South Africa


In 1994, the first nationwide democratic elections were held for all the people in the Republic of South Africa, marking the official end of the apartheid era and minority white-rule. While a remarkable transition toward political liberation was achieved with the help of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the major challenge facing the country and region is to address historic and current economic and social disparities. Countries that share a border with South Africa have also witnessed a dramatic transformation as a result of liberation movements and progression of democracy.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa was formed in 1975 through the merger of four regional bodies. With a membership of approximately 500,000, the church is organized into seven dioceses with parishes in rural and urban areas involved in a variety of ministries. Throughout Southern Africa, numerous ecumenical and community-based organizations are deeply committed to working for justice, reconciliation and sustainable development.

Southern Africa

Young adults in Southern Africa serve at the invitation of the companion church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (ELCSA). While ELCSA is located primarily in South Africa, it also has parishes and ministries in Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland. As a participant in the program in Southern Africa, YAGM are involved deeply in the lives of the faith communities in which they are placed. Their service may happen in those church locations as well as other organizations in the communities.

The YAGM program in Southern Africa requires participants to engage in issues related to race, globalization, poverty, class, power and privilege. In addition, participants must be ready to serve in diverse communities (both racially and socio-economically), have a commitment to simple living, an ability to learn basic communication skills in one of the languages of the region, and a genuine openness to change and desire for personal growth and development.

What opportunities are available?

Young adults placed in Southern Africa will be hosted by an Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa community and a member church leader. This placement will most likely include a specific service site with room to discover, with the host, additional service sites. Service sites involve the engagement of the ministries of the church and/or a number of ecumenical and community-based organizations.

The experience in Southern Africa provides in-country orientation, guided periods for processing the experience, and opportunities for integrating one’s learning into one’s life path. During the two retreats during the program year, the YAGM-SA community will gather for worship, reflection, learning, and the enjoyment of an area of the region. It is also an important time to check in with the country coordinator and with other volunteer colleagues to better understand the differences in South Africa regionally, but also between South Africa and Swaziland, where volunteers are based. Retreats aim at understanding the country but also experiencing the country physically — hiking trails, walking through markets, visiting museums, and interacting with locals are all a necessity for a quality retreat.

Service engagement at placement sites may include any of the following areas, either alone or in combination:

  • Children and youth ministries in congregations and/or community organizations
  • After-school programs, including tutoring, arts, music and recreation/sports
  • Advocacy, development work and training programs
  • HIV and AIDS and the response of Christian communities
  • Public health/health care
  • Agriculture
  • Creative arts, crafts and music
  • Care for those with special needs, vulnerable orphans and children
  • Assistance with administration, computers
  • Parish ministry

  • College degree or equivalent life experience is required for service in South Africa.

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    Country Programs

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