adapted from Emma Austin.
Maybe you’ve been scrolling through the website or even an Instagram profile, trying to understand what the World Race really is.
The truth about the World Race is it’s a mission trip for you to serve others and hear the voice of God. But it’s also so much more than your average mission trip. It’s a step outside of what you know. It’s a chance to be part of what God is doing and to understand who He is beyond your own life and culture. The reality is that once you do that, you’re also going to learn some things about yourself as well.
After conversations with World Race squad mates, I realized we’ve learned similar truths about the World Race over the past few months together. I want to share those with you with some help from others who have been experiencing the same things.
Truth about the World Race #1:
The World Race exposes where you find comfort and forces you to rely on God.
On the World Race, God will expose the things you turn to for comfort. Usually, that looks like taking that comfort away. It seems harsh, but it’s actually incredibly kind of the Father. He knows everything else will eventually falter, leaving us more broken than before. He wants to protect us. He wants us to wholly rely on the one thing that will not fail: Him.
World Race: Gap Year participant, Brent Long, has experienced this firsthand.
“We are currently in month 8 of our World Race [Gap Year], and this by far has been the most difficult month. 8 months away from our normal has definitely exposed us with only God to cling to.
The normal comforts and patterns we clung to at home are not here to provide rest and healing. There is only God. For me, the comforts I used to run to were my family, social media, and illicit substances.
While in the Dominican Republic, I don’t have my family to run to at any given moment to pick me up when I feel fallen and beat up. I have my squad, but they are battling as well.
The consistent and never-changing Jesus is the one I have learned to run to in my time of weakness because I know His burden is light.
I am not saying I don’t have an amazing community to walk beside, but being forced to run to Christ has helped me develop healthy patterns of taking raw emotion and situations and working them out with God first. Then, I bring them to my team so the burden does not fall on them, but on Jesus.
When it comes to social media, I would extend the generalization to video games, Netflix, and any form of bingeing media. It’s a normal pattern for many Americans to escape their problems… Whether that be mindlessly scrolling through TikTok, bingeing Netflix, reading a book, or entering into the universe of video games, media has provided the perfect escape and unhealthy coping mechanism in a 21st century lifestyle.
But here [on the World Race], media consumption is cut tenfold, forcing you to deal with your problems in another way. For me, that has taught me to rely on God, and to cut the mindless escape media offers.
Before I met Christ, I was somebody that used illicit substances to escape from the world instead of relying on the Lord. Here on the World Race, that is the last thing I would ever think about running to.
Being surrounded by a community on the World Race that pushes me towards Christ, I am heavily encouraged to ask the Lord what He says about my life. He helps me work through the questions that I wrestle with.
Being forced to wrestle with God when your comforts of home are taken away is hard, but in the end the best possible outcome for your entire life. The World Race has taught me that in my trial, I can either ignore it or face it head on with God and grow to be a healthier person, a Son deeper in His relationship with his Heavenly Father.”
Truth about the World Race #2:
The World Race pushes you to take responsibility for your own life.
On the World Race, you will have to face your past, how that has made you who you are, and decide how you will leverage that to grow in the Lord.
Anjali Joy, World Race Gap Year 2021, has learned this truth about the World Race.
“Before the World Race, I struggled with time management. That doesn’t really sound like a big deal, but it affected my whole life. I’d wake up whenever I felt like, not pay attention in school, do assignments at the last minute, and spend most of my time at home on my phone before going to bed at 2 am and doing the whole thing again.
My parents still had high standards for me, so I pushed myself to do well in school, but at the cost of my mental, emotional, and spiritual health. I was absolutely miserable and couldn’t see a way out.
I started seeing a Christian counselor, and she helped me see the root of my issues:
I didn’t know how to prioritize the things in my life that were actually important and take responsibility for my life.
If I was going to change my lifestyle to be more sustainable and take care of my mental/spiritual health, I needed to start with Jesus. The rest would fall into place.
Going into the World Race, I knew that in my head, but I certainly wasn’t living it out. As a part of Gap Year, I learned to take responsibility for myself and honor the people the Lord has placed around me.
That looked like getting to meals earlier to help serve others or leaving game nights early to clean Stride’s shared bathroom. It means making the time to write World Race blogs and edit photos so I can be a better storyteller, and (the biggest one for me) waking up early so that I could spend time with the Lord. Surrendering all of my feelings and fears to Him so that I would be in a better place mentally/emotionally before I talked to anyone else.
Because of the pandemic, we had a month at home in the middle of our World Race gap year experience. Suddenly, everything I had learned in Georgia went out the window. I went right back to living however I wanted, with no clear direction or discipline. And it sucked.
Then we went overseas, and I had to deal with all this shame I felt about how I had spent December running away from God (again). Through all of this, He’s shown me even more of His faithfulness.
I needed to see that I really cannot do this life on my own, no matter how much the world tells me I can. I learned what life looks like when I trust Him with everything and what it looks like when I don’t.
Now I never want to go back.”
Truth about the World Race #3:
You will grow more than you thought you would on the World Race.
I don’t want to give the World Race all the glory for growth I’ve gone through this past year. This gap year didn’t change me, Jesus did. But the World Race was a catalyst for much of this transformation, and for that I am so thankful.
I have walked into so much security in my identity in Christ and so much freedom from the fear of man and the need to perform.
For the first time in my life, I’ve started to believe that I am loved by the Father and to live from the knowledge that being loved is my purpose. This is LIBERTY!
Not only have I grown in my identity, I am learning what it looks like to love and serve others well, to hear the voice of God, and to defend my faith.
I’ve gained practical tools that will be incredibly useful in the future: living in community, resting well, meal and lesson planning, managing my time, giving affirmative and constructive feedback, even using certain construction tools!
So yeah, the truth about the World Race is that it brings about a lot of growth. (Seems like a pretty obvious point to make, I know. But really.)
The World Race is more than a mission trip.
You know how you kind of get on this spiritual high on short term missions trips? The World Race is nothing like that.
The World Race becomes daily life. Like daily life, it gets hard, heavy, messy, and real. Ministry isn’t just a small part of your day. It’s all the time, which can actually be draining and exhausting.
Emotions are real. Anger, sadness, pain: it’s real. You’re gonna cry (my guess would be a lot). You’ll be homesick. You’ll probably actually get sick. There will be times you’ll want to go home. You’ll have to choose your squad mates a LOT.
The World Race is hard, and that’s the hard truth.
I’m telling you right here and right now that this is one of the best decisions you could possibly make. It’s a challenge, so take it.
If you choose in, if you press into the Lord, you’re gonna come out knowing who He says you are, knowing yourself better, knowing how to love people so well and so hard, and walking in more freedom than you ever have in your life. And so much more.
The World Race is hard, which is a challenge and an incredible blessing. And that’s exactly why you should do it.