79 ELCA young adults called to serve

5/8/2015 11:55:00 AM

​     CHICAGO (ELCA) – Seventy-nine young adults have accepted the call to serve with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Young Adults in Global Mission program, an international mission opportunity for 21- to 29-year-olds. In August these young adults will embark on a year of service with ELCA companion churches and organizations around the world.
     But qualifying for the program requires more than simply filling out an application and answering questions. To determine where and how they might serve, young adults participate in a focused and contemplative process known as the “Discernment-Interview-Placement” event, called DIP.
     “In my experience, there are very few spaces in our lives that we set aside specifically for the purpose of listening,” said the Rev. Heidi Torgerson-Martinez, program director for ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission. “And that, at the core, is what the Young Adults in Global Mission Discernment-Interview-Placement event is about. It’s a space for young adults to come alongside one another and listen for what God might be calling them to be about in the coming year.”
     The DIP event, held every April in Chicago, presents workshops and conversations with global mission staff, providing participants the opportunity to learn about the various country programs. Prayer and worship are also important aspects of the event. On the last day, the young adults receive a placement offer to serve in one of nine country programs.
     “In the Lutheran tradition we understand the work of discernment to be something that happens in the context of community,” Torgerson-Martinez said. “At DIP the individual sense of call that each of our candidates carries comes into conversation with the voices of the ELCA, the global mission unit, Young Adults in Global Mission staff, and our global companion churches and organizations. And somehow, some way, the Holy Spirit shows up. It’s a pretty amazing gift to be part of that holy listening with such a community.”
     The Young Adults in Global Mission program started in 1999 with 10 participants who served in the United Kingdom. Since then, almost 600 young adults have served in country placements throughout the world, helping with programs that include sustainable agriculture, education and child care, church leadership support, congregational ministry, and rural health care and development. Torgerson-Martinez said the new group of 79 young adults is the largest since the program began.
     “The energy at the DIP event is always powerful, but as I walked into the plenary space that first evening I was completely overwhelmed by how big the collective energy felt,” Torgerson-Martinez said. “The tremendous diversity of gifts and experiences and vulnerabilities and hopes represented by this huge group of faithful young adults is something that will reverberate throughout the church global in the coming year and throughout the ELCA for years to come.”
     “We are so grateful for this group of thoughtful, grounded young adults and their openness to the process of discernment,” said Stephanie Berkas, manager of the ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission program. “Participants show up to this event with all sorts of hopes and anxieties, but we are consistently blown away at their willingness to trust the Spirit in this process.”
     Berkas said many alumni remain involved in the program, and a number were on hand during the DIP event to help interview participants and share stories about their year of service.
     “After 15 years of the program, there are over 550 alumni back in the United States and we couldn’t be more grateful for the ways that they’re engaged in the work of the program, as well as the wider ELCA,” Berkas said. “Their accompaniment with these young adults is remarkable. They welcome them into this life-changing experience and share stories from their own host communities.”
     Torgerson-Martinez said, “Every year I am struck by what a privilege it is to be part of this little corner of Christ’s church that is the ELCA. As we talk with these young adults over many months leading up to the DIP event, it is so clear that they have been formed by a church that loves and cares, not just about them as young people, but about the life of the world that God so loves. The ways in which the wider ELCA rises up around these young leaders in formation – and in prayerful and financial support – is nothing short of remarkable.”

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About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with more than 3.8 million members in nearly 10,000 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of “God's work. Our hands,” the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer, Martin Luther.
For information contact:
Candice Hill Buchbinder
773-380-2877 or Candice.HillBuchbinder@ELCA.org
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