It started with the quietest of whispers, “Go.”

Slowly… over days, weeks and months… it grew into a shout.

“GO!”

My curious fingers clicked on the tweet that changed my life.

I saw the World Race website for the first time…and I haven’t been the same since.

The World Race was the catalyst…IS STILL the catalyst. Well, actually, Jesus is the real catalyst. He drew me toward this for years, and still keeps drawing me back toward the community, the intentional, sweet time with Him, that I experienced on my Race.

Even now, a short yet very long 3 years and 4 months after I returned home from my Race, I’m still figuring out all of the different ways that I’ve changed.

I still remember hundreds moments like they happened yesterday.

Like being mobbed by dozens of kids in Tanzania
From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

Like eating the spiciest food I’ve ever tasted in Thailand and laughing and giggling until I couldn’t breathe with the sweetest boys
From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

Like getting to know 5 of the best women on the planet and experiencing a miracle as the Lord turned 6 strangers into family…
From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

Like doing this crazy photoshoot in the middle of the streets of Malaysia and wearing more makeup than I ever have in my lifetime, and YES it happened on the World Race…
From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

Like praying over the sweetest lady named Dora in the Dominican Republic…
From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

Like teaching English in several countries to crazy kids who became our instant best friends…
From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

Like finding out my grandpa died during my month in Romania, and having several close friends on my squad crawl onto my bed and hold me tight and grieve with me.

Like holding Slapping Grandma’s hand as we walked down the dusty dirt road at sunset in Cambodia…and later finding out she had passed away, and grieved as my heart broke for this sweet woman who I desperately wanted to know Jesus’ love.

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

Like termites eating my pants in Thailand

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

Like digging up bricks and heaving giant rocks on my birthday in Transnistria

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

Like hearing the words spoken over me at our first debrief in Haiti (where a LOT of crazy intense things happened that broke everything I thought I knew and created space for the Holy Spirit to move mightily…), words that resonated deep within my soul and have embedded themselves permanently there, “You are NOT a timid spirit.”

Like chopping down the jungle with machetes and axes in Thailand

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

There are so many moments where time stands still in my mind and I’m transported instantly back to this life-changing, pressure-cooker, sand-paper trip of a lifetime.

I’m not the old me anymore.

I see things differently. I see people through a different lens. I see myself differently.

Before I went on the World Race, I knew it would change me. I knew it would be a stepping-stone for me into full-time missions. I just knew it. It was the craziest, hardest, most difficult, challenging, horrible, hilarious, incredible, spectacular, delightful, joyful, radiant, moving, frightening, eye-opening, chain-breaking, sandpaper year of my life.

When I faced coming home afterwards, I knew I couldn’t “go back to normal.” What IS normal anyway?

God had placed within me this desire for MORE. A desire to use the gift of writing He’s given me for MORE. A desire to follow Him into MORE and seek His face MORE. And while I fail at all of these things daily in one way or another, He still keeps calling me into MORE. He’s so amazing.

Coming home was way different than I anticipated. I struggled with things I just couldn’t put my finger on. I hated being home but the next day I loved it. I was depressed one day and the world was full of vivid color the next. I had so much passion one day and absolutely no motivation the next. I certainly felt out of control, but didn’t know how to put it into words. My brain was a puddle. I was fully in the midst of transition and culture shock. It’s normal, but it didn’t feel normal.

I didn’t expect to be home for long.

I expected to join a wonderful missionary friend and serve with her in a ministry that pulled on my heart.

Everything seemed to point to “yes,” until suddenly all of the doors slammed shut and told me, “No.” I was confused and heartbroken. I desperately didn’t want to stay. And I didn’t know why God did that. He knew my heart. So why stop me from doing what I felt like He had called me to do?

I had amazing family and friends here, but America didn’t feel like home anymore. I didn’t feel like I fit here anymore.

I cringed at America’s affluent way of life. The thought of working in a cubicle in corporate America made me sick to my stomach—it literally made me want to throw a temper tantrum, curl up in a corner somewhere and scream.

With a very dramatic turn of events, drastically shorted for the sake of time (ask me about it!), God placed in my lap an amazing job I never saw coming.

He answered one of my prayers, to write for a purpose, for MORE. I now work as a writer for an incredible food relief non-profit to share stories of how lives are being saved and transformed all around the world with nutritious food and the love of Jesus.

I didn’t know God would close the doors on “going” and call me to stay here in Minnesota for now. And this hilariously means I am working in an office…and I’m actually surviving ;). God’s grace. He provides. With a little sense of humor, of course 🙂

I’m learning to be faithful where I’m at. To be planted and rooted. To make a commitment and be reliable. To serve when it feels good and when it doesn’t. To say yes to things and stick with them, and say no to things I can’t do, even if I want to.

The transition hasn’t stopped. There aren’t enough words to tell you the whole story…because so much has happened between the time I found out about the World Race and now. God keeps calling each of us into more, if we’re willing to listen and let Him catch us when we fall again and again.

But getting out of your comfort zone, experiencing other cultures and ways of life, living life for Jesus and seeing Him work miracles and answer prayers and making Him your focus every day…there’s nothing like it.

If you’re reading this and you’ve made it this far…and you’re still paying attention…and if you haven’t gone on the World Race yet…please, go. It’s one of the most amazing and one of the most challenging things you will ever do. But it’s also one of the most life-changing decisions you could make. Choose in. Choose yes. Ask yourself if you would regret it if you didn’t go, and when you decide that answer is yes, then go.

The World Race changed me in innumerable ways.

The journey is still continuing.

I know I will process the Race for the rest of my life.

I will remember how I lived with intention, and it will motivate me to be intentional here, wherever I am.

I will remember how incredible and incredibly difficult living in community is, and it will remind me to carry this into my friendships and life here, wherever “here” is.

I will remember how “no day is normal,” and it will remind me gently that God is in control and not to walk blindly throughout my day, but instead focus on Him every day and see where He takes me.

I will remember how God answered prayers for healing, and it will increase my faith as I walk the streets where I am.

I will remember how I learned to hear God’s voice, and it will remind me of my identity in Christ – that His promises are good and true. He is faithful.

I will remember how I learned to pray, and it brings clearly to mind the authority I have as a daughter of the Most High, to live with Christ’s authority in me, and not back away.

I will remember I have a voice and it is valuable and deserves to be heard.

I will remember His words, “I am not a timid spirit.”

I am HIS.

And whatever comes next…He will be with me.

This is the longest blog of my life…because how do you answer the question, “How did the World Race change your life?” and it not be the longest blog ever? 🙂

To those of you who are still subscribed to this blog, thank you for following my World Race journey. You are an amazing blessing to me.

 

[You can read the original post here on my World Race blog.]