Hi, my name is Becky Francisco. I'm 22 and just recently graduated from college. I'm a member of Crossroads Presbyterian Church in Waterford, Connecticut. And I'm about to become a YAV.
"YAV" stands for Young Adult Volunteer. It's a program of our denomination that offers opportunities for people between the ages of 19 and 30 at both national and international sites. I have the privilege to be heading to South Korea as one of these Young Adult Volunteers, and I’d like to share with you a little about what I’ll be doing.
I’ll be stationed in the city of Daejeon, in the central region of the country and about a hundred miles south of Seoul. It’s home to about 1.5 million people. I’ll be living in a little house on the campus of Daejeon’s Hannam University, along with two other YAVs.The work we’ll be doing is twofold. First of all, education. The three of us will be spending a lot of time tutoring Korean students, from elementary school age to college age, in conversational English. Second, we hope to partner with local Korean youth groups and volunteer in those underprivileged communities that have been left behind by the economic boom in the last few decades.
One important aspect of the YAV program is that it is a ministry of being, not of doing. While I certainly will be working hard at my specific tasks, I am not going there to convert non-Christians or to try to overturn the social order overnight. Instead, my fellow YAVs and I are there as cultural liaisons of a sort – a window to another culture, both for the people of Daejeon and, hopefully, for all of you back home. There are certainly a lot of differences in the ways we live, both big and small. Instead of spaghetti, I’ll be eating kim chi and rice; instead of shaking hands, I’ll bow to people I’m meeting for the first time; and everywhere I go, people will be saying things like “Annyung haseyo” and “Ottoke chineseyo” instead of “Hi” and “How are you?”
It will definitely be a challenge to adjust to living in such a different place. And yet, while we do have all these differences, even more importantly, we have something in common – our faith. One of the great joys of this ministry is that it reminds us that we are all one in Jesus Christ, that we truly do have brothers and sisters around the world, that we are connected to believers in every time and place.
And it is to be a journey of faith. YAVs live very simply, with the basic needs of living provided, and little more. YAVs are leaders in worship in the communities where we serve, whether that be preaching or singing in the choir or working with the youth group. And YAVs are a community unto themselves, getting together regularly for reflection and Bible study and to share the things they’re learning with each other. It is a lifestyle meant to be “poor in things but rich in soul”, because it’s more than just reaching out to others; it’s also reaching inward to grow stronger in faith by living it day by day.
How can you support me in my mission effort? First of all, by keeping me in your thoughts and prayers. Knowing I have loving support will be especially important to me when I’m far from home. Secondly, I hope everyone will keep up with me while I’m abroad. I will be posting a monthly newsletter on the PCUSA website, and I will also be keeping a blog recording my experiences.
Finally, each YAV is asked to defray the cost of sending them overseas by raising $9,000 in funds. If this work is something you’re really interested in, and you’d like to make a personal donation, that would be fantastic. There are two ways to make a tax-deductible gift: on the Presbyterian Church’s website (http://gamc.pcusa.org/donate/E210901/) or by mailing a check to Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), P.O. Box 643700, Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3678. It is important that all donations are marked with my name and account number, which is E210901. For all those of you who have donated already, I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.
Obviously, I am so excited to be spending the upcoming year on this project, and I would love to talk to any and all of you who are curious to know more. I’ll be leaving at the end of this August, and in the upcoming weeks I plan on posting more detailed information on my blog, along with some pictures of Daejeon.