DSC01232During In-Country Orientation, Keenan reflected upon his call to serve with YAGM:

When I first turned my application in for YAGM last September I honestly can’t tell you why. It was a program I had always thought would be an interesting opportunity, but was always too wrapped up in starting a career and being an “adult” to look much further. I think the excitement of just coming off of an entire summer at Christikon [Bible Camp] may have majorly played into my choice to turn in an application, but who really knows. Regardless, it wasn’t until the application had already been sent in that my discernment process really started. I struggled with whether or not to do the program. I think I convinced myself both yes and no multiple times in the months to follow. It wasn’t until I sat and talked with a good friend about it one day in February that I fully committed to a yes. He told me in a very excited voice, “Life’s entirely to short man, go live life and see the world.” as he lay in his hospital bed terminally ill. Craig, you truly gave me the strength to say yes to a call I had been running from for so long. For that I will be eternally grateful, and I will never forget our conversation and the joy still present in your face that day. God bless you, and save me a seat in the big house dude.

So along with the helpful words of a wise and caring friend, and opening my heart to the call, I now write this post from Johannesburg, South Africa. Our country program has been here for only four days now, and I’ve already felt a change happen in me and how I view my life. I’m slightly overwhelmed by the thought of the person I will be a year from now. At the same time I am so excited. YAGM couldn’t have come into my life at a better time, in a better place. I know without the slightest doubt that this place, this very place, is where I am supposed to be at this moment of my life. It feels right, it feels peaceful, it feels messy, it feels emotional, and it is going to help form me into the person I have always wanted to be in this world.

So why YAGM? Cause it is where I have been called to be in the world right now. Thats it. And simply being here is enough for me right now. I’m not here to fix it, i’m not here to change it. I’m here to learn, to be immersed, and to simply be. To walk along song God’s children, my brothers and sisters. Not only so I can help tell their story, but so that they call help shape and mold mine. I can’t wait to meet Keenan Weatherford in September of 2014.



DSC01234As Abby is about to leave Chicago-based orientation and arrive in South Africa, she reflects upon why she chose to be a part of the YAGM program:

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:

Shallow Answer

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.

Logistical Answer

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.”

Deeper Answer

            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.

True Answer

            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.