Young Adult Volunteers serve the PC(USA)
March 14, 2018
A year of service, a lifetime of deeper questions. One of the many ways the Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) program hopes to challenge participants is through the continual reshaping of the program’s own concepts about service. This is done best when young volunteers and local people of faith walk together to encourage, challenge and inspire one another.
The most stirring answers to the hard questions of “What is service? Who may participate? Who is service meant to benefit?” are inspired by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s commitment to Misseo Dei — God’s mission.
Presbyterians believe that each person is called to share in the mission of God, recognizing we do not hold autonomy over the Holy Spirit; the Spirit is within every child of God. This calls the YAV program, and the greater church, to be a connectional church.
Young Adult Volunteers throughout the United States and the world are exposed to the branches of the PC(USA) in various settings and contexts. YAVs in Little Rock, Arkansas, live and work at Ferncliff Camp and Conference Center, where some are placed at the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) warehouse. YAVs create emergency kits and rearrange donated items, bringing a little order to the relief program. YAVs in the Philippines continue to partner with PDA to assist in ongoing recovery following Typhoon Haiyan.
YAVs serving in Washington, D.C., and New York City are able to engage in the PC(USA)’s commitment to social witness policy. Through the YAVs partnership with the Office of Public Witness and the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, volunteers see how the denomination remains accountable to our God and our neighbor both locally and globally.
BeLoved Asheville, a partner of the Presbyterian Hunger Program (PHP), works with the YAV site in Asheville, North Carolina, where volunteers witness long-term intentional Christian community with those living on the fringes of society. Volunteers are also introduced to issues related to the root causes of poverty through fair-trade efforts, small farmer cooperatives and campaigns for fair food. Through the PHP’s efforts, young adults are encouraged to think about sustainable purchasing habits long after their YAV year.
With the help of the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s Mission Engagement and Support team, the YAV program has been able to decrease the YAVs fundraising expectation. Also, by providing student loan repayment assistance during the service year, through the Financial Aid for Service office, the YAV program is taking much-needed steps to ensure the YAV experience is accessible for every young adult in the church.
In 1995–96, Sheryl and Jeff Goering served together in the Philippines. Jeff, who now works as chief financial officer for the Baltimore Ravens, says, “One life lesson I learned from my experience involved a long trek up a densely forested mountain. It was quite a difficult hike, but once we reached the Filipino tribal community near the peak, we had an extremely fascinating welcome. I was taught when we push ourselves beyond our comfort zone, we’re able to experience the most impactful lessons.”
Sheryl, now a CPA and international tax professional, remembers, “A lesson I learned from our time in the Philippines was patience, patience, patience. We had to learn to ‘be,’ rather than to ‘do.’ It was just as important to the people welcoming us that we learn to know them as it was to support their work.”
Jeff and Sheryl, members of First Presbyterian Church of Howard County, Maryland, say their YAV year influenced their always-evolving views about mission. This has helped inspire fresh partnerships between their local church and neighbors near and far. Currently, Emma Warman from First Presbyterian of Howard County is serving as a YAV in the Philippines. Emma reflects, “I’m being equipped with a basic understanding of how I’m implicated in unjust social arrangements, which will be necessary to consider before fully loving my neighbors as myself.”
Planting seeds of service in young people to witness the connectional nature of the church and to challenge their own traditions of service comes full circle as young people work to shape the current church based on those experiences. Through the partnerships of various departments and the denomination’s own self-reflection on responsible mission, we are working, repenting and growing.
Blake A. Collins, Associate for Recruitment and Relationships with the Young Adult Volunteer Program and YAV Alum (Peru, 2013—14)
Today’s Focus: Young Adult Volunteers
Let us join in prayer for:
First Presbyterian Church of Howard County Staff
O. Morton Harris, Co-Pastor
Sue Lowcock Harris, Co-Pastor
Virginia Callegary, Directory of Christian Education
James Galdieri, Director of Church Music
Caroline Smith, Executive Assistant
Pat Travers, Bookkeeper
Woody Collins, Church Sexton
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray:
Loving Lord, thank you for the young people who hold so much hope and potential. Work through your people to enable them to grow in faith, wisdom and skill to become positive agents of change, to your glory. Amen.