Like many other graduates fresh out of college, Kaleigh Ward had plans to find a job and a house and begin her life as a young professional. Ward graduated in May from Furman University with a major in Sociology and a minor in Women and Gender Studies. This bright, articulate young woman had plans to stay in the upstate, Greenville area where she had begun to establish herself. She had plenty of friends there, a good gym and was plugged in to a local church. For Ward, life was good and the future seemed bright and comfortable.
But then, something changed in Ward’s mind and heart. Really, something was awakened. “I felt God lay it on my heart that I needed to serve. Now was not yet the time for me to work; it was the time for me to give back,” she said. And after that moment, Ward was no longer a typical college graduate anymore.
She decided to take part in the World Race program, an extended mission trip that runs for 11 months and officially begins for Ward on September 10 when she leaves the United States for the Philippines. The World Race trip, which is sponsored by the Adventures in Missions parent group, will take her to a different country each month. “I’m set to go to the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Swaziland, Mozambique, Malawi, Romania, Ukraine, India and Nepal … maybe not quite in that order,” said Ward who is definitely excited about embarking on this year-long adventure in just a few short weeks.
While on the World Race, Ward will participate in various charitable acts, such as working with children at orphanages, teaching English at schools, preaching, doing construction work, doing office work at churches and working with outreach for women.
“Helping women is a strong passion of mine,” said Ward. “In college, I read a lot about the inequalities of women throughout the world and it ignited something within me. Here I am, a woman in America, and I’ve always had what I wanted and needed. I wanted to give back.” Ward said she wasn’t sure how at first, but she knew she was called by God to do something great to help others.
She found out about the World Race program from a friend who had done it before. “Anna Matthews, also from Camden, did it before and she told me about it and has helped me get prepared for my trip,” she said. Ward has been going on mission trips since she was 13. Her first trip was to the Bahamas with her church Bethel Worship Center. After that, she went to the Dominican Republic twice.
It wasn’t until this past June that Ward tried a mission trip without her church. Through the Adventures in Missions group, she found out about the need for volunteers in Oklahoma to help after the tornadoes that left parts of the state in utter destruction.
“It was my first local trip and my first disaster relief trip and it was eye-opening,” Ward said. “I was there for a week and we worked continuously, moving rubble from yards into the roadways so that trucks could pull it way. After that week, I had to leave and I didn’t want to. I could see the massive need for more man power.” Ward was extremely grateful for the opportunity to help in the face of such devastation. She said she felt it would give her an idea of what could happen on the World Race.
“While I’m on this trip, if there were a natural disaster like that, we would immediately respond and help. What I did in Oklahoma was exactly what other World Racers would do and were already doing, so I thought ‘Of course, I’ll go out there.’ It’s practically my backyard,” Ward said emphatically. Her enthusiasm and passion to serve has been contagious and has inspired others to give back in their own way.
The trip requires that Ward provide $15,000 to cover travel and other various expenses. “I’m very blessed to say that portion is 100% covered” due to donations from various individuals and organizations. Ward knew the trip was right for her because the money came in, in full, within 4 months. There is still a remaining portion that Ward is currently raising. “I still have to come up with $4500 to cover vaccinations, gear and out of pocket expenses.”
Though she won’t have a phone to call and text at will, Ward will have a laptop that she can use at various locations that have wifi. From there, she can update her blog, email and check Facebook. Ward will be keeping her blog updated weekly with pictures and descriptions of her activities, “that way my family and friends and everyone who has supported me so far and wants to keep up with me can see where I am and what I’m doing,” she said. The blog is also the best way for interested donors to give to Ward to help cover the remaining expense.
If there is ever a time when she feels nervous or doubtful about her upcoming trip, Ward said she thinks about how quickly the money came to her and knows that to be proof she is doing the right thing at the right time in her life.
“Of course I will miss my family. I won’t be home for Christmas and that will be hard. My little sister is starting school in the upstate this Fall and we thought we’d be together, so that’s hard to give up for right now,” she said, “but I know that doing this, I will see the world and I will see God’s plan for me and for everyone else in a new way I could never see if I didn’t go.”
Ward smiled and said with conviction, “Yes, I may be living in a tent for a year and carrying my belongings on my back when we move sites, but I’m ready to be adventurous.”
For those interested in learning more about the World Race or the Adventures in Missions organization, please visit www.adventures.org. Bethel Worship Center will also be accepting donations for Ward. Visit Ward’s blog for information on how to give, www.kaleightward.theworldrace.org.
A woman on a mission