Recently deployed by ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) to the Lutheran Church in Australia, she’d failed to pack adequate footwear to withstand the continent’s harsh winter. Her host mother had noticed.
That was four years ago, but Craver, now a nurse in Seattle, said the moment continues to influence her approach to hospitality when she cares for the city’s most vulnerable.
The program, which recently celebrated 20 years, originated from a partnership with the U.K. volunteer organization Time for God. Since then, it has evolved to include collaborations with ELCA companion churches or organizations in Argentina/Uruguay, Australia, Central Europe, Jerusalem/West Bank, Madagascar, Mexico, Nepal, Rwanda, Senegal and the United Kingdom.
And it has a history of influencing future ELCA leaders.
“YAGM volunteers are formed by our companion churches and the ELCA during their time in service; they come back to the United States ready to effect positive change within our congregations and U.S. society,” said Michael Busbey, acting director for mission personnel and leadership formation.
This rings true for Jill Rode, who taught in Thailand through YAGM more than 15 years ago. After her YAGM year, she returned to teach there for 3 1/2 more years.
“[During] that YAGM year ... my faith was broken open and put together again. All those years formed the foundation for me to think about seminary,” said Rode, now a pastor at St. Anthony Park Lutheran Church, St. Paul, Minn.
Funded in part by Mission Support, YAGM continues to affect the church through its rich cohort of alumni who are pursuing callings as rostered leaders, educators, farmers, medical professionals, lawyers, camp directors, filmmakers, politicians, social workers, human rights activists and more.