The injustices faced by the Roma people (Gypsies) may be the major human rights issue in Europe today. Who the Roma are and where they come from is a topic of some debate, but throughout their history the Roma have been subjected to persecution, forced assimilation, enslavement and even genocide. Roma continue to face rejection, mistrust, fear and violence from the dominant culture. The situation of Roma presents challenges to European society and the church.
In addition, in post-Communist Central Europe, our Lutheran partner churches are exploring what it means to be church in a post-modern age, when “Christendom” is no more. Not unlike the ELCA, Central European Lutheran churches face the reality of growing secularism and materialism in the surrounding culture, as well as increasing ethnic and religious diversity in the larger population. Lutheran congregations and their associated educational and diaconal ministries continue working to further God’s mission in these uncharted waters.
What opportunities are available?
The ELCA administers the Central Europe program in partnership with the Lutheran Church in Hungary, The Slovak Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Serbia, and The Ecumenical Humanitarian Organization. ELCA young adults are selected to serve in Central Europe at the Discernment, Interview and Placement Event, with country and placement assignments determined in late spring/early summer.
YAGM Central Europe volunteers are part of a Lutheran worshiping community. Each volunteer serves with Lutheran diaconal or educational ministries as well as non-profits and Lutheran ministries that empower Roma communities. Each young adult becomes involved in congregational and community life. In each unique context, volunteers are connected explicitly or implicitly with members of Roma communities.
Specific work examples include: providing musical leadership in worship and youth groups; teaching/tutoring English or religion in Lutheran primary and secondary schools, leading activities in an afterschool program that supports Roma students; providing care for young Roma children in a church-run day care center; assisting in art classes organized by a foundation that empowers Roma and impoverished communities; assisting in farming and gardening projects in rural communities with families experiencing poverty; serving meals at homeless shelters; providing companionship to seniors in elder-care facilities; assisting in art programs and activities for adults living with disabilities; working alongside Roma and non-Roma co-workers to empower young Roma and non-Roma people through informal education projects and workshops; and accompanying university-aged Roma students through the Roma College program.
ELCA young adults serving in Central Europe come together for orientation, mid-year, and closing retreats with their country coordinator. During these retreats, they not only reflect together on the ways God is at work in their lives and their communities, but also reflect on the impact of systemic oppression, power and privilege on their lives and the communities in which they serve, and offer theological framework for volunteer experiences.
College degree or equivalent life experience is required for service in Central Europe.