I remember staring at the Lutheran Volunteer Corps poster in the church foyer wondering, "Could I do that?" I was halfway through my freshman year at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and was checking out Lutheran Campus Ministry. I had begun to realize that I was missing a church home while at college. But I wouldn't attend (the campus church) regularly until my sophomore year.
That summer between freshman and sophomore year would make all the difference. With a delegation of young adults from the Southeast Michigan Synod, I traveled to Israel and Palestine to see, hear and learn from the living stones—the Palestinian Christians of the Holy Land. I returned a changed person. But determined to follow my dream of becoming a genetic counselor, I stuck with my biology major and rigorous science curriculum. As I got caught up in the whirlwind of college life, the thought of a yearlong service program like Lutheran Volunteer Corps seemed more impossible and impractical than ever.
When the pressures of school became the most difficult, I threw myself into action even more wholeheartedly with Lutheran Campus Ministry. It was there that my interest and activism in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was nourished and expanded. Amid my crazy academic life, I was able to spend time discussing, learning and advocating about the issues that meant the most to me. By the time junior year rolled around, I started looking more seriously at what I was to do after graduation.
I started to hear from other members of Lutheran Campus Ministry who were doing exactly what I thought was impossible—pursuing intense academic aspirations and also finding time to serve globally. One young woman gave a presentation about her time in the Peace Corps in Africa. She returned from two years of service to attend the University of Michigan's School of Public Health. Another student left for a year of service with AmeriCorps. Being in an environment with alumni of the PeaceCorps, Lutheran Volunteer Corps and other service projects where I could hear their stories and experiences got me fired up to take the leap into international service and took away some anxiety about living abroad for a year.
Senior year finally hit, and I sent an e-mail to my campus pastor: "I want to go back to Palestine for a year. How do I make this happen?" We struggled for ideas and programs that would get me back to the Holy Land. After I was turned down for an internship in Jerusalem, my pastor sent an e-mail about a new student at our campus ministry who had just finished a year in the United Kingdom with the Young Adults in Global Mission program.
I immediately got on the ELCA Web site (www2.elca.org/globalserve/youngadults) to find that the Jerusalem/West Bank site had been added for 2008-09. I've now concluded a year of service in Bethlehem. I've made several applications to AmeriCorps but have learned that with the poor economy, many recent grads are attracted to this program. So I'm also looking beyond this year and preparing to apply to grad school in public health.
One of the most influential factors on my decision to do the ELCA global mission program for young adults was seeing the example set forth by other students and alumni of Lutheran Campus Ministry. The spirit of selflessness and community service is contagious.
This week's front page features:
Grappling with autism: (right) How grandparents take part in families' struggles.
Dismantling patriarchy: One woman's journey.
Set apart: ELCA schools are in a class by themselves.
Also: Are we 'that people'?
Nov. 3-10: Join Carol Mueller (right) to discuss care for children with autism.
Consider reading "Grappling with autism" before joining in.
The Little Lutheran
(for children 6 and younger)
The Little Christian
(for children 6 and younger)
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers