Another Journey Begins…

Wow! I can’t believe this trip has come to an end and I am back in the United States. While I am physically back, my mind and heart are still overseas. I definitely need these next few days to debrief and process all that I have experienced. I am ecstatic to see friends and family, yet a little nervous to get back into the swing of things.

Our time in Nicaragua was great in some ways, but also really hard for me personally. When we first arrived to Nicaragua part of me was distracted on the idea of going home soon. I knew that I would be able to hug my parents in just a few days, and I was so excited. I struggled with wanting to be fully engaged in Nicaragua while being exhausted and homesick. At the same time, there were many days that I was not feeling very well.

In Nicaragua we were helping teach at Nicaragua Christian Academy. Teaching is not my forte, and many times I felt useless. However, with my three years of Spanish in high-school I was able to communicate with some of the students. This minor back and forth communication brought me a certain type of joy that was lacking in the other countries where I couldn’t speak the same language as the natives. During my time here, I was encouraged by what we did there even though I didn’t feel like I made a difference. I was also encouraged to continue short term missions, if God calls me to it.

Throughout this entire summer, I have struggled a bit with the short-term aspect of it. Right as I was feeling comfortable and truly forming relationships, we would pack up and leave to another country. It was sometimes frustrating. But with God’s grace and unfailing love, I was reassured of the work we were taking part in.  Our team had the amazing opportunity to have an impact on 5 countries this summer, and because of God, we were able to. I have definitely been challenged in multiple ways this summer, and I pray that with God by my side I will be able to make changes that need to be made.

Going into this trip, one of my wishes was that I would have to fully rely on God. I can honestly say that there were times that I did. While they were hard, I am so thankful for them. God is bigger than any struggle I have had or will ever have. As I return to normal life, I desperately pray that I never forget how badly I need God. In addition, I pray that I will continually seek him for all my needs instead of any earthly things. In the end, earth will crumble, but the Kingdom of God will last forever.

Thanks again for all the support and prayers! I can’t wait to see y’all in person and share some of my stories. Even though we are back in the states, there are still a few more prayer requests:

-transition back to life in America

-that debrief time is relaxing and God-reflecting

-continued health and rest

Thanks again and God Bless!

Beauty and the Beast

 

When we landed in France I was immediately struck with gratitude. I remember looking at Alicia, who was sitting next to me, and freaking out a little bit. Part of me couldn’t believe that we were in France. I was just extremely blessed to have the opportunity to spread God’s love and truth here. We continued to marvel in all God’s goodness and his beautiful creation.

The day we arrived we had the pleasure of meeting the other missionaries that we were going to be working along-side. Everyone met at one of the missionary’s house for dinner. The instant we walked to the back of the house, I was BLOWN away with the view. I was actually speechless. The entire time we were there, I couldn’t stop thanking God.

I was a little overwhelmed with all the people I was meeting, but I felt a connection with them that made me feel at home in a way. One missionary that I met, Amy, really struck me. The first night we met we had a great conversation. I got to hear her story and learn how she ended up in France. She knew she wanted to do missions, but wasn’t sure what that would look like. In addition, she didn’t have a calling to a specific place. When she learned that her sister and her sister’s family were going to France, she decided to join them. She wasn’t sure what she would be doing in France, but she had faith and trust in God that she will be used for his glory. In the states Amy works as a veterinarian. In France, Amy serves as a teacher, which is quite different from being a doctor. I asked her if she missed being a doctor, and she said yes, but she said she is satisfied and content because she is serving God. I couldn’t imagine surrendering your profession that you worked so hard for. I instantly began to ask her more and more questions and quickly grew to be fond of her.. Her story is a true testament of God’s might ways, and I admire Amy for obeying God. Throughout my time in France I also bonded some with a couple of the kids that live there with their families. It was really cool to hear their stories and how different their lives are in France.

Before coming to France, I was extremely excited, yet I was becoming spiritually drained and disconnected. I was physically, emotionally, and spiritually tired. For a couple days I was just going through the motions and I began to fear that I was missing out. I was afraid that I wasn’t giving my all and as a result I wouldn’t be eternally changed. What if I went home and everything stayed the same? I was becoming overwhelmed with negative thoughts.

Our second night in France, Alicia prayed with me and asked that the Lord will renew my spirits and that I will continue to hear and feel his spirit. The next day, God answered my prayer in an unexpected way. It was Sunday evening and we were at a church in Nice. At the beginning of the service, the pastor opened up the floor for anyone who wanted to pray out loud. During that time, an older lady said a prayer in French. During her a prayer, I felt the need to pray for her. So while she was praying, I whispered a prayer for her. I didn’t know why or what to pray for, but I did. After the church service, everyone gathered in the lobby area for snacks and refreshments. As I was sitting in a chair in the lobby, the old lady approached me and reached for my hand. She grabbed it and told me that I had a warm heart. It was at that moment that I became renewed. There was no doubt in my mind that was a God thing. It was just what I needed to keep going. It was a reminder that God is always working and moving, even when I don’t feel him. I no longer felt disconnected with the Holy Spirit.

Leading up to the start of VBS I was filled with anticipation and some fear. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to fully share God’s love and truth with the kids because of the language barrier. Once VBS started, I did find myself becoming frustrated because I couldn’t converse with the kids. Some of them would just look at me and talk in French, and I would just stare back longing to know what they were saying. I yearned to just understand them and communicate with them. As the week went on I was able to find ways to communicate love to them in a way that brought peace and contentment. One day in particular, I was not feeling very good, and I was sitting on the ground waiting for the kids to arrive. Then all of a sudden, a girl named Lea, immediately ran to me and jumped into my arms and gave me the biggest hug. In that instant I saw love in action. Even though I couldn’t tell the kids about God’s love for them, I could show it to them, and that was enough. Most of the kids at the VBS had never been exposed to the gospel or any bible stories for that matter. Any exposure I could give them was precious and a privilege. God reassured that I was making a difference and pouring into these children. I truly felt like God’s hands and feet. I pray that I never lose that feeling.

 

While I was falling in love with the kids, I was also falling in the love with the country.  Everywhere we went, I was amazed with the scenic views. The town we stayed in was quaint, simple, and serene. It felt like a dream to wake up there and walk around town. However, it was disheartening to see the juxtaposition of beauty and darkness in the same place. There was so much brokenness among the people of France. My heart broke for them and yearned for them to know Jesus. One of the missionaries told our team a story of a man who depicted the brokenness of living in a first world country. This man had gained wealth over his lifetime and acquired many materialistic items. However, he said he still didn’t feel content or happy. He went on to purchase an extremely nice yacht, in hopes of solving his problems. Inevitably, it did not satisfy him and he had decided that he was going to kill himself. The missionary asked him about his yacht that he had just bought and he didn’t even care about it anymore. This story clearly illustrates our need for Jesus. He is the only one that can give us abundant life. When I heard this story, I was deeply saddened for France, but quickly told myself that God is bigger. If God saved me and fixed my broken heart, he can do the same for the people in France. At the same time I was reminded on how broken I still am and how desperately need Jesus.

While my time in France was filled with frustration and brokenness, I wouldn’t change my experience there. I learned a lot and had many realizations about God. I can’t thank  y’all enough for your continued support and prayers. As this amazing journey is coming to an end, I ask that you pray for endurance, strength, and continued focus. God Bless!

Praise You With A Dance

Third Stop: Uganda! As we made our way to Uganda, I was full of excitement and anticipation. I had the joyous opportunity to go to South Africa on another mission trip 2 summers ago, and I just fell in love with the people. After that trip, I couldn’t wait to come back to Africa. Everyone I had met previously was so passionate, and it was the same for the people in Uganda.

When we arrived to Uganda, we had a great privilege to stay at a resort the first night. It included a bed! We also had great food! More exciting than that, we went on the most beautiful boat ride on Lake Victoria to where it met the Nile River. I was blown away with God’s creation, and to think we are his greatest creation! Praise God!

From the resort, we went straight to Luwanda Children’s Home. The moment our van pulled up, we were surrounded my singing, dancing, and smiling people!! The children and staff were beyond excited to see us, which just made me even more excited. I felt extremely grateful for being there and having the ability to serve the children.

Some of my favorite times with the children were when we were simply dancing. They LOVE to dance, and they are good at it! Dancing with them reminded me of how much I miss it. Not only that, but it reminded me how dance is a form of worship. We can worship God in so many different ways, and he is worthy of it all!  When I was dancing with the children I felt connected with them in a way that I can’t explain. They taught me so many new dance moves that I will never forget…haha!

However, there is one specific encounter that had a lasting impact on me. I was sitting in the school library waiting for children to come in, when the librarian, Favor, walked in. I greeted her and asked how she was. She went on to say that she was not feeling good at all, but she had faith she would be better soon. I was able to pray for her and she was thankful for that. After I prayed, she told me that it was her birthday. I immediately got up to go give her a hug. When I was hugging her, she began to cry. I asked if she was okay, and she said yes. Favor was crying tears of joy.  She was overwhelmingly thankful for being alive and making it through another year on earth. She explained to me some of her struggles she experienced last year, and it is truly a miracle that she is alive. She felt so undeserving to be alive, but she knew it was for a reason. It was very obvious that Christ is the center of her life. She went on to thank and praise God with her words, as I stood in awe of her faith and passion. The goodness of God brought Favor to tears. She kept saying how life is precious and how important it is that she lives her life for God and for his glory. Her joyful and thankful heart overwhelmed me. After our conversation, I quickly examined my own life and heart. I didn’t have that passionate, overwhelming gratitude that Favor has. I want to live as if it is my last day on earth.  I am thankful for my life and I do try to live for God, but it has not been a daily commitment. Matthew 16: 24-25 says, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whosoever loses their life for me will find it’”. I need to wake up every day in full surrender.

Another thing I learned was the importance of having the Lord’s joy. The kids were always smiling and laughing, well for the most part. They would get excited at the littlest things. Similarly, they were happy to just be with us and hold our hands. I got many letters from kids that said thank you for loving me and playing with me. Those things were not difficult or grandiose, but they meant the world to the children. The letters and the never-ending hugs from the children warmed my heart and filled me with the joy of the Lord. I never want to lose that feeling.

Needless to say, I was impacted by the people of Uganda. They are precious, beautiful, and loved by the King of Kings. If God allows, I would absolutely love to come back and love more on the kids.

God is love and his love is perfect for these children and everyone!

Thank you for your continued support and prayers.

The Land of Smiles

The Land of Smiles! This statement could not be more accurate. Everyone we have seen in Thailand has had a huge smile on their face.

Our time in Thailand has been beautiful, heart-breaking, and comforting all at the same time. Oh! Did I mention the food? It is phenomenal!! However, it is spicier than my wimpy tongue and mouth can handle. Several meals I found myself sweating and tearing up, but I kept eating because it tasted so good. Shout out to Keith Cullum, whom I thought about every time I ate something spicy! HaHa!  I did, however try everything, including, bugs and cooked blood. Not so surprising, the fruit has by far been my favorite food here! We had pineapple about everyday along with new fruits which include leechy (not sure if I spelled it correctly).  I loved being able to try new foods each and every day.

More importantly, God is moving tremendously here in Thailand. The people here have huge hearts for the Lord and they don’t hide it, which is amazing! One man we worked with in particular, named Pi Go, is extremely invested in the community around him including the village where he is from. He has formed relationship with various people whom he shares God’s truth with. Not only that, but he also brings food and drink to those in need. It’s refreshing and convicting to see him sharing the gospel so fervently. His passion and kindness was infectious and encouraging. Pi Go was also always offering us more pineapple to eat!!

The organization we worked with is also extremely generous with their giving and hospitality. One day that really hit home with me, was when we visited families infected with HIV. We had the great privilege to pray with them and sing worship songs with them, even though they were not all believers.  While we were singing a song with a family, I was overcome with great joy and awe. How amazing is it that me, just one young person, is able to pray for others and share God’s love and truth. I am so undeserving of God’s love and grace, yet he calls us to do his work. I instantly thought of Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. God is capable of using anyone in any way. When we were visiting the families, there was a specific man that we saw, who impacted our team quite a bit. The moment I saw his small and frail body on the dirt floor, I immediately teared up. I have never seen anyone in that type of helpless and decaying condition. When I learned he wasn’t a believer, my heart just broke for him. God loves him just as much as me and God is pursuing just as much. As we all prayed for him, I prayed desperately that he would accept Jesus in his heart. God has much better plans for him, and it made me sad knowing that he might not get to experience God’s perfect love and plan for his life. At the same time, I could feel God’s presence in his home and knew that God was with him.

The last thing I would like to talk about, are the students that are living here with the missionaries that we worked with. I will truly miss these kids, even though some were older than me. They were extremely positive and caring. They continually served our team in such a self-less way. Not only that, but most came from poor villages with broken and dispersed families, yet they are so full of joy and love for the Lord. One student, named Santi, amazed me one day. He told me he reads the bible every day and prays for his non-believing family every day as well. He also shared that his father has never really been in his life, yet he bought some shirts for him because he doesn’t have any. Santi is able to show love to this man who is not showing the fatherly love Santi needs. It never ceases to amaze me how people who have far less than me are way more joyful and content with their life. It convicts me every time! In the same way, I am humbled and I become extremely thankful for my family and the life I do have in America.

I will definitely miss the food, the people, and the voice of laughter from the students when I try and speak Thai. I hope to come back one day and serve along-side these people. Thailand, The Land of Smiles, has been such a blessing and has definitely made me smile.

Praise God Always

 

Wow, Praise God! The team safely made it to our first stop of the summer: Hong Kong. Thus far, it has been an eye opening experience, where I have definitely seen God move in new and exciting ways. While I didn’t have any specific expectations, I was definitely surprised from the moment we left the airport in Hong Kong. There is so much green!!
Not only is the city beautiful, but the people living here are also beautiful. I have never interacted with this culture before, and I am so thankful for the opportunity. From the moment the missionaries picked us up, our team has been welcomed in with open, supportive, and encouraging arms. They couldn’t have made the transition any better.
When we first settled into our new living quarters, which are super nice, I was feeling tons of emotion, including: anxiousness, exhaustion, and excitement. However, during my first quiet time the next day I came across 2 Timothy 1:7 which states “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline”. This verse instantly encouraged and comforted me. I have nothing to fear because the Lord is always with me.
God is doing phenomenal things in Hong Kong and in China. Throughout my time here, I can humbly say that I have witnessed miracles of all sorts. It has been a great honor to serve these people in such a unique, yet heart-wrenching way. There are hungry people that desperately need the word, and I was able to play a small role in that. I have been in awe of all God has done and is doing and will do. The God I serve and love, isn’t just my God, but also the God of the people living in Hong Kong and China.
While there have been minor hiccups, I have learned to praise God for the little things in addition to the bigger things. Not only that, but I have truly felt God’s presence. Last, I was reassured that God is everywhere, God is always working, and that God always hears us!
As the team flies out to Thailand tomorrow, I am only more excited to see God work and move.
I continually ask that y’all pray for safety, health, and team unity. I thank God and all my supporters out there tremendously for everything! Until Thailand, adios!

With Love,

Caylin

Praying, Waiting and Hoping

It is three days before I drive to San Antonio with my family to embark on an amazing journey. I can’t believe the time has come this fast. I remember when I attended an interest meeting for the trip in my first semester at Baylor, and now I am packing for it. As I am writing my first blog I am overcome with gratitude and anticipation. This trip would not be possible without God’s faithfulness and the generosity of all my friends and family. God has continued to amaze me and encourage  me through this entire process and I couldn’t be more thankful. I am humbled to say that I am fully funded for the trip, thanks be to God and everyone who donated, and I continue to ask for your prayers.

As it gets closer to the trip,  I am anticipating all the work that God has done and will do in the hearts of the team and the people we will be interacting with. I have faith that God is up to something and that he will be glorified through the course of the trip. I pray that throughout this trip I will grow closer with God as I rely on him mentally, spiritually, and physically.

For everyone who has donated and prayed, I can’t thank you enough. Your contribution means more than you know. I will really appreciate it if y’all could continually pray for me and the team in the following ways:

-the teams works well together and stays focus on spreading God’s love and his word

-the hearts of the team and the people we will come across will be open and softened

-safety

-long lasting impact in the countries we encounter

-that the team leans into eachother and God has we struggle with being homesick, uncomfortable, and nervous of the unknown

I will continue to write blogs throughout the course of the trip and would love if y’all would follow along. Thanks so much, I love you all.

With Christ,

Caylin Barton