Living out Numen Lumen
How Elon alumna Katy Steele ’14 visited 11 countries in 11 months to share her faith with others.
By Rebecca Smith ’12
The first year after graduation is always an adventure. For Katy Steele ’14, that’s an understatement: She traveled to 11 countries as part of The World Race before returning to Elon University this fall to serve as communications coordinator for the Office of Admissions.
Steele first learned about the Christian organization when she was a sophomore and her friend, Mary B. Safrit ’12, joined. “I remember that I admired her boldness, her courage and her faith,” she says. “I thought she was cool, but honestly, I kind of thought she was crazy.” According to the organization’s website, participants visit 11 countries in 11 months to “serve the ‘least of these’ while amongst real and raw community.”
The World Race stayed in her mind the next two years. As her faith grew, she decided to apply. Once accepted, she traveled as part of a group to Guatemala, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Nepal, India, Swaziland, Botswana, Albania and Ukraine. Along the way, Steele had to adjust to sleeping on the floor, hand washing all of her clothes, dealing with strange bathrooms, constantly packing and moving, battling food poisoning in foreign countries, and sticking to the allotted daily food budget of $5. She also had to deal with homesickness. The worst day was Valentine’s Day, the halfway mark of the program. But, that same month, after climbing a Himalayan mountain in Nepal for 10 hours and meeting and praying for a blind woman, she also felt a sense of purpose, of being exactly where she was supposed to be.
As her trip came to an end, she knew she would be headed back to Elon—her actual interview occurred while she was in a dark hut in Botswana during a power outage. “Something I’m thankful for is that Elon is a university that acknowledges the significant role faith can play in an individual’s life,” Steele says. “Elon’s motto, Numen Lumen, embodies this idea for the university well: intellectual and spiritual light.”
Her friends would tell you Steele,too, has lived out that motto well. “You would think that because she was traveling to a new country each month that she would be out of touch,” says Cate LeSourd ’15, one of the first people to see Steele when she returned to Elon. “The exact opposite happened. As I was going through the ups and downs of my senior year of college, she was there through it all. She knew about almost every opportunity I applied for and cheered me on from the other side of the world.”
Though she is happy to be back home, Steele keeps a picture book from her year working with The World Race in her new office. “Each day, I turn the page to a different photo of a friend from around the world,” she says. “This is a small way to acknowledge and remember all the people who impacted me.