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A Year of Service

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 What does it mean to be a YAV?

Young Adult Volunteers commit to serving a minimum of one year in the U.S. or Internationally at one of our sites. YAVs have the opportunity to volunteer alongside local partners, engaging in work and conversation around issues that address poverty, reconciliation, and what it means to share the hope of Christ through service. This blog is a chance to stay updated on what is happening in the life of the YAV program, whether that is with our current volunteers, our abundance of alum, the YAV office, or our YAV partners. The conversations and tough issues that we spend countless hours talking about as YAV’s don’t end when the year does; welcome to the conversation!

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October 30, 2014

"God is in Korea"

By Kurt Esslinger

"It is the Holy One who goes before you. God will be with you; and will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed." -Deuteronomy 31:8

Photo by Quantisha Mason , YAVA-Korea 13-14

 An entire year of YAVs in Korea with us has passed and a new set of young adults has already hit the ground full speed in struggling to adapt to a new culture. 

We thoroughly enjoyed walking alongside Molly, Bennett, Tisha, and Eric this past year. We had the pleasure of seeing them grow and change as they encountered struggles and had to adapt to a life that stretched them to their limits. For years we will probably not know the full extent to which their time in Korea has affected them; however, they have already begun reflecting on their experience. During their last month here we took them on a retreat to Seoraksan Mountain Park on the Northeast coast. The view of the ocean is stunning, and the mountain trails gave us the perfect setting to take a breath of clean air and to let the events of a year sink in. At one point on the visit to the mountain the YAVs left Hyeyoung, Sahn, and me behind to climb up a rather difficult path leading to a cave high above the foot of the mountain. When they came back down they exclaimed about how majestic the view from the cave was. That moment in and of itself became a spiritual moment, and they each remarked how palpable the presence of God seemed to be there.

Coming down from the mountain, we spent some time asking them about their feelings having nearly completed their YAV year. One of the more striking reflections came from Bennett. He recalled how he spent his first two weeks in Korea convinced that he came here by mistake (though he kept that feeling well hidden from us!). The food and the signs in a different alphabet nearly overwhelmed him. Eventually he settled in to his life of Korean language class for the first half of the day and volunteering at the children’s center and soup kitchen the second half. By the time they all finished their semester of Korean language, Bennett began to see the change in relationships because of his increased ability to communicate with the children and the people eating and volunteering in the kitchen. Although a certain level of discomfort followed him throughout the year, he came to recognize that he “had a place” at Saenaru Community Center and that he was meant to be there, after all. Members of the community even commented on the difference of his presence. One person approached Bennett and said that after several months they realized he was not like the other volunteers who come in now and again from universities in order to satisfy volunteer hour requirements. They could see his devotion to the site, and they specifically thanked him for coming back every week all year. He was not able to pinpoint exactly all the changes, but the discomfort and struggle have changed him as a person for the better.

We hope to hear more and more from Bennett and the other YAVs as they head off on the next chapters of their journey. If their experience resembles my experience as a YAV many years ago, they will probably not fully understand the effects of a YAV year for some time to come.

With our former YAVs and with the new YAVs recently arrived we will continue to make the affirmation Eric made in a blog post earlier this summer, that “God is in Korea.” “God has been demonstrating all year how the gospel transcends all barriers of culture and language. Starting with attending the World Council of Churches conference last autumn, where we worshipped and studied the Word with Christians from all over the globe, I have been becoming more deeply moved by God’s presence all year. I have been moved by the light of Christ in people I have met from Korea, America, Canada, Hungary, England, the Philippines, and Pakistan, who are all here in Korea to serve the Lord In various ways….Even as the manifestation of faith in Christ is radically different in various cultures, the presence and message of God Himself in what I’ve seen of the world is profoundly constant. The gospel is truly a message for the entire world. Apprehending this has indeed increased my awe and wonder at our God…."


The 2014 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 232
Read more about Kurt Esslinger and Heyoung Lee's ministry

Individuals: Give onlineto E200496 for Kurt Esslinger and Heyoung Lee's sending and support

Congregations: Give to D507560 for Kurt Esslinger and Heyoung Lee's sending and support

Churches are asked to send donations through your congregation’s normal receiving site (this is usually your presbytery).


October 13, 2014

Dance when the Spirit says Dance


 Dance when the Spirit says Dance

By Emily Brewer, YAVA-Guatemala/Miami

 Let them praise God’s name with dance;

    let them sing God’s praise with the drum and lyre!
Because the Holy One is pleased with the people,
    God will beautify the poor with saving help.

-Psalm 149:3-4 (CEB)

 As I heard the drums come in on “Nnung yay dah” a few weeks ago at YAV orientation, I was thrown back five years to when I sat in that same room at Stony Point, preparing to leave for my first YAV year in Guatemala. As my ...

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October 1, 2014

Now Accepting Applications!

Now accepting applications for the 2015/2016 YAV year.

Consider encouraging someone you know to apply today. 

Apply Now!

YAV 2015/2016 Deadlines: 

Round 1: December 1, 2014 

Deadline for National Sites

Round 2: February 1, 2015 

Application Deadline for National and International Sites 
(NOTE: Round 2 is the only deadline for International Applications. Applications completed after February 1 are still eligible for service at one of our 15 national sites.)

Round 3: May 1, 2015 

Deadline for National Site Applications Only

Contact the Young Adult Volunteer Office (800) 728-7228, x5024 or if you have any ...

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September 30, 2014

New Member of the YAV Team

David Wigger and Amy Wadsworth, YAVA-Kenya ’11-‘12

Hey all. This is David, I have just joined the YAV staff as the new Louisville Seminary Field Education Intern.

My wife, Amy, and I were YAVs in Kenya in 2011-2012. I taught English, Math, and PE at Ratta Mixed Secondary School in Western Kenya. After my YAV year I started at Louisville Seminary, where I am currently pursuing a Masters in Divinity with a Concentration in Black Church Studies.

I was not planning on doing any more Field Education until Emily told me the YAV office was looking for an Intern ...

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August 2, 2014

When the YAV Year Ends - A Site Coordinator's Perspective

by Hyeyoung Lee, Korea YAV Site Co-Coordinator


My 17-month-old son, Sahn, and I like to go for a walk during the day. The other day when we were walking he decided to lead me to a place, so I just followed him. He stopped in front of the YAV house which is about 100 steps away from our house and pointed at the gate as if he is saying that he wants to hang out with the YAVs. It would have been no problem if it was two weeks ago, but it is not possible now because they all left ...

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