U-C: What I See

Friday, October 08, 2004

Young Adult Volunteer Opportunities

Hi folks,

I spent a day in Colorado with the National Young Adult Volunteer Orientation last week. We met at Highlands camp up near Estes Park. Doing the orientation for our mission programs, especially the young adult programs, is one of my favorite things to do. My wife Kitty and I have been helping with those orientations for several years now. Kitty, who has a masters in inter-cultural relations, typically does several sessions on how to manage cultural difference, how to handle culture shock, and how to handle different ways of making decisions when working in groups. For the last two years, I’ve been doing two or three workshops at each orientation on the implications of trends toward economic globalization for our task as missionaries.

If you don’t know about the Young Adult Volunteer programs, I hope you’ll take a couple of minutes to check out their website at http://www.pcusa.org/msr/youngadult.htm.

I think this is the hottest thing going in our church. Our way of supporting young adults in mission is worlds better today than it was when I became a Volunteer in Mission almost twenty years ago. The YAV’s are placed in clusters in nine different sites here in the U.S. and a similar number of sites internationally. Often they live together, although in some sites they live in different houses or even live with host families, as they do in the Guatemala site. If they’re near one another, usually that means that they will meet regularly (once a week or more) for prayer, support, bible study and reflection on their work. If they’re farther apart, there is still an effort to gather together every six weeks or so in order to check in.

The YAV’s are expected to help raise money for their support, and the connection they provide between their churches and the rest of the world is remarkable. They make a real difference in schools, teaching ESL, doing human rights work, working as part of pastoral teams, running community programs, working with at-risk kids. The work is varied and meaningful. It’s basically like a faith-based Peace Corps program.

What matters just as much is what happens to the YAV himself or herself. This program will change your life. Last year we had four young women working with us in Tucson. Jen worked as the intern at Southside Presbyterian Church, where she got turned on to working with migrants through Southside’s shower program and through the “No More Deaths” movement to support migrants who are at risk of dying in the desert (see www.nomoredeaths.org). Laura worked with Humane Borders, which is the church-based, volunteer organization that puts water stations in the desert where migrants are dying (see www.humaneborders.org). Natalie worked with the House of Neighborly Service, which is a Presbyterian run community center on Tucson’s southside where the population is close to 100 % Hispanic. Kelly worked with me at BorderLinks (www.borderlinks.org) where her job was to lead delegations of church groups and students through a hands-on border experience to learn about the implications of trade and immigration policy.

What’s just as cool as their work is what they are doing this year. Kelly is now the mission intern with the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship (thewrongkelly@yahoo.org), where her job is to recruit college students into nonviolent direct intervention work like what we’re doing in Colombia. Jen and Laura are both students this year at McCormick Theological Seminary – and they’re among almost fifty percent of the YAV alumni who choose seminary next. Natalie moved to Indianapolis, where the last I heard she was looking to get involved in Hispanic outreach in that Presbytery.

The point is that this is where it’s it. Young adults are getting a chance to explore their vocation as followers of Christ in really hot projects all over the globe. If you know somebody who would be a good candidate, please put them onto this program.

Finally, there’s a really cool new website at www.pcusa.org/onedoor where you can find out all about options for service in one easy location. Hope you’ll check it out.

What we really need is a church where it’s normal to give it up for Jesus, don’t you think?