11 Countries in 11 Months is Just the Beginning
Chris Zempel (LCL 2010) has known since he was a kid that mission work was his calling. Starting out by inviting friends to church, he has now impacted hundreds of lives across the world, sharing Jesus and helping communities.
Chris graduated from Concordia University St. Paul, majoring in Christian Outreach. Living in the Twin Cities, which is one of the most diverse areas, fueled him to continue expanding his mission field into becoming a global missionary, which is his long-term goal.
To start out, he researched different organizations to find a good fit. He came across blogs and videos about a World Race; a mission trip that covers 11 countries in 11 months, with the purpose of sharing the love of Jesus and serving each place they visit. He immediately knew this was the task that God was calling him to accept.
He started the journey in October 2016, and the first month was in India. As a team of five, they began their journey of meeting and ministering to everyone they met. Every month, they traveled to a new country, serving multiple areas in each location. Long bus rides were a standard, some lasting over 50 hours. Every place they went, different living arrangements were made. Even a river boat was home for one of their stops!
Throughout the journey, they served in a variety of ways. Construction work was a large part of the job. Building homes, making trenches, and general repair with heavy labor was a common activity. Beside that, medical camps, conferences, Vacation Bible School, giving and receiving testimonies in church, performing skits, handing out bibles, reading with students, and playing soccer were other ways they connected with the communities. Throughout every activity, the team and Chris reached out to share the love of Jesus.
The countries Chris visited spanned three continents (highlighted on the map). Starting in Asia, they stayed in India, Nepal, Vietnam, and Cambodia. Next was Africa, going to Botswana, South Africa and Swaziland. The last continent was South America, traveling north through Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, and Peru. Some of these countries were closed, meaning they could not openly share their faith. To temporarily live the life of a follower in those areas, Chris learned the meaning of service and love with no expectations for anything in return. Working with people who have so few possessions but so much love, he saw what Paul meant to be content in Christ.
The Race ended in August 2017, when they finally flew back to the United States. Chris documented the entire trip in video blogs through the World Race website. You can watch them at www.chriszempel.theworldrace.org. The length of his beard in each video is an entertaining visual of how far along he is in the schedule of countries. In his last recap of the World Race, he gave a powerful reminder, not of our current living situation or worldly possessions, but of our lives in Christ. “If you’re asking where God is in the world, I saw him in the people I met. They are after God’s heart, and he showed to them that He is a good God, and that everything will be forgiven and renewed.” His final takeaway was this, “Love God. Love people. Show His love everyday.”
After the race finished, Chris wasn’t sure what was next. He trusted God would lead him where he needed to be. Today, Chris teaches English to children in China, but foreigners are not allowed to teach Scripture. That does not hinder Chris from loving the people around him. He asks God to lead him and open opportunities where he can keep sharing Christ’s love with whomever he comes across, which is exactly what he learned to do on his World Race.
Chris experienced how hard life is in the mission field as one faces many different challenges. There were many periods of struggle along the way but at each turn, the word of God came through to keep him going. He also gives credit to all the faculty at Lake Country Lutheran for the start of his preparation for mission. He says going through LCL was one of the biggest blessings of his life. It was there that he grew in Christ and learned God’s truth as well as how to defend it.
A last message for everyone he can reach is, “A life with Christ is the best life. Ask Christ to come into you life today, because no matter if you have plenty or little, you will have joy and peace in Him.”