Featured Racer: Kyle Dennard
24-year-old Atlanta native Kyle Dennard is on the July 2011 W squad; their World Race began in Ecuador and they're currently in Mozambique for their seventh month.
He found out about the Race through Jeanne Bensch, alumna of the January 2010 M squad. At the time, Jeannie had not yet gone on the Race.
"She told me that she was leaving for 11 months to do mission work traveling with a backpack," he recalls. Even as someone who was fairly well traveled, he says, "I remember thinking that she was crazy."
But Kyle ends up applying in July 2010 to go on the Race and committed to going a week thereafter. How did he end up becoming the pot that called the kettle black?
"I said yes to the Race because I knew there was more. I knew that there was more God, more purpose and more freedom than I was experiencing," says Kyle. "I heard stories of people really living out their faith on the World Race. I knew that I wanted to be around that type of community."
Kyle couldn't wait to get on that plane. "I was excited to go on the adventure of my life," he says. "It was stepping into the complete unknown for the first time in my life."
Yet he too had to overcome a few obstacles to begin the Race.
"The Lord was very gracious in removing the obstacles one by one," Kyle says. "He laid this experience on a golden platter for me, I really couldn't say no."
First, he had to decide if he'd go on the Race anyway and return to campus as a super-super-duper senior or postpone the Race to get his degree. He recalls concluding, "There was no better time than now. I decided to go without finishing school; I could always come back and finish classes whenever."
Then, there was also the small matter of raising the $15,500 to cover the cost of the Race. "I decided to step out in faith, not knowing how I was going to raise the money," he says, only knowing that he didn't want to depend on his parents to fund it.
Within a week of signing up for the Race, Kyle's close friend, John Evans, who had been battling cancer, passed away.
"It was really a hard time for me," Kyle says, looking back. "But God used his death in some miraculous ways."
To honor John, friends and family created a fund to support causes they knew John would have supported.
"He supported my Race," says Kyle. "Part of the reason I am here is because of him."
And so God made a way for Kyle to go on the Race. And before one begins any race, one must train.
"I came to training camp expecting it to be like a season of survivor meets a late night charismatic healing infomercial," Kyle recalls. Bracing himself for worst-case scenarios, he arrived at camp, "prepared with more gear, food and supplies to support my entire team on the field."
He admits, "Well... I was wrong, totally wrong." The ten days were filled with "meeting the most down to earth people, and learning more about what it looks like to be on the crazy adventure called the World Race."
"That week stretched me a lot and prepared me for where I am now. At least as much as you can be prepared."
Fast forward to month seven, more than halfway through the Race. One of the moments that stand out to Kyle happened earlier on in Bolivia, where he met the girl his family has sponsored through Compassion International for seven years.
"I just happened to be in the same city doing ministry that she and her family live in," he says. "I got to visit their home, pray for her family and then go to an arcade and play games with her. She has been just a picture on my refrigerator, it was so cool to actually meet her face-to-face and encourage her."
What has he enjoyed so far on the Race? "At first I thought that I would enjoy the travel the most, or the adventure," says Kyle. But it turns out the community aspect of the experience has come out on top.
"Don't get me wrong; both of those things are incredible," he says, "but community is incredible and really living in community creates a lot of change in you."
And what's been more difficult about the Race for Kyle? He says it's "living a lifestyle of abandonment."
"You know when you have had a long day in the Peruvian desert, your shoes are filled with sand, you smell like a garbage can and all you want is a nice shower?" he reminisces. "[Then] as you get into the shower and lather up the soap, the water shuts off for the remainder of the day."
He assures that he's "not angry... anymore" about doing without dependable running water. Yet even forgoing the comforts of home hasn't been very difficult. "Most of the time it has been fairly easy to be on the Race," Kyle says. It's "just an adjustment, you get used to it very quickly."
While his experience has differed quite a bit from his expectations, Kyle says, "Overall, it has been an incredible journey of discovering more of who I am in Christ and growing in intimacy with Him and my community. I have seen a lot of the world and experienced a little bit more of how amazing God really is."
On the Updates blog, we'll continue our feature on Kyle Dennard with a few questions, some serious and some not-so-serious.