As a member of Seymour Christian Church, Keia Blair has gone on mission trips to the Dominican Republic the past five summers.
Those experiences inspired the 20-year-old Seymour native to take a year off from Cincinnati Christian University to go on a nine-month mission trip around the world.
Through Adventures in Missions’ World Race, she will be among a group of 18- to 20-year-olds traveling to India, Nepal, Malawi, Zambia, Ecuador and Zimbabwe to perform mission work from September to May.
Blair said one of the biggest difference with this trip is the length. The mission trips with her church were only for a couple of weeks.
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“It’s going to be really challenging and probably the hardest and the craziest thing I’ll ever do, but it will be the most rewarding and the best thing I ever did at the same time,” she said. “I think this will just require a lot more reliance on God than my previous mission trips, just being away from family.”
The trip costs $15,000, so Blair is in the middle of fundraising. She started that at the end of March after learning she was accepted to go on the trip.
She has conducted a yard sale and a bake sale, and she has another bake sale from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday outside Walmart Supercenter in Seymour. She also has a women’s volleyball tournament planned for June 17 at Gaiser Park and a golf scramble Aug. 12 at Shadowood Golf Course, both in Seymour.
So far, she’s close to $4,000. Her payment installments are due in June, August and December. People also can donate through her blog page at keiablair.theworldrace.org.
“Just keeping me in their thoughts and prayers is also a really big help,” she said.
The trip came about while Blair was looking for something to do over the summer. She was thinking about an internship, but nothing worked out, so she looked online for other options.
That’s when she came across the World Race, which is offered through Georgia-based Adventures in Missions.
The interdenominational missions organization focuses on discipleship and emphasizes prayer and relationships in its work among the poor. Since it was established in 1989, more than 100,000 people have been taken into the mission field, ranging from a week to a year or longer.
Blair applied for the World Race gap year, which is for college-age students to take a year off from school to figure out what they want to do with their lives and what direction they are heading.
Two weeks after applying, she learned she was accepted.
“I was so anxious just waiting, and then I got the call,” she said. “I was at work when I got the call, and I started crying because I was so happy. It’s really a lot to take in. I don’t think it has hit me yet that I’m going to be gone for nine months.”
All along, she said her parents have backed her decision.
“My parents are super-excited for me,” she said. “They joke around about it like, ‘Are you sure you really want to do this?’ but they have been super-supportive about it.”
Blair said the group can have up to 55 people, but it’s at 35 right now. Those people are from all over the United States and Canada, and they are doing group chats and Skype to get to know each other before the trip. Before they leave, they plan to meet together at someone’s house.
They also will attend a two-week training camp in July in Georgia to learn more about the trip.
“They haven’t told us a whole lot about what we’re going to be doing yet,” she said. “It’s Christ-based, so we’re going to basically be doing mission work, vacation Bible schools, construction, basically humanitarian work.”
One thing Blair does know is she won’t have much with her except a large hiking backpack. That will include a tent, a sleeping pad, a hammock and a few clothes. She is packing those items because she’s not sure if she will have a place to stay in some of the countries.
“A big part of this is just leaving the United States with basically nothing,” she said. “I can only take a backpack, that’s it, so just really realizing what’s important to you and what’s not, and just fully relying on God and just realizing that your computer or your iPhone isn’t as important as it seems to be. Just fully letting go of things and letting God take care of everything is a big part of their mission statement.”
She also will have a laptop so she can blog once a week while on the mission field, which is a requirement for the trip. She also is doing some blogging now until she leaves for the trip.
“A big thing of it is you need to post pictures so your supporters see what you’re doing and where you’re at,” she said.
Blair hasn’t been to any of the countries she will be visiting, so she said that is exciting, too.
“India and Africa are two places that I have always wanted to go,” she said. “India has been at the top of my list for a really long time, so just being given that opportunity to go to both of those places is super-exciting for me.”
Academically, Blair is a junior because she earned college credits when she attended Seymour High School and has taken 18 credit hours each semester of college.
She plans to graduate in May 2019 with a degree in urban and intercultural ministry.
Her ultimate goal is to become a missionary abroad, so she expects the upcoming trip to give her a glimpse into that field.
“This is kind of like a super-important time for me to figure out where God’s leading me and where my heart is in missions, whether it be in one of these countries or not in one of these countries at all,” she said. “This opportunity just kind of came out of nowhere, but I’m just so glad it did.”
Seymour native Keia Blair is raising funds for an upcoming nine-month mission trip around the world.
She is conducting a bake sale from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday outside Walmart Supercenter in Seymour. She also is planning a women’s volleyball tournament June 17 at Gaiser Park and a golf scramble Aug. 12 at Shadowood Golf Course, both in Seymour.
Donations also may be made by emailing Blair at email@example.com or visiting keiablair.theworldrace.org.