Hey sweet friends!
Today I want to talk about something I get asked about a lot, The World Race! The World Race is an 11 country, 11 month mission trip I did a few years ago, and I get emails all the time from amazing women in our community who are considering it, or who are in the process applying, or who are getting ready to go.
And so because I get so many questions about this, I wanted to take a few minutes and share all of those answers here so that if the World Race is something you’re thinking about, you have access to them too! 🙂
We’re going to do it Q&A style, because I wanted to make sure to hit all of the questions I’m asked so often, and that way, you can find the answer you’re looking for more easily!
Ready? Let’s do this!
Why did you decide to do the World Race?
Deciding to do the World Race was a really big deal in my life, as I know it will be in your life if you decide to do it too. It’s a really scary thing to think about being gone for 11 months. At the time it felt like the wildest, scariest thing I could even imagine doing in my life. That’s not an easy leap to take!
But ultimately the reason I decided to go was because I wanted to see what God could do in my life and through my life if I gave Him my undivided attention for 11 months.
God had transformed my heart and my life, and used me to do things I never could have imagined both on a 10-day mission trip to Costa Rica, and on a 10-week mission trip to Ghana, and I wanted to see what He could do in more than 10 months!
It was a decision that matched my desire to get to know God better, and to dive into life with Him more fully.
So did you feel called to go on the World Race? Is it the kind of thing where you have to have God call you to go?
Well, yes and no.
I think “Calling” is a tricky word that sometimes keeps us standing still. “Calling,” the way we often use it, seems to be synonymous with a personal invitation. “I’m waiting for God to call me,” “God hasn’t called me.” We’re waiting for God to single us out, and tell us exactly what He wants us to do.
But the thing is — He has totally already told us. In scripture, it says that we are supposed to go and make disciples of all nations. That religion that is pure and faultless is to take care of widows and orphans. God says the two greatest commandments are to love God and love each other as ourselves. God says to serve the sick, and the needy, and the poor. That’s what Jesus did and that’s what He told us to do as well.
There’s our calling. We’ve already been called.
So the reason the idea of “waiting to be called” is tricky, is because it’s like we’re waiting for God to personally extend an invitation He’s already given us. He told us in His word to do these things, and it’s up to us to respond, not to wait for a personal knock at our door with the same invitation.
And so while I think God sometimes has something super specific for us to do, I think for the most part, if it lines up with this heart, with the calling His given us in scripture, we can walk forward with confidence!
When I was deciding to go on the World Race, I was deciding between that, and staying in the states to do another year of college ministry. I knew that both were within God’s heart, both lined up with His call to love His people — and so I knew it was up to me. What did I want to do? Which path did I want to take? I knew He’d bless both of them.
And so I don’t think you need to be specifically “Called” to the World Race. And I also don’t think everybody has to do it.
There are people in need all over the world, including in our own backyards. And so if you want to go on the World Race, I think God would say, “Go for it!” and if you have ZERO interest in traveling around the world, but want to serve God’s people in your own backyard, I think God would say, “Go for it!”
But no — I didn’t feel specifically called to the World Race. I felt like it was one of many options of ways I could serve the Lord, and ultimately, it’s the one I wanted to do most!
Were your parents on board?
Oddly, yes! And I say oddly not because my parents are anti-mission trip, but because what parent wants their kid to be gone for a year, let alone gone because they’re traveling to countries all over the world? It’s a scary thing for parents!
That’s why I was so surprised when my parents were so on board.
They wanted to make sure there were safety precautions in place, of course, but they really were incredibly supportive and excited about the idea.
But that doesn’t mean everybody’s parents are. I know parents who think their kids should go get a job instead of spending a year traveling, or parents who are totally freaked out about safety, or who are worried about their kids coming up with the money, or who are against their kids doing mission trips because they don’t share the same spiritual beliefs.
And that’s really hard! It’s really hard to have your parents not fully agree with the decisions you want to make. It’s really hard to move forward when your parents aren’t totally supportive.
So if this is a concern for you, if you think your parents might not be on board for this, I would say two things.
1. I think it is important to honor our parents.
2. By the time you’re old enough to go on the World Race, you are a legal adult, and this is the point in life when we start making our own decisions about who we want to be, and what we want our life to be about.
So if your parents aren’t on board, I think that’s definitely something to take into consideration, but I also don’t think it’s 100% a reason not to go.
A lot of Racers are in this boat, but by the time they come back, their parents have had a total change of heart because they’ve gotten to see why their kids left, and what God did in and through them. And seeing their kids obey that way really impacts their hearts as well!
Are you a big out-doorsey person? I’m worried I can’t keep up, or handle the physical challenges of something like this. Do you have to be a survivalist in order to go on the World Race?
Oh GOODNESS no! haha. This was actually a huge fear of mine. I thought that in order to backpack the world you had to be a backpacker, or a great camper or something, and that’s totally not my deal.
I’ve been camping maybe 3 times in my whole life, and I found a meme one time that said, “I’m outdoorsy in the fact that I like to drink wine on patios.” You guys — THAT’S my level of outdoorseyness. So please don’t get the impression that I was a master backpacker before I went on the Race.
And actually — you don’t need to be a master backpacker at all in order to go on the World Race. I brought pretty normal clothes on the Race, I wore makeup a lot of the time, it’s normal life, just all over the world. It’s not one big long camping trip.
The World Race is physically challenging in different ways, because while sometimes you’re living in a huge city like Bangkok, sometimes you’re in a village in the middle of nowhere. So sometimes you don’t have normal toilets, sometimes you don’t have running water, but you figure out ways to deal — if I did it, so can you.
And really, in the moment, it isn’t as hard as it sounds. Not at all.
You are more adaptable than you think, it’s less uncomfortable than you imagine it will be, and it ends up being oddly fun! I promise!
So please don’t think you need to be Bear Grylls in order to go on the World Race. I’m not a big camper, and I handled it just fine. I know you will too. (To hear more about this, and what I packed to go, check out my packing blog!)
My biggest worry is the money — I want to go, but I totally don’t have $15,000 in my pocket! How do people come up with that kind of money?
Oh my gosh, I didn’t have $15,000 in my pocket either. I don’t even think I had $150 in my pocket when I applied to the World Race.
The way that people come up with that kind of money is that they fundraise for it. They invite their family and friends and even strangers to donate to their trip and help them go.
The way I liked to think of it is that most of my family and friends were going to donate to some sort of charity during the year. Right? Maybe it was Compassion International, or Food for the Hungry, or Habitat for Humanity, just to name a few.
Well — each of these organizations have people on the ground in the countries they’re serving, and those are the people who are building the houses, or feeding the kiddos, or teaching the English lessons. Your family and friend’s money is being used to bring resources, time, help, service, and love to people all over the world.
So the way I thought about it was, instead of sending a stranger to help, why not send me?
Those are the kinds of things we were doing on the World Race — we were building houses, teaching English, feeding kiddos, helping people farm — and if my family and friends donated to my trip, they were helping those people by sending me to do the helping!
In that, I am in NO WAY saying that they shouldn’t also donate to those wonderful non-profits, but just that it’s just a different way of helping — they’re sending someone they know to be the helper.
So that’s how I approached it. I asked my family and friends to donate to me, so that I could be their hands and feet (As well as Jesus’ of course!) — so I could go on behalf of them and our community and help communities in need.
And it’s AMAZING how many people showed up. A sweet older woman in my mom’s Bible Study gave $7.25. My doctor found out I was going and gave me $100. A friend of mine, fresh out of college, gave me $600 in cash. Seriously — an envelope with $600 in 20’s. I was shocked.
My family and friends and church and even my doctor who I barely even knew all came together and helped me raise $15,000. It didn’t happen all at once, it took some time, and effort on my part to really ask and remind them. BUT… they did it. God used them and their faithfulness to provide me the money to go. And He’s done that with thousands of Racers.
I know in your place in life right now, $15,000 sounds like a bazillion dollars, totally impossible to come up with. And I know that your situation feels like the most dire of them all. But I promise you — people with more school debt, and less money in the bank, and less friends and family to ask have gone before you and God has provided for them. So I have no doubt He’ll do the same for you.
Also — once you apply and are accepted, you’ll be matched up with a person from the World Race office, and that person will be the one walking you through what you need to do to get ready to go. And part of their job is helping give you the tools and tips and tricks to raising the money. So you’re not on your own — you’re resourced, for sure.
What about student loans? Did you have student loans? Can people still go if they have student loans?
I did have student loans when I went on the Race, and for the year I was on the field, I had them deferred. I know it feels crazy to do something like this when you’re in debt and maybe Dave Ramsey would totally tell you not to. But it takes YEARS to repay student loans, and you can only go on the World Race for so long. And so I decided that it was more important to me to go while I could, and that I had years and years to pay back my student loans.
My loans are completely gone, as of just a few months ago (PRAISE THE LORD!) and I have zero regrets about taking an extra year to pay them off.
It was just absolutely worth the trade.
AND… it’s not like you’re using $15,000 of money that would have gone to your loans to pay for the World Race. Your friends and your family weren’t going to give you that money to pay off your student loans, so it’s not like you took money from one and gave it to the other.
You’re just adding a year to your payment plan, and at least in my life, it was 10000% worth it.
What did you do to prepare your heart before you left? What should I be doing to get myself ready to go spiritually?
This is a question I get asked all the time, and the truth is, I didn’t really do anything to prepare my heart. I mean — I spent a lot of time with God, partially to prepare, but mostly because I was so freaked out about leaving, I was leaning on Him like crazy.
But really — I know you might want to read just the right book, or have your spiritual tool-belt totally packed full. But it just doesn’t work like that.
I don’t really know of any book (other than the Bible) that will help you get ready for this year. (Not that the year is so crazy it’s beyond any book — it’s not that.)
It’s just that the best thing you can do is snuggle up close to God, and open your hands wide for whatever He has for you this year.
There’s really no better preparation than that.
I’m worried I’m not a strong enough Christian to go on the World Race — it sort of sounds like Christian grad school, and I’m not sure I’ve taken enough pre-reqs. How strong do you have to be in your faith to go?
If you believe in Jesus, and you’ve given your life to Him, that’s really all you need to do to go on the World Race. I know it might sound like AP Christianity, but it’s really not. It’s a collection of people of all kinds of backgrounds, who have been a Christian for all lengths of time, coming together to serve God.
It’s really not any more complicated than that.
Anything God needs you to know, He’ll teach you while you’re gone. You’ll learn a ton from the people you travel with — whether they’ve been a Christian for decades longer than you, or decades shorter than you. And God will teach you a ton along the way regardless.
But really — I had been a Christian for about a year and a half when I went, and was just fine. You will be too.
AND — if there’s some reason you aren’t ready to go yet, that’s something they’ll keep an eye out for as they’re interviewing you before they accept you to go. The admissions department of the World Race knows what they’re looking for, and if you’re not ready, they’ll tell you!
But really — there’s no entrance exam to the World Race. Loving Jesus is really the only pre-requisite.
So wait — they don’t let some people go on the World Race? Why?
The only reason they might not let you go on the World Race is if they think there’s something going on in your heart or your life that might hinder you or your team on the field.
For example — if you are currently battling deep depression, traveling around the world and having your day-to-day life totally rocked, and being away from doctors and your therapist probably isn’t the best thing for you right now.
So they’d maybe say, “Spend some time in therapy for the next 6 months, and then apply again!” They’re just looking out for your health and the health of your team.
Also — if you have a…. well… colorful past, don’t worry about that either. The admissions department isn’t looking for perfect people. They’re looking for people who have been redeemed by Jesus.
So if you have a colorful past, welcome to the club. That’s not a deal-breaker at ALL.
They just want to make sure that you’re on the mend.
If you’re a recovering alcoholic, they will welcome you with open arms. If you are an alcoholic that’s only a few weeks sober, they might ask you to get a few more months of sobriety under your belt before they send you around the world. Just for your safety and well-being, as well as the safety and well-being of your teammates.
But really — if you have a messy past, welcome to the club. That doesn’t disqualify you. I should know!
Did you feel safe on the World Race?
Absolutely. There were maybe two times that I didn’t feel safe, but it was because it was dark, and in the middle of the night, and I was letting my imagination get the best of me. But really — I never felt like I was in any kind of danger while I was on the field.
Yes — things happen, and yes the climate overseas is a bit turbulent right now. But the climate in the United States is also turbulent. Things happen overseas, but they also happen here.
And honestly — I felt more safe traveling around the world than I do sometimes here at home.
The World Race office is keeping close tabs on what’s going on around the world, and most of the time you’re paired up with local contacts who know what’s going on in their cities intimately — and they’re all working to make sure that you’re as safe as possible.
I felt totally safe while I was overseas, and I wouldn’t hesitate to do it all over again.
Was it hard being away from home that long?
Sometimes! The days when I was the most homesick were the days when something else was going on as well. I got sick for about a week in Nepal, and that’s one time that I was DEFINITELY homesick. You guys know — even being at college and being sick is awful. There’s no place you want to be when you’re sick other than home.
It’s normal to be homesick sometimes, but it really wasn’t that bad, and absolutely wasn’t a reason not to go.
I know that when you’re looking ahead at all you’ll miss in a year, it seems like a TON. But in hindsight, I really didn’t miss that much. I talked to my family and friends while I was gone, I kept up with what was going on at home, but really, not that much changed back home, I changed a TON, but home really didn’t.
I honestly forget that I missed a year of life with my family and friends. And I think they forget too!
Sure, I missed a few weddings, and I missed Christmas, but I gained SO much more than I missed out on, and I got to celebrate Christmas in India! AND got to Skype into Christmas morning. 🙂 My parents had the computer set up under the tree and I got to open presents with them. So that special memory outweighed the one I was missing at home.
Yes, you miss some things, but you’d be surprised at how little changes at home while you’re gone, and you gain so much more than you miss out on.
So wait — you got sick? Does that happen to a lot of people?
I did get sick. I still don’t exactly know what I had, it was a sort of stomach flu type thing. And it was definitely an uncomfortable week. But it only lasted a week, and then I was totally fine.
My husband Carl (who also went on the World Race, did I mention that?) didn’t get sick once.
I also have friends who did get pretty sick. BUT… even the ones who got the sickest made it through and were just fine. I’ve been to doctors offices and hospitals in Nepal, and Kenya, and Tanzania, and Thailand, and honestly — you can find pretty good healthcare almost anywhere. We were met with wonderful doctors who knew just how to take care of my friends, and my friends made full recoveries (and got to sleep in air-conditioned hotel rooms while they recovered!)
So yes, sickness happens sometimes on the Race, but I also don’t think it’s a reason not to go. Just get your shots before you leave (the World Race office will tell you which ones you need), and follow the country’s guidelines about drinking water and what food is safe to eat, and you’ll be just fine.
And EVEN if you’re not, your team, and the World Race leadership, and your contact in the country where you are will take great care of you, and you’ll still be just fine.
What did you learn on the World Race?
Gosh — that’s a huge question, with a huge answer.
The things I learned on the World Race transformed the way I see God, the way I see myself, transformed (and started!) my career and the impact God is making through me in the world, AND it totally transformed mine and Carl’s marriage without us even knowing each other yet. God taught us so much about how to love people and communicate with people and live with people and relate to people in a way that impacts our marriage for the best every single day.
The REAL answer to that question can be found on my World Race blog! 🙂 That’s the blog I kept while I was gone, and all of the stories of what God did in me and in my life are right there. So definitely check that out!
What was your favorite country?
Oh gosh — that’s so hard to pick. I was totally romanced by Nepal. It was one of the most beautiful, enchanting places I’ve ever been. I would LOVE to go back to Nepal. Another one of my very favorites was Uganda. It wasn’t Uganda as much as the contact we got to live with — but we really did find a whole new family that I still feel a part of in Uganda, and I would love to go back there too!
I also really fell in love with Cambodia. It’s funny because my time in Cambodia was really hard for a lot of personal reasons, but it’s the only country I’ve been back to since coming home from the Race, and it’s the country that I could honestly see Carl and I moving to if we were going to do overseas missions at some point.
But really — I loved every country we went to (You can see the full list on my blog!) and I know you will too!
I’ve heard that the World Race is a great place to meet you husband! You met your husband that way, right?
Um… yes, and no. My husband Carl did the World Race a year before I did. We didn’t know each other before we went, and we didn’t meet each other on the field. We met because we were both hired to come and work for the organization when we got back, and so we met because we worked together!
There were a few people who met on my World Race squad who have since gotten married, but it’s 2 couples out of 45 people. It does happen, for sure, but it doesn’t happen for everyone.
AND, there are people who — like Carl and I — have met after the World Race, and who have been able to meet because they both did the Race.
BUT… I will say that if you’re going on the World Race with the express purpose of meeting someone, you’re going for the wrong reasons.
Not only that, but as you’re applying for the World Race you’re asked to sign a contract that says you wont date anybody until you get back from the Race. So dating while on the field is really, really discouraged.
And as I was signing up, I totally didn’t understand why. But now I absolutely do.
I don’t know about you, but when I have a crush on someone, or when I’m starting to date someone, I’m ENTIRELY consumed by that. I can’t think about anything else. And that’s the problem. We’re on the field to serve the Lord, and His people. We’re on the field to get to know God better, and to become more of the people He created us to be.
And when we’re so distracted by relationships, it really distracts us from what God is trying to do in and through us.
And so YES, sometimes people meet their future husband or wife on the field, but with everything in you, don’t make that the focus. Because you’ll really miss out on so much if you do.
I’ve had some friends who have gone on the Race and who have loved it, and I have friends who have gone, and didn’t really love it. What’s the deal with the mixed reviews?
In a lot of ways, the World Race, and people’s thoughts on it remind me of people’s feelings on politics.
I know that might be a weird analogy, but hang with me a sec.
People in our country can look at the same situation, the same issue, and because of their background, the way they were raised, the things going on in their lives, their strengths, their weaknesses, the ways they’ve been hurt in the past, the things they’re needing in their life at the moment, they can see things totally differently.
To one person, the issue can look black, to another person, the same issue can look white. And it’s all because of the lens people are seeing it through.
This is the same with the World Race. Some people have amazing, life-changing experiences on the World Race, some people have bad experiences. And really, it depends a lot on them.
Some of it’s attitude — some people can be faced with hard circumstances, and it can knock them over completely, some people can be faced with hard circumstances and use that to learn and grown and become better.
Some of it has to do with the things they’re bringing into the World Race. Some people are carrying a lot of baggage when they arrive on the field, and that baggage colors the way they see things.
Also — people just have different things happen to them and in them and around them while they’re on the field.
It’s crazy because I’ve had conversations with people from my squad (the larger group of people you travel with, around 45 people), who were in different cities in Tanzania, and their view of Tanzania is completely different than mine. Same country, same World Race squad, same time, totally different experience because of the town, or the contact they were paired with, or their ministry, or what God was teaching them at the time.
I’ve had conversations with people who were on my team (the smaller sub-group you travel with) who were in the exact same house with me in a country, and their perceptions of what happened there are different than mine. And again — it’s what they walked in with, or what God was doing in their lives at the time, or a conflict they had with a teammate, or a ministry activity they loved (or didn’t love as much).
We all see things through different lenses, everybody’s different, and every person who travels the world (even if it’s with the same organization) has different experiences.
So I think that’s really why you meet some people who loved it, and some people who didn’t.
How can I make my experience a good one?
I love this question, because I really do think we have such an impact on the experience we have in life on a daily basis, but especially in something like the World Race. So much of it is attitude.
The more you can go in with open hands and an open heart, the better off you’ll be.
This is the kind of experience where you aren’t in control — you will go places you didn’t choose, do ministry you might not have picked, you can’t make your own food most of the time, or choose your own roommate. There is so much that’s outside of your control. But if you go into it with open hands and an open heart, God will surprise and delight you in ways you can’t even imagine, and the hard things that you might wish were different will grow you and change you in ways you wouldn’t trade even if you could.
So that’s my best advice for making it a good experience. Go in with open hands and an open heart, ready to receive whatever God has for you.
Also — remember that the World Race (just like all human organizations) is imperfect
Something that I think can trip us up sometimes when we partner with a church or an organization of any kind, is that sometimes they change, and sometimes they let us down.
And this is something that has happened in the past with the World Race.
Two months after I left for the World Race, there was a huge organizational shift, and the director of the World Race all of a sudden wasn’t the director anymore.
We had just gotten to know him. He was the one who trained us, prepared, us and set the tone for the experience we were going to have. And then two months into our time on the field, there was a change and he wasn’t there anymore.
And honestly — that upheaval in the office back home really rocked some of my teammates on the field.
I totally get it — it’s like going on a mission trip with your church, and having your pastor fired while you’re gone. It’s jarring!
A similar upheaval happened just a few years later.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a long time, you know that three months before mine and Carl’s wedding, both of us (as well as dozens of others within the organization) were suddenly let go from our jobs.
There was another major upheaval in the organization, and it left a lot of people really hurt, myself included.
And so, one of the things I think you can do to make your World Race experience (and your experience in churches, and organiations, and companies, etc.) better, is just to remember that the people in charge are humans. They’re doing their best, but every once in awhile they let you down.
But I think if we can keep that in mind, then if something does happen, or change while you’re involved, it doesn’t feel like the ground is shaking beneath you. The ground is God, and He has you, and is taking care of you. And if you can remember this — remember that it’s imperfect humans that are just doing their best that are leading you on the field — it just prevents you from feeling some of the disillusionment that I think other people have felt in moments like this.
It’s the same way with a church. If your pastor turns out to be a mess, or does something you don’t agree with, it means that they’re human, and your church is full of messy, imperfect humans, but it doesn’t mean ANYTHING about God’s presence in your life, or sovereignty, or ability to do amazing things in your life, and even amazing things through the church that can feel so broken sometimes.
I know this may seem like a random point to camp on, but really this is my only hesitation in whole-heartedly recommending it, because I have seen a trend of people being hurt for different reasons by the organization, and I’ve seen it color their experiences (or even memories of) the World Race.
So I think if you can remember that God is God, and is steadfast, and reliable, and you can trust Him no matter what — and that any organization or church you partner with is full of messy humans doing the best they can — you’ll be just fine.
Would you recommend it?
This question is hard for me, because I don’t know you as well as I wish I did, and I don’t know your story, or what’s going on in your life, and I don’t know what you’re looking for out of life or out of this experience right now.
I also know that I went on the World Race several years ago and that it’s changed since I went. So I don’t know exactly what it looks like anymore — and I know that my exact experience wont be your exact experience.
But what I will say is that I would go all over again if I could. The things God did in me and through me as I traveled the world were beyond anything I ever could have asked for or imagined, and my life is drastically and amazingly different because of it.
I love the place the World Race held in the story of my life, and I’m grateful for it every single day!
I think it’s absolutely worth checking out, and seeing if it could be a good fit for your life as well.
I so hope this is helpful, sweet friend! And as you’re making your decision, or getting ready to go, or if you want to hear more about my experience, I would love to share my World Race blog with you!
All my love, and I’ll talk to you soon!