Bold, Difficult, Beautiful: My YAGM Year in Madagascar

Date posted: Friday 03 March 2017

Last August, when I was preparing to leave for Madagascar for the first time, I had no idea what to expect. Besides the name of my placement, Masombahoaka in Fianarantsoa, Madagascar, all I had were some overpacked bags and a combined sense of anxiety and enthusiasm that tied my stomach in knots.


Conversations I’d had with past YAGM volunteers, tips lovingly given from a Malagasy Luther College student, and an extensive Googling process had left me dizzy, scrambling for a grasp on the upcoming year. I desperately wanted to know what was ahead.


After living here for over 6 months, I think back to some of those initial expectations and laugh. While some of my expectations have been fulfilled, most have fallen incredibly short in the face of the bold, difficult, and beautiful reality of life in Madagascar.


Eating new foods, struggling to learn Malagasy, and working/worshiping/traveling with new people has given me a taste of daily life in Madagascar.


Singing karaoke to Mariah Carey and ABBA, dancing more than I’ve ever danced before, and accepting generosity (in everything from mangoes to guitar strings to meal invitations) has shown me glimpses of Malagasy spirit. 


Teaching English, having meaningful conversations, and realizing how fortunate I am to be here has taught me about the responsibilities of being an American abroad, especially now.


None of these experiences were part of my expectations. Yet they are precisely what has made my YAGM year bold, difficult, and beautiful. 


We all enter into new experiences with of expectations; it’s almost impossible not to. This is not bad; expectations only become problematic when they hold us back. Yes, jumping into the unexpected is not easy. Spontaneous events can make us feel confused, vulnerable, or incredibly helpless. That is where faith comes in.


I have no idea what is in store for the next 4 months. In all likelihood, this time will be filled with many formed and consequently shattered expectations. However, I invite you to join me in this journey.


Erika Storvick


Erika Storvick is serving in Madagascar through Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) on behalf of the Saint Paul Area Synod & her home church, Resurrection Lutheran in Woodbury. Learn more about Erika & other missionaries here.