When Lincoln County native Amanda Warden reached a crossroads in her life, she was forever changed with the decision to give up the comforts of home to go on a mission trip to third world and developing countries.
For about five years, Amanda, “Mandy”, had been working as a physician’s assistant in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
“I was chasing the ‘American Dream’ but couldn’t find satisfaction,” she said.
She had heard about “World Race”, a trip through Adventures in Missions, an organization that would send missionaries to 11 countries in 11 months for the purpose of bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who don’t know Him. World Race kept coming up in conversations, and Mandy felt as though God was telling her that it was time to let go of her plans and take hold of His vision for her life.
I was obedient to God,” she said.
Mandy made preparations to leave her home, sold most of her possessions, quit her job as a hospitalist and signed up for the mission trip. She felt that God wanted her to tell people about Jesus and the relationship they could have with God through Jesus.
She raised the $18,000 to $20,000 which would provide the funds for her to go on the lengthy mission. About a decade before this, while still in college, she traveled to Australia for a six-week evangelism trip.
After completing her undergraduate work at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, Mandy earned her master’s degree in Health Science, Physician Assistant Studies, at Lincoln Memorial University, DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine. Then, in 2016, she went on a medical missions trip to Rwanda. She later paid off her student loans and made preparations to go on World Race.
World Race was for people ages 21 to 35 who had to go through a mandatory training camp. There, they had to pass a rigorous physical fitness test to ensure that they had the strength and stamina they needed to endure harsh conditions. While Mandy, tall and willowy, enjoys physical fitness, and is preparing for a half Iron Man in May, it was a challenge for her to carry her backpacks and other supplies that totaled about 75 pounds.
In all, 36 people from the United States and one from Canada would go on the trip, which would involve living in rough conditions. A squad mentor and two older squad leaders visited them every few months, and two other squad leaders stayed with them the first five months.
The group traveled to the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Lesotlio, Eswatini (Swaziland), South Africa, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia and Ecuador. One of her ribs went out of place during the trip, and she was sick nearly every month.
In order to make the trip more sustainable, each person devoted five days to ministry, took one Sabbath day and had a free day or Adventure Day, which they could use weekly or save up for a more extended time. Rather than using her Adventure Days every week, Mandy saved them until Christmas time and went to Singapore.
In each country, the squad of missionaries split up into smaller teams and lived with different ministry hosts in most countries. Accommodations were not anything like they would have been in the United States. Heat or air conditioning were not available, and in one host dwelling, Mandy recalls waking up to the sounds of things crawling inside a wall near her bed.
“I love America … we don’t realize how good we have it here,” she said.
Despite the rough conditions, they saw some beautiful country.
While in Cape Town, South Africa, the teams saw one of the New7Wonders of the World, Table Mountain, and they played with elephants in Thailand.
In the Philippines, Amanda’s team stayed in a boys’ orphanage, where they mentored homeless boys. They also formed a prison ministry and ministered to those who suffered from drug addiction.
“We were telling them about Jesus and that they could have a relationship with God through Jesus.”
In addition to evangelism, members of the team did construction work, provided office management for local industries, spoke at local churches and more. The leadership in some countries, such as Malaysia, were hostile to Christianity, and the teams could not evangelize. But, they could ask people questions about what they believed.
“I think it’s important to know what you believe and why.”
For safety’s sake, the missionaries had lots of rules to abide. In some countries, the team members couldn’t go anywhere after dark, and in others they had to have someone else with them at all times.
Over the course of 11 months, the teams held children’s ministries, juvenile prison ministries, bar ministries, homeless ministries and even ministered to women in red light districts.
“We were telling them that God loves them,” she said.
People were very receptive to what the missionaries had to say, Mandy explained. The teams prayed for a lot of people and saw healing and some miracles.
“I learned that even if I didn’t see healing, it still helped that person.”
The last month was spent in Ecuador, and Mandy said it ended with a bang.
“God put it on my heart to host a free medical clinic for Venezuelan refugees … we would see them everywhere,” she said. “My vision of the free medical clinic was so much smaller than God’s (vision),” she said.
Ultimately, more than 2,000 people were served at the clinic by 10 doctors, four dentists and a lawyer, who talked to them about visas and passports.
In addition, a dance teacher gave dance lessons, a radio station was present, Mickey Mouse made an appearance and a bounce house was set up for kids. Venezuelans, whose country is severely poverty stricken, could sell their merchandise during the event.
“People heard the Gospel … Jesus loves them no matter what they’ve done and God wants them to accept Him and He has good plans for their life.”
In August, the squad returned to the United States, and Mandy appreciates her country more than ever. Mandy said she had a sweet time being around friends and family when she visited Lincoln County.
“Before World Race, I was so self-focused … now I’m more surrendered and more focused on, ‘How do I bless others?’”
She recently moved to Ashville, N.C., to continue practicing medicine. There, she wants to be involved with a Christian community to mentor to young adults.
“I am loving life and living life more abundantly,” she said with a smile.
“It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done – but I think the fruit is lifelong,” she said. “He (God) wants what’s best for us more than we want what’s best for us.”
To read more about Mandy’s journey, go to her blog, AmandaWarden.theworldrace.org.