From the urban jungle of Kuala Lumpur and the mountainous highlands of the Malay Peninsula to the palm-lined beaches and rain forests of Malaysian Borneo, the ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission program in Malaysia offers young adults, ages 21 to 29, the opportunity to accompany people and the diverse communities here that make this global crossroads their home.

Divided into Eastern and Western sections by the South China Sea, Malaysia is a complicated country. Its population of 28 million is a mixture of Malay, Chinese, Indian and Indigenous people groups with the majority living on the Malay Peninsula. It is also a country of socio-economic extremes, where the high-tech, glittering wealth of the Petronas Twin Towers stands above impoverished inner-city neighborhoods and rural villages.

Religiously, Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country with significant numbers of Buddhists, Christians and Hindus as well. While a small minority in West Malaysia, Christians in East Malaysia comprise a significant part of the population. In both parts, the Christian community consists largely of Chinese, Indian and Indigenous peoples.

Through their year of service in Malaysia, ELCA young adults learn what it means to be a person of faith in the midst of a culturally diverse and religiously plural setting — a lesson needed all the more urgently given the rapidly shifting religious and demographic landscape in North America.

Our companions

ELCA young adults serve at the invitation of the Basel Christian Church of Malaysia and the Lutheran Church of Malaysia. The Basel Christian Church of Malaysia was founded in the late 1800s by Chinese immigrants to North Borneo, while the Lutheran Church of Malaysia traces its roots to the work of American missionaries among Chinese communities on the Malay Peninsula in the 1950s. Both are members of the Federation of Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Malaysia and Singapore, as well as The Lutheran World Federation, and both contain congregations that worship in English, Malay and a variety of Chinese dialects.

Communities of service

ELCA young adults in Malaysia will be clustered in parts of the Malay Peninsula and across the state of Sabah on the island of Borneo. From urban to rural, placement sites are varied and are matched to the needs and gifts of individual volunteers. Some young adults may be placed near each other while others may be placed at great distance; some may be placed with church-sponsored initiatives while others may be placed with secular non-governmental organizations.

Communities of service in Malaysia are centered on the areas of education, compassion and justice, examples of which include:
  • Education centers for stateless immigrant children
  • English instruction for kindergarten-adult learners
  • Youth, music and congregational ministries
  • Centers and homes for individuals with physical and developmental disabilities
  • Homes and shelters for neglected and abandoned children
  • Urban and rural community development programs
  • Leadership development centers for teens experiencing homelessness
  • Ministry centers for migrant workers from Nepal, Myanmar and elsewhere

Malaysia is a multilingual society. While Malay is the national language, those of other ethnicities continue to speak their own language. Most people have been exposed to English as part of their schooling, and it is commonly spoken in urban areas.

All ELCA young adults serving in Malaysia will be given an introductory course in the Malay language, with opportunity for further study throughout the year. Many will be placed in Malay-speaking communities,  while others may find themselves surrounded by speakers of other languages. Given the country’s linguistic diversity, prospective volunteers who are familiar with Chinese, Tamil or other South Asian languages are especially encouraged to apply.

Regional perspective

Throughout their year of service, ELCA young adults serving in Malaysia will go on retreat to neighboring countries in the region. This is done to enhance their understanding of Southeast Asia as a whole, as well as Malaysia’s role within it. Special attention is paid to historic and current flows of people and ideas across the region’s many borders as well as to the global issues that are reshaping this part of the world. Past years have found us in Singapore, Hong Kong and Thailand.

On the Web

Please visit the following websites to learn more about: Follow us online: