A Mission or a Calling?

Lebanon Valley College graduate Kelly Fahnestock

A strong faith, a calling to help others, and an interest in living abroad spurred Kelly Fahnestock ’13 to spend the past two years as an independent missionary traveling the world.

“There is just something that ignites me when I hear someone’s story, pray with them, speak life into them, or do some manual labor to help them physically,” said Fahnestock.

The final inspiration for Fahnestock’s future came at Creation, a Christian music festival she attended shortly after graduation.

“It was there that I heard about the World Race—an 11-month mission trip to 11 countries—serving people around and exploring the world. When I took a pamphlet, I just heard the word ‘Go!’”

But, having just graduated and accepted a job offer, she tabled those dreams and focused on her work at Hope Springs Farm, a day program for individuals with mental and physical disabilities. As she advanced from college intern all the way to program specialist, she decided to submit her application to the World Race. Starting in January 2019, she traveled to countries including Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, India, Nepal, Rwanda, Uganda, Portugal, and Spain.

After completing the World Race program, Fahnestock said she felt called to return to Rwanda. Despite the pandemic, she remained abroad and worked with impoverished women who joined a tailoring group and men who had just come out of rehabilitation.

“Currently, I’m an independent missionary working alongside organizations with the country I’m serving in for short periods and then circling back around,” said Fahnestock.

Along with Rwanda, Fahnestock has spent recent months in Kenya where her organizations sponsored girls for a chance to give them a better life and built schools and churches. 

“I love that I can go to different places, create relationships, encourage, and be a source who points to our Father in heaven,” said Fahnestock.

She got involved in Christian fellowship early in her time at LVC, making some lasting close relationships. She was also involved in community service, volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and Special Olympics. 

“These experiences helped shape who I was. I was able to take on responsibilities that helped boost my confidence and abilities as a leader,” said Fahnestock.

While at LVC, Fahnestock also studied abroad in New Zealand. Her time there opened her eyes to the beauty of the world and her desire to travel. She felt that her majors, psychology and sociology, and her time at LVC, prepared her well for global travel. 

“Those classes and experiences opened my mind. Even though I’m on a completely different path than what I had planned when beginning college, I’m so thankful for the volunteer opportunities, the Christian life on campus, Resident Coordinators, studying abroad experience, all my professors who pushed me, and for the variety of classes I took at LVC. I’m proud to be a Dutchman.”

A sociology class with Dr. Sharon Arnold, professor emerita of sociology, helped her understand how to flow in non-western countries. Fahnestock stresses the importance of being culturally competent when traveling abroad.

“Understand how to create relationships. Be culturally aware. Do your research on the culture you will be embracing. And lay down a lot of expectations you have and just embrace what comes your way.”

Connect with her on her blog kellyfahnestock.theworldrace.org to learn more and follow Fahnestock’s journey.


-- Kayleigh Johnson, Marketing & Communications Intern