By Chris Markert, Mission Catalyst
Have you ever heard of YAGM? It refers to those participating in the ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission program. This programs invites ELCA young adults ages 21-29 into a transformative, year-long journey in international service in the spirit of accompaniment.
A year of service through the Young Adults in Global Mission program invites young adults to become the hands and feet of Jesus in the world, providing critical support to ministries and projects in communities of need. It also invites YAGMs into a journey of self-reflection, providing space to consider their sense of identity, God’s work in the world, and their place within it all.
YAGMs serve in the spirit of accompaniment, walking alongside global companions in a manner that practices mutuality, interdependence and solidarity. They are also responsible for raising $5,000 for their service year.
This year, the Gulf Coast Synod has three YAGMs getting ready to be deployed: Hannah Johnson, Zeb Rose, and Mariah Sands. I recently had the opportunity to meet Hannah Johnson, from Lord of Life-The Woodlands, Texas, to hear her story and excitement about being a YAGM in Senegal:
What made you consider YAGM? I first found out about YAGM through my sister’s friend who was a YAGM in Rwanda from 2016-2017. I was very interested in the service aspect because service has been such a huge part of my life, starting with mission trips that I went on with the Senior High youth group at my church. This love for service was continued through college, and it seemed natural to me for this next year to also incorporate service. I was also interested because it was through the ELCA, where my love for service was first ignited.
What are you excited about as you prepare for your service in Senegal? What excites me about this year of service in Senegal is the connections that I will be able to make with the community there. I have always loved people and loved learning from and about them. I believe that there will be many such learning opportunities this year, and I cannot wait!
What’s the process of becoming a YAGM? What training is required? The first step is a pretty lengthy application process, which includes an online application, with follow-up documentation and two phone interviews. In March you find out if you were chosen to go to DIP (Discernment, Interview, Placement), and are assigned two possible countries which seem the most promising fits for you. DIP is in April and lasts for three days. It is used for you and for the countries with whom you are interviewing, to determine which country is the best fit and whether you want to accept your placement in YAGM. If you decide to go forward and do YAGM, the summer is spent doing visa paperwork, getting the necessary vaccinations, and fundraising for the program. YAGM officially starts in mid-August, with a week of training in the United States. After that week, you fly out to your country and spend various amounts of time doing in-country training. After in-country training, you move to your community and your service starts.
What are your plans when you return from Senegal? I plan to attend graduate school to get either a master’s or a PhD in Environmental Anthropology. I hope to work with a disaster relief organization, such as FEMA or the Red Cross, on developing policies to better help people recover from natural disasters.
To make a donation to support Hannah (or one of the other synod YAGMs), visit our Synod donation page. Be sure to check “Other” and specify “YAGM Hannah Johnson.” You can also make checks payable to the Gulf Coast Synod and in the memo specify “YAGM Hannah Johnson.”