Fowlerville Michigan woman's 'calling' sends her across globe Nonprofit organization has multiple missions leaving at different times

By Christopher Behnan

Livingston County Daily Press & Argus

FOWLERVILLE, Mich. (AP) -- Christina Kenney is prepared to sleep among villagers in mud huts in Africa and alongside the poor in the streets of Ireland and the Ukraine as part of her journey to help the less fortunate.

Kenney, 25, will travel to 11 countries in 11 months starting in July through The World Race, a Christian missionary organization that seeks out volunteers ages 21 to 35.

The Fowlerville resident decided to put her career on hold -- and sacrifice a long-term relationship -- after receiving what she said was a calling to this kind of mission work.

"God called me to do it. I feel in my heart that I'm supposed to be helping other people," said Kenney, a 2008 Michigan State University graduate.

Her mission begins in Ireland; followed by Ukraine and Russia; the African countries of Mozambique, Kenya and Tanzania; Nepal; India; Malaysia; Cambodia and another unannounced location in Asia during the 11-month excursion.

The World Race will be her first Christian mission excursion. When asked why she didn't start out with a smaller, domestic mission, Kenney called those efforts "drive-by missions" and not large enough in scope for her vision of helping others around the world.

"Those types of missions, it's like you go in and you play with the kids and make them happy, but you're not living like the kids," she explained.

The World Race, a nonprofit organization, has multiple missions leaving at different times.

The World Race was originally a contest in which missionaries raced across the globe to become the first to complete assignments.

The organization no longer conducts that race, but embraces the concept of "one race" of people worldwide, rather than separation by race, Kenney explained.

She will be allowed only meager supplies, despite the wide-ranging climates in which she'll be both working on hands-on projects, such as digging wells.

Mission work is done "on the fly" based on existing conditions, however, Kenney said.

If and when called upon, she will share the Christian word.

"If the conversation leans toward Christ then we're going to explain who Christ is and we're going to get into the Bible. If we can bring them hope through what we're doing because we're doing it through Christ, that's the goal," Kenney explained.

In May, Kenney will attend a nine-day training camp that will put volunteers through the conditions they can expect when traveling to multiple countries.

Mission or not, worldwide travel isn't free.

Kenney is responsible for raising $15,500 to cover all air, land and sea travel, food, lodging and supplies costs.

She has to raise $7,500 toward that amount before she's allowed to step onto a plane. She has already met a May deadline to raise $3,500.

Her fundraising efforts have primarily been through her blog site, hosted by The World Race's Web server, and social networking sites.

During her travels, Kenney plans to use an application on her iPod Touch to translate multiple languages, in addition to translation help offered through local contacts.

Kenney is already an experienced world traveler, having visited several countries, including England, Germany, Mexico, France and Belgium after graduating from MSU with a degree in parks and recreation and tourism.

She said she's "over" traveling with the luxuries of resorts and expensive dining. The World Race will likely allow time to see the wide variety of sites the 11 countries have to offer, however.

Kenney said she will leave with a clear conscience of what she's leaving behind for the following year.

"I always knew that I loved helping out. I knew that I loved travel," Kenney said.

Published: Wed, Apr 18, 2012

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