Headlines remind us each day that many in the world are facing serious challenges. While none of us can answer all the challenges, all of us can respond is some way to be a part of the answers and not the problems.
The World Race is a journey to 11 countries in 11 months to serve the least and the last. It’s a year being involved in hands on missions. The World Race currently serves in dozens of countries across the globe spreading from the tip of South Africa to the vast wild of Mongolia. The World Race is a ministry of Adventures In Missions, which is headquartered in Gainesville, Georgia.
One of my granddaughters, Katie Lee Johnston has felt called to be a part of this year long commitment. She is the daughter of Kelley and Ronnie Johnston, a graduate of Eastside High School and Birmingham Southern College. Last Sunday, the congregations at the two morning worship services at Covington First United Methodist Church gathered at the altar last Sunday to bless Katie as she prepares to start her year long journey in August.
As her grandfather, I could not be more proud of her response to a call to mission, nor could I be more uneasy given the conditions of our world. But I know that when God gets involved, there is reason to be hopeful and to have courage. I know that we must not let fear shape the way we respond to life. If the good work that needs to be done is done, there must be people, like Katie, with the willingness and faith to try.
She is a part of a group of six missionaries who will be serving together in 11 countries for one month in each country. Her group will arrive at the host nation with their entire squad of fifty. They will also depart and continue to the next nation together. But each group is assigned to a different mission in each host nation.
The stops on the route for the squad Katie in a part of include Ghana, Cite d’lvoire (Ivory Coast), India, Nepal, Thailand, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize and either Cambodia or Myanmar (Burma). The uncertainty of the 11th nation is that Burkina Faso has to be cancelled because of a terrorist attack on some of the missions in that nation.
The work the team will be doing includes teaching and preaching as missionaries traditionally do. One area of teaching will be English is some places. The team will do light construction work in homes and mission stations, feeding ministries such as soup kitchens, and building relationships with those they come in touch with. One of Katie’s goals is to seek people who are victims of abuse and find them help.
For the entire year, they will live out of what they have brought in their back pack. Most nights she will be sleeping in a tent and a sleeping bag that is in her back pack. Those participating in the “race” will experience how others live as they are immersed into new cultures. When you consider how much luggage most of us take for a week or two, you can see the challenge of one back pack holding all your clothing as well as the tent and sleeping gear for a year.
The team will not be able to receive mail but will have occasional contact with email. Katie’s parents will be able to make one visit with her about half way through the race. She returns home to Covington in mid-July of next year.
When you join the race, you begin by leaving all the comforts of living that we are accustomed to. You also leave for a year your family, friends and home. You are challenged to believe in the possibilities and hope for the best in every situation. That is true even when the going gets tough. Each participant is challenged to leave negativity behind and live without complaining or arguing.
This has been a calling for Katie for over five years. It all started with a mission trip to Honduras. She has been back nine times. In addition, she made a trip to Ghana where she taught English for a month and has also served as a translator to a mission team in Panama.
I covet your prayers for Katie and her team as they set out on this adventure on Aug. 6. You can keep up with her journey through the blog that she will be updating twice a month. The address for her blog is katiejohnston.theworldrace.org.
B. Wiley Stephens is a retired United Methodist Minister and author who now resides in Covington.