Brie Rotelle '12
11 countries in 11 months
"It's amazing what God will do as we say yes to Him daily"
During a whirlwind race across the globe, Brie Rotelle (’12) experienced amazing personal growth and incredible opportunities to share her faith.
In August 2018, I started a journey of sharing the Gospel in 11 countries over the course of 11 months. It’s called the World Race, and I met someone who did the Race when I was 15; it had been in the back of my mind as “something super cool that I probably won’t ever get to do” ever since.
After graduating college and working full time with a local children’s ministry for a few years, I felt God rekindling the passion I had for the world to know His name and His love. The World Race seemed like the perfect opportunity to be a part of sharing the His Kingdom all over the world, so I applied! I knew that if this was something God was calling me to, He would provide all that was needed for me to go- and He did! My church, family, and friends were so supportive, and I was fully funded and had an army of prayer warriors a month before I even left. What a gift!
The World Race has amazing partnerships with pastors, missionaries, and organizations all over the world, and I signed up for the route that spent the last 4 months in South America because of my love for Latin culture and Spanish. We had a squad of 25 participants between the ages of 21 and 35 that were split into teams of 5-7 people. Each team would stay in different locations within each country for a month at a time, then gather together and head to the next (don’t even ask how many hours I spent in a bus!)
I was asked to be a squad leader, so each month I got to join a different team and try to encourage them as we served together. Every few months, we would have a 4-day debrief, where we worshiped and prayed, had fun together, shared our experiences, and learned from each other. Over the course of the year, we worked to focus on mission (serving the Lord and His people), intimacy (growing in our relationship with the Lord), and community (serving, encouraging, and pointing each other to the Lord). Being able to travel with a group of people with the purpose of sharing the good news of Jesus was one of the most meaningful opportunities I’ve had in my life.
The What and the Where
Each month, I got to work with inspiring hosts that found us a place to stay (even if it was crammed into their own apartment) and let us join in the work God is doing through them. Each country and ministry brought about its own unique blessings, challenges, and funny, sad, or mind-blowing moments. Here’s a brief overview of what I got to be a part of:
· Teaching English at a kid’s camp in Ukraine
· Evangelism and joining in church planting in Romania
· Serving at a Christian retreat center in Bulgaria
· Teaching English to students and helping to put on a Christmas play for 2,700 people in Vietnam (a closed country)
· Squad leader training and ATL ministry (Asking the Lord each day what He had for us to do) in Cambodia
· Painting and pouring cement for an international school in Thailand
· Teaching English to seminary students and orphans in Myanmar
· Joining a YWAM base and serving in an orphanage in Colombia
· Teaching children and adults living in vulnerable situations in Ecuador
· Serving with CRU at two universities in Peru to evangelize and start sustainable ministry
· Serving at a rehab center for teens struggling with drug and alcohol abuse in Bolivia
There was never a dull moment, from trying to communicate with tuk-tuk drivers or figuring out what I was eating, to laughing with kids to translating for my teammates, from unexpected blessings and moments of missing normalcy… this past year was filled with amazing God moments and days of just trying to figure out how to get groceries. I learned that going, serving, and loving other people must come from a deep relationship with Jesus, the One who knows the hurts and dreams of everyone. I learned that people, no matter where you are, want to be known and seen, and I saw first hand that God is not boxed in by culture. I got to share the hope of Jesus with people who didn’t know it, and encourage and be encouraged by the body of believers in places I never imagined I’d be. Living in such close community taught me to be vulnerable and let others care for me when I needed help, and to compromise and learn how to sacrifice and best work together as a team.
There were (many) times I was pushed out of my comfort zone, like leading worship for bilingual churches, or running a kid’s club in Spanish, or trying to figure out how to get to a new city using local transportation. But there also were many times where I got to share my passions, like teaching mentally handicapped men how to play the guitar, making flower crowns with kids, or having a picnic with friends who we got to share the Gospel with.
My eyes were opened to the fact that everyone sees the world in a different light, and that I don’t have to be ashamed of my own culture while trying to learn about and adapt to a new one.
Living in such close community taught me to be vulnerable and let others care for me when I needed help, and to compromise and learn how to sacrifice and best work together as a team.
There were times where I could obviously see God working through us, like seeing Him heal a woman in Bulgaria, or hearing the gospel shared with thousands of Vietnamese who have never heard it. And there were times where I had to trust that He would use the work I did for greater purposes that I couldn’t see, like painting and caulking and painting and caulking some more in Thailand, or loving children by playing with them or helping them with their homework, or by peeling and slicing hundreds of potatoes to feed the guests at a retreat center in Bulgaria. I saw that the Kingdom of God is so much bigger than I can imagine, and that He is using all things for His purposes.
Being immersed in so many cultures was a beautiful benefit of going to serve. I learned that you shouldn’t point at people in Thailand, and how to say hello, thank you, and good-bye in eight different languages. I figured out how to cross a street in cities filled with motorbikes and how to eat with chopsticks without dropping rice (for the most part). I met people who worship the sun, consider geysers a mystery of the earth, and believe in reincarnation. I learned to carry toilet paper everywhere I went, and that you won’t get the check at a restaurant unless you ask for it. I learned how to grocery shop for seven people at an open air market, and that you have to eat everything put on your plate in South America. My eyes were opened to the fact that everyone sees the world in a different light, and that I don’t have to be ashamed of my own culture while trying to learn about and adapt to a new one.
I was blessed to see the beauty of the Carpathian and Balkan Mountains, the waterfalls in Thailand, the architecture of eastern Europe, the Pacific coast and the rainforest in Ecuador, the desert of Peru contrasted with green mountains surrounding Machu Picchu, and the Salt Flats in Bolivia. The diversity and beauty of the earth once again points to the glory of God, and being able to see some of the wonders of the world was an amazing gift as I was traveling—one that I am incredibly thankful for.
It’s hard to sum up a year of hopping from country to country, learning to follow God’s direction, serving people in new ways, and loving others deeply, but I hope that as I continue, He uses all that He showed me to draw me closer to Him and point others to the Truth. It’s amazing what God will do as we say yes to Him daily.
What was it like for Brie to spend major holidays—and her birthday—in distant places?
We celebrated Thanksgiving in Vietnam, and gathered together with a few missionaries from the states to have a feast. We spend the day before baking apple pie, brownies, and even a pecan pie (my favorite!) thanks to a visiting friend who brought pecans. Our host had secretly searched high and low to find a turkey, and surprised us by cooking it the day of! It was special to spend the day with my team and new friends, and even spent some time enjoying the beach!
I was in Cambodia for the month of December- and it was so strange to know that Christmas was coming but not have any of the normal build up, excitement, and decorations around. Even on Christmas day, life in Cambodia went on as normal and we watched the kids playing at the school across the street. I think that Christmas day was an eye-opening experience of realizing how many people don’t know anything about the saving grace of Jesus, and brought to mind the verse in Romans that says, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” There are billions of people desperate to know the love of God, and we have the joy of sharing it with them.
I was really missing home by this point in the trip, especially since I love the Christmas season with my family. The night of Christmas Eve, I went to see if I could find some ice cream and miraculously found a tiny, fake, decorated Christmas tree for three dollars! I brought it to our apartment and set it up with my red shirt as its tree skirt, and we set our Secret Santa gifts for each other around it to open in the morning. That tree, as tiny and cheap as it was, brought a lot of joy and comfort to me, and we took team pictures around it like my family does every year.
I was still in Cambodia for the New Year and about to travel to Thailand, so we gathered together as a squad to play games and have fun. Later in the evening, we spotted floating lanterns, and chased them down to find a lantern festival going on. Sending up a lantern like Rapunzel in Tangled was a dream come true, and we enjoyed being with hundreds of people as the New Year began (12 hours before it began here in the States!)
I spent Valentine’s day in Myanmar, and while I don’t normally do anything too special to celebrate, it felt strange being so removed from the typical advertisements and abounding chocolate. We tried to make a Valentine’s card for our host, and I used Google translate to try to write “Jesus loves you” in Burmese for them. Apparently Google translate has a bit of work in the Burmese department, because they told me that what I wrote didn’t make any sense! They appreciated the effort, though. The next day I went to the open market to grocery shop for our team, and I was admiring and smelling a beautiful assortment of flowers at a sweet lady’s stand. I tried to communicate how beautiful I thought they were to her and smiled a lot, and before I left, she gave me a single pink rose as a gift! I felt so loved and known by God, that even in the middle of Myanmar, he provided a rose for me for Valentine’s Day.
Easter was spent on the coast of Ecuador, where we were staying with a pastor and his family. We started Easter Sunday at 6:00 AM for a 4-hour church service to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. We saw many people baptized, and I got to sing my favorite traditional Easter songs in Spanish with at Latin flair! After, we had a big brunch all together with fresh bread from the store down the street. Easter time was an awesome opportunity to teach the kids we were working with about the grace of God, and all that he did to save us.
My birthday came on the second half of a 24-hour bus ride in Peru. While most of the day was spent winding around the mountains trying not to get sick, I was able to see snow capped mountains, beautiful fields, and herds of sheep as we drove around! And I was welcomed to where we were staying with a birthday sign, fresh brownies, and a candle. To top it off, I turned 25 in the 25th country I have visited. What are the odds!