Sarah and Derek Gill are visiting 11 countries in 11 months during a World Race missionary trip

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE  - Derek and Sarah Gill will live out of these backpacks for the next 11 months during their misionary trip to 11 countries.Sarah and Derek Gill were in a comfortable house in West Linn a couple weeks ago. By now, they’re at a rehab facility in Bolivia.

The couple departed Oregon in late June on a missionary trip — World Race, organized by Christian group Adventures in Missions — that will take them to 11 countries over the next 11 months.

“I’m a homegrown Oregon boy. I’ve never left the country. … So it’s a little intimidating,” Derek, 24, said the day before he and Sarah left to begin their journey. “I’m just excited to see how people live life in other countries — the struggles that they have, the things they love about their lives — and just kind of get to know that side of things.”

Sarah and Derek will travel with about 45 others, and work in smaller teams on location. In Bolivia, they may be helping with kitchen work at the rehab facility, running some programs or working with kids.

“Just whatever they need at the time,” 25-year-old Sarah said.

Throughout the trip, Sarah and Derek, along with their team, will connect with local ministry groups in each country and work with them for a month.

“It really does just boil down to what are the needs of the ministries when we’re there, and we’ll just hop in and help out wherever we can,” Derek said.

For August, it’s on to Peru. And then, Ecuador.

While not necessarily unexpected, embarking on such a lengthy mission trip was certainly a departure from the path on which Sarah and Derek Gill had set themselves.

“We were very focused on pursuing what we thought we wanted in life: house, kids, and just starting to dream of those things for our future,” Sarah said. “Then this kind of came up, and there was kind of this crazy, wild ‘what-if,’ what if we did this for a year?"

“There will be a time and a place for all those other things,” she said.

Both had done missionary work before, Sarah for three weeks in Uganda and Derek for a couple weeks in Oahu, Hawaii.

“That’s where the seed for this really started,” Sarah said.

And they felt compelled to do more.

“We just really felt like God put missions on our hearts beginning in the last year,” Derek said. “We really didn’t know what that was going to look like — we just kind of assumed that it would be a two-week trip somewhere.”

Then they heard about World Race.

Sarah and Derek will mark their third wedding anniversary on Oct. 16 in Colombia. November will find them in Japan.

Sarah, a freelance writer, has lived in West Linn since she was 8 years old. She was home schooled and then attended Portland Bible College. She met Derek, a Bend native, in 2008 at Starbucks, where they both worked.

“She trained me how to make caffeinated beverages, which was great,” said Derek, now an apprentice carpenter.

They were married in 2011.

The couple will spend Christmas in Malaysia, and start 2015 in Thailand.

Sarah and Derek decided to undertake the World Race about a year ago. Their preparation started with figuring out what to pack.

“First, we Googled packing lists,” said Sarah.

Their clothes and supplies for the year are packed into two large backpacks, each weighing about 40 pounds fully loaded. They bought a tent.

“Some months we will be living in it,” she said.

There was a battery of vaccines for both — about eight shots for Derek, fewer for Sarah. They ramped up their exercise a bit. They sought mentors.

“We spent a lot of time talking to people who have done world travel, who have done missions before,” Derek said.

And they fortified on their marriage.

“We have been putting a lot of time into making sure we’re strong and we’re not going to tear each other apart,” Sarah said. “We’re really excited, though, for all that it will bring to our marriage — it’s going to be so good.”

In February, it’s Cambodia for Sarah and Derek. March, Swaziland.

Sarah and Derek say they hope World Race will allow them to improve the lives of the people they meet, even though their time in each country is fleeting. For themselves, they want to return from the trip with eyes, and hearts, more open to people in need.

“People are what matter most in life, and in the world,” Sarah said. “I think that’s what I want to see grow more in me — just confidence to be less selfish, to step out and not hold back from giving generously of whatever I have.”

The couple will spend April in Botswana. Their mission will end in South Africa.

Then it’s back to West Linn. For a time, at least.

“Both of us really have ministry on our hearts,” Derek said, “and we’d love to pursue that — whatever that ends up looking like. It could be in the states. It could be overseas. It could look like a lot of different things.”

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