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Happy Valley Baptist member to race through 11 countries in 11 months carrying cross comment (0)

September 8, 2011

By John Evans

In a land still nursing the wounds of the April tornadoes, some people wonder why Amy Colley plans to travel the far reaches of the globe for missions.

“I’ll have people that I admire and look up to say, ‘Why are you going on this missions trip when you know your neighbor next door in Alabama is suffering from a tornado?’” Colley, a member of Happy Valley Baptist Church, Lanett, said.

She wrestles with this question in the deepest of ways; her best friend’s parents and sister perished in the storms.

“I want to be here to help her build her house back, to help her do whatever I can to put her life back together,” 23-year-old Colley said. “But then, at the same time, I know that if I don’t go, who will? This is my calling. If I neglect that or ignore it, then I’m not doing my part for the will of God, no matter how hard it is.”

As she counts the cost of what she is leaving behind, she prepares to embark on The World Race, a missions journey that, starting in January 2012, will take her to 11 countries in 11 months. Conducted through the missions organization Adventures in Missions (AIM), the race will see teams of “racers” partner with local churches and ministries in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Ukraine, Romania, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Thailand, Cambodia and Malaysia.

Colley’s connection to international missions began in earnest when Happy Valley Baptist’s youth pastor left to serve as a journeyman with the International Mission Board in East Asia and she read his updates from the field.

A house fire in 2002, in which she lost most of her possessions, further jolted her perspective on life.

“These things that I accumulate in this life mean nothing,” Colley said, reflecting on the lesson the fire taught her. “So after I had lost everything of my own, I began to look more to eternal things.”

In 2007, she took her first international missions trip, serving in Belize with Praying Pelican Missions. The joy that overflowed in the people’s hearts there amid their extreme poverty left a lasting impression on Colley.

“For me, that just opened my eyes to see that it’s not about the things we have,” she said. “It’s not about how big and fancy we can be or how profound we can sound, and the Belizean people opened my eyes to see that.”

Colley first learned about the race in 2005 but felt unprepared for such an enormous commitment. Her life moved on as she made her way through college at Jacksonville State University. As the end of 2010 approached, she was working on degrees in photography and international economics and thinking about marriage to her boyfriend and had just received a scholarship to graduate school, where she hoped to study dentistry before serving as a medical missionary. Praying Pelican even contacted her about working in Haiti for two months.

But it all unraveled as Colley felt God strongly leading her back toward the race.

“I was like, ‘Well, Lord, what’s going on? What is your plan? I’m kind of confused, because I thought I had all this laid out,’” she recalled saying. “And then God kind of brought me to the breaking point where He said, ‘Remember what I have taught you. It’s not about you. It’s about me and my Kingdom.’”

Colley began to see the race as an opportunity to further learn about ministry in different cultures, so she embraced the challenge and completed AIM’s thorough application process to join the race. She said some people can’t understand why she would lay aside her planned-out, nice-looking future for a year on the missions field. They are not alone.

“I don’t understand it and I don’t care about understanding it,” Colley said. “Because it is hard to say, ‘Oh well, I had a scholarship to grad school and now I had to turn it down.’ I may not get that back. It would be a lot easier if I wasn’t going on the race, for sure, just because of plans and family and everything else that follows in between. But like I said, it’s not about me anymore.”

She faces her share of challenges as she attempts to raise $15,500 to cover the trip’s expenses. That involves foregoing Friday nights with friends to send out support letters, visiting churches, spending time in prayer and updating her World Race blog.

“It doesn’t matter if people think I’m crazy or I’m a Bible-thumper or whatever,” Colley said. “It is important for me to carry the cross and push through those struggles, because I know that my journey is just now beginning.”

John Samanie, pastor of Happy Valley, believes other Christians can learn from Colley’s decision to put aside her plans and follow God to the missions field, and he appreciates the dedication she has shown to the effort.

“Everybody wants to sign up for a missions trip, but not everybody wants to put in the work and the behind-the-scenes stuff that it takes to make that happen,” Samanie said.

“Amy is finding out what it really takes to raise money and to get prayer support, and she’s out there doing it.”

For Colley, it’s all part of following the continuing purpose God has for her life.

“All this time, I thought God had been preparing me with Praying Pelican for this huge, colossal event called The World Race, and now I’m steadily realizing that God is preparing me for something even greater than The World Race: a lifetime of missions.”

For more information, contact Colley at 706-773-4442 or acolley@jsu.edu or visit her blog, http://amycolley.theworldrace.org.

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