Featured Racer: Jenifer Jones
Abandoned. Forgotten. Empty.
That's what Jenifer Jones of July 2012 F Squad felt growing up. When she joined the World Race, she knew she would leave her material possessions behind along with her comfortable tendencies. She didn't realize she would have to leave behind these feelings and her distorted view of God's love for her too.
By the age of 19, Jenifer had faced not one, but two tragedies no one her age should have to endure.
Her father loved his family and worked hard to provide for his wife and three daughters. But when Jenifer was six-years-old, she sat in her room and heard sobs coming from the room over.
“His pickup slammed into a train that was parked on the tracks. It was dark and the train was sitting there for maintenance. but there were no lights and nobody put flares out. It was winter and I think there was ice, and maybe fog. Either way, Dad didn’t see the train until it was too late.”
“I can’t even explain how much of a shock it was. It changed my life completely. It’s crazy to think about how you can be one person one minute, and the next be someone completely different. Because I feel like that’s what happens when someone you love dies.”
From the moment she heard the news, she felt an indescribable emptiness that grew into a deep yearning to do something bigger than herself. She longed to make the world a better place. The idea of traveling -- seeing the world and giving hope to the hopeless -- continued to grow throughout her teen years. She dreamed of being a missionary the way her peers dreamed of being a doctor or a basketball star.
In college, she chose majors in journalism and international studies, hoping to learn more about the world and how to tell great stories. Midway through her freshman year, though, exhaustion and weakness fell over her body. Her grades began to drop, and she found it hard to do things with her friends. Something seemed wrong, but the doctors couldn't find a diagnosis, so she pushed on through.
That summer as she arrived home from school, she found a large lump on her neck.
Jenifer fell on her face. Anger washed over her and she yelled out to the Lord, Why me? Why can't I catch a break?
“People love to say things to you in moments like that, 'You are going to learn so much from this. The Lord is going to teach you so much.' Inside, my response was, 'But I don't want to learn! I already had mine. My dad died. I don't feel like I need another lesson.”
After many discussions with her doctors, Jenifer and her family decided to go through radiation to fight the cancerous lump. As each doctor appointment came and went, pain took over her frail body. Each treatment felt like torture. But as her body ached, she felt an overwhelming peace that God would provide strength in her weakness. She felt him telling her, “Jen, I know this is hard. But I’m going to work it for your good.”
She continued radiation and fought hard. Her doctors declared her cancer free just in time for the next semester to start.
She had gained victory over the cancer, yet the question remained deep down, “why me?”
With new energy, she had the strength to take on an internship at a local radio station. Storytelling became a daily occurrence and she fell in love with it. She loved being able to influence others as her passion grew. She thought she had discovered the answer she was looking for.
She put her passion to go overseas on the back burner, assuming her health wouldn't permit it. She found comfort in the work she loved, and her internship grew into a full-time job as a journalist.
But as graduation passed, she started feeling restless. Jenifer began to search online for mission trips after the idea of New Zealand came up in a casual conversation. She discovered the World Race, but she quickly dismissed it. She thought it would be too tough. She figured she couldn't handle it. But the Race stuck with her.
Nearly a year later she came to the point that she couldn't hold in her passion anymore. “One night I was reading World Race blogs and I just started to sob. I just felt like if I didn’t do this, a little piece of me would die inside.” She had to go. She faced her fear and insecurity, and – heart thumping and hands shaking – she applied for the Race.
Doubts swarmed in her mind: “What on earth did I just do? I’m leaving my health insurance. Because it’s hard for me to get health insurance anyway because of the whole cancer stuff.” Or , “I had a job I love. I was an employed journalist! What kind of employed journalist leaves her job?!”
Even more, the thought of fundraising freaked her out. She had worried about paying medical bills in the past, and money was the last thing she wanted to stress about. But the Lord came through.
“God is so crazy good...he provided in the craziest ways. I went from thinking I would never get to pursue my dream of being a missionary, to showing up to training camp fully funded.”
She listened to the call and trusted that God would take care of the details.
Jenifer left on the Race overwhelmed with his faithfulness. His redemption rocked her life. All of her struggles came full circle, and now she is sharing her story of God's power.
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