The World Race was the catalyst.
I knew this in my heart when I left, but I didn’t know how it would change me.
I’m still figuring out all of the different ways that I’ve changed—I’m not the old me anymore…I see things differently, I see people differently, I see myself differently, I recognize the things I struggle with with heightened sensitivity that is pretty frustrating, because sometimes I wish I wasn’t so aware of my insecurities, or my fears, or didn’t wish I knew that the way I’m coping with that thing is really because I’m avoiding it or can’t quite believe it yet. I’m sure all of this is gibberish to you, but maybe, maybe it’s not. Maybe in some weird way it makes sense.
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. Well…who knows what’s ahead, but it was the most changing year of my life to date. That said, every year changes you. Some years are more drastic than others and some years fly by with light subtlety and it isn’t until years and years pass that you recognize how you changed. It’s like the craziest mix of that.
I had no idea that going on the World Race would bring me back home to Minnesota to stay for several years—how many, I have no idea. God knows. It was extremely hard to resign myself to the fact (yes, it felt like resigning at first) that I would stay. Does that sound weird to you? Probably. I totally understand. Hey Jess, you were gone for almost a whole year…it’d be nice to actually spend some time with you. (Yeah, I get it ☺.) It wasn’t that I wasn’t excited to be home. But other World Race alumni will tell you this, too…I just started to feel STUCK. I didn’t have enough money to go anywhere anymore (wouldn’t it be great if people just handed you money to travel, huh? That’s what I found myself wishing for…sad but true.), I was separated from my 55 travel companions who I had grown so close to.
From strangers to closest friends.
It’s amazing what travel and community will do to you. It’s such a rough, amazing experience that it brings you all so close. Without fail, every time. It’s why mission trips build the best relationships, because you see all sides of each other very fast, and it breaks down all sorts of barriers that we normally try to keep up around ourselves, as if to portray this perfect image.
We don’t need to do that, people. Stop doing that. Stop putting up walls. Learn to be vulnerable. It’s the best thing. Please join me, it makes everything better. Missionaries and avid travelers and people who want to grow closer to each other and Jesus, they learn that sooner than later. Okay, off my soap box (for now!)
When I came home, I didn’t want to work and I cringed at America’s affluent way of life. I didn’t want to be stuck in an office—the thought of it literally made me want to throw a temper tantrum, curl up in a corner somewhere and scream. Literally. Not kidding at all. When we get to heaven, you’ll learn that I did that in my head quite frequently after I got home. I say this with all sincerity.
When I flew into the Atlanta airport, I felt everyone’s anxiety and stress and I wanted to yell at people, “CHILL, guys. It’s just a flight. You’ll get where you need to go. STOP BEING SO ANXIOUS—you’re driving me nuts!!” I could hardly believe how different I was. 1) I had learned God has given me discernment, it explained a lot of my childhood and how I would just “know” things before anyone said anything, but could never explain why. So I learned some of the gifts God has given me, cool.
But I had also grown accustomed to a slower pace of life. When you get thrown into Africa, and you learn that slow has altogether a different definition (there should be a slower word for slow that somehow explains the oftentimes-excruciatingly slow pace with which they go about their days—it’s just life in Africa, but to Americans, it’s agonizing until you get used to it!).
I found that after 11 months of travel and adjusting to different cultures, I was more relaxed when things didn’t go my way (this isn’t always the case and I, like anyone else, will always struggle with learning and re-learning how to be flexible!), I didn’t mind waiting in lines for 2 hours, somehow I had learned to pass the time in my head so that I would look at my watch and in amazement go, “Wow, it’s been an hour already? That just felt like 20 minutes!” Seriously. I was even amazed at myself. Didn’t realize how much the World Race had changed me like that.
But I had slowed down, and I just couldn’t keep up with the lightning fast pace of life in America. I was beyond overwhelmed. The cars were fast, the people walked fast, the Internet was fast, the service in restaurants was too efficient—everything was just TOO fast!
I struggled with things I just couldn’t put my finger on. I didn’t know why one day I hated being home and the next 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, so most of the time I would tell people when asked, “Still transitioning and figuring things out…it’s a process!” And I left it at that, because I didn’t know what else to say. I still can’t quite explain it in words. It’s a puddle in my brain.
Getting out of your comfort zone, experiencing other cultures and ways of life, living like for Jesus and seeing Him work miracles and answer prayers and making Him my focus every day…man…why can’t I do that everyday here? There’s a lot of things pulling at our focus here, pulling our gazes away from Him. I realize that with crystal clarity every day and it hurts my heart, and it’s when I hate my awareness of myself and how I’m ignoring Him because I just want to do something for me, I just want to spend a couple more minutes on Facebook, but then it turns into an hour and I’ve wasted the time I have to just be with Him. Do you ever feel like that?
He’s given me new eyes and understanding and I’m still working out the kinks. I’ll always be learning.
I never dreamed that this past December I would apply for a job at Feed My Starving Children, actually get an interview in January, gain the most amazing connections, see the Lord work for me in marvelous ways, find out I didn’t get the job, go through a phase of devastated, “God, what are You DOING?” moments, be completely surprised 3 months later with a job offer, and now get the chance to be a part of such an incredible organization that strives with every minute to follow the Lord’s leading and figure out more and more ways to feed as many kids as possible around the world and stop starvation in its tracks.
And if you’re still reading, you’ll realize with not a little bit of hilarity that this means I am in an office…and I’m actually surviving ;). God’s grace. He provides.
On the Race I looked into so many children’s eyes. I’ve seen the dull, yellow, lifeless eyes of a child who was malnourished, and I’ve seen it in stark contrast to the spunky, sparkling white eyes of a child who has received nourishing food.
This is the heartbeat of FMSC, to turn hunger into hope. A child cannot understand or receive the love of Christ until their body has all of the essential nutrients it needs. The body goes into conservation mode when starving, and the sole focus of that person is to find food. They can’t focus on anything else. Once they are fed and their body is replenished, their brains are able to focus on other things, and they can be told about Jesus and how much He loves them. This vision is incredible and it is God’s heartbeat. I saw that on the Race first-hand and so it feels so natural to be at FMSC now, to get the chance to write about what God is doing around the world. It is a dream of mine, and an answer to prayer in the form of an amazing job.
I am here for now, and though I didn’t expect it, I trust God’s plan for my life is better than my own. Who knows where this will lead? Through FMSC I get to in a way work for several missionaries who I deeply love and support–I get to be a part of getting the meals to them so they can directly hand the food to those in need. This is pretty incredible. Wowza.
The World Race changed me in innumerable ways
(Find out about my adventures and read my World Race blog!).
The journey is still continuing. I know I will process the Race for the rest of my life and still learn things from it as years go by. I learned how to live with intention, how to love and serve others despite myself and I learned how to live in community. I long to carry this community into my friendships and life here in the States. I so strongly desire it and will try to fight for it. This is my promise. I have been realizing lately how I have slightly reverted back into “normal, everyday life,” and I don’t want to take any day for granted. I want to believe in God’s miraculous ability to heal every day, everywhere, everyone, right here, right now. I want to pray with passion and conviction and bind the evil one and stop him in his tracks. I want to live with Christ’s authority in me, and not back away. I want to listen to the Lord every day and follow what He tells me to do. I want to stop second-guessing everything I learned to be true about myself on the World Race and simply trust the Lord that He will show me the way, that He does speak to me and I do hear from Him and I am more than a conqueror because of Christ in me.
Stop second-guessing yourself. Yep, YOU. Ask Christ to become REAL and RADIANT to you and to open your eyes to see Him all around you. He’ll do it.
I guess this is it. I am not really sure what this accomplished, but it needed to be written, I know that so strongly. Is this the last of my World Race processing blogs? Probably not. We shall see. Thank you for loving me and supporting me along this journey. I think of everyone who is behind me and it is pretty overwhelming. I don’t want to take you for granted. You are the hugest blessing to me. Thank you.
Lord, please bless those who read this blog. May they experience You in a new way today. May they see Your healing and peace and joy wash over them radiantly today. May they see with new eyes and hear with new ears. May they KNOW You—truly KNOW You—today! Thank You for being so faithful, for continuing to chase after each one of us and show us how much You love us. Thank you that Your promises will always be true and are unwavering. You are so faithful! Pour out Your blessing on Your people today. May we all see you and know you in deeper ways today. May Your Kingdom come, on earth as it is in Heaven! We love You, God!