PROSPERITY — Prosperity native Chelsea Bouknight is currently taking on the World Race, an 11 month mission trip that is taking her to 11 different countries to serve and minister others and experience a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Her interest in mission trips started when Bouknight was 13 years old, after reading about a mission trip to Peru.
After hearing about the World Race through friends who had embarked on this journey, Bouknight applied and was accepted. From then on she began fundraising and saving money to raise $10,000 to launch in August.
On August 7, Bouknight and her 24 squad mates left the United States with nothing but a backpack, day pack and enough essentials that would last 11 months to embark on this journey.
The squads are made up of four teams, with each team housed in a different city with various ministry opportunities. Depending on the city, the living arrangements have varied from homes, schools, churches and tents.
Bouknight and her squad have already traveled to El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and are currently in Nicaragua in a city called Granada. The remainder of the journey will take the squad to the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nepal, India, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.
Each country has varied from month to month, with Bouknight’s squad teaching in schools, teaching sports and dance ministry, visiting children’s hospitals, leading youth groups and visiting orphanages.
While in Honduras, the team also helped with a feeding program for children, ‘His Hands for Honduras,’ an organization that helps provide meals, schooling and healthcare to under-privileged children within the community.
“We served food to the kids, and then after they ate we went to the church and had a time where we read a Bible story, sang songs and played games,” Bouknight said. “In Nicaragua, we are working with the Adventures in Missions base team here. So far, we have worked on their farm clearing a field with machetes, playing sports/games with a bunch of kids during a conference, and have gone on a prayer walk in the community. We will also be doing ministry in the jail and participating in Bible studies.”
On days that the squad hasn’t been ministering, they have attended worship services or have had ‘adventure days’ as a squad. Some of the activities Bouknight has experienced so far, outside of ministering, have been hiking to the top of a volcano in El Salvador and riding horseback to the top of an active volcano in Guatemala.
“The World Race has been amazing. It’s been very hard at times, both physically and mentally, more so mentally than physically so far. I have grown so much in the last three months, and I would definitely not have experienced that amount of growth if I was at home. Every country we’ve been to I’ve been able to work with kids in some capacity and that’s my passion,” Bouknight said.
With plenty of countries left to visit, Bouknight said that she is still able to communicate with family and friends on a fairly regular basis, but added that in each country you never know where you will find Wi-Fi.
“So far, I have been able to communicate with my family and friends 1-2 times per week. Wi-Fi is different in every country. In some countries we have to go to a coffee shop to get Wi-Fi, which has been my experience in all but one country. Sometimes the family you stay with has Wi-Fi, so it makes a little easier, but with that it also becomes a distraction very easily. That was the case in Honduras,” Bouknight said. “It has definitely been hard to be away from home at times. When I’m having a bad day or am struggling with something, it’s hard not to be able to call my mom or text my friend, because that’s what I would have done before. It’s taught me to rely so much more on God and the people on my team.”
After experiencing a variety of different countries, Bouknight has been surprised at the amount of poverty she has seen along the journey.
“The biggest difference/shock for me has been the poverty that some of these people are living in. That was most true in Honduras, because we worked with kids that came from poorer families, and so many of them are malnourished, sick and dirty, because they don’t have a lot of things that most families do,” Bouknight said. “What’s awesome about the kids was the joy that they had, and joy from simple things like getting their hair braided, coloring or playing hand games. Yes, it took a while for them to come out of their shells, but I saw so much change in so many of the kids in the month we were there. They never complained. It makes you grateful for what you have for sure, but it also made me realize that I need to have an attitude more like that of the kids in that community.”
In order for Bouknight to finish the race, a final portion needs to be raised by Nov. 30. To follow Bouknight on her journey or to contribute to the race, visit chelseabouknight.theworldrace.org. All donations are tax deductible.
Reach Kelly Duncan at 803-768-3123 ext. 1868 or on Twitter @TheNBOnews.