How The World Race Changed My Life

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.]

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“Look into My eyes, Beloved.”

I wrote this a couple years ago and finally feel ready to post it. It’s amazing how I’ll write down something I feel the Lord is showing me and then forget about it until years later when I find it and realize what amazing things God spoke to me…and it challenges me to remember what God has said and hold onto His promises, because what He has said is true and will happen (maybe you needed to read that, it’s truth for you) and He’s calling us to remember His promises, to remember WHO He IS and what He has promised, and to focus our eyes on Him and follow His lead always, because He knows best.

God likes to give me pictures and visions of weddings, Him with His Bride, and it’s really beautiful. It’s just one of the ways He speaks to me and definitely overwhelming since I’m not married yet, but I love feeling even an ounce of the deep love He has for His people – YOU. Just in case you didn’t know, He really, really loves you.

This is what I wrote down, and I think this is meant to be read in the first person, as if it were you.


I see Jesus. He’s standing in front of me. His face shines love for me. He takes my hands. He places His hand on my cheek.

I realize that He is calming me. Turning my gaze from all other things onto Him and Him alone. We stand atop a big hill. He puts His hand to my cheek and His face lights up into a huge smile as He tenderly leans close to me & says, “Look into My eyes, Beloved.”

He urges me to turn to Him. To focus. So I do. I turn my eyes from the surrounding wilderness and look into His beautiful eyes. They are surreal to look at. Mesmerizing. I am instantly drawn in and the connection with Him is immediate. I am His. He is mine. We are one.

My panic and discontent and bewilderment is gone, replaced by deep peace and definite purpose. We are connected. Our sight is intertwined in the depths of His eyes. My little worries have faded, replaced by His love and assurance of a good, perfect future in Him. I ride along on His wave and feel joy again.

Excitement, even, which is something I haven’t felt in a while. No matter how long it takes, I am completely aware of His overarching plan & know with absolute certainty that His purposes for my life will ultimately prevail. They will happen the way they’re supposed to, not how I see it, but even better.

And then I realize His insatiable passion for His people. His bride, and specifically those who still don’t know Him. I follow His gaze into the depths and see Him eyeing the world. I see it ringed in gold. Beautiful. I see the world shouting its praise to its Maker. Like fireworks streaming into the sky are the praises of the nations to their King. And I feel His joy and pleasure with His creation and His bride singing songs of love and adoration to Him.

But then I feel His pain. I wonder what could be wrong, until I catch a glimpse of the dark spots, huge and vast, that have spread through many sections of the world. The places that aren’t worshiping. Where no joy and light abound. Where His bride is so completely unaware that her Groom looks at her from afar, sees her, knows her, loves her, and longs for her with groans that cannot be expressed in words…with the deepest longing imaginable, and even then, so desperately beyond what could ever be explained in human terms.

The dark areas covered much of Asia, the Middle East, Northern Africa and Europe, with a growing spot in the east and western edges of America.

Yet the light was spreading and the darkness could not prevail against it.

I saw His promise and purpose and delight as the golden light from the places of praise spread slowing outward…capturing the darkness and holding it hostage. The darkness slowly imploded from within.

Certain dark spots were overcome by a light that would begin to shine as just one mere dot in the middle, then grew and grew until it could not be stopped. And oh how the darkness tried. There were times when the darkness pushed back and seemed to capsize the light. Yet the golden light wavered but never fell back, pushing back the darkness with an even stronger, more brilliant force that went farther as a result to reach into more darkness than if it had not been pressed back at all.

The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out. – John 1:5 (MSG)

I could clearly see His plan for the nations, and could feel Jesus longing deeply for His bride to come to Him. And for His bride to go and get His bride. Like He was saying, “Abide with Me, and let’s go get My Bride!”

How things work out in my life suddenly seem insignificant compared to His master plan. I know my life will be filled with God’s promise, goodness, favor, perfect plan, but He’s asking me to step out and be a part of HIS plan. He is asking all of us in love, to go. He deeply desires for you and me to be a part of it. Just as a husband and wife long to share everything with each other and become one, so Jesus longs to share everything with me, with you, His glorious, beautiful, dazzling, precious bride, and become united with us as one. Oh He cannot wait for that day!

I realized that it all started when I looked into His eyes. He was already right there. But I had to follow His urging to look into His eyes and truly see. To let go of myself and my control, of which I never truly had in the first place, and surrender my way to Him by following His commands in even the simplest way.

“Look into My eyes, Beloved.”

Until the Whole World Hears

A leaf
It buds and flourishes
Grows, brightens
Beautiful green as it
works with the tree,
entrenched, centered,
made strong by stem,
branch, trunk & roots
Though the wind blows,
leaf flutters & waves, yet
remains strong
creating oxygen & giving life
as it was created to do
Then, slowly, over time
changes color, comes into
its own, shines its fall hue
with unashamed, glorious, confident
brightness
an example, a legacy, imprinted
on skies, glistening in the
rain – made perfect by its Creator
until one day, again slowly,
stem weakens, leaf again flutters
breaks loose, falls to the ground,
where it lays as a colorful testament to
all God has done,
giving space for those
coming behind,
enriching, fertilizing,
making ready the soil for
the most brilliant of harvests.

Until the whole world hears.

Remembering Haiti

Wow. On the last day of October in 2013…(my teammate Morgan’s favorite day of the year!)…I found myself re-reading my blog posts from my time there last year. It was my Month 2 on the World Race.

Reading them brought back full-force the emotions I felt during our time in Carrefour.


  • The joy of holding a small child’s hand and feeling them run their fingers through my curly red hair, so foreign to them.

    From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

  • The hilarity of seeing naked children run out from everywhere and shout “Blanc!”
  • The lack of understanding, confusion, and the fear I felt upon coming face-to-face with intense spiritual warfare…the most intense I had yet felt in my lifetime. It rendered me almost immobile for a little while…the fear and anxiety threatening to do its worst in me.
  • The desperation at the lack of personal space—19 women in 1 house with no furniture, very few windows to let in any sort of air—claustrophobic and stuck inside “for our safety.”
  • The delight of being on the rooftop…open air, beautiful skies…freedom and perspective in the midst of chaos and stress.
    From jesseischens.theworldrace.org
    From jesseischens.theworldrace.org
    From jesseischens.theworldrace.org
    From jesseischens.theworldrace.org
  • The frustration at the lack of anything to do…very little ministry…and our contact simply wishing money from us.
  • The relief and excitement my team felt when our translator, Watson, one of the best people we met on the Race, took us up to the mountains where we preached at his church, met his beautiful wife and family, and ate the best meal we had all month.
    From jesseischens.theworldrace.org
    From jesseischens.theworldrace.org
    From jesseischens.theworldrace.org
  • The horror of horrible sickness—watching 15 out of the 19 women in our house battle what we learned later was dengue fever. [See my squadmate Becky’s blog about her healing.]
  • The intensity of how it felt to pray harder than I’ve ever prayed before in my life—for healing, for protection, for FREEDOM for Haiti, for Christ to rescue and heal this broken land. [Check out my Ode to Haiti for more]
  • The excitement of discovering that the Lord really does speak to me—learning more about hearing His voice and the joy that comes in speaking His truth and life over the others around me. [Check out my blog: Prophecy Parties: Come, Holy Spirit!]

I forgot what it was like to walk down the streets in the hot sun, weaving my way through people and jumping out of the way of rattling, rusty automobiles as they rushed through the craze.

I forgot how homesick I was this month, and how desperate I felt to go home.

I forgot that in the midst of non-existent ministry, crazy spiritual warfare, constant sickness and malnutrition, and intense heat…I grew by leaps and bounds.

I forgot that this month formed the basis,
the foundation that we built off of for the rest of our Race.

I forgot that in the midst of my desperation to get away, that Jesus came and showed me I could only do it through Him and His strength.
I forgot the beauty of the sunrises and sunsets. I forgot how awed I was by the vastness of the stars each night. I forgot about how unique the clouds were, and how fast and ferociously the thunderstorms rolled in.

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

I forgot the chaos of going to the market…the density of the stalls, the muck and mud and mess of smells.

I forgot what it was like to ride in a “tap tap,” nice and sweaty and squished.

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

I forgot how the best nights were spent all huddled together,
asking the Lord for each other and encouraging each other.

I forgot how close we all got, as we daily battled in prayer and drew close to God together, drawing strength from Him, our Source, and comfort from community.

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

I forgot how fun it was to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving and the excuse it gave us to bust our budgets and make homemade peach & apple crisp, and how that night we prayed, and the Lord multiplied that dessert so all of us could have seconds and thirds.

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

I forgot about the trip to the “beach,” where we marveled in the beauty of the green-and-blue water, accented by the surrounding mountains and flawless azul sky.

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

I forgot about the night where our whole squad gathered on our rooftop to pray and worship
after God healed our squadmates miraculously in the hospital…
how I cried because I was so grateful and so in awe of my God’s love for us and how powerful He is,
how I knew that He will always come through, no matter what.

I forgot about the day when we walked around and prayed, and how God healed a man from cancer, how I saw an image of the cancer exploding in his body…being annihilated. How I knew without seeing that it was GONE. I forgot that was the day we stood together in the middle of the street and worshipped—our tired, dusty faces grinning at each other, holding hands in triumph as we declared the Lord’s glory and victory over the city of Carrefour. How for a moment, all was well with our souls, no matter how tired and sick and depleted we were physically.

We were never promised that it would be easy. But we ARE promised that we can do it with His strength. I guess that’s what I discovered and walked through last year. Haiti was just the beginning.

Thank you, Lord, for helping me to remember what Haiti was like…to remember what I learned here.  


“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
– Philippians 4:13

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

The staircase of faith

The countdown to home begins.
It doesn’t seem real.
In 84 days (12 weeks) I will be landing in the United States.
My feet will touch U.S. soil again.
I honestly can’t wait…
…but then again, I can.

My heart is so torn.
I can’t believe I’m on month 9 already.
Since the beginning of the Race, I’ve been looking forward to coming home.
Homesickness hit me extremely hard at Launch.
Which is crazy, because at that point, I hadn’t even left America yet.
I think it was the fact that I knew I was leaving home for so long, knowing I wouldn’t have the chance to return for 11 months.

Ever since I’ve left, I’ve had to fight to be present.
The feelings of homesickness have come and gone, and come and gone again.
It’s normal.
I knew from the beginning that the Lord had called me to this.
I knew I was supposed to go.
But the knowing doesn’t always help the feelings to go away :).

As my pastor said in his sermon that I was able to live-stream on Sunday,

Faith is taking that first step onto the staircase,
without knowing where the staircase goes.”

Faith honestly sucks sometimes.
It requires you to step out when you desperately don’t want to.
It means speaking up when you just want to be quiet.
It means going when you have no idea where you’re going to end up and you have no idea what’s going to happen.
It’s relying on that still, small voice inside of you that says, “Go.”
It’s trusting that even when it hurts—because God says it’s going to be okay and that He’ll be with us—that it really will turn out alright.

There are many reasons God calls us to go.
He wants to show us new things.
He wants to teach us.
He doesn’t want us to stay immature in our faith.

 

I’ve realized something lately—the devil wants to stop us from ever stepping out.
He wants to keep our faith immature.

The Bible says in 1 Peter 2,
Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation…”

And it hit me the other day.
So many people from home have been commenting on how mature we all look.
And it’s not because I’m getting older…even though that’s true, haha.
You can look at the pictures of us before the Race and compare them with the ones just recently taken…and maybe you’ll see it.

Month 1 – Dominican Republic
From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

Month 3 – Thailand
From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

Month 5 – Cambodia
From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

Month 6 – Tanzania
From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

Maybe we only look more tired.
But we’ve started noticing it in each other, and it’s not to float our own boats or toot our own horns.
It’s just taking note of something that has slowly become obvious.

There is a literal, physical change in every single one of our faces.
There’s a new maturity there that was absent before the Race.

Month 7 – Malawi
From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

Month 8 – Swaziland
From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

And do you know what I just realized?
It’s because we’ve stepped out in faith. We went. We’ve been constantly stepping out in faith for 9 months now, and it’s changed us.
We’re not the same.
The reason is simpler than Oh, they’ve just traveled the world.
It’s because God called, and we went.
We stepped out in faith.
We left all we knew.
We got really uncomfortable.
And it was awesome and horrible and exciting and terrifying and amazing and challenging and perfect.

I’m still growing every day. I still have so much to learn.

But I feel the need to urge you:
Please, please step out in faith.
Don’t stay immature.
Don’t let satan keep you where you are.
Don’t ever stop seeking after more and more and more of the Lord and asking Him what He has for you.

I wasn’t looking to change. I’m honestly a bit scared to find out how much I’ve changed when I’m home, out of the community I’ve been immersed in for almost a year…I wonder what it will look like.

But there’s something about stepping out. There’s something about faith that slowly changes you. It’s not a bad thing. It’s the wildest ride you’ll ever find yourself on. But you must be willing to take that first step.

I promise that though it’s sure to be hard, it’s the most worth it thing you’ll ever do.

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