Carter Woolly to Serve a Year in Rwanda with ELCA Young Adults Ministry

Carter graduated in May from Lenoir-Rhyne University with a degree in political science.

By Susan Shinn Turner

You’ve probably heard of the Peace Corps, but what about YAGM?

YAGM stands for Young Adults in Global Mission, and in August, Carter Woolly will embark on a year-long adventure as a YAGM staffer in Rwanda.

“It’s sort of like the Peace Corps,” explains Carter, who graduated in May from Lenoir-Rhyne University with a degree in political science. “But you come alongside a church, through the lens of the Lutheran church, serving in an area where the church needs help. The point is accompaniment. It’s literally walking alongside whatever partner you have in that country.”

Carter, the son of Rhodes and Krista Woolly, says that the YAGM program is not the typical missionary program. And he was intrigued by it when considering his options after graduation. “I’m 23. I’m never gonna have the chance to do something like this again.”

In April, Carter went to Chicago for the Discernment Placement event. The weekend was to help potential YAGM participants discern which country was the best fit. Rwanda wasn’t even on Carter’s list, having been asked by YAGM leaders to consider Senegal and Australia. YAGM locations include Argentina/Uruguay, Australia, Cambodia, Central Europe, Jerusalem/West Bank, Madagascar, Mexico, Rwanda, Senegal, Southern Africa, and United Kingdom.

When the weekend was almost over, Carter admits that he wasn’t yet sure where God was leading him. Leaders spent Saturday evening in prayer, considering a different location altogether.

“They said they’d let me know what to do next,” Carter says. “So at 6:30 am Sunday morning, I heard a knock on my door. I was asleep. Someone was calling my name. You know Samuel and Eli in the Bible? It was sorta like that. They said, ‘We’d like for you to consider Rwanda.’” Something clicked immediately.

Carter had a 10 am interview before the placement announcements were made an hour later. “It was really neat how it happened.”

In May, Carter participated in a college student mission to Guatemala, joining students from St. John’s and Bethel Lutheran in Winchester, VA. Joining Carter from St. John’s were Caroline Plyler, Kathryn Rusher, and Juliana Anderson, who will remain at Escuela Integrada throughout the summer.

Carter characterizes Rwanda as an agricultural country. “Obviously, its history is totally interesting for someone interested in politics. They have a dictator who suppresses the press but has helped to stabilize what was a chaotic place. Its capital is the cleanest city in Africa, because they’ve outlawed plastic bags. I feel totally safe going in, in large part because the country’s main goal is reconciliation, trying their very best to break class barriers.”

A landlocked country, Rwanda is known for its lush, mountainous scenery and is known as the “land of a thousand hills.” It’s one of two countries where mountain gorillas can be visited safely. Its economy has strengthened since the 1994 genocide, during which 800,000 people were slaughtered in three months. Coffee and tea are major cash crops for export, and tourism is a fast-growing sector.

Carter will leave Aug. 15 for Chicago for a week of training before he’s deployed to Rwanda.

And no, he hasn’t made a list of what he’s going to take, he says. “I don’t do planning and packing. I just sorta go.”

What he is doing is raising money for the program. It costs $15,000 to deploy a YAGM staffer for one year. The ELCA contributes $10,000 and the participants are asked to raise $5,000 before they depart.

“I’m pretty confident I’ll raise $5,000,” Carter says. “But honestly, my goal is to raise the full $15,000.”

There are three ways to contribute, if you are interested. (1)Visit his support page. (2) You can give Carter a check made out to “Young Adults in Global Mission.” (3) Visit his Facebook page.

“I’m always inspired by St. John’s engagement with the community,” Carter says. “The support it shows for its youth and young people is incredibly generous. I hope the congregation will prayerfully consider supporting YAGM’s mission in Rwanda.”

For more information, feel free to email Carter at


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