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Blessing the tie that binds


Congregation resonates with the YAV program’s emphasis on intentional Christian community

By Pat Cole | Mission Crossroads Magazine

In addition to processing supplies for disaster survivors, Young Adult Volunteer Sharon Boer, like other YAVs, strives to live in intentional Christian community. Photo by David Gill

When Don Stribling looks at the Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) program, he sees an experience that challenges the hyper individualism that pervades much of today’s religious practice.

Don, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Oskaloosa, Iowa, serves a congregation that places a healthy emphasis on the communal aspect of the Christian faith. He says the YAV program’s core value of “living in intentional Christian community” strikes a chord with him and his congregation

It is one of the reasons First Presbyterian became a YAV-a-Year congregation. A YAV-a-Year congregation and a YAV commit to building a relationship with each other, and the congregation supports the YAV through prayer and financial gifts.

For Don, being “spiritual but not religious,” a phrase many use to describe their faith, falls short of God’s intention for believers. “Our relationship with Christ is a personal faith, but it is shared in community,” he says.

First Presbyterian has engaged with two young adults through the YAV-a-Year program. In 2016–17, it supported Isabella Fagiana, a native of western New York who served in Scotland and who now attends Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. This year it supports Sharon Boer, who grew up in First Presbyterian and who serves in Little Rock, Arkansas. First Presbyterian also makes a yearly gift in support of all YAVs.

Sharon has experienced the congregation’s commitment to Christian community firsthand. “My congregation has taken the promise to help a child grow up in the church and be an active part of the church incredibly seriously,” she shares. “Every year of my life they have played some kind of role in making me who I am today.” She cites opportunities such as Sunday school, church camps, vacation Bible school and youth group as being formative in her Christian experience. She also was a Youth Advisory delegate to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly in 2016.

In the YAV program, Sharon has been able to experience Christian community in a close-knit environment. “It’s incredibly supportive and uplifting and can be challenging, but it is wonderful,” Sharon says. “I feel very fortunate to have the group that I have.” They share living space, expenses and meals as well as their faith journeys.

Sharon serves at Little Rock’s Disaster Assistance Center, which works in covenant relationship with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and Church World Service. One of its main roles is to process school kits, hygiene kits and other supplies donated for disaster survivors. Her work coincides with her vocational aspiration to work in emergency response, and she plans to do graduate work in emergency management.

No matter where her vocational pilgrimage takes her, Sharon Falck, the mission committee chair at First Presbyterian, is confident that Sharon will retain a commitment to God’s mission. “Sharon Boer has been interested in mission since the time she was a little girl,” she notes. “She is a poised young woman who has been a role model to other young people in our church.”

Pat Cole is a communications specialist with the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

This article is from the Spring 2018 issue of Mission Crossroads magazine, which is printed and mailed free to subscribers’ homes within the U.S. three times a year by Presbyterian World Mission. To subscribe visit

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