Let's start off by saying that this year was harder than expected. You never really know what to expect when coming on something like this. I literally walked into Month 1 not knowing what the heck I was in for. It had its great moments, but it also had its "I want to hide in my room and cry" moments. If you think this is all rainbows and butterflies, you might need to reconsider. My Month 3 host said it best, "People who are only happy during mission work are lying to themselves. Mission work is hard. If it was easy, everyone would do it. But it is not yet followers of the Lord who show up and do it anyway". I was mad at myself for not enjoying some of the work I was doing and my host helped me to realize that I don't have to love everything and fit into that "Christian" mold of someone who loves kids camps and construction ministry. You can have different passions and use those passions to serve the Lord. You are not a bad Christian for not liking the things you have to do as much as the other people on your team.
During Month 2, my mom said she read the Kingdom Journeys book the parents got at launch. She said it was weird for her to read because what she got from it was that this experience wanted to completely tear us down and rebuild us back up in our identity with Jesus. It might sound extreme but at the time I was like "yeah no, I can become a better version of myself, but I am not going to lose myself." Later I realized, maybe we read into it wrong. During Month 9, I discovered so many things about myself because living in Africa (the way we were living) was so hard that it did tear me down and left me only with everything I have been hiding or new things to discover about myself. It left me with my issues with anxiety, my bad mindset, and my relationship with food and the way I look, and my need for attention from the opposite sex. It showed me how much I focus on these things when my only responsibility was ministry. It was a hard realization. Be prepared to make hard discoveries about yourself.
This whole blog might sound like I am unpacking my emotional baggage onto my readers, but this is helping me process and helping you understand what is going on in the mind of some World Racers. So here are more tips:
Do not compare yourselves to other World Racers on your squad……
Everyone will be different. Everyone will have a different relationship with God. It is okay if you don't like the same things. It is okay if you communicate with God differently. It is okay if you don't want to pray or preach out loud in front of 50+ people, it is okay if you don't feel 100% ready to lead a preaching of the gospel while trekking in the Himalayan Mountains (it happened to me and I asked for help), and it is okay if you don't agree with your leaders or teammates about everything when it comes to religion or life. You are your own person. THIS IS YOUR RACE.
Don't rely on food (or other things like it) for comfort…..
One of my leaders said they cut out soda because, on their race, it became their comfort. I didn't understand. It wasn't until the end of the race I realized I looked forward to every meal because it was comforting. I overate, I ate when I wasn't hungry, I ate things I never ate at home, and it was hard on me since I have a disordered eating mindset. Spend time in the word, listen to podcasts, reach out to family, or watch movies with your friends. THIS IS YOUR RACE.
Be okay with asking for alone time and mental health days…
I had to fight for a day off. I don't know if it was normal for other squads, but I felt like it was frowned upon to even miss a day, even the days I was physically ill. My last team leader assured me that it was okay to ask her for help. I took some days for myself when I needed it. If I wasn't going into ministry with my cup full, I wasn't being helpful, I became a hindrance for the people around me. THIS IS YOUR RACE.
I could go on and on so PLEASE message me if you have any more questions. At the end of the day, I will be honest, this experience wasn't what I thought it would be. I feel like I am leaving more broken than full. People might think, "how can you say this? It was a once in a lifetime experience" and you are right. I am beyond thankful for the ministries we worked with, our hosts and their families, the countries we went to, and all that good stuff, but it did a lot more damage than I assumed it would. Do what the Lord is calling you to do, but do your research. I didn't do my research and I wish I did. Don't just say yes because it sounds cool, be prepared to be challenged.
And remember, THIS IS YOUR RACE. Make it your own.