Vital Dialogues are the conversations we have in person, in specific cultural settings or with those of differing viewpoints. When we visit other nations or even other regions of the same nation, we tend to find ourselves with great opportunities to have Vital Dialogues to gain an understanding of each other. These can revolve around migration, border crossings, post-traumatic events such as genocide or the Holocaust, interfaith relations such as Muslim-Christian dialogues, environmental justice, LGBTQIA+ rights and more. The focus of Vital Dialogues is to expose ourselves to the rest of the world, and in YAGM, the idea is to see how other humans live in communion with one another, "breaking" ourselves in faithful and productive ways to ensure a more informed future for human justice.
Vital Dialogues ARE NOT debates to be won but conversations from which to learn. Often the best discussions are ones in which we ask questions and listen to the answers, letting the response lead to more questions and greater understanding of how people see their community and culture.
In YAGM we don't presume that our presence in one nation will automatically mean a return; rather there is a renewal process in which we look at a number of factors to answer the question "Shall we go again?" Through Vital Dialogues, we learn whether we, as a church and a program, are welcome back or if a specific country is interested in partnering with the ELCA. We open ourselves to opportunities not by any tradition of where we have gone before but by open dialogue, to see if our presence helps or hinders the mission of a particular country's program or church. By learning from each other and not presuming a permanent relationship, we hope to avoid being a colonial presence wherein we impose ourselves into another's home.
Working with local partners throughout the world, we look for ways our YAGM members can engage in the areas of:
• Environmental justice.
• Health and human rights.
• Christian community.
• Professional support and communication.
• Education and youth.
Through this work you have a wonderful opportunity not only to engage in leadership opportunities but also to learn about how connected the world can really be toward universal human justice. These are also areas that can help you develop a stronger faith-based life outside the church, developing new skills that can lead to greater opportunities to serve God at home. The time abroad may lead you to worship in new yet still familiar ways, connecting to God's love in a transcultural framework that establishes a greater understanding of the global Christian identity.
Photo by Ben Grey