South Charlotte

Ex-nurse leaving her comfort zone to comfort others

Bethany Waddell became a nurse so she could help others, but a two-week trip to Costa Rica made her realize her true calling.

This January, the 24-year-old Beverly Crest resident will take a leap of faith when she embarks on The World Race, an 11-month mission trip to 11 Third World countries to serve the needy.

Waddell moved to Charlotte in 2005, when she started at Mercy School of Nursing, and has been working as an adult cardiac nurse at Carolinas Medical Center since early 2009. But she felt she needed to step out of her comfort zone and go somewhere she was really needed.

In August, she went to Costa Rica on a mission trip where she hoped to use her medical abilities. While the need focused on construction and women's outreach, Waddell realized she had a desire to help the Third World and decided to take action.

Upon returning home, Waddell started researching. Most medical mission opportunities were either two weeks or two years. Then, in March, she stumbled across The World Race.

"As soon as I found the website and read about it, it was like an adrenaline rush," Waddell said. "It was like 'This is what I want to do.' "

The trip is not specifically medical; every member of the team will offer any personal expertise they can, which could be helping out in orphanages, volunteering in medical clinics, teaching English, building schools and churches, working to help reduce human trafficking and child prostitution or the less glamorous acts of mixing cement or washing dishes.

"It sounds very dramatized, but in reality the day-to-day grind is very humbling, basic and hands-on," Waddell said.

She wanted to leave in July 2012, giving her more time to raise the more than $20,000 in necessary funds, but when The World Race posted the January route online she knew that was the one.

"I suddenly realized I was putting off what God was calling me to do and I didn't have a good reason why," she said.

"For the most part, all of us are quitting our jobs, leaving home and family, taking only a backpack and heading out with 50 strangers. But for me it's scarier to stay in a monotonous daily routine that doesn't challenge me or make an impact."

Barring serious political situations, the plan is to spend a month in each of the following countries: El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Nepal and India. For her flights, transportation, food, lodging, fees and gear, the trip will cost $22,000-$24,000.

Fundraising is her biggest fear. "It's hard because I've always been comfortable," Waddell said. "It's easy to say 'Trust in the Lord and he will provide' until you're faced with the prospect of quitting your job and raising $20,000. Then you feel like you're starting to develop an ulcer."

Waddell will partner with Applebee's at Stonecrest for a Flapjack Fundraiser on Sept. 17. She also is selling Citipass books and collecting donations on her World Race blog.