hearing how a fellow church member’s life was changed by a mission trip, Carlee Persinger decided she wanted to experience that herself.
The 18-year-old Seymour resident said she has always wanted to go on a mission trip since Seymour Christian Church sends people to the Dominican Republic each year, but she has never been able to go.
One day at the end of last summer while talking to Keia Blair, Persinger learned about her nine-month mission trip through Adventures in Missions‘ World Race.
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From September 2017 to May 2018, Blair was among a group of 18- to 20-year-olds traveling to India, Nepal, Malawi, Zambia, Ecuador and Zimbabwe to perform mission work.
World Race, which is offered through Georgia-based Adventures in Missions, is an interdenominational missions organization that focuses on discipleship and emphasizes prayer and relationships in its work among the poor. Since it was established in 1989, more than 100,000 people have been taken into the mission field, ranging from a week to a year or longer.
“She was like, ‘Yeah, the World Race is amazing,’” Persinger said. “She was like, ‘The people are incredible, and they just want to know about Jesus. They just have a desire and a passion to know who Jesus is.’ I wanted to go to Africa, and so she had gotten to go and experience the people and the things, so I was like, ‘I’m going to look into it.’”
After she researched it online, Persinger was in the car one day with her mother, Donna, when she told her all about the three-month option in Africa. Donna was on board with it, but she wanted her daughter to get approval from her father, Dave.
He was OK with it, too, so Carlee filled out the application online and went through a phone interview.
Two weeks later, she found out she was accepted.
“I was sitting there with my dog, so after I hung up, I was like, ‘Otis, I’m going to Africa,’ and then I called my mom and dad and I was like, ‘Guys, ‘I’m going to Africa,’” Carlee said.
She said it meant a lot because she wasn’t sure if an opportunity like that would be possible after she had been going to Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health in Indianapolis for issues with migraines.
“Jesus performed a miracle in my life, and I got better, and my migraines were gone, and I was able to get up and do more,” she said. “To get that acceptance call was probably the best call I’ve ever gotten in my life to know that they saw I was strong enough to be able to go to Africa.”
In January of her freshman year at Seymour High School, Carlee said she began having stress and anxiety issues.
“It started with spasms in my hip and my side and going back and forth to Riley, and I missed probably a year of school,” she said.
She transferred to Crothersville High School during her sophomore year but still was unable to go to school on a day-to-day basis, so she switched to online classes through Indiana Connections Academy in Indianapolis. She finished in December.
“It amazes me since she has had that, when I explain it to people, 50 to 60 percent of the time, somebody that they know has had the same problem,” Dave said of migraines. “It’s just more common than you think.”
Every day, Carlee said she would wake up and fall asleep with a migraine.
“I would end up in the emergency room half the night with getting a shot. It was crazy,” she said.
“It would go to what they call an ice pick headache,” Dave said. “She would be screaming, and then you would take her to the emergency room, they would give her a shot and it would calm it down. They were hoping that it would reset it, but it never did.”
She became involved with a young adult group at her church and went to a youth conference with them in the summer and became closer to them.
One night, she said she was at one of their homes when she experienced a headache that she didn’t think was going to go away.
“I just said a prayer, I was like, ‘Jesus, take the headache from me. Take it away,’” she said. “I was able to fall asleep, and the next morning, I woke up headache-free, and I’ve only had minor sinus headaches ever since then. They just disappeared. It was definitely amazing.”
Dave said his daughter’s dream had been to go to college and play softball, but the migraines shot that down.
She, however, was redirected and led to the World Race opportunity.
“We really believe God changed her path,” Dave said.
Soon after she was accepted for the mission trip, Carlee began thinking of fundraising ideas for the $6,400 she needed. She sold T-shirts, conducted a bake sale, wrote support letters and created Adopt a Box.
She also raised money online through her blog page, carleepersinger.theworldrace.org.
“There were weeks where I was like, ‘Am I going to reach my next deadline?’” Carlee said.
Then one week, she got $1,000, and she recently only had $1,300 remaining.
“Different individuals have just really felt the call of the Lord to donate, and they’ve just done incredible,” she said.
Friday was the deadline to donate online, but if people are still interested in donating, checks may be written to her to buy travel gear, clothes and other needs for her trip or use as spending money.
She can only take one bag with her along with a day pack.
“I’ll pack for three months in one bag,” Carlee said. “That is definitely the most stressful thing right now is trying to think of, ‘What if I leave this?’ and ‘Can I leave this behind?’ because I’ll have to carry it all in my bag.”
She has been able to communicate with the 10 other people going on the trip to get advice on what to take and what to leave home.
Carlee will leave Jan. 24 and head to Atlanta, Georgia, for training camp. Then Jan. 28, she will fly to Livingstone, Zambia, where she will spend the first month. The second month will be in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, and the final month will be in Johannesburg, South Africa.
On the trip, she will participate in street evangelism, teach at a school, do sports, elderly and young adult ministry and help with vacation Bible school.
She said she’s most looking forward to working with kids.
“I help out each Sunday with either the little preschool-age kids or the older elementary-age kids at our church, so I love working with kids and helping them and playing with them,” she said.
She also is excited about interacting with others her age going on the mission trip.
“I love worship in general, so anything that is worship-related, I know I’m going to love definitely working with the people and getting to know them,” she said.
The group will return to Atlanta on April 27 for a final debrief, and Carlee will fly home April 29.
Dave said he and his wife are excited but nervous about Carlee being out of the country and on a plane for the first time.
“It’s going to be hard on both of us, but we know that in the end, she’s going to mature, she’s going to get life lessons early and we just can’t wait for what’s going to happen, especially what she has gone through, and now, doors are really opening up for her to get on with her life and chase her dreams,” Dave said.
After the trip, Carlee said she plans to attend Johnson Bible College in Tennessee to become a youth minister.
She wants to work with youth at churches and take them on mission trips, so she expects the World Race to be a good experience to share with them.
“I hope it benefits me getting closer to the Lord and getting to know him more and getting to really dig deep into the Bible and be able to share that experience with others and share my experience coming through pain and anxiety and depression and being like, ‘You guys can flip it around and do something good with your life,’” Carlee said.
Dave said he has always challenged Carlee to find something she can do for the rest of her life that’s fun and exciting and she will never work a day in her life. He said he has been able to do that, and he wants the same for her.
“Find something that you’re passionate about and enjoy and you get paid for it, too, and I think she is headed down that road,” he said. “You don’t care about how much money it makes as you enjoy what you’re doing, and I think she has found that. We want to support that. It’s her decision and her dream, so she needs to live it out.”
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Check out Carlee Persinger’s World Race blog online at carleepersinger.theworldrace.org.
She will be posting blogs during her three-month mission trip in Africa, and they will appear in The Tribune, too.