From Woodbury to the world
It's been just about four months since Woodbury native Addie Weaver returned to Minnesota after having spent 11 months traveling to 11 countries as a part of the World Race - and she is still adjusting to life back in America.
Weaver, a 2004 graduate of New Life Academy who now lives in Lauderdale, Minn., left for the World Race, which is a mission trip through Adventures in Missions, on Oct. 2, 2010, with 65 other participants and returned to the United States on Aug. 31.
"It's a hard thing to sum up 11 months," said Weaver, who blogged about the experience through the Woodbury Bulletin. ""There's no part of me that would trade that for anything."
During her stint with the World Race, Weaver traveled to Guatemala, El Salvador, Panama, Coast Rica, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and India - spending one month in each country performing service projects and mission work.
Some of the ministry work that Weaver and her fellow World Racers did included volunteer projects at orphanages, building churches, feeding the hungry, vacation Bible school and door-to-door evangelism.
"The ministry that we were doing definitely impacted the feeling I had for the country," she said.
Weaver said the highlights of the trip included Malaysia and working with Cambodian and Ugandan children.
The World Race wasn't all enjoyable though. Each country also had its fair share of challenges, Weaver said.
"There were definitely challenges, but I'm glad that there were," she said. "You can't live 11 months anywhere without challenges."
One of the challenges, Weaver said, was having to deal with the preconceived opinions of the people in the various countries.
"Wherever you go, you stand out," she said. "You can't really blend in."
However, Weaver said she did make friends with some of the people she came into contact with.
"It's amazing to me that Facebook has reached villages in Africa."
Additionally, Weaver said it was challenging having to move from place to place.
"You got very good at packing and unpacking," she said. "You get very good at doing things on the fly."
In total, Weaver said she slept in more than 60 different beds throughout the 11 months.
However, Weaver said the biggest challenge was coping with her teammates since they were always together and there was never a moment alone.
"It brings out a different side of you that you didn't really know you had," she said.
Taking lessons home
When Weaver first signed up to be part of the World Race, she said her goal was to gain a better connection with God and to open herself up to the rest of the world.
Now that the adventure is done, Weaver said she has gained all of that and so much more.
"I realized, like most people, that I am very self-involved and I don't want to be that way," she said. "It's really important to step outside yourself.
"I also learned that I'm capable of doing more than I thought I could."
Additionally, Weaver said her experiences opened her eyes to the rest of the world and helped her understand that things are hard everywhere.
"It's realizing that there is a lot of pain in this world," she said, "and realizing that if everyone does their part, change can happen."
Weaver said transitioning back into America has been a greater challenge than she anticipated since it is difficult to translate her experiences abroad into everyday situations.
"It's hard to take what you learned and try to integrate it here and keep a global perspective," she said. "I'm going to have to learn how to do that dance."
Weaver said her experience with the World Race has even inspired her to change some of her daily habits - such as being conscious of what she eats since other parts of the world are not as fortunate.
"It's difficult to live in America and not be a consumer-driven person," she said.
Weaver, who has degrees in both psychology and addiction studies, said she is hoping to go back abroad in order to help make a difference in the world.
"I want to go back abroad, but I don't know where," she said. "I want to go back into the rest of the world, so that I am able to use my talents outside of myself.
"There's a big world out there - I encourage people to go see it."
To read more about Addie Weaver's experiences with the World Race, check out her Area Voices blog, "Addie Weaver: From Woodbury to the World" here