Natalie P. (Right) Photo

Punkay (at right) with members of her Race to 2025 Team.

Sophomore Natalie Punkay sees life as an adventure and she wants you to come along for the ride. The southern California native took part in a unique kind of thrill-seeking last spring when she participated in Wycliffe Bible Translators’ weekend fundraising trip, Race to 2025.

The trip merges fundraising with adventure by having participants raise financial support to engage in strange and exciting challenges that are common to missionaries across the world. The funds raised go toward Wycliffe’s Bible Translation program, which helps unreached people groups around the globe see the gospel in their native languages for the first time.

Punkay learned about Race to 2025 last year when a speaker came to Bethel and mentioned it in one of her classes. Though the program was enticing, Punkay was hesitant to get involved.

“I’m not very athletic, so I wasn’t sure at first,” says Punkay. “Most people told me they didn’t think I should do it.”

Punkay signed up anyway. Once she committed to the trip, Punkay’s next challenge was raising $500 of support.

“I decided I was going to go pretty much a week before the race,” she says. “I asked some family and professors [for support]. Somehow, I raised it all.”

Punkay’s adventure took her to a secluded part of Tennessee. When she arrived at the location, she was placed in a team of four. She and her team competed against others in challenges like rappelling, kayaking, starting fires, mountain biking and translating. Throughout the race, Punkay’s determination, teamwork and communication skills were put to the test.

“The race was trying to give you a missions experience,” Punkay says. “It showed me that there are so many ways to get involved with missions, even though I’m not in a major that’s specifically missions.”

Punkay, who studies elementary education, wants to take her degree to South America where she hopes to both teach and empower her students. The race, Punkay noted, helped make her feel like she could achieve that dream.

“It teaches you to get out of your comfort zone with people and things you don’t know.”

It is when she steps out of her comfort zone that Punkay feels God working in her the most, which is part of the reason she is eager to return to Tennessee for Race to 2025 again this spring (2016). This time around, however, she wants others to join her.

“I’m actually trying to get a Bethel team to go this year,” Punkay says of her goals for this year’s race. “Last year there were two teams from Grace [College], and it seemed like they wanted people to compete with.”

While Punkay says that Race to 2025 is especially impactful for aspiring missionaries, she encourages everyone to take a look at the trip.

“You can do it,” Punkay says, and she hopes to see you on the starting line.

For more information on the Race to 2025, visit