Featured Racer: Nathan Dickens
Nathan Dickens, July 2011 W squad leader, is currently in Malaysia for the eleventh month of the World Race. We had a chance to chat with the 24-year-old Georgia native while he was in Thailand after squad debrief.
When it comes to the World Race, Nathan Dickens got more than he bargained for- much more.
Nathan found out about the World Race two years ago from his sister's ex-boyfriend, a missions intern with the Wesley Foundation.
"I'd always wanted to see the world," he said. "I wanted to experience something different."
Having already been to Brazil and Kenya, Nathan knew "there was no other option," comparable to the World Race. During his fifth year at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, he applied for the Race. "I just made sure that [Adventures in Missions] believe[d] in Jesus," he said. "I didn't read any blogs," or anything else to prepare for the Race.
His dad, with his military background, understood Nathan's desire to go; his mom, on the other hand, didn't want him to leave. Ultimately, though, they both ended up supporting him.
Support-raising went well for Nathan. Believing God would provide the necessary funds for the trip, Nathan knew there was no secret formula — just hard work.
Training camp was a refreshing experience for Nathan. However, it was more than training; it was as a chance to get to know his squad — the people he would call "family" for a year.
Authenticity: a prayer from the beginning for Nathan. "I came into the Race wanting to just be me, not ‘Christian' Nathan or ‘Mission Trip' Nathan," he said. He didn't want to change because his circumstances did; he wants to be the same person he is in the States as he anywhere on the field.
However, Nathan didn't know how this would be put to the test later on in his Race.
In the fourth month of the trip, Nathan transitioned from being a team leader to leading the entire squad.
Of his new role, Nathan said it was "the biggest blessing and hardest thing" he's ever done, full of challenges and blessings. "It's been awesome to pour into people."
Still needing the reminder to be himself, Nathan said it is "so easy to put on leader pants and get lost in someone or something" that he's not.
It's challenging to be a leader, especially when opinions and expectations differ. "When 50 different opinions are thrown at you," Nathan said, "they start to weigh on you." When he realized that he couldn't please everyone, the burden lifted.
Nathan believes strongly in the value of feedback, which is yet another challenging aspect of the World Race. "It's absolutely needed," he said, "…a safe way to deliver truth."
The concept of never ending grace and unconditional love continue to be a major theme for his life and have helped overcome a lot of challenges that come with leadership.
Another challenged-turned-blessing as a squad leader is Nathan's team. Unlike most World Race teams of five to seven people, Nathan serves on a team with only one other person, his co-leader, Kristen.
"At first it was hard to have just one teammate," Nathan told us, but now he "wouldn't have it any other way."
Nathan said he is still learning to deal with his constant state of transition. Within one month, he may visit multiple teams, contacts, and cities. "Traveling once a month will drain you, but then to do it three or four times a month just wipes you out."
Because of the many challenges Nathan has faced as a squad leader, he feels it ultimately comes down to the idea that he is "giving up" his Race experience in order to lead his squad.
"I think people almost expect [squad leaders] to have everything in order… as if we don't need to be poured into as well."Reflecting back on a squad debrief in Thailand, Nathan remembered questioning whether or not he was truly hearing God. After praying, he heard the Lord affirming him, saying who he is, and how the Lord speaks to him and through him. God "continues to love me no matter what…I just continue to walk in all of that!" To Nathan, that makes it all worth it. Subscribe to our updates blog, where we will continue our feature on Nathan Dickens and some of his favorite moments on the Race.