Bradford woman

Marta Tesfaye Riel, shown here, is conducting the “Marta’s World Race” benefit Saturday at the Bradford American Legion to raise funds for her upcoming Christian missionary trip to Asia and Africa.

For Marta Tesfaye Riel, plans for a Christian missionary trip to a number of countries in Asia and Africa will make a full circle in her life’s quest to love and help others.

Riel, who was brought to the United States from an Ethiopian orphanage by an American couple, and graduated from Bradford Area High School before traveling and working in several occupations, had always dreamed of becoming a missionary. That dream finally came true when she learned of the World Race organization, which conducts Christian missionary trips around the world. In January, Riel will join the organization to travel to Asia and Africa in a 11-month, 11-country tour. In order to meet the financial obligations of the trip, however, she has to raise several thousand dollars to add to funds already accrued.

Riel is hopeful that a portion of those funds will be raised during Saturday’s “Marta’s World Race” benefit slated to be held from 2 to 7 p.m. at the Bradford American Legion at 210 W. Washington St., where she is employed. Admission is $10 per ticket, or $25 for three tickets. The event will include food, prizes and a Chinese auction. Participants do not need to be present to win.

Describing herself as deeply religious, Riel, now in her late 20s, said her connection with the World Race organization will enable her to assist children and others in need of help, much like she had needed a helping hand as a youngster. In the years since she came to America, she found help and support through individuals such as Bradford Mayor Tom Riel and his wife, Janel, who became her adoptive parents. She also met other individuals who recently helped her find the roots of her life when they obtained documents and records of her birth and early childhood in Ethiopia. Riel noted that she uses her late biological father’s surname, Tesfaye, as homage to the man she is proud of and who had served in the military.

Riel said she hopes that traveling to 11 countries with the World Race organization will allow her to provide love and hope to children who may feel lost, just as she had felt.

She believes her acquired skills as a certified nursing assistant, as well her work in several occupations, will be useful during her missionary trip.

“I’ve lived my life surviving, and now I feel like I can live my life dreaming,” Riel said. “This has been a dream of mine to do missionary work — to work with kids in foreign countries, or even in America.”

She said the World Race organization has provided that opportunity to her.

Riel said she will travel to Atlanta, Ga., next week for training, and will leave for Indonesia with the organization in January. Each month, the group will travel to a country on the itinerary, including Thailand, Myanmar, Nepal, India, Malaysia, Swaziland, Lesotho, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia. Group members preach in churches, participate in door-to-door ministry and visit children in orphanages.

A spokeswoman with the organization said, “We do whatever it takes to bring God’s kingdom to earth and share His love around the world.”

Riel said she is grateful to those in the community who have contributed to her cause, from businesses and organizations in the community, to her friends and workplace. She has also worked extra jobs to earn the needed funds.

“People have been very giving and generous,” she continued. “I had this lady I don’t even know mail me a sleeping bag.”

When contacted about the fundraiser, Darlene Davis, manager of the American Legion, said the club donated the use of the facility for the fundraiser.

“The World Race has been a dream of Marta’s and we are all very proud of her,” Davis said.

“Marta has been a bartender for a little over a year at the American Legion Club and although we are sorry to see her go, we all support her endeavor and will truly miss her.

“Marta is such a vibrant person and you can’t help but smile when she is around,” she added. “We hope that she has a great outpouring of support this Saturday.”

On a final note, when asked what she expects to gain from the missionary trip, Riel said she hopes it will create opportunities for her to work on behalf of orphanages for years to come.

“This is an opportunity that will open so many doors for me,” she remarked. “I could even work for this organization if it comes down to it … if Oprah called me to work in her orphanage right now, I’d be packed and ready.”

For those who can’t attend Saturday’s event, donations to Adventures in Missions may be mailed to: Marta Riel, P.O. Box 143, Bradford, PA 16701; or made online at martatesfayeriel.theworldrace.org; click on blog and then click on the donate icon.

(Contact reporter Kate Day Sager at kates_th@yahoo.com. Follow her on Twitter, @OTHKate)

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