What is accompaniment?
By Katie Elkin
ELCA Global Church Sponsorship, Campaign Interpreter for “Always Being Made New: The Campaign for the ELCA”
The ELCA model of mission work is one of accompaniment, defined as walking together in a solidarity that practices interdependence and mutuality.
Last year, I was blessed to be able to live out this model of accompaniment as a Young Adult in Global Mission (YAGM) with the ELCA’s partner church in Madagascar. During my time there, I found that sometimes dancing alongside our siblings in Christ is just as important as walking!
During my YAGM year, I lived in a town called Farafangana, located on the southeast coast of the island, where I taught English and learned Malagasy – one of the official languages of Madagascar. As a part of my placement in Farafangana, I lived and taught at a Lutheran School for visually impaired children – The Farafangana School for the Blind.
Dance was an important part of the students’ lives at the Blind School. We celebrated the United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3 with a parade and a dance party that lasted all day! I was perfectly content to sit back and watch as the students had a blast dancing their hearts out, but my contentment was not to last. Before I knew it, I had at least six of my small friends tugging on my arms and legs, encouraging me to come up on the stage and dance with them.
Now, I am not a dancer, but something about that earnest asking convinced me to give it a try. Approximately 15 seconds later, I found myself in the middle of a dance circle, failing at the dance moves that seemed to come so naturally to my friends! Despite my hesitation and poor dancing abilities, my students never stopped encouraging me, we never stopped laughing, and I will forever remember that day as one of the most joyful during my time in Madagascar.
When it came time for me to say my goodbyes at the end of the year, I was ushered in to the school cafeteria for a going-away party. At that party, three classes of students put on a recital for me, proudly showcasing the dances that their classes had been working on all year. Dance was such an important component of my relationships at the Blind School, and through those relationships I realized that, while we may be content comfortably observing, sometimes there is a dance circle waiting to welcome us if we heed the tugs and join in.
Katie Elkin is a recently returned ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) Volunteer. The YAGM program invites young adults ages 21-29 into a year of international service with ELCA companion churches in 14 different countries. Katie served in Farafangana, Madagascar and taught English at three Lutheran schools – a primary school, a high school, and a school for visually impaired students. While in Farafangana, Katie enjoyed living in community with her global siblings and singing in her church’s choir! Katie graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2017, with degrees in Biology and Psychology. Katie is currently serving as a Campaign Interpreter for “Always Being Made New: The Campaign for the ELCA,” and she is excited to have the opportunity to share her stories of accompaniment from the past year with her home communities in the Southeast.
If your congregation is interested in hearing about Katie’s transformative journey, please email
firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (704) 773-6557, to schedule a visit.
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