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Have You Ever Thought… What A Difference A Year Could Make in Your Life and in the World?

July 9, 2017 4:00 a.m.
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About a year ago, I wrote about the start of a year-long venture for one of my granddaughters, Katie Johnston, daughter of Ronnie and Kelley Johnston.  She set off on what is called the “World Race” where a team of 50 young adults began on a year in missions in eleven difference countries literally around the world.  In each location the team divided into squads of five or six. 

She and her team have finished their race and are back home. One the prettiest sights I have ever seen is seeing Katie “dancing” through the gate at the airport with her big smile as her family ran to welcome her home.     

There were stays along the way in four parts of the world. The “race” started West Africa. The first stop being in French-speaking Cote d’lvoire (Ivory Coast). Then it was on to neighboring Ghana. Then came the portion in Southwest Asia, a month in Nepal and another in India.  Next three nations in Southeast Asia for a mouth each.  These were Cambodia, Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand. Then to Central America for a month each in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Belize.  

It was a year of great variety in the many places Katie and her team was assigned.  In Thailand, she taught art and volleyball and English in El Salvador and Honduras.  She and her team worked the clubs in Nepal and Thailand to rescue young women from the sex trafficking business.

At times it can be a simple act of kindness that allows someone a new opportunity at life. In Nepal, she came across a young women who wanted to be a hair stylist but could not because she had danced in the clubs and was considered unclean. Katie let her cut her hair and that gave the young dancer the opportunity to change her life.

At all stops there were times for “preaching and teaching the Gospel” at times in churches and times on the street. Katie needed a translator in many places. Though in some Spanish speaking places she could speak directly to the people. And, of course, two of her stops English was spoken.

There was a period where they worked on construction repairing homes damaged by the earth quake in Nepal. The month in India was spent largely working with young children with special needs in an orphanage.  

One challenges of the “race” was carrying everything she had, including her tent and all her clothing, in her back pack.  At times she slept in the class room of a church, or in the tent she brought or in a home or hostel.

When so far from home and in mostly many remote places, the simplest things in life became precious.  Things we take for granted every day. In all 11 stops, water was not safe to drink straight from the faucet.  Water had to be either purchased in in large bottles or boiled.  

Food was another challenge. Katie said there were two things in every county she went.  There was rice and Coca Cola. Rice was a stable everywhere. And you had the money, you could buy a coke. When asked what the most unusual things she ate were, she answered. “Deep-fried tarantulas, snakes and beetles in Cambodia, cow hearts in Thailand, and the Royal Rat in Belize. “  

Katie cooked a very traditional dish from El Salvador for her family on her return. It is called “Pupusa” and can be eaten at all three meals. It is a thick corn tortilla stuffed with savory filling and accompanied by a spicy coleslaw. When she and her team got to Honduras, Katie was featured on national TV news singing about “Pupusa.” A song she created.

On one stop, parents were able to meet up with the team if they were willing to work in mission.  This was in Thailand. There was no mail but when available the internet allowed communication.  While in India, Katie was able to receive gifts via Amazon.  But mostly it was the team was on their own.  At the last stop, their mission was to find a missionary that would accept their team and future “race” teams.   They accomplished this mission. The woman the found cried, as she said she had prayed for years for missionaries to come to her village.

I must say I am a very proud Grandfather to see how my Granddaughter grew in her faith and as a person. Lives she touched around the world will be blessed for many years to come. What a difference a year can make.

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