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Local News

Minooka seniors set to depart into World Race Gap Year

Minooka Community High School seniors Abigael Pena and Alyssa Mayfield both want to land a job in the mission field, so to get a taste of a missionary life, they will spend nine months with the World Race Gap Year.

From September 2017 to May 2018, while many newly graduated students are in their first year of college or trade school, with only the pack on their back, these two will journey on this mission for college-aged young adults to minister to the sick, the poor and the forgotten.

“I wasn’t big into school at first, and I know I want to do full-time mission work, so what a better way for me to figure out if mission work is for me,” Mayfield said. “I’m thinking, after this is done, I will go to Liberty University for global studies and get a degree in what I want to do.”

World Race offers Christian mission opportunities, and according to, the gap year is the Bible verse Matthew 10 in action: “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.”

Mission work is not new to these students. Both have been to St. Lucia for a two-week mission with their church, Minooka Bible Church, to teach Bible camp to the children. Pena went on a mission to Bulgaria with the same church to minister to gypsies and teach a day camp to children.

“I was a freshman in high school when I went to St. Lucia. I thought I could not do that, but my pastor said I would have fun. That was the best trip, and that’s when I realized I wanted to do this long term. My trip to Bulgaria further pushed me, confirming that I wanted to go into missions,” Pena said.

As well as St. Lucia, Mayfield has been to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, with her church three times and went to work with a fellow classmate in Mexico with a music ministry. While in Haiti, Mayfield helped to construct homes for widows, performed skits for orphans and worked closely with Faith in Action Orphanage, which is a part of Don Shire Ministries.  

“I feel called to go each time. It lights a spark in me each time I go help with the orphans – I feel fulfilled,” Mayfield said.

Each racer gets to choose which out of the six routes they would like to take. Most of the time, the racer is granted their first choice. For nine months, Pena will travel to Swaziland and Lesotho in Southern Africa, India, Nepal, Nicaragua and Guatemala.

“I’m excited to see other countries and the cultures, and of course save people,” Pena said. “I’ll be so far away from home for so long in other countries doing what I love.”

Mayfield will take a different route than Pena. She will visit Thailand, Cambodia, Honduras, Guatemala and Ethiopia. She said she is most excited to work in the field of sex trafficking.

“I have never worked in sex trafficking, and I think it’s something everyone should work with because people are blind to it and think it’s not a real thing. Being a young woman, I hope to connect with these young women,” Mayfield said.

Jen Mayfield, mother to Alyssa, said her daughter is not traveling for luxury, which means something different.

“She will see other parts of the world and hopefully she will come back with compassion. She will learn a lot of life lessons you don’t get going away to college,” Jen Mayfield said.

To prepare, both girls are required to get a yellow fever shot, but will also have other immunizations as well as take malaria medications.

The World Race Gap Year costs around $15,000 which covers food, shelter and transportation. Gear costs around $1,500 and money for souvenirs and any necessities along the way are brought separately. The girls will sleep in houses, outside in tents, under shelters and wash clothes in any water that can be found.

Everything they take must fit in their pack, so packing smart was essential. One pack needs to hold a sleeping bag and pad, tent, mosquito net, hammock, a pillow, soap strips and clotheslines, a week worth of clothes and toiletries.

To pay for the mission, both girls created a blog and have hosted a myriad of fundraisers from bracelet, customized t-shirt and painting sales, to bowling and restaurant fundraisers. Mayfield said she is $500 shy of her goal to the $15,000 and still needs to earn extra spending money. Pena has about $6,000 in her savings, so she still is in the thick of her fundraising efforts.

As time gets closer, both girls have thought about fears of being in remote areas of the world for nine months. Mayfield said she fears getting sick and kidnapped and Pena said her fear is getting sick as well.

To keep track of the girls on their journey or to support their mission, visit:
Alyssa Mayfield:
Abigael Pena:

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