Sibling harmony

May 17th, 2018 Posted in From Our Alumni
Two sisters surrender possessions and embark on missions of ministry

By Laurie B. Davis

Children in Haiti befriend Bethany Grayczyk and help her adjust her University of Toledo Rocket cap.

Before alumna Joy Borish (Ed ’15) landed in Washington Court House, Ohio, where she now lives with her husband, Nathan, and teaches at Miami Trace Middle School, she was aiding victims of human trafficking and pulling Syrian refugees from the Aegean Sea to safety.

She has always wanted to lead a life of service, but as her University of Toledo graduation approached in 2015, she felt anxious about life after college. She was not 100 percent convinced she had chosen the right life path, and she struggled with her decisions, she says.

“My heart had always desired to serve people,” says Borish. “I grew up participating in mission trips, both domestically and internationally with my mom, brother and my sister. I grew up volunteering at nursing homes, hospitals, soup kitchens and homeless shelters,” she says. I loved to serve and help people.”

After earning her bachelor’s degree, she applied to graduate school at UT and to the Peace Corps. It wasn’t until she found Adventures in Missions that Borish found peace in her heart. The nonprofit missionary organization in Georgia that operates the World Race, provides an 11-month program for participants between the ages of 21 and 35. They travel to 11 countries where they evangelize about a life of serving Jesus, teach the Gospel through partnerships with established ministries, and participate in community service projects.

Local people came to hear World Racers entertain and teach them in Myanmar.

Borish’s younger sister Bethany Grayczyk (Eng ’17) is currently in Haiti and will end her World Race journey in the Dominican Republic in June. By the end of her mission trip, Grayczyk will have visited four continents and a dozen countries —Albania, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Thailand, Philippines, Myanmar, South Africa, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Prior to their departure, racers sell all of their material possessions and fundraise for their trip through myriad means: garage sales, auctions, speaking and charitable events, spaghetti dinners, outreach to businesses and sponsors, and donations from family and friends. The money they raise pays for airfare, buses used in country for travel, administrative fees, medical insurance, and food.

They carry with them only one 70-pound backpack, a 35-pound day pack with a tent, sleeping bag and hammock, the items that serve as their living quarters for one year. Generally, they carry only one set of clothing and live on less than $5 a day for a year. There are no 21st-century amenities, including running water for bathing, which is done with a bucket and a cup.

Bethany Grayczyk poses with a young girl she met in a local village in Myanmar, where she and her fellow youth missionaries taught English.

“The World Race was something that shared my passion for serving,” says Borish. “It allowed me to travel, share my faith and live life differently — living out of a backpack, leaving behind everything I once owned and was told was necessary to enjoy life, all while helping others.”

Had Borish not taken the circuitous route she traveled as a missionary, she might not have found herself back in Ohio ready to utilize her UT Education degree as an intervention specialist. She certainly would not be married to the man she met on her journey, a man who shares her faith, values and passion for service to others.

“One of the men in my squad fell in love with me at first sight — so he says. But he continued the entire time, very subtly, working to win my heart. Eventually, I fell in love with him. Once we returned home, we married that fall.”

A World in Need

Bethany Grayczyk’s parents, Shari and Joe Grayczyk, were able to visit their daughter in Pretoria, South Africa, where together they served the homeless and jobless of the townships.

While thousands of miles away from Ohio, Borish aided people who were fleeing some of the worst tragedies occurring in the world. In both Serbia and the Philippines, she worked with children who had been rescued from human traffickers. And in Greece, the challenge of helping refugees who were fleeing Syria through Turkey made for an emotionally heavy month.  

Departing from the coast of Turkey, hundreds of Syrian families had piled on plastic rafts to sail across the Aegean Sea in hopes of reaching the Island of Lesvos, says Borish. She and her World Race squad of young missionaries were stationed to operate an emergency relief camp on Lesvos. They were joined by volunteers from EuroRelief, the United Nations and Samaritan’s Purse.

A passionate pursuit in waiting.

“Once we arrived, we immediately began working 14- to 18-hour shifts. We were the first responders on land, pulling these hurting people out of the water and onto shore. We were getting them emergency medical care; helping them find their missing family; sorting through donations; and helping them change out of their cold, drenched clothing,” says Borish. They cooked, and offered a meal and hot tea, and helped load people onto buses that would transport them to a larger camp in Thessaloniki, Greece.

The danger of crossing the sea rose as more people boarded the rafts that were over capacity, says Borish. If a raft should capsize and force people into the water, they would be faced with swimming to shore. “This brings tears to my eyes even recalling these memories,” says the young missionary. “It was absolutely heartbreaking every time we would hear news of a raft collapsing and losing 100-plus people each time.”

Refugees from Syria find safety, food and clothing in a temporary relief camp. Joy Borish was among the World Race missionaries who helped pull people from the sea along the coast of Lesvos, Greece.

One evening while recovery work went on in response to a capsized vessel, a woman screamed and cried out in Arabic for help among the chaos along the shoreline. Borish reacted by taking the woman’s infant from her arms and running to a medic tent. “The raft they were on capsized and her husband drowned swimming the baby to shore,” says Borish. “The woman was barely alive, and the baby was experiencing hypothermia, if he had not already passed. Those next moments felt like an eternity, stripping the baby, wrapping him up and working to warm his precious body back to life. It was surreal, it was agonizing, it was heartbreaking. Although I could only understand a few words from the mother, I knew the pain and fear in her cries, and I could only pray. After a little while, the baby’s temperature did not drop, his color did not return, and he did not begin breathing. I was holding a precious, tiny life that was never going to live. I was hugging a stranger, a sobbing, mourning mother who had lost her newborn son and her husband in one night, while trying to escape their life in Syria, leaving behind everything except each other, in hopes to find peace and safety.”

It’s a family affair

Joy Borish comforts a boy in Lesvos, Greece, where she and other youth missionaries aided Syrian refugees.

Borish says she misses her sister, Bethany, a World Racer who is in Haiti this month after leaving Zimbabwe. “Occasionally if she is able to find a strong Wi-Fi, I am able to video chat with her, which is wonderful. I try to give her a lot of encouragement while she is gone. It is really hard being away from home and your friends and family for so long.”

Like her sister, Grayczyk has done some relief work. She helped prepare bags of food and clothing for Burmese refugees seeking safety from flooding. In South Africa, she served the homeless and children living in the slums of Port Elizabeth, and in Pretoria, she served alongside her parents, Shari and Joe Grayczyk, who were able to visit their daughter during a Parent Vision Trip in April. They worked together to teach life skills to poverty-stricken residents who also are jobless. “After the classes have been completed, the people receive a certificate of completion that is recognized by the government,” says Grayczyk. Many of the graduates become job candidates for retail stores. “We were able to give input and guidance to the people about emotional intelligence and real-life workplace scenarios,” she says.

Tired from travel, the young World Racers wait in Myanmar at a transport station.

Grayczyk says one of the most rewarding experiences she has had so far was on Christmas Day 2017 in Chum Phae, Thailand. She and her team members went there to evangelize and share their Christianity through some religious performances. “Christmas Day we were invited into a government-run Buddhist school, where the only Christian there was our contact. During our time there we did four performances, which included a dance, a skit, a mini message about the Gospel and the meaning behind Christmas. Then we did break-out sessions with the youth,” she says. “During my last group of sessions, I had 15 students, and after sharing my testimony about how I came to be a Christ follower, all 15 wanted to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.” Through a translator, Grayczyk says, she was able to lead these students in prayer to accepting Jesus into their lives.

While some people in the countries Grayczyk and her fellow racers have visited already practice Christianity, many in Asia are Buddhists and Muslims. She says many people they met in Europe are atheistic. “People, for the most part, have been extremely open to learning about my faith. I have learned over the course of these past few months that the more direct I am with people, the more willing they are to be direct, and thus honest with me about where they stand in their beliefs and why.”

Before the homecoming

Some experiences on the whirlwind trip also have touched on her life back in Ohio. In Romania, Grayczyk got to play soccer, a sport she loves. She plays, coaches and referees the game at home in the states. “One of the teams on my squad went out and evangelized to the local youth and then set up a soccer outreach day at one of the public fields. Through that, I was invited to join them for the day and play and get to know the youth—and I had an absolute blast.”

Joy and Nathan Borish wed in the fall upon their return to Ohio after completing the World Race.

Grayczyk’s UT education also has carried over to her mission abroad. When some of the hosts learned that she has an engineering degree, they asked her advice about side projects they were working on. “I was able to give my input and unofficially guide them,” she says. “Additionally, and used more readily, I was able to use some of the education I received through my minor—entrepreneurship—and help some people who were trying to start their own businesses in various countries. I even was able to help a person start writing a business plan while in Europe.”

With only one month ahead to complete in the Dominican Republic, Grayczyk says she knows exactly what she’ll take away from her experiences across the globe. “First and foremost is the knowledge that missions is a lifestyle. People do not have to go overseas and ‘volunteer’ for a week, or a month, or any period of time—there is a mission field right at home, wherever home may be. Secondly, I know I will take away from this experience the knowledge and understanding that God is living and active, and that He wants to do the extraordinary in and around our lives,” says Grayczyk. “We just have to be open, willing, and listening in order to allow God to have His way into our lives.”

Borish suggests that taking the long way home after college and turning her UT degree into a fulfilling role in her community was God’s work. “Yay, I am using my college degree; God has a funny sense of humor. We are still missionaries, we are just serving in a different mission’s field.”

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