A YAGM Year

DSC01233As her year begins, Hannah shares what the YAGM year is all about:

A YAGM (Young Adults in Global Mission) year is a year that encompasses many things. First, it is a year of accompaniment, which the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) defines as: “walking together in solidarity that practices interdependence and mutuality. In this walk, gifts, resources, and experiences are shared with mutual advice and admonition to deepen and expand our work within God’s mission.” Accompaniment is being in community with the people around you and allowing life to happen naturally. There is no leader and no follower, but we each are moving together through our journeys. Accompaniment can take all forms. You can accompany someone by having a conversation (ingxoxo in Zulu), going to church with them, laughing with them, crying with them, praying for them, or sending them letters. Each person who reads this is accompanying me on my journey. Everyone at home who sends me their love and support is accompanying me. And as a Young Adult in Global Mission I have agreed to live in accompaniment (solidarity, mutuality, and interdependence) with my community in South Africa. And, in all of this, Christ accompanies all of us on our journeys in life. As we walk, there is God our Parent walking beside us. As we weep, Jesus weeps with us. The Holy Spirit works alongside us as we go through life. This is accompaniment.

 A YAGM year is also a year of vulnerability. This year I will be making myself vulnerable to my community in South Africa, my fellow SA YAGMs, and to the world at large. In this vulnerability I may feel weak and unprotected, but it will give me so much more room to grow and feel genuine love and compassion for those around me. During orientation in Chicago we spoke about being a servant and becoming vulnerable in servanthood. It is one thing to serve others, but quite another to become a servant. Serving others still allows some measure of control (deciding who, when, where and how to serve), but becoming a servant eliminates that control and makes a person truly vulnerable in that embodied service.

Fourth, this is a year of simple living within a community.  As part of accompaniment I have agreed to live on a small stipend and have limited phone and internet access. I will budget with that stipend for everything that I will need, and I will live as a part of my community. Through a year of simple living I hope to learn what it is we really need to nourish our souls: a roof over our heads, an offer of food from a stranger, communion, compassion.

In this year I will be challenged to get outside of my comfort zone so that I can grow in mind, body, and spirit. Allowing myself to be challenged will help me grow in faith and better understand who I am. This is a year of discernment where I will learn more about myself and who I want to become through these challenges. I hope and pray to come out of this year having a better idea of what I could be both in my career as well as spiritually.

My YAGM year is a year of both learning and making mistakes. I want to look at the world with wonder and simply take in all that I can take in. I want to learn the languages that are spoken around me and the way people speak to one another. I want to learn the history of South Africa and the reasons for how we got to where we are today. I also know I will make mistakes along the way, which I cannot say will be easy for me. However, I will make mistakes and from those mistakes will learn how to better live in community and accompaniment with my neighbors.

Lastly, a YAGM year is a year of stories. There are stories that we tell and stories that we hear. We have stories of ourselves and we listen to stories of others and to God’s story. As these converge we have the story of us, and that is the most beautiful one of all. This year I hope to better understand this story of us and begin to learn how to tell it with joy, love, hope, peace, understanding, and thoughtfulness.

Why YAGM?

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.