PROSPERITY — After 11 months in 11 different countries, Prosperity native Chelsea Bouknight has returned from the World Race and is getting back into a normal routine since departing for her trip in August.
”We originally landed in Seattle so I stayed there a couple of days which was really crazy and weird, very different from the south, it’s nice to be back home, I’ve gotten to see my family, celebrated the Fourth of July. I love being back at the lake, that’s one thing I really missed was riding on the boat. I miss my squad, that’s probably the hardest part, but I’ve loved seeing my family and just hanging out with them,” Bouknight said.
Looking back on her journey, Bouknight was able to grow both personally and spiritually. It was in the beginning when she saw most of her personal growth.
”A lot of highlights had to do with growing closer to my team and learning to talk about the hard things, which was really hard for me initially, then realizing they were my family that was going to be there and present and I could either keep it to myself and suffer silently or share with them and have them love on me and I did,” she said.
Opening up to her squad taught her a lot of things, particularly community and confidence.
“It taught me the importance of community and just sharing with them, it also helped me grow a lot in confidence and seeing myself in a better light because they initially speak those things over me and to me which really just helped me start to believe them,” Bouknight said.
Nearing the end of the World Race, Bouknight said most of her highlights came from the ministries she worked with.
“In Malaysia we were on an island and we didn’t have a specific ministry we worked with, we did ATL (Ask the Lord) where you pray and ask the Lord what He wants you to do that day, or to bring people to talk to you. There was a guy on the island who was from Malaysia, but he was visiting the island for a couple of days, I just felt a nudge to go and talk with him and we kind of built a relationship the couple days he was there and had really good conversations,” Bouknight said. “It was hard at first sharing about my faith and asking about his, but the last deep conversation we had he actually began to ask me questions so that was really cool to be able to share with him just about my faith and Jesus and building a relationship and friendship with him.”
One of Bouknight’s favorite ministries during the World Race was working with Hope Home, a special needs orphanage in Thailand.
“I love working with kids with special needs and it was really cool to see them and the challenges they face and how they overcome those challenges and how celebrated they were, even just really small things they did were such a big success and a big thing to be celebrated and the way the staff just loved on them, I’m glad we got to love on them the month we were there and just be a part of their lives,” she said.
Her time in India was similar as they were exposed to children who didn’t have the best upbringings.
”Some of the kids didn’t have the greatest home lives and just being able to play with them and do school with them and loving them and letting them be little kids, in a lot of countries that I went to little kids don’t get to really be children, they have to grow up really fast and help at home and take care of their siblings so for them to be able to come there and not worry about anything but playing and having fun that was really cool, and I really loved just building the relationships with those kids,” Bouknight said.
Bouknight added thata lot of her highlights had to do with kids, naming His Hands for Honduras and Rescue Pink, an after school program for girls, as two of her other favorite ministries.
As Bouknight continued the World Race, the journey also exposed her to trying foods from different cultures. The weirdest food Bouknight tried, she said, was called ABC.
”It was in Malaysia, I guess it’s considered a dessert, but it’s shaved ice in the middle, some type of syrup on it and then there’s corn, beans, grass jelly, other little jelly things, a bunch of weird, random things on it and you just eat it altogether. I took one bite and I couldn’t do it, it was just really weird, it was on a lot of menus in Malaysia so I’m assuming people really enjoyed it. It was not my favorite by any means and I did not order it again,” she said.
Bouknight’s squad also had a chance to introduce people they met to American food, cooking several meals for the hosts as a way to bless them at the end of the month.
“The first month in El Salvador, we wanted to make them Alfredo, but they didn’t have the right type of cheese so we improvised with chicken and vegetables and garlic bread, they really enjoyed it, we made protein bars, which is just oatmeal, peanut butter, chocolate chips and honey as a dessert, they really liked them so we got to teach them how to make it,” she said. “In India, we made spaghetti with chicken and garlic bread, they were not fans. I think it was a little bland for them, they are used to more spicy foods, there were a lot of full plates at the end of the meal, they tried it they just didn’t like it, the only person that really ate it all was our host.”
Bouknight also recalled a time during the World Race when her squad was pulled over in the Ivory Coast.
”We had five people in a taxi when we were only supposed to have four, but the driver let us have five, the police pulled us over and it was in the Ivory Coast, in that country, because we were Americans, they tried to get us to pay a fine or pay so that the taxi driver wouldn’t get a ticket,” Bouknight said. “They try to charge you a bunch of money basically so they can get money out of you, we weren’t going to pay because it wasn’t our fault, the driver let us have five people in the taxi, we didn’t speak the language and he didn’t speak English, it was at night so that made it a little scarier, but he was saying he would lock us up if we didn’t, we just called our translator for the month and he said they can’t lock us up if we don’t pay, we finally got out and walked back, but that was the only time I was really scared.”
Although she was in different countries, Bouknight was able to celebrate typical American holidays. Halloween and Easter were not celebrated, but they did celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Bouknight was in the Ivory Coast for Christmas in what she said was a pretty poor village with only a few churches displaying decorations and no Christmas trees in sight.
“We took the kids caroling and leaders came to the village and gave each of us a gift, we had a lot of random holidays, we were there for Independence Day in Guatemala, they had parades and different celebrations for that, we did have a Christmas tree in Nicaragua. It was fun to have that experience, I’m glad I was still be able to put up a Christmas tree and watch a Christmas movie even though it was still November,” she said.
She added that throughout her journey she also had to adapt to different living conditions, using sleeping pads in Guatemala, mattresses, tents and according to Bouknight, the most difficult, living in a small clay hut in Cote d’Ivoire.
”Cote d’Ivoire was the hardest for sure, we had a really small clay hut that we stayed in, it was packed pretty tightly with only one window, pretty hot, we did not have running water or electricity, we took bucket showers and used squatty potties, it was not the worst one I’ve seen by any means, but that was probably the most difficult living situation” she said. “Cote d’Ivoire was the most extreme, they really didn’t have anything, some might have a bed and not really have running water or one or the other so a lot of them were kind of in the middle, we only took bucket showers in Africa, a lot of living conditions were mixed.”
If she could do anything differently, Bouknight said she wouldn’t hold back or be skeptical and let God take control.
“There are definitely moments that when I look back on times where I felt that God was calling me to talk to a person, but I didn’t because of fear or some other excuse so it would be cool to go back and choose boldness in those situations and talk to the person or do whatever I felt like God was calling me to do in that moment,” she said.
Bouknight doesn’t know what her next steps are, but she will be embarking on a new journey in Georgia as she attends a discipleship program through Adventures in Missions, the program starts in January, but Bouknight and two of her squad members will be moving in August where they will learn leadership and how to mentor.
”I would definitely recommend the World Race to people, I would go back and do it again, but I’m not going to do it a second time. I still want to do missions and missions will definitely always be a part of my life in some way, it may not be long term missions, it may be shorter trips, but it will always be part of my life because I have a passion for people in other countries and I have a passion for just people everywhere that need help and just need love,” Bouknight said.
Reach Kelly Duncan at 803-768-3123 ext. 1868 or on Twitter @TheNBOnews.