As of last Wednesday, I left Arizona and started YAGM Orientation. So, this seems as good a time as any to answer one of the questions I have been asked more times than I can count. “So… why YAGM?” When I have been asked this, I struggle to decide how to answer. I have given shallow answers, logistical answers, and deeper answers. Rarely, however, do I give the truest reason. So, let me outline the options for you:
This usually occurs with someone I have just met. I will say something that I consider to be clever, such as, “Well, you know the job market is rough, so I figure I’ll just leave the country for a while.” Or I will turn the question back on them and say, “Why not?” These are superficial, easy, and keep the conversation from going much further into why I have decided to be a YAGM.
I feel pretty comfortable saying this is my most common type of response. I will explain that because I am not in a relationship, I do not have children, and I just graduated, now is the perfect time to travel and grow. It allows for a bit more conversation, and usually includes the other person saying, “You know, I wish I had traveled more when I was younger.”
Sometimes, the other answers just don’t work. People ask more questions or don’t take my shallow answers seriously. So, I give them a deeper answer. I explain that when I envision the adult I want to be, there are some serious inconsistencies with who I am now. There are attributes I want to develop, and I believe my YAGM year will help me with that development. This is completely true- I believe that this next year will help me work on some things I desperately want to work on. But… that is still not the reason I have chosen to be a YAGM.
The truth is that I feel called.
I have felt called to YAGM since the moment I first heard about the program from a recruiter back in the fall of 2012. Two days before I met Kyle, I had decided to wait a year before applying to graduate schools. This decision was fraught with anxiety and fear of what would come next. Then, 48 hours later, I hear about a program that would allow me to live in a community across the world, serve God, and learn and grow as a person. It felt like God was dropping this opportunity into my lap, and I felt a profound sense of calling.
I felt called a few months later during my first phone interview with Jacki, during which she used a St. Francis of Assisi quote that I have always felt described my faith: “Preach the Gospel at all times, use words when necessary.” When Jacki talked to me about her year as a YAGM, I thought, “This is where I should be. This is what I need to be doing.”
I felt called at the Discernment, Interview, and Placement event. From the South Africa presentation to that moment of pure, unadulterated joy when hearing that I had been placed in the Southern Africa program. It is a feeling deep in my gut. This feeling of calling fills my heart until it is overflowing. I have found peace in even the most stressful moments, because I can tell that I am being called to be a servant in South Africa.
I won’t lie- this is scary. I am moving to a country I have never visited, I still don’t know much about my living situation or what I will do to fill my days. But, there are two quotes that I am using to guide me on my journey. The first is from author E.L. Doctorow: “I can see only as far as my headlights, but I can make the whole trip that way.” The second is Psalm 119: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” I may not be able to see farther than what is right in front of me, but the light shining there is the light of God. I have been called, and so I will go.