After nearly a year of traveling the globe to serve in countries from Nepal to Swaziland, Hannah Gund ‘16 has returned to the U.S. with a renewed passion for ministry and a message for American Christians: Wake up! God is doing amazing things far beyond our borders!

Gund participated in the World Race, a program offered by Adventures in Missions (AIM), which sends teams of young adults to 11 countries in 11 months. Racers work with a network of local churches and nonprofits that are feeding the hungry, rescuing those trapped in slavery, caring for orphans, and healing the sick in heart and body.

PictureDescent over Nepal with view of the Himalayan Mountains.
The work Gund and teammates did varied by location, from soccer camps and VBS ministry with street kids, to sharing testimony in churches, to teaching English, to visiting the elderly in their homes, to distributing food aid. “We were doing something different just about every day,” she said.

One of the most eye opening countries she visited was Vietnam, where it is illegal to openly preach the gospel. Even in a “closed” country, Gund was astonished at how God was at work in powerful ways.

It’s that passion and spiritual awareness that Gund feels is lacking for many stateside believers. “Being a Christian in America is really easy in a lot of ways, which can sometimes harm our relationship with God. It can lead to complacency.” You don’t have to travel the world to get involved in the work of the Kingdom, she stressed. From adoption to local community service, “there are so many things that a Christian can do right where they are,” said Gund. “Being a Christian is not just about going to church on Sundays.” 

PictureGund shares a hug with Lydianna and her little sister in Albania.
One stop on her world tour that has forever changed her was Albania. “We lived in the poorest neighborhood in the capital,” she recalled. “We built relationships with the kids in the neighborhood and they got involved with pretty much every ministry that we did.” She made a deep connection with a 10-year old girl named Lydianna. With a head full of lice and a perpetually empty belly, Lydianna spent her days begging patrons at outdoor tables at restaurants. Some people would give her money, others would shoo her away like a stray dog.

“She was kind of a wild child,” said Gund. “She didn’t do well in a structured environment,” and interacting with people was sometimes difficult for her. The breakthrough came when Lydianna showed up for VBS and got to paint for the first time in her life. “It was amazing to see the child within her grow, to see her go from a wild child to a CHILD child who just wanted love and play,” she said. After that, “Lydianna would run up to us in the street and jump on us and hug us. I wanted to never let her go. It was so good to build a relationship with her, to see her as more than just a beggar, to see her as human, as a person, as a child.”

Lydianna didn’t speak English and Gund didn’t speak Albanian, but it didn’t matter. “The power of love transcends all languages. Love doesn’t need language,” she said.

PictureGund with friends Sinatimba and Owaytu in Swaziland.
Another country that stretched her was Zimbabwe, where they visited the homes of church members. “We would ask them ‘what would you like us to pray for?’ A lot of them said, ‘money for school fees,’ because that was a top concern. It wasn’t a guarantee that their kid could go to school. That was an eye-opener, because school is something Americans take for granted.”

Now that she’s back in the states, Gund wants to help missionaries bridge the gap between the mission field and people in sponsoring congregations in the U.S. “I want to bring awareness to people in the U.S. about what’s going on in the world and also encourage missionaries in the field. Missionaries are constantly pouring out themselves and they often don’t have others pouring into them.” Gund would like to do more short term mission work overseas and bring others along. “I want to bridge the two worlds and encourage Christians to think globally,” she said.

In the meantime, Gund is working with her family’s construction business and planning for the next step in her adventure. “I want to do ministry, whether that’s full-time with a church, or just living my life in a missional way, working and serving people,” she said. Not knowing what’s next is challenging. “It’s a weird and scary phase since I don’t know what’s going on. It’s an exciting and terrifying place to be.” While she doesn’t know what her future holds, she’s inspired to action every time she sees the news. “There are a lot of tragedies going on in the world, being aware of that makes me think ‘what am I going to do about it?’ I want to be a voice for the voiceless. There’s so much need.”

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