Serving through Covid
Young Adult Service Communities are unique opportunities for young adults to live in an intentional community with others who share their commitment to service and social justice. Young adult leaders are working to transform communities through a faith-inspired pursuit of justice, collaborative action, and intentional living. This year provided a unique opportunity for YASC interns as they worked to navigate through COVID-19. Two interns, Marcus and Jiajin, were part of the 2019-2020 YASC program during COVID-19 and decided to stick it out and serve a local homeless population.
Marcus Frye didn’t expect the year to look like this but was grateful for the experience and journey. “When I first applied to the Young Adult Service Communities I was hoping that the experience would alter my perspectives. Living in a completely new community and serving a segment of the population that I had never worked with sounded like a great way to find my footing after graduating college.
My degree is in sociology, so I had studied the causes and effects of being without a home, but my knowledge was all from books. However, actually working to serve people who did not have a stable living situation made those academic concepts real to me.”
“The experience strengthened my conviction that housing is a human right and motivates me to work towards making that a reality,” Marcus continued. “When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, I was honestly scared. I, like most people, was surrounded by uncertainty. But I still continued to go to work because those experiencing homelessness didn’t have the option to shelter in place. I was reminded of Fred Rogers’ advice to “look for the helpers” when disasters hit. Due to being in this program, I was surrounded by helpers. It was inspiring to know so many people who were risking their safety in order to help someone else. This service year was truly an unusual one but helped to cultivate my motivation to serve the vulnerable. The experience helped me make the decision to go to seminary and pursue ministry. I look forward to the next experience that God will use to shape me.” The YASC gave Marcus the opportunity to grow professionally and individually as a person.
Jiajin Zheng served alongside Marcus during the 2019-2020 YASC term, and said, “Serving with YASC this year has been a great and formative experience. I served with Branches, a nonprofit organization offering after-school programming to students from low-income families. I helped lead some enrichment activities and tutored during the homework hours. I have enjoyed the friendships with the kids, and it’s been eye-opening to get to know a little bit about their cultural backgrounds. We also spent Fridays (pre-pandemic) working at Coral Gables Congregational Church with different tasks that allowed us to appreciate the church’s mission and activities, including its work providing assistance to the homeless.
“This experience with YASC has made me realize that I would like to drive changes at a larger level, which led me to apply to graduate school,” Jiajin continued. “This coming school year, I will be starting my Master’s in economics at the University of Munich (LMU Munich) in Germany. I am very glad that I made the decision to join this program a year ago. I will forever cherish this year and all the memories with the people that I have met here. I am grateful to all of you who have made this program possible!”
The congregational connections interns gain while going through the YASC program can be life changing. Placements allowed these interns to develop their leadership experience while at Coral Gables. Before COVID-19 Marcus and Jiajin were able to work alongside Coral Gables (UCC) in Florida.
Aaron Lauer, YASC coordinator for the Miami site, recounts his time with Marcus and Jiajin. “We had an amazing experience hosting the YASC program in Miami. We were blessed with two wonderful interns who served in their community placements and at our congregation in a spirit of vocation and compassion. It was a joy to journey with them throughout the year, and find the ways that God was working in their lives and in the ministries out in the world. We are looking forward to hosting the program again in 2021.”
For more information on how you can serve with United Church of Christ Volunteer Ministries please visit us at www.ucc.org/volunteer