“But Heidi! Four thousand dollars is a lot of money! I’ll never be able to do it!”
These young people, who range in age from 19 to 29, are passionate about connecting their faith with a life of service. They are curious about the world and about the diversity of God’s people. They ask many questions about the world and their place in it. They are bold in calling the church to be a relevant voice of hope in a globalized, pluralistic world. And they want to make a difference.
Each year the Young Adults in Global Mission program offers approximately 50 young adults the opportunity to step into a one-year journey in international service and learning. Generous mission-support dollars help offset about 70 percent of what it costs to keep young adult volunteers in service for one year.
The volunteer raises the remainder of his or her support funds. While it’s true that $4,000 is indeed a lot of money, it’s also true that participants find incredibly creative ways to approach this fundraising effort. Here are a few examples:
Valerie put together a giant rummage sale. Members of Valerie’s congregation donated gently used items to her fundraising cause. Along with some friends, Valerie took the lead in setting up the church fellowship hall for the sale. All proceeds from the sale went to support Valerie’s year of international service.
Mike tapped his musical skills and held a concert in his home church. The price of admission? A freewill offering designated for Mike’s Young Adults in Global Mission year. In addition to solos and family quartets, Mike included a number of audience participation numbers in his concert set list.
Kate enlisted the help of a local art center and held a week-long arts camp for children titled “An Artist’s Journey through Mexico.” She and the participants created masks, murals and weavings. They learned folktales and Spanish words’ and even created a short play. At the end of the week, parents and community members came to see the play and the artwork. Proceeds from the class went to Kate’s Young Adults in Global Mission fund.
Andrew set up a giant map in his church with one pin placed in his hometown and the other in the South African town where he’ll be serving. He placed a small photo of himself near the hometown point. The photo would inch ever closer to his country of service as donations came in.
The most common fundraising plan involves volunteers talking with members of their home congregation. They share “mission moments” during worship, give presentations to adult education groups, teach global sessions at vacation Bible school and set up information tables in the church narthex.
Besides being great invitations for financial support, these activities also encourage the congregation and the young adult into deeper relationships with each other. The congregation hears not only the story of international service, but also the story of their young person’s sense of call.
Support checks are often accompanied by prayers and letters of encouragement. Such a tangible outpouring of support is often powerful and humbling for our Young Adults in Global Mission volunteers.
Here are some additional ways that congregations can support a Young Adults in Global Mission volunteer:
Make a general donation to the ELCA’s Young Adults in Global Mission fund (contact Heidi for details: Heidi.Torgerson@elca.org). Many of the young adults raise nearly double the requested $4,000. Funds raised in excess of $4,000 go to support the future development and expansion of the Young Adults in Global Mission program. Fundraising is a more significant challenge, however, for volunteers coming from congregations or communities with fewer financial resources on hand. Inability to reach the $4,000 fundraising goal will never preclude the ELCA Global Mission unit from sending that volunteer into service. Your gift to the general Young Adults in Global Mission fund will help ensure that we are able to provide financial support to the volunteers who need it.
Encourage the young people in your congregation to consider global service as an option for their futures. Include global issues in your preaching and teaching. Make use of Global Mission resources in your Christian education programs. Plant the seeds!
If your congregation isn’t sending a Young Adults in Global Mission volunteer into service, contact the Global Mission unit to see whether someone from your area will be serving through Young Adults in Global Mission. Invite your congregation to consider sponsoring that volunteer.
Read your volunteer’s newsletters while he or she is in service. Respond to newsletters with notes of encouragement and interested questions.
Offer as many opportunities as possible for your Young Adults in Global Mission volunteer to share his or her experience upon returning from service. Connecting these volunteers’ global stories with the local context is vitally important for the renewal of the ELCA.