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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Transition and Insecurity

Transition: the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another.

This word defines my life right now. I’ve been in transition for the past several years, ever since I decided to go on the World Race, and it just hasn’t stopped.

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With so much transition so fresh in my mind, so many experiences to process and things to think about and hopes and dreams I wish I knew how to explain or share…it has taken me a while to know what to say.

In fact, I haven’t blogged, journaled, or done anything like that in a while. I am a writer by profession, and that comes fairly easily, praise the Lord. That’s a gift straight from Him. But when it comes to writing about myself, to help myself process and think things through, I’ve been at a complete loss.

I have a torrent of thoughts flowing through my brain endlessly, but I haven’t been able to write down. I simply couldn’t write.

I think transition does this to us.

It seems that change and new things are so often looked forward to, hoped for, wished for—
yet when the change and transition becomes reality, it’s much more difficult than anticipated.

With transition comes a bit of chaos. The unknown creeps in.

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Before I knew it, my old friend Insecurity said hello again.

Insecurity: uncertainty or anxiety about oneself; lack of confidence.

When I’m insecure, I definitely pull myself back into my shell. I put up all of the old walls and think if I just “stay strong on the outside because no one else wants me to bother them anyway” (my true thoughts!), pretend even to myself that I’m okay, that it’ll make everything better.  That somehow bearing everything on my own will make me stronger.

It doesn’t. Hiding what you’re going through makes you start dying on the inside.

I hate insecurity. There is nothing true about it. God didn’t create us to be insecure. In Him we have the authority to fight insecurity in Jesus’ name. Insecurity does not define us, it’s not for us.

I could feel myself fighting the truth I know about myself. I know who I am in Christ. I am His dearly loved daughter. I know He made me a valiant warrior, not a timid sit-on-the-sidelines person. I need to ask people for prayer. I need people to stand with me.

amanda's iphoto1450

But pride often gets in the way of us asking for help, doesn’t it? I also don’t want to be a burden to anyone. That sounds absolutely foolish when I actually say that out loud, but it’s true. My desire to not be a burden to anyone actually gets in the way of me receiving help when I need it. I know I’m not the only one who struggles with this.

I’m learning. I’m re-learning to hear the Lord’s voice, to lift my head out of the chaos and the transition and the heartache that life often is, and to listen to my Lord and Savior speak truth and lead me into confidence and more of Him.

I’m realizing that transition isn’t a time to “get through.” It’s a time to listen to the Lord, sit still with Him, and ask Him how He wants to lead me, what new things He wants to do in and through me. Transition can be a very rocky time. A time when the foundations are shaken, not to crumble, but to be made stronger.

Waiting…transition…doesn’t mean forgotten. It means set apart for something greater.

the-best-is-yet-to-come

“Walk confidently with Me,” He says. “I’m right here by your side. I haven’t gone anywhere – you know that. You already know how to hear My voice. Be still, and know that I am God. Walk forward in faith knowing that I go before you. I know the way. Though you can’t see it yet, you will soon see, and it is beautiful. Don’t give up. Feelings are fleeting, don’t focus on them, focus on Me. Speak truth, pray truth, keep seeking Me. I’m all around you and will never leave you. I never have and I never will.”

 Psalm 16:5-8
“Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”

Silhouette

These are Transitional Years

tran·si·tion

noun: the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another.


The beginning of a yearning…
…a yearning that burns, leaps at the thought of the World Race.
Oh to be there again.

Memories of ages past. No, not ages, just years…but it feels like ages.
Ages gone; ages home.
Time flies, yet inches along.

When I returned from the World Race, I thought I’d never want to go again.

I was tired. No, exhausted. Longing for the embrace of family and all familiar things.

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Family is beautiful, and I’m so grateful.
Memory tricks us, lures us back to comfort.

But little did I know I would jump right back home into the familiar, but soon into transition. Changes came quickly, and I was swept along in the current. A beautiful, fast-moving, white-water rapids current, splashing me rudely in the face one minute and rushing over me and calming my fears in another.

I was left with little time to process. Or maybe I am a terrible processor. It takes me forever to figure out what I learned from something. Maybe this is a good thing. Maybe this is normal.

I’m still processing the World Race and feel like I will continue to do so for a very long time. I think, that this is ok.

Change comes for all of us. Transition is inevitable.

>>Fast forward to a year after I returned home, and I’m longing for it all over again. The World Race.

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This must be what mothers experience after giving birth to their child…they say they will never do it again, then time forgets the pain and you remember only the joy and long for it again.

Pain is what grows us, challenges us, changes us.

P1100017 - Version 3(the day my Thai pants were eaten by termites…)

Pressure cooker, that was the World Race. We hate it and we love it.
Oh…to be that close to the Lord again. Oh to feel His presence with every breath, every step.

He is still here. Oh so close. Right here.
Just, He feels different.
Grown closer, yet feels farther.
As if that is possible.

I have thought and thought about how these past 2 years have gone since I left for the World Race.

I began a life of transition that has never stopped. Oh how my life has sped through many twists and turns since September 2012.

I should be used to transition by now, but the thing about transition is that each new one brings new challenges. You can get used to moving but constant change brings uncertainty. It requires great trust in the Lord.


 These are transitional years, but these are defining years.
I am learning who I am–who He has made me to be. This is EXCITING, AMAZING, THRILLING, TERRIFYING, WONDERFUL.

Life as I know it now, is not how I thought it would be.
This is okay.
I trust the Lord. He is faithful.
He provided an amazing job and a place to live.
He is making a way for my family.
He will lead us and guide us.
He hears the longing of my heart. He knows it better than I even do.

cropped-cropped-copy-Cambodia2.jpgAnd so I trust Him with my future and the future transitions.

All of the growth and challenge and pain, that will bring more growth and challenges and delights and failures and laughter and hugs and tears and struggles and LIFE, which causes me to go back onto my knees in prayer, giving thanks to my Father for His GOOD gifts, He has given me life and breath and these struggles are momentary.

Our lives are meant to be lived for our King.

I will keep lifting my eyes to Him. Transition means stepping closer to Him.
Focusing my eyes on the Giver of Life.

I trust in the most Trustworthy One. He is my Faithful Guide.


I see these transitions continuing, and though I know it won’t be easy, I’m not worried or afraid.
Instead I am confident in what my Savior will do, in the plans He has for my life.
Transitions require us to move, to take a step, to ACT, to obey.

Transitions move us closer to Him, because they shake us from comfort.

He didn’t say it would be easy, but He said He’d be right here with us. That’s a promise I’m holding onto.


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So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
-Isaiah 41:10

———-

The Lord makes firm the steps
    of the one who delights in him;
though he may stumble, he will not fall,

    for the Lord upholds him with his hand.
I was young and now I am old,

    yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
    or their children begging bread.
They are always generous and lend freely;
    their children will be a blessing.
Turn from evil and do good;

    then you will dwell in the land forever.
For the Lord loves the just
    and will not forsake his faithful ones.
-Psalm 37:22-28

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.

Travel Day Saga: From Asia to Africa

In true World Race fashion, my first travel day as a Logistics Leader proved to be an initiation on many different levels. Here’s how it all went down.


Friday, January 25

  • Leave ministry location to head into Phnom Penh. Goal: to obtain yellow fever certificates for 2 of our girls who had theirs lost or stolen in Thailand, since they might be needed to cross borders in Africa.
  • Noonish: Arrive at hotel in Phnom Penh.
  • 2:00pm: Watch squad leader Becky eat a fried tarantula.
  • 6:00pm: Eat at Mike’s Place, an awesome American burger joint.

Saturday, January 26

  • 7:00am: Head to clinic to get yellow fever certificates
  • 10:00am: Yellow fever certificates obtained. Ready for some coffee, free WiFi and relaxation at The Blue Pumpkin, one of the best places in Phnom Penh.
  • 2:00pm: Head back to hotel to meet up with the rest of our team who has just arrived.
  • 5:00pm: Head to the ghetto mall for dinner/stock up on snacks and groceries for the impending travel day.
  • 8:00pm: Take advantage of a hot shower (rare on the Race!) 🙂
  • 10:00pm: Skype with Mom for 2 hours 🙂
  • 12:30am: It’s after midnight, and travel starts in about 6 hours, so it’s off to bed I go!

Sunday, January 27

  • 6:00am: 5-minute tuk tuk ride from hotel in Phnom Penh to sketchy bus station on street corner.
  • Wait for other teams to arrive.
  • 7:30am: Board bus, only to discover there are not enough seats for everyone, and definitely not enough room for our huge packs. First logistical challenge: get all of the people who are not supposed to be on this bus off of the bus, get J Squad on the bus, stuff our backpacks into the aisles, and off to Siem Reap we go!
  • 12:30pm: Arrive at bus station in Siem Reap, Cambodia
  • 12:45pm: Stuff our big packs onto tuk tuks and walk the rest of the way to our hostel
  • 1:00pm – ? Get settled into our rooms, grab an early Mexican dinner (yay for touristy places!), check out the night market, and crash into our beds, exhausted. 🙂

Monday, January 28

  • 5:00am: Wake up to visit Angkor Wat!
  • 7:30am: A little upset that our sunset visit to this Wonder of the World was cloudy, and a little less than desirable. Nonetheless, we’re off to explore and get attacked by monkeys!
  • Noon: Arrive back at the hostel. Find out there’s a bunch of last minute, unexpected logistics details to take care of.
  • 8:00pm: J Squad worship time.
  • 9:30pm: Announcement time, we leave bright and early at 6am for Tanzania!

Tuesday, January 29

  • 6:15am: J Squad departs from hostel in Siem Reap, Cambodia
  • 6:30am: Tuk tuks carry our huge backpacks from the hostel to the bus stop, where we’re to be picked up at 7:00am.
  • 7:30am: No buses in sight.
  • 7:45am: Bus shows up, but our big backpacks yet again prove to be too much for it to handle—into the aisles they go again!
  • 10:30am: Arrive at the Cambodia/Thailand border.
  • 10:35am: Begin standing in line to leave Cambodia and cross into no-man’s land. We are nowhere. We are in 2 places at once. This is confusing. Where am I again?
  • 11:30am: Everyone makes it through the line. We now walk quite a ways to find ourselves in yet another line…the line to cross back into Thailand.
  • 12:00pm: Discover that the only way through the line fast is through bribes, which The World Race can’t afford, so we wait.
  • 1:00pm: Still waiting.
  • 2:30pm: Yep, still waiting.
  • 3:00pm:Find myself enjoying a nice conversation with a couple from the Netherlands.
  • 3:30pm: Finally make it inside the doors, into air-conditioning. My passport receives a stamp, and at last, I’m through! 🙂
  • 4:00pm: The last J Squaders make their way into Thailand. Yep, that was a LONG line.
  • 4:30pm: We board another bus that will take us to the Bangkok airport.
  • 9:30pm: Arrive at Bangkok International Airport.
  • 10:00pm: Discover that our airline has not opened yet, so we plop our bags into a big pile and rush to find some Starbucks.
  • 11:00pm: Check-in to Kenya Airways.
  • 11:30pm: Bags checked, through security, on our way to the gate.
  • 11:40pm: Enjoy Burger King.
  • 11:45pm: Discover that the gate closes in 30 minutes.
  • 11:50pm: One of our girls realizes she lost her passport.
  • 11:55pm: 2 of our girls are still not at the gate.
  • MIDNIGHT: We PRAY.
  • 12:05am: The passport is found!
  • 12:10am: Our girls show up. We all make it to the gate in time. Praise the Lord!

Wednesday, January 30

  • 12:40am: Plane departs Bangkok, Thailand, for Nairobi, Kenya.

We board the plane, and it’s instant culture shock. After being around Asians for 3 months, we’re suddenly surrounded by lots of Africans, and it’s a little overwhelming.

  • 6:10am: Arrive in Nairobi, Kenya.
  • 8:05am: Group 1 (1st half of the squad) departs for Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
  • 9:20am: Group 1 arrives in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
  • 9:30am: Get into line to receive our VISAs.
  • 10:30am: We all make it through. We are now in Tanzania!
  • 10:40am: Find a place outside to land and figure out who is picking us up, where we are staying, etc.
  • 12:40pm: Group 2 (2nd half of the squad) departs for Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
  • 2:00pm: Group 2 arrives in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
  • 2:30pm: We expected 3 buses, but only 2 arrive. So, we improvise.
  • 3:30pm: Half of the squad is stuck in African traffic, while the rest wait patiently at the airport.
  • 4:30pm: Arrive at the hotel where we’ve been told details have been arranged for us to stay there.
  • 4:40pm: We discover there has been confusion about the agreed upon price. Thus begins an hour-long negotiation.
  • 6:00pm: One of the buses heads back to the airport to pick up the rest of the squad, while everyone prays, since it’s not safe to be driving in Dar es Salaam after dark. (None of this was a part of the plan, but alas, this is the World Race!)
  • 8:00pm: Everyone arrives to the hotel safely and settles into the rooms for 1 night of exhausted, air-conditioned sleep.

Thursday, January 31

  • 5:15am: Ready in the hotel lobby to walk to the bus station.
  • 5:30am: It is CRAZY at the bus station.
  • 5:45am: Realize not everyone is with us. Wait and wait for them to show up.
  • 6:15am: Pray like crazy, because we still haven’t found them and our bus leave at 6:30am.
  • 6:20am: One of the team leaders whips out Jesus Calling, which pretty much makes all of us start crying.
  • 6:25am: We find our people!
  • 6:30am: Arrive at bus and find it not ready to leave yet, praise the Lord (This Is Africa!)
  • 6:40am: Cram into bus. Keep an eye on bags. It’s crazy out here.
  • 7:00am: Still haven’t moved.
  • 7:15am: The bus starts rolling out of the bus station. Goodbye, Dar es Salaam!
  • 7:45am: Bus pulls over. Looks like engine trouble.
  • 11:00am: Problem fixed, bus starts moving.
  • 7:00pm: Arrive in Singida, Tanzania.

All in all, after days upon days and hours upon hours in tuk tuks, taxis, vans, buses and planes, we’ve finally made it from Asia to Africa. This is just the beginning of our African tale. Stay tuned! Xoxo 🙂

1 year ago today!

I seriously can’t believe it’s been a whole year!

1 year ago today I stumbled across The World Race.

It slapped me across the face. Literally, it really felt like that.

I blinked quite a few times and stared really hard at the computer screen as I gazed at that phrase,

“11 countries in 11 months.”

What WHAT WHAT WHAT WHAT WHAT WHAT WHAT WHAT?!?!?!?!

Is this real?
How have I not heard of this?
When can I go?

Seriously, those were some of my thoughts.
I sent a text to my mom that day, and I remember it because I saved it.

Thursday, July 7, 2011, 1:54pm
“I landed on a site called The World Race today. And wow…I am feeling the tug! You’ll see what I mean when you see it. Let me know what you think 🙂 It’d require me to pay off my loan and quit my job…

Haha! Hmmm. This makes me laugh! Look where I am now!!!

–> HERE <–
Going.
|
|
V

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org From jesseischens.theworldrace.org
                                                                  (haha, that’s a “Wow, this is really happening” face!)

So insane.

College loans paid off.
Car paid off.
2/3rds of the way toward fully funded.
Gear purchased. Or at least almost!
About to go to Training Camp and see what this World Race thing is really all about. Um, crazy.
Ready to build new relationships.
Embarking on the beginning of this new journey.
Going where God wants me to go.
Whoa.
It’s crazy and overwhelming when I think about the journey it’s been just getting here…and then I wonder at the possibilities of the journey to come.
Saying yes to go when God compells seems so easy, but it’s not.
It always comes with sacrifice.

Giving up all that’s familiar and trading it for what’s very likely to be uncomfortable, strange, and unknown.
Fo’ real.

Oh, I can’t help but wonder where it will take me.

 

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

On this day a year ago, little did I know.
And I know I really, still, have no idea.

So strange to think about how much can change in a year.

God is crazy awesome.

1 week from today, I’ll be in Georgia.
I think God has some things to do in me there.
On July 14, J Squad is coming together as individual members and emerging on July 21 as one.
Family.
I can already feel it.

So it makes me wonder.

What will life look like in a year from today?

How much will my life have changed?

Will I look different? Feel different?

Will I mark my life from now on by July 7ths? 😛

Only God knows!
I guess right now, I should just focus on today, and we’ll go from here and see what happens.
One thing I know. God has blessed me with absolutely incredible friendships. In one sense it feels like I’m losing them for a year, which is true, but then again, I know that I have the type of friends who are here for me no matter what. That is nothing short of amazing, and I’m so grateful.

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

 

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

Friendships are such an incredible blessing. Wow. And to think, I get to gain even more in 1 week!

We’ll see what God has in store for the next July 7th 🙂

I’m with the King

So this afternoon I sat down with my Bible and a cup of coffee…it’s been a long few weeks and I just needed some time to myself. It’s raining outside, and sometimes these are the perfect days for rest. I felt like this time was just for me and God, and I really wanted it to be. I haven’t been doing a super great job at spending time with Him lately…so I just knew I needed some time to sit with Him, read His Word, and relax and soak Him in. Sometimes things that you’ve read over and over pop out at you differently all of the sudden, and today was one of those times.

I decided to read Romans 8. I won’t go into a ton of detail, but it was cool. 🙂

One thing that really stood out to me was where it says that through the Holy Spirit we are sons of God, “And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.'” That’s like little kids running up to their fathers and saying, “Daddy! Daddy!” God wants that kind of relationship with us (I’ve been hearing this over and over lately, so that really resonated with me). But then it goes on to talk about us being co-heirs with Christ Jesus. Jesus is God’s son, and through Jesus’ death on the cross, when He defeated sin and rose from the dead in victory (can I get an Amen!), that in that moment, when we accept that gift, we become sons and daughters of God, beloved brothers and sisters to Christ, and become God’s heirs. WHOA baby. Hold up a sec…say whaaaa…? That’s incredible.

So then I was just sitting there and soaking that in. The idea ran around my head for a bit…Jesus as my big brother, the big brother I never had. The one to tell me that I am beautiful and cherished and that He loves me and will protect me like any good big brother would his little sister.

I like that idea…it makes me smile. 🙂

Then something popped into my head. A vision, a thought, a whisper from my Savior – a story, a dream, a poem of sorts. I wrote it into my journal and felt like I also needed to share it with you.

Here goes.

[Him]
Every part of you is mine.
You are perfect – made in My image.
You are the daughter of the King,
beloved sister and co-heir with Christ.
You enrapture me with your beauty.
You can walk confidently into any room,
knowing I am beside you, walking with you.
Always with you.
I’ll never leave you.

Then this came.

[Me]
I walk into a room full of people dressed in finery, and I instantly feel unworthy to be there.
I don’t fit in.
“I’m with the King,” I tell those who ask, which should boost my confidence,
but the more people ask, the more I question whether I should be there at all.
I’m not worthy. I don’t fit in. My dress isn’t pretty enough.
Then it happens.
The dancing begins.
But they won’t let me into the ballroom, because no one believes me and the King is nowhere to be seen.
I’m blocked from going inside, and I begin to doubt everything about myself.
Who am I to think I’m worthy of love and forgiveness?
I stand in front of the doors to the ballroom, confused, ashamed, and alone.
The guards ask me to move aside, and that’s when I feel His hand slip into mine
and the other fit tenderly around my waist.
“No, let her through,” he says tenderly, His eyes locked onto mine,
His beautiful face smiling in delight that I am here. His presence and command over the room is so immediate that everything and everyone stops and stares in amazement
as He takes my hand and says, “She’s with me.”
His gaze captivates me, my feet float on air as I follow Him onto the dance floor.
Nothing else matters but Him now.
“I’m so glad you came,” He says. “You are stunning. You are perfect.”
As He holds me close on the dance floor, His eyes sparkle and He flashes a grin.
“And best of all, you’re mine!” His smile grows bigger as he says,
“You’re beautiful, beloved. I am the King and I love you. I have redeemed you.
Be bold and confident in that, beloved. I am always with you.”
I can’t speak, so I nod and put my head to His chest, no words needed, and together, we dance.

 

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org

The song below fits this perfectly. “I Love the King” by Beth Croft.

God Loves and Adores Me

God Loves and Adores Me – GLAM night!
Last night I got the chance to speak at a K-5th grade girls night that my church holds every week. It’s called GLAM…and until last night I had never gotten a chance to see what they do there, but since I was asked to speak to the girls about The World Race, I got to be there, and it is fun! It’s like a mini Chick Night (my church’s women’s night)! 🙂From jesseischens.theworldrace.orgWhile I will admit that I was a lot more nervous and stressed out than I needed to be, God was in it and I made it through 15 whole minutes of speaking! It was super good and now I am so glad I did it. God pushed me to do it…He placed it in my lap without me ever asking about it, so that’s why right away I knew I was supposed to do it.

(p.s…These girls are rockstars…they’re raising money for me for the whole month of April! How amazing is God, that He is using these beautiful girls? I’m so overwhelmed and so grateful!)

By speaking to these precious GLAM girls, God really solidified some things in me.

First thing first — “It’s NOT about me.” Shocker. But seriously.
I can get so wrapped up in myself and focused on my wants and my needs and my fears and anxieties that everything else seems to dim. But it doesn’t have to be that way. God’s love is stronger.

I learned that God is trustworthy despite my feelings or lack of them. That I can rely on Him and what I know to be true about Him even when everything else in me wants to doubt.

I learned that it’s all about Jesus. Well…I knew this before, but like I said, it solidified in me.

My desire for The World Race is simply, wholly to share and shine the love of Jesus with people all around the world and right beside me who don’t know Him and don’t know who He is. I want them to know how much He loves them — He loves them SO MUCH that He died for them to save them! Wow…what love that is! And I want everyone to know that encouraging, healing, wonderful love that only comes from Him.

The GLAM girls are memorizing Matthew 28:19 this week. This is super cool because I love this verse. Jesus tells His disciples to GO into the world.

 

“Therefore, GO and make disciples of ALL nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

 

Wow. I just love this verse. If anything screams out God’s love for the nations, this is it! This is something that I spoke to the girls, because it comes straight from the heart of God. This verse tells of how much God wants every person from every country and every people group and every language all around the world to know how much He LOVES them and sent His Son Jesus to die for them so that they could be saved and live in heaven with Him forever! This is amazing. My prayer is that some of the sweet girls were able to grab a hold of this and understand this.

So GREAT is God’s love for us!

I also re-remembered my previous mission trips and how those have led up until now. First just a cool trip…eye-opening…then slowly but surely after each trip sparking a passion for missions and to show God’s love. Seriously, if all I do for 11 months is hold children who just need love, then that will be totally worth it.

I remembered that I’ve known, or had a sneaking suspicion, for a very long time that God was going to lead me into this. Missions makes me come alive. I want my focus to all be on You, Jesus!

I forgot what it was like to be a little girl…to listen in amazement to girls older than me and hold them in such high esteem and want to be just like them. This is humbling, to get this chance to be that for the GLAM girls.

They are God’s sweet, precious princesses.

From jesseischens.theworldrace.org
They are so perfect and such a treasure to Him. I got a glimpse into His great love for them last night — this same love that He wants each one of us to shine to His beautiful, precious children all around the world.God gave me a chance to speak into these precious girls’ lives. Thank you, God, for giving me that opportunity. You pushed me to do it, you were with me through it all, and I’m grateful.

I’m praying today that they know how much God loves them. That they get more excited and interested in missions and sharing Jesus’ love with those around them.

God is moving in River Valley Church. These girls are going to be the next generation raised up to GO, take Jesus’ hand, and follow Him. That’s what He’s asked me to do, and I’m gladly doing it, knowing it’s going be hard and an adventure and it will be crazy and hard and frustrating at times, but I also know that God is in it, He is with me, it will be rewarding too…it will be growing and challenging and that He will be with me every step of the way.

Just one more thing. There’s something about speaking out loud that reinforces, affirms, solidifies, embeds itself within each of us. I can know my story inside out, but when I tell it, even though I’ve already lived it out, it’s as if I understand it and see it in a whole new way. The same goes for God’s love for us. Say it out loud! Seriously!

That’s why I love what GLAM stands for: “God Loves and Adores Me.” I asked the girls what GLAM meant, and as they shouted it back at me together from their seats, I knew that even if they didn’t know it yet, they were reaffirming that truth within themselves.
Say it. Out loud. Right now.

God loves and adores me.
Because it’s true. He does. With everything He has, He loves you! Oh how He loves you!

Thank you all for reading this blog, for following me, for supporting me, for praying for me. You’re all amazing.

City Vision Tour – WHOA

Thursday night at my missions lifegroup, we were talking about this City Vision Tour we went on last week, and I wanted to post my reactions to it. It’s interesting to me that I’ve committed to The World Race, yet even in doing that am learning so much more about my community and my eyes are truly being opened to what’s going on around me and how I can serve HERE while I’m still here. I am being humbled by my blind eyes and praying for them to be opened even more, praying that my heart becomes one with God’s so I can truly be enveloped in His heart for the nations!

Also, in reading many blogs of current World Racers, I ran into this guy, Steven Reed. There’s a point on the World Race when guys and girls split up and the men go off to do “manistry,” which is basically code for getting to do manly things all month long and just be boys 🙂 This manistry month for them is Thailand, with a specific focus on the Karen people of Burma who are fleeing the genocide against them by their own government! So please check out his blog, because I’d love for you to catch a glimpse into my heart and why I have a passion for the Karen. I have a missionary contact who is working with them currently, but it is exciting and encouraging to also see other ministries there and to realize that God is leading more and more people to get involved with helping the Karen and praying for the healing and restoration of the country of Burma!


Okay, so here’s my reactions to this City Vision Tour. Minneapolis, little did I know.

One word. Eye-opening. You think you know your city. You’ve lived there your whole life. You know it’s diverse. But whoa. Talk about tunnel vision!

Just look up. On the top of many street-side businesses are mosques. But you couldn’t tell from the outside, except for little minute details. Like the smoke stacks that really aren’t smoke stacks but little minurets — see? They even have half moons on them. Just look up and pay attention. There are mosques in the back or basements of many restaurants. Then there’s the green awnings that decorate buildings, businesses, restaurants — street after street after street. And no, that doesn’t mean the landowners love green like I assumed…it means the buildings are owned by Muslims, because green is their color, and they dominate the city streets and businesses.

The Somalis that come to Minneapolis are hard workers, entrepreneurs, and between them and the Mexicans and other refugee groups from Asia and Africa, they’re starting plenty of businesses and creating tons of jobs — which is amazing. Minneapolis is incredibly diverse and I can’t believe I have lived this long without knowing the extent of it! But this is also a bad thing. The Mormons and Jehovah’s witnesses are walking the streets, getting to know the people, learning the languages. Why aren’t we doing this? We NEED to do this. Islam is so close to Catholicism with its rules and lists of dos and don’ts that many Mexicans are converting to Islam in order to marry or just because — hey, it’s just another list of dos and dont’s, so what’s the big deal, right? And then don’t get me started on the number of churches that actually let witches meet inside them…and the whole fact that Minneapolis is on the top of the list for having the most witches in the country. Who knew?

Sigh.

Now that I know, I want to go back. I want to walk those streets, walk under those green awnings, and pray. Lord, please redeem our city. This city is YOURS.

You know, you come back from a mission trip to Mexico or Asia or Africa and you wish that you could go back and experience it again. Well guess what??? You CAN! Right downtown in the Global Market you’ll find authentic food from Eastern Africa (Safari Express owned by Jamal, an extremely friendly guy from Somalia who will talk your ear off if you let him! From jesseischens.theworldrace.org), Mexico, Italy, Middle East, Asia. Hop over to the local Mercado Central for some authentic Mexican pastries. You’ll feel like you’re back in the Mexican market again. Walk the streets lined with Vietnamese, Thai, Ethiopian, Mexican shops, stores, and restaurants.

Seriously, I think it was the green awnings that really did me in. I love diversity. But so much is hidden in plain sight. Lord, open our eyes to see the reality around us! This city is ripe for renewal! Help us to reach it for you! This city is YOURS.

I need You

I’ve been struggling a lot lately because…
…I think I’ve been realizing over and over how much
I NEED GOD
every
single
day.

And it drives me nuts, because the ME inside of me just wants to handle things on its own.
But the Spirit inside of me…
…KNOWS…
that looking to Jesus is best.

But this is not easy.
It’s really really hard.
Because this comes with trusting God…
…to speak through me…
…when I have NOTHING.

Sometimes I wonder what others see in me
because it’s hard for myself to see ME the way they do…
(I know this is a lie by the way, but still…)

Every time I speak I see ME struggle to be confident
the struggle to cover up my insecurity
the struggle to put it in Jesus’ hands
…but why is this so much easier said than done?
I hate that phrase.
Because it’s true.

Public speaking, even to kids, is nerve-wracking.
Yet this is what God has put in my lap without
even me asking.
Opportunity.
To tell of His love and speak of my heart for missions to the precious children who are rising up in the new generation to GO.
Whoa.
Incredible.

Lord, please speak through me.
Please give me wisdom beyond my years,
yet wisdom as a child,
to speak life, love, passion, of You and Your mission to rescue the world
and show them how much You love them….

I need You. Desperately.
I can’t do this on my own.
You bring life, your words sustain and renew.
I feel dry right now.
I need You.
Come, fill me so I can pour Your living water into others.

I can’t believe I’m doing this most of the time…
…the World Race thing.
It messes with your mind, because it’s there constantly!
Like whoa.

Lord, all I can say is…
I need You.

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