Gap year leads to mission work
The transition from high school to college is difficult for most, whether the campus is down the street from one’s childhood home or on the other side of the country. It means reinventing oneself in a new place and having a freedom never experienced growing up.
For some, a gap year is their best way to slow down and decide what they want to do with their life. They might work, travel, or just take time to reflect. But for Hannah Plunkett, the daughter of Angie and Clayton Plunkett, a gap year took on a whole new meaning.
Plunkett, 19 years old, decided the best way to handle her gap year was to spend it in service to God. For nine months she traveled to six different countries on a mission trip to share His word with hundreds of people. “I never expected to end up doing missions. The summer before her senior year the thought didn’t even enter her mind until a friend brought it up in a conversation about the future. “He said ‘Well, you love Jesus. Why don’t you do something with that?’ I couldn’t see myself being a missionary or anything.”
That all changed when Plunkett discovered The World Race. She was in the car with her father one day discussing what she wanted to do for college when she Googled “Christian gap year.” “The World Race was the first thing to pop up,” Plunkett says, explaining that she immediately knew that that’s where she needed to be. “I just read the title and thought ‘I need to do this.’ ”
The World Race is a mission trip aimed at young people. The option is open to people between the ages of 18-20 and has routes to three continents in nine months. The other option, for 21-30-year-olds, takes the missionaries to 11 countries in 11 months. It’s run by an organization called Adventures in Missions, which is a nondenominational mission-based group. The group doesn’t have a specific ministry, but they partner with ministries around the world. Besides The World Race, they also host short-term missions that are one to three-month mission trips.
After raising money for expenses and attending a training camp, soon she and her school sized backpack, with a few of the essentials, were off to India along with other young people from around the country. The journey took her to six different countries, one more than the normal gap year mission trip. She and her team took God and His word to the most rural and poorest parts of the world, spending one month in India, Nepal, Zimbabwe and Zambia, two months in Malawi and three months in Ecuador.
One of the most powerful moments was when she prayed over a woman in Nepal. “We did street outreach at night and we would talk to different people. One night I felt this really heavy burden to go to a bar. So I was like ‘Okay, God, I feel like I need to do this but I don’t know where to go.” She and another team member walked until they felt compelled to stop. She describes a woman in front of the bar who got up and gave her a big hug. “I just started hugging her back and stroking her hair, trying to pray a little bit out loud for her as much as I could.” It was only after that, when they sat down to talk to her and noticed another woman snapping in her ear, they realized she was deaf. “We put our hands on her, I put my hands on her ears. And we prayed.” After praying three different times, suddenly the woman reacted to the snapping.
Another part of the trip that resonated with Plunkett was when her team did a village outreach, an activity where missionaries go out to villages and preach. “It was my first time to preach on the race,” she says. “I was nervous because I had never preached.” The preacher prayed over the people and asked the Holy Spirit to come down. “All of a sudden it was like I was living the Pentecost. If you’ve read Acts and think that book isn’t relevant, you’re wrong.” Everyone started speaking in tongues, people started weeping and praising the Lord and people were being healed, according to Plunkett. “That’s when I saw my first real miracle.”
But miracles and preaching weren’t the only things Plunkett did while on her trip. She taught English at a small school in Malawi and started a fundraiser, along with her team, called Let’s End Hungry Season. With the help of friends and family, the team raised $4,500 which was enough to offer people two meals a week.
Mission work hasn’t left Plunkett’s life quite yet. Now that she’s home she will attend Mississippi College and has her sights set on going back out. Her plan is to double major in business and Christian studies. “I hopefully want to use that to go back on the mission field full time,” she explains. “I’m trying to leave myself open to where God needs me to be. I know if I choose I won’t be where I can be best used.” Not only that, she “100 percent” recommends others take the challenge, but she wants people to understand one important thing: “It’s not just a ticket to travel. There’s a lot of work. If you’re not in it for the ministry you can’t make it.” She says that, above all, people should be open if they’re called. “If it’s something you feel called to and you feel like God’s telling you to go, don’t ignore it. Go.”