What Is the YAGM Experience?
Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM)
It’s an exercise in patience, trust, dependence, and grace. In the midst of great weakness and vulnerability, I am learning to receive instead of give, to be instead of do, to celebrate the gifts, and to live in deep gratitude.
- Sarah, Mexico
Young adults (ages 19-29)
are appointed to serve in an international program for a period of one year (11-12 months). Each country program has between 4-8 volunteers, except for the U.K. program which is much larger. A country program coordinator facilitates the in-country logistics and makes arrangements for the work assignments, housing, and looks after stipend and meal allowances. A key role for the coordinator is to provide support to the volunteer throughout the year. This includes regular communication, occasional site visits, and planning retreats or seminars for the group.
The term “volunteer” in this case indicates that participants of the YAGM program intend to give a year (11-12 months) of their time to service work, as opposed to a typical career position. YAGM volunteers receive a monetary stipend that facilitates a simple lifestyle. This monthly allowance is not intended to be a salary or even an hourly wage. The term “volunteer” does not indicate the freedom to work when one wants to, but rather it is expected that YAGM volunteers will typically work full-time hours (35-40 hours/week) at their placement, with work and vacation schedules to be worked out with their placement facilitators.What is the purpose of the YAGM program?
- To provide ELCA young adults with a year-long international mission experience that will contribute to their development as servant-leaders for the church.
- To utilize international settings for equipping young adults in the church with cross-cultural skills through service and relationship building.
- To provide engaging and challenging opportunities that will result in young adults who are both globally formed and globally informed.
- To provide young adults with opportunities to grow in their faith and to better understand their place in God’s world.
- To share the gifts and stories of the global church and community with U.S. and ELCA communities.
Elements of the YAGM program
International Cross-Cultural Experience
The Young Adults in Global Mission program provides young adults with the opportunity to live and serve in international, cross-cultural settings for one year. YAGM volunteers are expected to act as participant observers, navigating with humility outside of their comfort zones and in situations outside of their control, building relationships with their local community as they seek to be in service to others. The experience will help to broaden their global awareness and to enrich their understanding of the global expression of the church.Service-Learning/Servant-Leadership
It is the hope of the ELCA that YAGM volunteers will grow in their understanding of service as Christian vocation and will embrace a life of servant leadership. While service is certainly an important component of the program, participants are encouraged to recognize their year abroad as a learning opportunity as much as an opportunity to serve. The international setting provides a dynamic environment for both learning and service.Growth in Faith
A high priority is placed on the spiritual formation and growth of YAGM volunteers. The ELCA fosters leadership development through mentoring groups that utilize spiritual and educational resources, with the recognition that this year of service is a prime opportunity for volunteers to focus on their own personal faith lives and how their faith relates to their abilities and positions as servant leaders. In-country retreats, congregational worship, and personal devotional practices also contribute to enhancing the spiritual lives of YAGM volunteers.Ecumenical Partnerships
The ELCA works closely with other churches, faith-based groups and non-governmental organizations to provide placement sites and supervision and/or country coordinators, thereby providing a wider range of service opportunities and support to volunteers.Support System
A support network is built into the program, both in-country and stateside. Country coordinators assist with adjustment and orientation to the culture, as well as with issues that arise during service. Support and follow-up throughout the year is provided by Global Mission staff, in addition to orientation and re-entry retreats. Although a broad support system is in place, YAGM volunteers will face and need to respond to internal and external issues that will be at times intense and confounding. Cross-cultural living will challenge YAGM volunteers to draw upon their reservoir of strengths, looking for support within new relationships in their local community, and learning new ways of healthy problem solving. Commitment, integrity, flexibility, and humility are characteristics that will be required.Community Building
In response to the program emphasis on community, country coordinators schedule regular retreats or seminars during which volunteers serving in the same country come together to reflect on their experiences, to share stories and struggles, to worship and pray together, and to support and learn from one another.Simple Living
Participants are expected to embrace a simple lifestyle. Volunteers receive a modest stipend to cover basic living expenses and are discouraged from using their own funds to supplement this income. This simple standard of living is intended to be a spiritual practice as well as a socioeconomic statement, and is understood to be an integral part of the program.