Friday, June 11, 2010


Thank you, James Taylor. I'm Going to Carolina in My Mind will be the default song in my head for the next few months, as I just heard that I will be living in the small town of Carolina while in South Africa.

According to Wikipedia:
Carolina is a town situated on the Johannesburg to Swaziland route in Mpumalanga province in South Africa. It is a mixed farming and on a small scale coal and precious stone mining community. It was established by Cornelius Coetzee as a permanent outspan for wagons when gold was discovered in 1883 in Barberton and named after his wife Carolina. It was rebuilt after it was razed during the Second Boer War. The Komati Gorge and associated Komati River are situated in the vicinity of Carolina. It has a very small township called Silobela with different sections in it. Silobela houses mostly Swati speaking people. There are Zulus, Ndebele's and a small number of Tsonga people.

Carolina is located in the province of Mpumalanga, which means "the place where the sun rises". It is considered to be one of the most geographically diverse and unbelievably beautiful places in South Africa.

Mpumalanga, South Africa

Carolina is right above the last 'a' in Mpumalanga

I will be serving with the Igwa Circuit of the Eastern Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Southern Africa (ELCSA), which incorporates numerous congregations in both urban and rural settings. Service opportunities may include: visitation of neighboring parishes, worship leadership, church administration, young adult’s league, etc. In addition, there are opportunities for service in the greater Carolina community, such as: agriculture development, HIV/AIDS outreach, soup kitchens, and many other things.

Sounds great, eh? I can't find Carolina in a guidebook anywhere, which I think means that I'll be having an authentic community experience without touristy boutiques and hotels. I am very much looking forward to the opportunity to travel to the parishes in my circuit, meet new people, and have flexibility in my service placement. I'll be in Carolina before I know it! 

Thursday, June 3, 2010


I was interviewed by ELCA Communications last week for an article about the YAGM program. Global Missions recommended me for the article as they thought I had an "interesting story". I don't think I'm all that interesting... but here's a link to the article! (Guess they thought replacing the E at the end of my name with an A would be really interesting...)

Young Adults Take Leap of Faith


Welcome to the ELCA's concept of mission work: Accompaniment!

Accompaniment is the ELCA’s central commitment in relation to our global companions. This commitment is illustrated by the image of walking alongside companions in respect and mutuality, together discerning future directions for shared mission. In other words, not converting or saving or fixing! Merely being and learning together.

I first learned this in mid-April, at the Young Adult in Global Mission (YAGM) Discernment, Interview, Placement weekend. The Rev. Rafael Malpica Padilla, Executive Director of ELCA Global Mission, took time out of his busy schedule to speak to us at the event. He told us that the point of our mission is to Restore Community (and not necessarily in the us vs. them way that you might think). To highlight this point he told the Parable of the Lost Sheep, from Luke chapter 15:

So he told them this parable: "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.' 

The usual point of view in this story is that the one sheep who was lost really is lost. They need saving, rescuing from danger. But here was Rev. Padilla's spin on things: what if in fact, the sheep who were really lost were the ninety-nine? What if they were not complete because one of them had wandered off? Those of us in the fold have a responsibility to keep the group together; without diversity we are not complete.

A good reminder that during our year of service, we participants may very well find ourselves being the lost ones who need saving, not the other way around.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


The ELCA's Young Adults in Global Mission Program (YAGM) has been on my To Do list ever since I stumbled upon it perusing the ELCA website more than a year ago. So many things sounded appealing:
living in a new place, growing in my faith, learning from others, serving a new community, and discerning God's will for my life. Applicants were encouraged to be flexible, mature, open to adventure, and curious. Sign me up!!

It was made very clear from the beginning that applicants apply to the program, not to a specific country. So although there are programs this year in the UK, Mexico, Argentina/Uruguay, Jerusalem/West Bank, Slovakia/Hungary, and South Africa, Global Mission staff determined from my application that I would be best suited for a placement in Slovakia/Hungary or South Africa.

I suppose it should be noted here that in my application I spoke a lot about sharing my faith through song, my increasing involvement in my local church (thanks for roping me in, St. James!),  my decreasing satisfaction with my professional work as an interior designer, and my heightened awareness of communities in need, thanks to my participation with Architects Without Borders-Oregon. All of these things together made me realize that I genuinely want to help those in need, but that I'm not quite sure how I'm supposed to do that. Should I continue working as a designer and volunteer with other organizations on the side? What if I could combine all my interests into one vocation?

The ELCA-YAGM program will allow me the freedom to explore my other interests outside the world of design, such as experiencing how the global church helps combat such social ills as poverty, homelessness, and HIV/AIDS. But alas, I am getting ahead of myself.

After making it through the first round of application fun, I traveled to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin in mid-April for a Discernment, Interview, and Placement event weekend. I met 54 other young hopefuls who had traveled from all over the country, as well as country coordinators who had flown in from all over the world. Over the course of the weekend we got to know each other, learn more about our country programs, and interview with Global Mission staff. At the end of the weekend I walked away with a placement in offer in South Africa, a head full of big ideas, and a surprisingly calm spirit!

The YAGM program typically finds placements for volunteers in one of three areas: working in a church, a school, or another social service type ministry. My preference is for something hands-on in the local community; I know I want to be challenged, but teaching math to 10 year olds may be more than I bargained for! I will know soon just where I will be placed and what I will be doing, but I have long ago accepted my placement offer. I recognize that the biggest challenge at this stage in the game is to let go and trust someone else to make decisions for me. It's been tough. :)

On August 18 I travel to Chicago for a week of orientation, then all participants will depart en masse to the airport and to our country of service. Please keep me in your prayers- the journey is just beginning!