One day last year, one of Keia Blair’s friends told her about the Georgia-based Adventures in Missions’ World Race.
The interdenominational missions organization focuses on discipleship and emphasizes prayer and relationships in its work among the poor.
That night, the Seymour native said she researched it online and decided she was going to take a year off from Cincinnati Christian University to travel around the world.
From September to May, she was among a group of 18- to 20-year-olds traveling to India, Nepal, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and Ecuador to perform mission work. In four months, she raised $15,000 to go on the trip.
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On July 1, she shared the impact of her trip during a program at Brownstown Church of the Nazarene.
Blair said the culture shock of India was scary.
Clothing regulations required the women to cover all of their body up to their ankles and wrists, and those on the trip weren’t allowed to tell anyone why they were there and what they were doing because it’s illegal to be a Christian in India.
“They beat them and cast them down in society,” Blair said. “A lot of people in those places think every white person is a Christian. It was a very dangerous place for us.”
Blair’s team worked at Covenant Child Development Centers in Ongole. Each day after school, they went to a different village to teach kid English, help them with homework, sing songs, lead Bible school and give them a hot meal.
Also while visiting the villages, the group prayed for people.
“All of the Indian people believe that white people have the power to heal them, so people would come for miles and miles and just line up in huge, long lines and ask us to pray for them,” Blair said. “Through that, we’re just teaching these people that we don’t have the power to heal, that it’s Jesus who has the power to heal through us, and he gives us that authority to heal people.”
Christianity also is illegal in Nepal.
A Christian father and son rebuilding their church ran into problems finding land, and they wound up cramming people into a small room to have church.
“It absolutely broke my heart that people are so hungry for the Lord and pursuing him so hard, but they don’t even have the freedom to express that,” Blair said.
The group couldn’t tell people they were Christians, and their host wouldn’t go out in public with them in fear of others seeing him with them and thinking he was a Christian.
“It was just really sad,” Blair said. “It opened my eyes to the freedom that we have in the Lord here and the freedom we have to express our love for him and worship him.”
Visiting Buddhist temples and hiking 10 miles to pray for people in villages were comforting for the group.
“Just being in such a place that is so spiritually heavy was really hard, but our team got to just walk through these villages and just pray all over the place,” Blair said.
She also worked at a Hindu school for a week and taught kids English, math and other lessons.
“We weren’t able to tell them we were Christians, but we showed them the love of Jesus through our actions and the way we loved them,” she said.
Of all of the places on the trip, Blair said Zimbabwe was her absolute favorite.
Through Youth for Christ, she worked at a youth center for older kids.
“Our ministry wasn’t laid out for us, but we actually got to create our own ministry and create our own vision for what we wanted it to look like,” she said.
English is spoken in Zimbabwe, so communication was much easier.
“It was so crazy to see just the impact that we were able to have on these kids because we spoke English and they spoke English, too,” Blair said.
The team also put together a Beauty for Ashes women’s retreat that drew 30 attendees. They shared testimonies and stories about the Lord, played games and ate food.
“We got to pour into these women in so many ways,” Blair said. “I heard some of them say, ‘This is the most incredible day of my life,’ ‘I wouldn’t ever experience anything like this,’ ‘This is powerful’ and ‘This changed my life.’”
They worked with teenagers at a girls orphanage home on the weekends and put on church services for high school girls at a boarding school on Sundays.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, they did hospital ministry, going from room to room to pray with the people there. That included on Thanksgiving.
“I saw a lot of very heartbreaking situations of really hopeless people,” Blair said. “Just the fact that we were willing to come just pray with these people gave so many people so much hope.”
Because of the living conditions and dangerous atmosphere in Livingstone, Blair said Zambia was physically one of the hardest places to be.
Spiritually, though, she said it was one of the best.
Every day, they had to walk four hours to do ministry.
“We got to pray the whole way there and back,” she said. “It was just so crazy to see the ways that the Lord moved through prayer. I learned what it was like to be in constant communications with the Lord.”
She worked at a home for elderly people and said it broke her heart to see them living in poor conditions.
Blair developed a friendship with a man named Crispy. She spent a lot of time with him and bought him clothes. At the end of her stay there, she gave him her jacket.
“He spoke little English, but the words that he could speak in English were only about the Lord,” she said.
While in Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the world, Blair lived in Malongwe and worked as a high school math teacher.
Her group also helped clean a health clinic several days a week and became good friends with the construction workers building it.
During those talks, they learned the workers only made $2 a day, so they started making lunch for them every day.
“On the first day, these grown men were sprinting toward us just to get food and water,” Blair said. “It was just one of the times when I was like, ‘Wow! I am so thankful for the life that I have. I’m here now, but I get to go home to a place where things like this are just unheard of.’”
Blair also taught kids math and English and fed them through an after-school program. Since many kids can’t afford to go to school, she said they would stand outside the windows and listen to what was being taught.
In their free time, Blair and her team went to a store to buy items to hand out, including cookies, suckers and water.
“People would run from miles away just to get a sucker,” she said. “People would ride by on bikes, and we would just hand them out as they were riding by. It was just one of my favorite times.”
Living in Ecuador’s capital, Quito, Blair worked at Covi, a before- and after-school program that takes in at-risk gang children.
They were fed a hot meal every day and participated in activities.
A highlight of this part of the trip was her father, Scott Heyne, joining her for a week.
“It was a super-incredible week,” Blair said. “I got to show him what my life looked like in the last nine months. I got to show him what I had been doing. I got to show him our ministry. It was really special.”
Blair got to paint a mural on the building where they worked and also spent time at a home for the elderly.
Seeing so much brokenness during her trip was hard, and Blair said all they could do was pray for people.
“The Lord wrecked my heart on such a deep level and just wondering how I am so lucky for the life that I have here,” she said. “We’re just so fortunate to live in a place like this.”
Since returning home, she said the Lord has shown her how needed she is here and how much people in the community need Jesus.
“The Lord said, ‘I want you to be still, I want you to take time and pour into the people around you and I want you to take time to pour into the people in your church, in your home, just everyone around you. That’s what I want you to do right now,’” Blair said.
Soon, she will start her last year of college, where she is majoring in biblical studies in hopes of becoming a missionary.