CHICAGO (Feb. 1, 2021) — As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause uncertainty within the United States and across the globe, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has decided to cancel sending Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) volunteers for its 2021-22 program year. The pandemic earlier forced the ELCA to cancel volunteer placement for the 2020-21 program year. Cancellation two years in a row has never before happened in the 20-year history of the program.
Young Adults in Global Mission is an international mission opportunity for young people from the ages of 21 to 29 in which volunteers live and serve with ELCA companion churches and partner organizations around the world.
In a letter to the 2021-22 applicants, Dan Beirne, program director for Young Adults in Global Mission leadership formation, wrote, “As we as a global community continue to respond to the lasting impacts of COVID-19, the rise of variants, and uncertainty surrounding vaccine rollout, it is becoming more and more evident that pursuing a year of service would present too many risks and unknown variables. We cannot move ahead with our normal processes when this many unknowns remain.”
Beirne also emphasized the impact on global companions who host the volunteers in their homes, churches and communities: “With all of this uncertainty, it would likely place an undue burden on these companions of ours to have them ‘set the table’ for a new group of volunteers when they may very well still be recovering, or actively struggling, themselves. As you know, we hold closely the value of accompaniment, where we seek to walk alongside our partners and share in life's joys and life's burdens. In this unique case, ‘walking alongside’ means keeping our distance.”
During their year of service, young adult volunteers help with programs that include health and human rights, education, environmental justice, professional support and congregational ministry. Locations include Argentina and Uruguay, Australia, Central Europe, Jerusalem and the West Bank, Madagascar, Mexico, Rwanda, Senegal and the United Kingdom.
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About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with nearly 3.3 million members in more than 8,900 worshiping communities across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of “God’s work. Our hands.,” the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA’s roots are in the writings of the German church reformer Martin Luther.