/Hand%20in%20Hand/Browse/mural_HiH_7-22-14.jpg" style="margin&#58;5px;width&#58;250px;vertical-align&#58;auto;float&#58;right;" /><br>&#160;&#160; In our&#160; seminary chapel there is a large wooden relief in the front of the sanctuary titled &quot;Sending&quot; (派遣). This relief depicts the resurrected Christ sending out the church of every age to serve in the world, offering food and drink, as signs of forgiveness, hope and healing to a world broken by the reality of sin that separates humanity from&#160; itself and from God. When&#160;I&#160;sit in chapel I often think about the gift of freedom that Christ offers to all people through faith, and that freed, we are finally able to love and serve our neighbors. We thank you for your faithful&#160; service and&#160; accompaniment of the JELC&#160; through sponsoring the Global Mission of the ELCA. Your prayerful sponsorship continues to help the JELC proclaim Christ's gospel message of peace, forgiveness and healing for all people. </p><p>Sincerely in Christ,&#160;<br>Timothy &amp; Mari McKenzie<br>ELCA missionaries to Japan</p></div>07/22/2014‘Convivir’: to live withRachel Birkedalhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/HandInHand/434http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/HandInHand/434<div class="ExternalClassDF0CB0A95E58412E851D798E51C5C2D1"><p>​<img alt="Birkedal_7-15-14.jpg" src="http://search.elca.org/blogs/SiteAssets/Lists/Hand%20in%20Hand/Browse/Birkedal_7-15-14.jpg" style="margin&#58;5px;" /></p><p><em>Rachel Birkedal is concluding her year of service in Mexico through the ELCA's Young Adults in Global Mission program. In this recent entry from her blog, </em><a href="http&#58;//yagmexico.blogspot.com/"><span style="text-decoration&#58;underline;"><em>&quot;To Love One Another,&quot;</em></span></a><em> she writes about what the experience has meant to her. </em><em>To learn how to sponsor a participant, see </em><a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/YAGMsupport"><span style="text-decoration&#58;underline;"><em>www.ELCA.org/YAGMsupport</em></span></a><em> or contact </em><a href="mailto&#58;globalchurch@elca.org"><span style="text-decoration&#58;underline;"><em>globalchurch@elca.org</em></span></a><em>.</em></p><p>One of my favorite words in Spanish is the verb &quot;convivir&quot; or &quot;convivencia.&quot; </p><p>con&#58; with<br>vivir&#58; to live</p><p>In other words, it means to&#58; live with, live together with, live in company with, spend time with. Related words are &quot;convivencia&quot; and &quot;convivio.&quot; A &quot;convivio&quot; is a get-together, party or time of fellowship. </p><p>But there is something about the word in Spanish that is special to me. One of the things that I love about learning a new language is it allows you to see certain words in a new way. That is what the Spanish language and the Mexican people have done to me with &quot;convivir.&quot; What does it mean to &quot;convivir&quot; or spend time in fellowship with someone? For me in its most positive sense it means being <em>present </em>with one another. As you live with each other and spend time together, you learn about each other's hopes, fears, dreams and struggles, but you also begin to share common hopes, fears, dreams and struggles. </p><p>This year I have heard this word a lot&#58;</p><p>&quot;Hay un convivio en la escuela si quieres venir.&quot; (There is a school party/meal/get-together if you would like to come.) </p><p>My host sisters often say that it is going to be hard to see me leave because&#58; &quot;Has convivido mucho con nosotros.&quot; (You have spent a lot of time with us.)</p><p>Saying goodbye to my host brother he told me &quot;Gracias por la convivenci<em>a</em>.&quot; (Thank you for your fellowship.) That is something we just don't say in English!</p><p>As a side note&#58; Food is often an important part of &quot;convivencia.&quot; Around the dinner table or at fiestas with food is where I have had the chance to &quot;convivir&quot; most with my family. I have also heard my boss say that it is sad when coworkers can't be present during the lunchtime and that is an important part of our work place. When someone passes away there is a belief that the family member stays in the home for nine days. During this time the family invites friends and family to accompany them in prayers services. Following the prayer service food is offered to all those in attendance, but food is also placed on the home altar. When I asked about this I was told that in offering the food at the altar and then partaking in the food you are still &quot;conviviendo&quot; with the deceased. The same tradition takes place for Day of the Dead. For me this is very beautiful. </p><p>Another word that is very close is &quot;acompañar&quot; or to accompany. Young Adults in Global Mission of the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) has accompaniment as its model of mission. &quot;Walking and working together, we seek to accompany our companions. (For more explanation&#58; <a><span style="text-decoration&#58;underline;">www.ELCA.org/en/Our-Work/Global-Church/Global-Mission</span></a>.) </p><p>Sometimes in my house the following conversation has taken place&#58; &quot;Quieres ir con nosotros?&quot; (Would you like to go with us?) And another interrupts and says&#58; &quot;Se dice, quieres venir a <em>acompañar </em>nos.&quot; (You should say, would you like to <em>accompany </em>us.) In this case it is for the sake of politeness – but how <em>do</em> we go from just &quot;going with someone&quot; and move to &quot;accompanying&quot; them or &quot;going with them in companionship?&quot; In my case it has meant purposely learning from the host community as much as possible but also trying to understand and decipher the structures of power that surround our relationships and our cultures. It has meant &quot;living with them&quot; and crying together in times of sadness, laughing together in times of joy and all the stuff in-between. </p><p>The hard part is that my host community has put so much energy into &quot;conviviendo&quot; with me and I with them – and now it's time to leave. Sometimes that just seems unfair, but I guess what makes it fair is if the relationships built and lessons learned were not in vain (which I know they were not) but continue (which I pray they will). So many wonderful people have accompanied me here in Mexico, and I will forever be changed and forever thankful for our &quot;convivencia.&quot; </p><p>And now I am thankful for the time that I will be able to spend in &quot;convivencia&quot; with my family back home. Both are very important and for everything there is a season.&#160;</p></div>07/15/2014Burst bubble Tauna Rothhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/HandInHand/433http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/HandInHand/433<div class="ExternalClassA35ED4B9154F4944B452A36339FDDC4D"><p>​<img alt="Roth family_7-8-14.jpg" src="http://search.elca.org/blogs/SiteAssets/Lists/Hand%20in%20Hand/Browse/Roth%20family_7-8-14.jpg" style="margin&#58;5px;" /><br><span style="line-height&#58;115%;font-family&#58;&quot;times new roman&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;;font-size&#58;12pt;"><font color="#000000">Erik and Tauna Roth with Nozomi</font></span></p><p><em>The Rev. Erik and Tauna Roth are ELCA missionaries in Japan. Erik is serves the English speaking congregation of the Tokyo Lutheran Church. Here is a recent entry by Tauna to their blog, </em><a href="http&#58;//etinjapan.blogspot.com/"><span style="text-decoration&#58;underline;"><em>Journey in Japan</em></span></a><em>. To support the Roths, or another of the ELCA's more than 240 missionaries </em><em>in the global church, click </em><a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/Our-Work/Global-Church/Global-Church-Sponsorship"><span style="text-decoration&#58;underline;"><em>here</em></span></a><em>.</em> </p><p>I love living abroad because there are times I can live in a bubble. I can easily ignore things going in the U.S. and I miss out on Japanese things because of the language and cultural barriers. I can live my daily life and not worry about all the terrible things going on in the world. I can create my own set of rules and cultural norms.<br> <br>But today I was reminded that we don't live in a bubble.<br> <br>As missionaries we must come out of our bubbles and be with other people. In the ELCA we call this accompaniment. We have been invited to Japan to walk along with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Sometimes this is very easy and fun. We get to experience all the fun positive stuff about a culture. People are quick and eager to share or help us navigate and explore Japan. We have been welcomed into a loving community that feels like family.<br> <br>Of course, communities are not always cheerful and bubbly. Sometimes they are full of pain and hurt. Bad stuff happens.<br> <br>This afternoon I learned that one of the students at the Hongo Student Center died. Erik came home and asked me if I knew her. And yes, I did. She was close to my age, and whenever I saw her she always had a bright cheerful smile and was full of fun stories. She was adventurous. She also loved '90s alternative music. I'll never forget the night when she asked me if I knew the band The Offspring. The world became a little smaller that night. I'll miss her smile and stories.<br> <br>I know the community at Hongo Lutheran Church will greatly miss her. And I am thankful that we have this little community where no one has to grieve alone.</p></div>07/08/2014World Refugee DayKirsten Fryerhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/HandInHand/432http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/HandInHand/432<div class="ExternalClassBEC99EB9F318444AAC01E5CBB1379523"><p>​<img alt="Fryer_horizontal_7-1-14.jpg" src="http://search.elca.org/blogs/SiteAssets/Lists/Hand%20in%20Hand/Browse/Fryer_horizontal_7-1-14.jpg" style="margin&#58;5px;" /><br><span style="line-height&#58;115%;font-family&#58;&quot;calibri&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;;font-size&#58;11pt;"><font color="#000000">The Rev. Kirsten Fryer</font></span></p><p>&#160;</p><p>&#160;</p><p><em>The Rev. Kirsten Fryer is an ELCA missionary in Cairo where she is the pastor of St. Andrew's United Church of Cairo, a partner with the ELCA. Here is a recent entry from her blog, </em><a href="http&#58;//kirstenincairo.com/"><span style="text-decoration&#58;underline;"><em>&quot;Cairos.&quot;</em></span></a><em> To support Kirsten, or another of the ELCA's more than 240&#160;missionaries in the global church, click </em><a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/Our-Work/Global-Church/Global-Church-Sponsorship"><span style="text-decoration&#58;underline;"><em>here</em></span></a><em>.</em></p><p>[June 20 was] World Refugee Day. For most of the refugees living in Cairo and around the world, it's just another day. Another day of being far from the place they long to call home. Another day of looking for a job or standing in line for water. Another day of dreaming of a new home. Another day of wondering where friends or family are and if they are safe. Another day of waiting, hoping, dreaming.</p><p>As of January 2014, there were 253,268 registered refugees in Egypt. As of June 17, there are 137,916 registered Syrian refugees in Egypt. The numbers of Somali, Ethiopian, Eritrean, Sudanese, South Sudanese, Iraqi and other refugees are not released as often, but the total number of refugees in Egypt has certainly grown since January. When we think of refugees, we often think of camps – places where, though meager, food, shelter and water are provided. Education is offered for the children and health care is available. For the nearly 280,000 refugees living in Egypt, this is not the case. Here, urban refugees must find a place to live. They need money to buy food and pay for health care. Tuition is charged at nearly all of the schools. They face different challenges, as they struggle to find a place in a strange land.&#160;Many speak Arabic, but even then, the dialect is sometimes different. Though there are many nongovernment organizations in Cairo serving the refugee community, there's never enough money, time or space. We all have our wish lists. We all have dreams about what we could do, if only there were more time, more money, more space, even as we fervently wish that peace would come to countries ravaged by violence and war. We listen to horrific stories and it's sometimes really hard to see hope.</p><p>Which is why the World Refugee Day celebration recently was so important.&#160;Held in the garden of one of the private clubs in Cairo, I watched as refugee children sat in the grass and ran their hands through it – a rare treat in this (broken) concrete jungle. I watched as children ran and played together, seemingly oblivious to the cultural differences that might threaten to divide them. When music started, a group of Iraqi men joined together to dance and were soon surrounded by Somali, Sudanese, Eritrean, and other refugees who clapped along and held up phones to take photos. Soon, they traded places with Eritrean dancers. And then a group of South Sudanese children took the stage to perform a play they had written together. Handicrafts from the different communities were available for sale.&#160;We sampled delicious Somali and Eritrean food.</p><p>We don't get a chance to celebrate all that often.&#160;A lot of the time, it feels like there isn't anything to celebrate. But that night was a respite for all of us – refugees and those of us who work with and for refugee organizations. It was a celebration of the beauty of the cultures that refugees here in Cairo treasure. It was a celebration of the ways that people can set aside differences and laugh, dance and play together. It was a celebration of the beauty that is in the world, despite all of the things that threaten to divide us.</p><p>We keep our eyes open for these little things, signs of hope, promise, light in the midst of darkness. We dream of a day where there won't be a need for World Refugee Day because peace will reign in every land. Until then, we listen to stories, we learn from one another. We work for justice and pray for peace.<br></p></div>07/01/2014YAGMs are coming!Kate Warnhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/HandInHand/431http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/HandInHand/431<div class="ExternalClass74E75C03EC074A8DB358BA0BC2B9D771"><p>​<img alt="Kate Warn_Rwanda_4-1-14.jpg" src="http://search.elca.org/blogs/SiteAssets/Lists/Hand%20in%20Hand/Browse/Kate%20Warn_Rwanda_4-1-14.jpg" style="margin&#58;5px;" /><br>The Rev. Kate Warn</p><p><em>The Rev. Kate Warn is the country coordinator for the ELCA's new Young Adults in Global Mission program in Rwanda.</em> <em>To support Kate, or another of the ELCA's over 240&#160;missionaries in the global church, click </em><a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/Our-Work/Global-Church/Global-Church-Sponsorship"><span style="text-decoration&#58;underline;"><em>here</em></span></a><em>.<br></em><br>Greetings from Kigali!</p><p>YAGM's are coming! That's the message I've been sharing these days with our brothers and sisters in the Lutheran Church in Rwanda. The term &quot;YAGM&quot; – Young Adults in Global Mission – doesn't translate easily in the Kinyarwandan language, but the message is simple. Six young adults from the U.S. will be arriving in August and they will be living, learning and serving here for one year.&#160;&#160; </p><p>Last week I started a round of visitations to the placement sites we've identified for the YAGM's. Four young men and two young women will be scattered throughout the country&#58; northeast, southeast, in Kigali, and in the far west. For the first time in the history of the YAGM throughout the world, we will have more men than women serving in one country. I met the six members of the Rwanda team in April at the YAGM discernment event near Chicago and feel excited by the energy, gifts, interests and commitments they will bring to Rwanda.</p><p>The Lutheran Church in Rwanda has limited experience with missionaries, as the church was founded by Rwandese returning from exile after the 1994 genocide. In the past 20 years, relationships have been formed and sustained between the Lutheran Church in Rwanda &#160;and Lutherans in the U.S. primarily through short-term visits – Americans visiting Rwanda for a week or two, and Rwandese in the U.S. for brief stays. The YAGM program will provide opportunities for relationships between the two churches to go much deeper, as the young adults from the U.S. will immerse themselves for a year in the daily lives of our brothers and sisters in Rwanda. I'm enthused about this new way of being in partnership in mission. </p><p>I'm also impressed and grateful for the ways the Lutheran Church in Rwanda has stepped up in faith and embraced the YAGM program without really knowing all the details. I've had many questions in my meetings and conversations with church members&#58; Will a young person from the U.S. be able to eat our food? Do they know how to wash clothes like we do (i.e., without machines)? Can they buy Rwandan medical insurance? What will happen if they get sick?&#160; &#160;&#160;</p><p>In my conversations here, I often say that when brothers and sisters from different places come together in the body of Christ, we open space between us for God to do new things. As I prepare and wait for the first group of Young Adults in Global Mission to arrive in Kigali, I do believe God is doing a new thing. Soon we'll have stories to tell! In the meantime, I invite your prayers for Lars, Luke, Jake, Ryan, Sarah and Emily as they prepare to come to East Africa in August.</p><p>In Christ's peace,<br>Kate Warn<br> Rwanda Country Coordinator<br> ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission</p></div>06/24/2014‘Ultimately, the gift is you’Katharine Ritzihttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/HandInHand/430http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/HandInHand/430<div class="ExternalClassF1BA9B86F1A44F8293DAFDD3BA9215FD"><p>​<img alt="Katharine Ritzi_UK_6-17-14.jpg" src="http://search.elca.org/blogs/SiteAssets/Lists/Hand%20in%20Hand/Browse/Katharine%20Ritzi_UK_6-17-14.jpg" style="margin&#58;5px;" /><br><span style="line-height&#58;115%;font-family&#58;&quot;calibri&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;;font-size&#58;12pt;"><font color="#000000">Katharine Ritzi</font></span> </p><p><em>At the recent Southern Ohio Synod Assembly, a Mission Moment used this personal profile to introduce synod member Katharine Ritzi, who is spending a year in the United Kingdom as part of the ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission program. To read more from Katharine, go to her blog, </em><a href="http&#58;//katharineritzi.blogspot.com/"><span style="text-decoration&#58;underline;"><em>&quot;Rooted in Love.&quot;</em></span></a><em> To learn how to sponsor a participant, see </em><a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/YAGMsupport"><span style="text-decoration&#58;underline;"><em>www.ELCA.org/YAGMsupport</em></span></a><em> or contact </em><a href="mailto&#58;globalchurch@elca.org"><span style="text-decoration&#58;underline;"><em>globalchurch@elca.org</em></span></a><em>.</em></p><p><br>Hi everyone! My name is Katharine Ritzi and I am a 23-year-old Young Adult in Global Mission (YAGM) participant from Beavercreek, Ohio. I grew up as a member of Peace Lutheran Church and attended Wittenberg University as a psychology major/sociology minor. I absolutely love summer camp, playing guitar, tap dancing, photography and knitting scarfs.&#160; </p><p>During my senior year at the university as I questioned what career path I should be on, I realized I wanted to be on a path of service. Rather than seeking titles, I turned my attention into seeking love, applying for the Young Adults in Global Mission program through the ELCA. Thus began an intense period of discernment as I questioned who I was and how God was using me in the world. It wasn't an easy release, but eventually I was able to let go of control, saying to God &quot;OK, here I am,&quot; and allowed myself to walk blindly in faith. Falling in love with Lesotho and South Africa during a service learning experience while in university, I was expecting to be placed somewhere similar with YAGM. Imagine my surprise when I was placed in London, England! </p><p>This year has allowed me to explore the stereotypes associated with mission work, along with the intense diversity of socioeconomic statuses in urban city life. I've also experienced the power and privilege that is associated with education, as I serve in the London school districts as a literary intervention specialist. In more real terms, I tutor children one-on-one in reading and writing through a phonics-based program. The students are referred to me through their teachers, and I am able to work with each of them twice a week, forming a personal education plan and relationship with each child. While I have become acclimated with British culture, urban city life was another subculture to learn and grow with. I am beginning to understand the ways in which our ZIP codes really reflect and determine the opportunities we are offered through education, health and diet, while forming relationships with children who were born into unequal opportunities. I may not have expected to be living in London this year, but I know God called me here and has been leading every step of the way.&#160;&#160; </p><p>I was asked to share with you a specific story from the work that I do here, and I have many to offer. I could talk about the many children I teach who speak English as their second language and have fallen behind in the school system even though they are extremely intelligent. I could write about the little girl I teach who is missing all of her upper teeth because she was fed juice in a bottle as an infant. I could speak of the heartwarming accomplishments from a number of students who have improved their reading levels in just a short period of time, or of the uncomfortable knowing that they are still not reading at an age-appropriate level. Ultimately I would just like to focus on the relationships that are built from this year of accompaniment.&#160; </p><p>As I was preparing for this year, my pastor spoke to me words that I couldn't comprehend until living through this journey. He said, &quot;Ultimately, the gift is you.&quot; As YAGMs, we teach English, we work in churches, and we lead youth groups. We work in centers for social justice and we serve in rehabilitation centers. But ultimately, no matter what we may be &quot;doing,&quot; we are building relationships that will last far longer than any &quot;outcome&quot; we may provide. As we intentionally allow ourselves to become vulnerable, we are humbly learning that we are the gift, as well as the people we are walking beside. We are learning that we did not become missionaries by being accepted into YAGM; we are realizing we're all born missionaries as beautiful creations of Christ.&#160;&#160; </p><p>I once heard it said that the ELCA sends us out as YAGMs to be messed with, so when we come back home we mess with the church. No matter the phrase used, we will return home with a greater understanding of how God is rejoicing and weeping in every corner of the world. We all have beautiful, unique callings as missionaries, and I am excited to be coming home to begin seminary at Trinity Lutheran pursuing a master's in youth and family ministry. I wish I had the opportunity to thank you all individually for the personal way you have supported our community of YAGM volunteers. For now, I hope you accept my deepest gratitude with the understanding that I would not be on this journey if it wasn't for you. Thank you for the numerous ways you have strengthened the church with your gifts and callings. We give thanks that the Holy Spirit is alive in the world.&#160; </p><p>&#160;</p></div>06/17/2014