I never wanted to go on the World Race. The 11-countries in 11-month mission trip sounded like fun… to watch from a distance.
You know, hear the stories, read the blogs, see the pictures.
I wasn’t interested in actually doing it.
There was no part of me that wanted to live in a tent in the middle of nowhere. No part of me that wanted to ride in a truck bed with 20 of my closest friends. No part of me that wanted to live on a $3/day food budget.
But there was also no part of me that wanted to say no to God and miss out on the adventure He had for me.
So I made a deal: I’d consider doing the World Race if there was ever a primarily Spanish route that started in January.
That had never happened before. They didn’t have focused routes at the time. All the routes hit at least three continents spending a majority of the time in Asia and Africa.
Until January 2014.
The first-ever all-Spanish route only hit two: South and Central America.So I applied.
Because when you make a bargain with God, you’ve got to follow through.
To say it changed my life would be an understatement.
It would also be expected.
You can’t spend 11 months living out of a backpack in lesser-developed countries and expect to go home unchanged.
Here’s the reality of it: God showed up.
He showed up in my heart, allowing me to see things through His eyes, feel His presence, and taste His goodness.
He showed up in bus station attendants allowing us to make an IOU when we tried to pay in the wrong currency.
He showed up in a market with fresh vegetables when the only other food we could find was over-fried chicken.
He showed up in the form of sporadic luxuries like a washing machine and an internet connection.
He showed up in the form of a taxi when we thought we were stranded in the middle of a Peruvian desert, hours from civilization.
Our host had arranged an escort for us to their church plant in a remote desert village of southern Peru. The guide picked us up from our church home (another church plant in a small town), walked with us to the first taxi stop, arranged cab fare, and rode shotgun to the second stop.This time, she had to barter a bit more to get a reasonable price but if some of us laid down in the trunk, all five of us Americans, our escort, and the taxi driver could all make it to the town.
Getting to the site was relatively easy.
Painting the church was slightly more difficult given the lack of a ladder to reach the ceiling.
No worries, if you put the roller on the end of a broomstick and stand on the pew up against the wall, you can reach pretty high. Then you jump to get the rest but make sure you land on the ground because the wooden pew can’t handle your body weight coming back down.
This was the only Christian church in the desert community—our host would not have planted a church there if there were already one.
Needless to say, the locals were very curious as to why some Americans were in their town.
And the Americans were struggling to find snacks or safe water to purchase from the little shop next door. We settled on ice cream—pre-packaged and refreshing in the dry desert heat. During our ice cream break is when we discovered the problem: our escort asked us how we were getting back. We’d (falsely) assumed she would be escorting us back.
We were stuck.
We did the only thing we knew to do: finish the painting job to the best of our ability and begin walking back towards the next town hoping to find a taxi, a good Samaritan, or a cell phone signal. Based on how long it had taken us to drive, we figured it’d be at a several-hour walk to go the whole way back to the taxi stop but, at least, an hour until we ran into anything helpful on our journey.
Luckily we had plenty of daylight left and strong legs. We laughed at ourselves for how we stuck we managed to get.
We laughed at ourselves for how we stuck we managed to get. There was nothing else we could do.
So we walked.
We walked past bamboo shelters alongside the road. Every few hundred feet stood another one—generally four walls with or without a door in the frame. Homes.
And we walked.
And we walked.
Barely twenty minutes later a taxi came down the road into this remote village.
His car was full.
And headed the wrong way.
So we just smiled politely and kept walking—clinging to hope and enjoying the journey. Sure enough, a few minutes later the same taxi returned our direction empty.
We were rescued.
Once again God provided. Once again He had proven Himself faithful.
He said “Go.”
And so we did.
We went to the only church in a remote village in Peru.
We went to one of the highest cities in the world.
We went to the slums and the suburbs, the beach and the bush.
We went where He asked, where He invited, where He led.
And He brought us back—not as we were but as He wanted us to be.
It wasn’t the earthquakes we endured or the sleeping on the floor or the bleaching our food that made is different.
It was the faithful Father.
We came back different because He is faithful, trustworthy, and caring.
I am different because He is good.
God calls Katie Axelson His daughter and lets her earn a living as a writer, editor, and speaker. She wrote about her World Race experience in a book called Jesus Shoes: Following His Footsteps Through the Latin American Mission Field. You can connect with Katie and find her book at KatieAxelson.com
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