Opportunities for young adults 19–30 to serve in U.S. and worldwide
By Kathy Melvin | Mission Crossroads Magazine
Presbyterians do mission in partnership. For the Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) program, now celebrating its 25th recruitment season, partners are at the heart of the program’s success.
“YAVs are invited into communities already involved in amazing, necessary and holy works,” said Blake Collins, the program’s associate for recruitment and relationships. “Our church partners surround YAVs with hospitality, patience and much-needed grace on a daily basis.”
Blake knows firsthand. He was a Young Adult Volunteer in Lima, Peru, in 2013–14, helping to partner the Presbyterian Hunger Program’s Joining Hands Network with the Evangelical Church of Peru. In his role with the YAV program, Blake is charged with spreading awareness about this transformational experience, connecting with alums and developing partnerships.
“It’s appealing to our work partners that YAVs are people that can engage in the issues for an entire year, not just a few weeks or for a few months, even during the tough times,” said Luke Rembold, YAV site coordinator in Albuquerque. “YAVs don’t shy away from the difficult issues; they embrace them,” he said.
Albuquerque is a first-year YAV site, where YAVs will work with partners that include the Menaul School, a faith-based, college preparatory day and boarding school for middle and high school students. Other partners will include the Heading Home Initiative, a multi-agency program dedicated to making homelessness short-lived and nonrecurring; Camino de Vida, a new church development with worship services, Bible studies and other programs for Spanish-speaking migrants; and St. Martin’s HopeWorks, the state’s largest provider of outreach services to assist homeless and nearly homeless people. In Tucson, a longtime YAV partner is Community Home Repair Projects of Arizona (CHRPA). Many would say this placement would be one of YAV’s most challenging “hands-on” worksites. YAVs help CHRPA provide low-income, disabled and elderly people with essential home repairs, from replacing a kitchen sink to building a wheelchair ramp. Daily work is physically demanding. On any given day, for example, it could involve crawling around in an attic when temperatures are inching toward 115 degrees, replacing a swamp cooler on the roof of a trailer in the hot Arizona sun, digging a trench or repairing a water line. YAVs bike 8 miles to work and then 8 miles home to the house where they live in intentional community.
“When the YAVs arrive, many of them have never held a saw or a hammer,” said Scott Coverdale, CHRPA’s executive director. “You don’t need skills here, just a willingness to learn and a desire to serve. We are responding to a critical need. People are in crisis and lacking resources. A week or two without water or electricity, and life begins to get harsh. We’ve been in homes where they haven’t had water or electricity for more than a year.”
Coverdale says the YAVs and CHRPA volunteers and staff can often fix most of the problems they encounter in a day, which they find very rewarding. Their impact is immediate. “These aren’t broken pipes; these are people. The experience is an extremely human one.”
The challenges YAVs face are not just in a U.S. context. Hunger, poverty and homelessness exist on every continent. The YAV program has a longtime partnership with the Church of Scotland, which is committed to ministry throughout the country. More than 15 years ago, the church of Scotland formed the Priority Areas Program. They decided that the responsibility of dealing with poverty shouldn’t just fall to the churches in poor areas, but should be the first priority of the whole church. “In carrying out this work, we have deliberately worked collaboratively with others,” said Lynn MacLellan, site coordinator for the YAV program in Scotland. “It’s all about relationship building and helping people to realize their strengths and gifts and helping them to thrive. It also serves as a challenge to churches across the entire country by claiming poverty is not just an issue for faith communities near impoverished areas, but everywhere.”
The Young Adult Volunteer program offered through the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is open to young adults of all denominations, ages 19–30. For the YAV, the benefits include a year of vocational discernment and the opportunity to live and work with the support of an intentional Christian community, as they explore their relationship with God and live more simply in response to an unsustainable human demand for natural resources.
For the church and the world, the YAV program is helping to form the next generation of globally aware, faithful and passionate leaders. To date, there are more than 1,700 alums of the program involved in the work of the church in exciting and new ways.
In the 2017–18 YAV year, there are four international sites and 16 national sites where the young adults serve in communities alongside local people of faith responding to poverty, violence and injustice. It costs about $22,000 to fully support a YAV for one year. YAV participants are asked to raise about 20 percent of this cost through their own fundraising efforts. The remaining 80 percent is funded through donations from individuals and the annual Pentecost Offering.
Kathy Melvin is director of Mission Communications 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 pcusa.org/missioncrossroads.
Apply for YAV service
The March 1 (international) and June 1 (national) application deadlines are approaching. Learn more and apply today: youngadultvolunteers.org
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Categories: World Mission, Young Adult Volunteers
Tags: albuquerque, CHRPA, La Mesa Presbyterian Church, leadership, Lynn MacLellan, Mark Adams, partnerships, Peru, php, presbyterian hunger program, Scotland, Scott Cloverdale, Taylor Garrett, Tucson, yav, yavs, young adult volunteers
Ministries: World Mission, Young Adult Volunteers