[Find the “class list” of the 2010-2011 ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission here.]
ELCA NEWS SERVICE
June 3, 2010
Young Adults Take Leap of Faith Volunteering Overseas
CHICAGO (ELCA) — Christina Doidge, Portland, Ore., said she will take a huge leap of faith this summer when she plans to leave a successful career in interior design to do volunteer work in South Africa.
“I’m leaving a job, salary and community that has taken me in as one of their own to accept something that is completely unknown,” Doidge told the ELCA News Service. “The best way to describe it is that I feel equally excited and terrified. I’m scared about the transition, but very eager for the opportunity.”
Doidge will be participating in the “Young Adults in Global Mission” (YAGM) program of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Along with 43 other young adults from across the country, Doidge will engage in a year of service overseas. Participants in the program range in age from 19 to 29.
Young adults are appointed to serve in Argentina and Uruguay, Jerusalem and the West Bank, Mexico, Slovakia and Hungary, South Africa and the United Kingdom. Service opportunities range from teaching English to tutoring children, caring for the elderly to community development. Participants receive a stipend to support a “simple lifestyle” and are expected to work full time at their placement.
“I have always felt a deep inclination to serve others,” said Doidge, a member of St. James Lutheran Church, Portland. “I want to do something more hands-on, engage in a more fulfilling task. I feel that it’s time. Going abroad with YAGM focuses on leading a life of purpose, finding a place in the world.”
“Living in a city like Portland I’ve encountered homelessness, mental illness and other social problems. I’m interested in experiencing how the church works to combat social problems,” said Doidge. “There are people who have basic needs to be fulfilled, like finding shelter. That is starting to become more important in my mind than identifying a new paint color,” she said. “I want to work with people and hear their stories.”
The same is true for Valerie Rivas, a recent graduate from Texas Lutheran University (TLU), Seguin. Rivas will also begin a year of service in South Africa. TLU is one of 27 colleges and universities of the ELCA.
“I’m hoping to get a better understanding of people, how they live and why they live the way they do,” said Rivas. “I’m hoping to (explore) my spiritual side and help people medically.”
Rivas majored in biology. She put herself through school, working as an electrocardiogram technician at a local hospital. Rivas and her two sisters are the first in their family to earn college degrees and pay for them.
Rivas said she wants to keep moving forward in life. “I want to succeed not just for myself but for my family,” she said. A Biblical verse that Rivas said has kept her going comes from 1 Timothy 4 (NRSV): “Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”
ELCA Global Mission received 97 applications for the 2010-2011 service term, said the Rev. Heidi Torgerson-Martinez, associate director for global service, ELCA Global Mission. She said YAGM meets a critical need in the ELCA.
“Our young people are searching for meaningful places to put their passions and convictions into action, to explore and expand their faith identities, and to live more fully into who God has called them to be in the world,” said Torgerson-Martinez. “YAGM is a unique opportunity for young adults to do all of these things within a context that stretches them profoundly while still providing specific on-the-ground support.”
David Kingsborough, a recent graduate of Susquehanna University, an ELCA university in Selinsgrove, Pa., will serve in Jerusalem and the West Bank. He is a member of Christ Lutheran Church, Manchester, Pa.
Through opportunities at school Kingsborough has traveled to Costa Rica, Nicaragua and the Philippines. “I need to spend more time abroad, serving in whatever capacity,” he said.
What Kingsborough hopes to do in Jerusalem is work with children. “It’s amazing working with kids. They have a lot of excitement and love for everything they do. They’re fine with how they are and don’t aspire to have a lot of material things. They are very family-oriented and are just happy with that. I wish kids in America would go back to that,” he said.
Kingsborough said he has no apprehension about serving in Jerusalem and the West Bank. “I’m just excited to be going. I’ve always wanted to travel to the Holy Land,” he said.
“YAGM is a great opportunity the ELCA offers for young adults,” said Kingsborough. “It’s important for the church to serve as a mentor and creating this opportunity is definitely a good way to keep young adults engaged in the church.”
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Information about the Young Adults in Global Mission program is at http://www.ELCA.org/yagm on the ELCA Web site.