By Stacey Egger
“I got to the point where I needed to set aside my own ambitions, my own goals, my own agenda for my life … and see if God had something for me somewhere else that I wouldn’t have taken into account,” said Jessie Siek, of St. Joseph, Mich.
Siek is one of three recent high school graduates who are spending 10 months serving Lutheran churches and ministries as the newest participants in the Lutheran Young Adult Corps (LYAC). Their service began in August 2019, and will continue through May 2020.
Serving Lutheran ministries
LYAC is a short-term service opportunity for young adults in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), with both 10-month and 10-week terms. In the two years since the program began, 33 participants have served, volunteering over 37,000 hours of service.
LYAC participants serve LCMS churches and Recognized Service Organizations (RSOs) across the country, helping them provide services and show Christ to their communities. Past participants have served in five different cities — Boston; Baton Rouge, La.; New Orleans; St. Louis and Detroit — with two of this year’s participants being the first to serve in a new location, Milwaukee.
“We work mostly with ministries who have some level of limitations to their current capacity … . The Young Adult Corps can be a great bridge for them … to try some new things, to think more broadly about their ministry,” said Julianna Shults, LYAC program director.
The newest LYAC members attended orientation Aug. 26–29 at the LCMS International Center (IC) in St. Louis.
Along with Siek, Sydney Naber of Minneapolis, Minn., and Connor Colangelo of Georgetown, Texas, attended.
Their orientation included training in some of the skills and knowledge they will need during their months of service, including navigating cultural differences, leading Bible studies, “asset mapping” (utilizing the resources that a community already has), and other aspects of urban ministry.
“It’s not just been practical to-do lists of how to deal with this or that situation; it’s been more about changing your perspective on the community you’re going to work in,” said Siek, who will be serving at Mount Olive Lutheran Church and School in Milwaukee, helping with the after-school and lunch programs as well as with church youth programming.
The new LYAC servants also learned practical skills that they will need to help them navigate the coming year.
“One thing that I’ve found really useful was yesterday we learned some ‘adulting’ stuff that we need to know, as far as living on our own,” said Colangelo, who will be serving at St. Trinity Lutheran Church in St. Louis, helping with St. Trinity’s food pantry and youth and children’s programming.
“I’m most excited about living somewhere new. I’ve traveled a lot, but never … for more than a week or two,” said Naber, who will be serving at Bethany Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, working with Bethany’s outreach to their community, particularly their food and clothing distribution to the homeless.
Exploring new vocations
Shults said that, in addition to assisting Lutheran ministries, the program is designed to give its participants the opportunity “to explore some new vocations as they live out the Gospel, sharing it in their service.”
Katie Ervin, a 2018 LYAC participant who served with Lutheran Development Group in St. Louis, said that the opportunity to work in an urban setting impacted her strongly.
“You see the brokenness and you see the need. People struggling with homelessness — they’re not just a statistic you read about anymore. It’s the people living across the street from the church. They’re real people with real stories and real lives. … It opens up your heart to see the need for the Gospel,” she said.
“I’m excited about learning what it’s like to live in an urban community,” said Siek. “Learning more about these kids and where they come from, developing those relationships where you really get to know them. I grew up in a suburban bubble, really.”
Ervin said that she had always thought about working in ministry or for a nonprofit, but “didn’t know specifically what that would look like.” However, through her service with LYAC, she first learned about the program for which she now serves as coordinator, Every One His Witness™ (a Lutheran evangelism program produced by LCMS Witness & Outreach Ministry).
“The Lutheran Young Adult Corps is the reason why I even heard about this job, why I’m here,” she said.
Sharing Christ with neighbors
“In many ways, they’re far braver than I ever was at that age,” said Shults. “Their desire to serve and share the Gospel supersedes those things that intimidate them, and they’re ready to go, which is amazing. We want to support that leap.”
The center of all of LYAC’s work is “getting out into the community and sharing the Gospel. … that people hear about who Jesus is and what He’s done,” said Shults.
Every organization that LYAC partners with is an LCMS church or RSO. Through this program, Shults hopes to give both these ministries and these young Lutherans an opportunity to grow, and those whom the ministries serve an opportunity to learn about their Savior.
“It’s a win-win,” Shults said.
After a Sending Service held Tuesday, Aug. 27, in the IC chapel, LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison gave the three new participants a blessing.
“You’re going to have a great year ahead of you,” Harrison said. “The Lord has already been working to prepare your way long ago.”
Posted Sept. 19, 2019