July 4, 2016
Melissa Rift is living in Colorado as a member of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) program. Young adult volunteers like her explore God’s calling while living as part of a Christian community in YAV partner sites around the world. Rift, whose home church is Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church in Dallas, had been interested in the program for a long time, and her sister influenced her decision to apply for it.
”My twin sister, Emily, was working as an AmeriCorps volunteer in New Orleans and happened to work for a nonprofit that employed a few YAV participants every year. Through her relationship with the New Orleans YAVs I came to learn more about the program and everything it had to offer,” Rift said.
Rift was completing her master’s degree in social work and marriage and family therapy and wanted to work in the field in an area that matched her background. Through the YAV program, she was paired with a nonprofit agency called Urban Peak, which provides services for homeless youth in Denver. Rift serves as a case manager in the Drop-In Center, where homeless youth have access to hot breakfasts, showers, laundry facilities, hygiene products, computers, phones, mailboxes and other assistance. Urban Peak also offers life-skills classes and case management services, such as connecting clients to housing opportunities, detox and rehab centers, and hunger relief.
“At Urban Peak, I feel that I get to use my skills as well as foster meaningful relationships with the clients who access our services,” Rift said.
She said the YAVs commit themselves to five core tenets—intentional community, simple living, social justice, spiritual formation and vocational discernment. “We engage in weekly community days with alternating focuses on each of these tenets,” she said. “Through our community time, we participate in activities that expose us to the local community, such as the experiences of marginalized populations and multi-faith experiences. We have visited multiple places of worship over the past few months. We have spent a lot of time outdoors exploring Colorado and challenging ourselves physically and mentally.”
Rift said the key to not being caught off guard in the program is to start the YAV year with an open mind.
“The spiritual formation piece has been different than I’ve expected,” she said. “I didn’t realize how much PC(USA) churches were in my comfort zone until we attended churches with very different styles of worship. That’s something YAV really stresses, exploring your discomfort zone when it comes to spiritual formation, and I really appreciate that.”
Rift has some advice for anyone thinking of YAV participation.
“Have those hard conversations with yourself before you begin your year and really examine your motives behind your year,” she urged. “Look at each of our tenets and examine how you would feel if you had to face each of those to the extreme. That’s not always the case here, but it helps prepare you for when you will be challenged. If you decide it’s for you, lean into the discernment process and find what is going to have a balance of fulfillment and challenge. This program is incredible if you trust the process that it takes to get here.”
Judy Everett Ramos, Director of Communications, Grace Presbytery
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray
O Holy Spirit, open each new generation to your renewing wind. Blow afresh in our lives, that we all might be empowered to do your will in service and love. Amen.