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Imagination, Young Adults, and Stewardship

Last week, Pastor Jeni Grangaard, who works in global mission for the ELCA, reminded us of the gift of time and her walks in a beautiful valley in Jerusalem. This week, Jeni’s husband Colin, continues reflecting upon their life working with young adults in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Their ministry is a culmination of stewardship: their own gifts, bringing out the gifts of young adults, and leaning into the challenges and opportunities of the place God has called them.

Yours truly,

Adam Copeland, Center for Stewardship Leaders      

Imagination, Young Adults, and Stewardship

Colin Grangaard

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

- from Ranier Rilke, Book of Hours, I 59

When we introduce ourselves and our Jerusalem/West Bank Young Adults in Global Mission (JWB YAGM) program to young adults, we begin by confronting what many imagine about the place. We are as pragmatic and clear as possible: Conflict Zone. Small Region. Segregated communities. Limits on Movement. Teaching in Schools. Still, these young adults enthusiastically come. Still, what was imagined is confronted with complex realities when they arrive.

I don’t know how, exactly, stewardship should be concerned with vocation. But, it seems like they might be connected with one another: Using gifts to their greatest potential; shaping a call and a vision into hands-on, tangible outcomes; figuring out how to embrace a passion and harness it to create something of value; taking our highest hopes for ourselves and living into a life that is seen and heard and felt in the here and now.

On one visit to a school where a young adult volunteered, I was talking to a principal who announced: “We decided to film the YAGM with their lead teacher. So many of the other teachers can’t imagine team teaching. This YAGM and teacher, they act like a perfect team.” I immediately expressed my enthusiasm. After all, it can be hard for the incoming volunteers to envision the hands on, tangible outcomes of their service.

Another JWB YAGM midyear evaluation mentioned the impact of seeing and hearing and trying on for size the life of classroom prep: ”Look, I had teachers in school, but I realize now that I didn’t know what their lives were like. This year really let me envision myself enjoying life as a teacher.” Stewarding vocation indeed.

We all serve within a six-mile radius, so we see each other often. My wife Jeni and I try to stay pretty hands off… or at least try not to meddle. The year, the challenges, the experience does its own work on each of the volunteers (and us as well). Still we gather to cast a vision together. We cannot serve alone. And in life together we discover both our gifts and our opportunities for growth. 

We gather for conversations with volunteers and host families to envision healthy relationships. We meet at schools with YAGM and teachers to hear about the needs and the gifts in the room and imagine together what might be possible. We gather to learn and suspend judgment in favor of hearing and living alongside the rich, though sometimes conflicting, glimpses of histories and cultures here. We gather to wonder how our witness of this deep longing for a just peace in the Holy Land might ignite a passion for peace and justice at home.

This work, these fellow learners, and the complexity of this place calls for generosity with one another. They invite a capacious sense of what is hoped for and what is possible. They invite vision and imagination. They make big shadows we can move in…

“You, sent out beyond your recall, go to the limits of your longing. Embody me.”

For More Information

Pastors Colin and Jeni Grangaard are wrapping up their third year as YAGM Country Co-Coordinators in Jerusalem and the West Bank. It has been a welcoming and complicated place to parent Josie and Amos while walking alongside young adults in ministry. You can support their work through the ELCA Global Church Sponsorship here.

Rethinking Stewardship: Join us on July 25-27 for three days of conversation and exploration at Luther Seminary's Rethinking Stewardship: From Solemn Obligation to Inspired Choice. More information here.

Author information was updated as of the article's post date. Author profiles may not reflect author's current employment or location.

"Jerusalem" image by Florent Lamoreaux. Creative Commons licensing via Flickr.

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