The Gift of Presence
For nearly two weeks, those of us in the Saint Paul Area Synod have been blessed by the presence of ou[...]
In 2018, the Saint Paul Area Synod released "Stories of the Synod," a 24-page stewardship booklet detailing the synod's work. The stories inside are just a glimpse of the work that Mission Support makes possible. One of those stories, below, is about the ELCA's Young Adults in Global Mission program.
Each year, the ELCA invites young adults to participate in a year of service in the global church through the Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) program. With nearly 100 young people responding to this call every year, the Saint Paul Area Synod supports several YAGMs from our own synod as they serve in 11 different regions throughout the world.
In their year abroad, these young adults serve in local schools, churches, and non-profits. In Palestine, Samantha Ea from Christ on Capitol Hill, St. Paul, taught English to middle and high school students at the Lutheran School and also ran their English Club. While this placement brought her great joy, she also admits that it was both the best and the hardest year of her life. Living in Palestine challenged her understanding of her identity as a female Asian-American. “Because the way I looked had such an impact on how others treated me, it was hard always having to prove myself or act a certain way,” Samantha revealed when she spoke at the 2018 Synod Assembly. “Having to prove my competency of the English language, needing to articulate myself maybe a little more than I probably have to, all in order to be taken a little bit more seriously. Maybe I’m not being Asian enough? Or am I not American enough? What does that even mean? Can I just be me? And my whole self?”
She also found herself as a witness to the injustice of the Israeli occupation. “Military occupation means so much more than checkpoints, a separation wall, illegal settlements, and limited resources,” Samantha learned. “When I came back home to Minnesota, I didn’t know what to do – with my life, but also everything that I experienced and learned from my YAGM year in Palestine. The world’s eyes are all on this issue, and while I hope for peace and justice, I know I can do more and be more. And that’s by using my voice. Like right now. And sometimes that’s the most powerful tool.”
Like so many others who have served in YAGM, Samantha’s witness continues to shape her voice as a young Lutheran. A year in service also often inspires a new understanding of God’s calling. Returning home in August 2018 from a year of service in Madagascar, Rachel Mann from Our Savior’s, Circle Pines, reflects that, “YAGM started a journey that will continue for the rest of my life, whether my path leads me to pursue a degree in ESL teaching or to serve abroad again or to go on a brand-new adventure.”
Each year, as a new cohort of young adults are off on a fresh journey, the group that came before them return home. The public face of our church, these young adults who serve in YAGM are shaping not only the church in other parts of the world, but also how we will proclaim the witness of the church in the Saint Paul Area Synod. Samantha agrees: “Let’s lift up the young adults in our church. They’re doing some great things, both in the church and in the world, and it’s amazing to see.”
Churches are encouraged to share the content of these stories in their congregations. Any re-print should include: Saint Paul Area Synod, www.spas-elca.org. To request printed copies of the booklet, please call 651.224.4313. A PDF of the booklet is also available here.