She wakes up. She's in a country that’s not her own, in a bed that looks nothing like what she has been taught to call a bed. She’s with 10 other people she didn’t even know existed until three months ago. She doesn’t have her phone and anyone she would be contacting is more than one continent away. She spends her days doing chores for people who don’t speak her language.
For senior Olivia Roberts, this will soon be her reality. The World Race Gap Year takes collegeaged students on a journey to three continents in nine months to serve people. During nine months next year, Roberts will live in Thailand, Malaysia, Costa Rica and Ecuador. She will spend up to three months in Thailand and Malaysia.
“We are doing mission work wherever we go, but our specific tasks will be different each day. It depends on the people, their needs and the culture where we are,” Roberts said.
Roberts understands that this is not what most, or perhaps any, of her peers will be doing next year. As many of her closest friends will be buying pillows for their dorm this summer, she will be buying travel packs and a sleeping bag.
“We only bring two backpacks for the duration of our nine months: our travel pack and day pack. Our travel pack is our larger bag used to carry our equipment and clothing. Our day pack holds our day-to-day necessities,” Roberts said.
Not only will she be spending money on equipment, but also the mission trip itself is not cheap, costing her a total of $15,800.
“To fundraise, I have my own link through the world race website where people can access [my] blog and donation bar. I am also making shirts and selling bracelets through an organization called ‘Threads for Hope,’ having a bake sale, adopt a box and more that I will determine in the months to come,” Roberts said.
Though the gap year mission trip is by no means cheap, Roberts is sure that doing it will be worth every penny. According to Roberts, school has never been her thing, and she feels a great calling on her life to go and serve.
“I always had plans of going to college, but as I approached my senior year I realized there were so many other things that I would rather do than go to school right away. I was immediately interested in the world race when I heard about it from a guy I met last summer from Westerville North who is on the race now,” Roberts said.
Seemingly unrealistic at first, after addressing some concerns, her parents responded with encouragement.
“[My dad] backpacked through Europe for a year after high school, so he was thrilled about me doing something along the same lines. My mom is my best friend and always encourages me to follow my passions so she was extremely supportive. Overall, I was surprised about how willing they were to let me do something like this,” Roberts said.
Even with her parents’ OK, she was still reluctant to go at first because she was worried about what her motives were. She was not sure if her desire was from her running away from her responsibilities or her genuinely responding to a calling she felt.
“Time went on, and usually I would lose interest in something like this. But, I couldn’t stop thinking about it so I prayed like crazy, asking God if this is where he wanted me to be next year. After that, the calling I felt was undeniable,” Roberts said.
Talking to her mobilizer, or the person in charge of making sure her trip will run smoothly, Drew Stamey, also helped shrink her doubts about leaving. Stamey went on the very first World Race Gap Year mission trip three years ago and now works at their headquarters in Gainesville, Georgia.
“I went on the World Race Gap Year because God had called me to international missions. He gave me a heart for the orphan, the poor and the oppressed,” Stamey said.
Roberts is also looking forward to the same things Stamey experienced. “Launch” is the day she leaves and is Sept. 8, 2018. She won’t return to the states until her anticipated day of coming home, June 1, 2019.
“I am going because I want to grow in my relationship with God, with my team and with the people of the different countries. I want to experience the Lord, love people, be tested and see the world all in new ways. I am excited for it all! The good parts and the hard parts,” Roberts said.