on being a squad mentor [part 1]:

September 14, 2010: 

I had a job interview this morning at a daycare and it has left me feeling depressed. I was excited at the prospect of working with babies, but when I was there I felt so closed in, so suffocated and stuffy. And then I fear I will never find a job that makes me feel alive – instead I’ll have to suffer in a job that makes me feel like I’m locked in a cage. But then I wonder, is that life? Am I expecting too much? Does everyone else assume position in the cage with no complaints because they understand the drill? There’s something about rigorous structure that brings about that trapped feeling. It’s times like these when I wonder if I’m really meant to work at a camp or be a youth pastor or a missionary or on AIM staff – because then I won’t feel like I’m dying. I want to trust that God has the best for me. Oh God, give me hope. 

Four years ago was a rough season for me. I had recently come back from the World Race and was trying to find my place in this world. To my dismay, the places I wanted to work wouldn’t have me (the YMCA, a youth ranch, etc etc.) while the places who did want to hire me made me cry. Applebees. A shoe store in a mall. That daycare.


The cherry on top came in November when I was rejected from Teach for America – a dream 4 years in the making. It was more than a dream, though. I truly believed it was a calling from God.

The rejection from TFA stung, but the rejection I felt from God shook me to my core. I wrote one of the most heartbreaking entries in my diary that day, and those pages are still crinkled from my tears. Some words I’ll leave just for me, but these ones I will share…

I have too many passions. Too many places I want to live. I tried to narrow it down – that plan failed. Now I’m left on the floor of my bedroom with nothing but my tears. […] I want to be rooted. I want to start moving forward with whatever it is I’m supposed to be doing in life. Or am I destined to wander forever…

I ended that entry with the words, “there’s something else.”

Two days later I called Adventures in Missions and told them I wanted to work for them. And I’ve been with them ever since.

Indeed, there was something else.

In the last four years at Adventures I’ve led a Passport (college-age) trip, a World Race squad, I’ve served as an apprentice, I’ve worked in recruiting/long term missions, and now I’m a Squad Mentor.


I’ve been a Squad Mentor for nearly two years and I’ve loved nearly every minute of it. This job doesn’t make me feel like I’m locked in a cage – instead I am free to fly. To Vietnam. Guatemala. Albania. Peru. Malawi. Malaysia.


This job keeps me on my toes – when I’m not in another country I’m often at a Training Camp or Launch or Project Searchlight. These events bring spice and flavor, preventing structure and desks and walls from suffocating me.


And then there’s the racers. I love them, I love them, I love them. They are why I do what I do. To them, I’m someone who pops in every few months when I come to debrief. I know they don’t understand everything I do, and I know they probably don’t understand how deeply I care for them. But oh, I care.


I want the best for them. I worry about their health and safety. I try to protect them and promote them as much as I can. I’m so proud when they press into the hard places and make the most of their race.

Every week I receive a 30+ document from each squad I mentor called “C&Cs”- celebrations and challenges. I pour over these pages. I cry when I read about the death of a loved one back home, or when they write about a revelation they are having about God. I laugh when they write about silly things, I’m touched when they write about simple things. Recently a racer wrote about how she was homesick, and could I bring her a Pumpkin Spice Latte? I thought that was so endearing.

I have listened to their stories of rape, sexual abuse and more sexual abuse. I have listened to their stories of abortions and miscarriages and codependent/homosexual relationships. I’ve heard one too many stories concerning absent fathers, angry fathers, alcoholic mothers. More than once I’ve stopped myself from screaming THIS IS NOT OKAY!!!! because just when I think I’ve heard it all, there’s another story of hurt and pain and abuse.

But it doesn’t end there. I see breakthrough. I see walled hearts crumble, I see life and laugher on faces that were once lined with shame and unforgiveness. I watch as racers learn to love that teammate of theirs that drives them crazy. It amazes me every time.

I get to witness racers come alive in places they least expect – Africa for some, Asia for some, Central America for others. It can’t be planned, and it can’t be explained when it happens. Brittany found a piece of her heart in India, Stacie found some of hers in Africa, Jessie couldn’t wait to get back to Honduras. And when they leave those places their hearts are ripped in half. They will never be the same because of it… the world will never be the same because of it. Yes and amen.

I have learned so much from these racers – one of the biggest themes being grace. Something I can’t exactly put words to, but journeying alongside of them has taught me lessons in grace. And for that I am forever grateful.

Sure, being a Squad Mentor can seem glamorous from afar – mostly due to the travel. But there are lots of emails (so many emails.) There are also lots of details… and I’m not always good with details (ENFP probs.) At times I feel like a tax collector when I have to hound people about their fundraising. There was that time my suitcase was stolen in Guatemala, or that time I was bit by dogs in Uganda, or the time I had to spend the night in the Lima airport and shivered on the cold, hard floor. There’s long, LONG plane rides – aka swollen ankles and dark circles under my eyes and at least five years lost in good looks (…but seriously.)

The only time I want to quit this job is during those lengthy plane rides back to the States.



But I don’t quit. A part of why I love my job is because it’s personal to me – I was once a World Racer. I had to learn how to love my teammates, I found some of my heart scattered on those African dirt roads, I discovered who I really was in Christ and I commited myself to him more than ever before. Because of this, I do my best to make sure every racer has such an opportunity.

There are so many other reasons I love this job. The coaches. The squad leaders. My co workers. I could go on and on and on. I find myself living through the days thinking, “how did I score it this good?”


Such a contrast to my thoughts four years ago, when I was crying on the floor and questioning whether or not God even had a plan or purpose for my life.

It’s crazy to me now, looking back on that season. The fear, the tears, the rejection, the floor. He knew that wasn’t it, he knew there was something else, something more – he knew Adventures in Missions was a better fit for me than Teach for America. I actually think if I applied to TFA again I would get accepted at this point. But I don’t want to… this is my new dream come true. God knows what’s up. Even when we least expect it.

Speaking of which…

A few weeks ago my bosses sat me down and offered me a new position. In that moment, in Steve’s office, I knew I would take it. I was excited because I knew it was God, but the overwhelming feeling I experienced then, and in the days to come, was grief. Giving up something I love? Not easy.

But worth it.

[…to be continued because this post is already too long.]


About Hope Naomi

Lover of all things tea and travel.
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10 Responses to on being a squad mentor [part 1]:

  1. ashleybf says:

    eeeeeep – post part 2 already 😀

  2. buntingtr1 says:

    ahhh, I love this. I’m so glad you came to work for AIM. XO

  3. alysseay says:

    Hope! I’m on the edge of my seat. Through reading your blog a deep love and hope in me was encouraged to come even more alive. I love you.

  4. Ryan says:

    You inspire me! Thank you for writing this….feel so thankful, lucky, and blessed to know you and get to call you my friend! Thanks for being you Hope and for living the life that you do…your making a difference in many lives….I know that you have in mine!

  5. Lacey Pauley says:

    This is beautiful Hope. Thank you for sharing. Love you so much!

  6. Sharon and Bobby says:

    Oh Hope….We loved reading this and hearing your heart! You have so much to offer and we are so blessed to have been part of your journey. You have taught us so much. Here’s to the memories still to be made! We are so “THANK”ful for you!!! Hugs and love, Tom and Bob😘

  7. Hugh Roberts says:

    Amazing stuff hope. I’m really glad to have shared part of this story with you. You’re seriously such a precious person (I wrote gem… Sounded cliche, wrote diamond… Decided those aren’t worth all what Americans think… Decided precious was better… In Gollum’s voice from Lord of the Rings) haha anyways. I loved the blog, I’m wondering what my 4 year outlook will be like

  8. You’re fabulous and I have had mostly bad experiences with TFA teachers and have worked with a lot of them…not a fan of the organization at all…like AIM way better. Glad God led you that way, excited to see what’s next for you!

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