Put Your Faith into Action
— Mary Kathryn Tiller · Tuesday, March 24, 2020 —
When Caitlyn Moynihan was just fifteen years old, she was invited to travel abroad on her first-ever mission trip. The experience captivated her, and she has returned nearly every year for the last ten years. Having just returned from her eighth trip to Guatemala, Caitlyn has been reflecting on the ways in which God has shaped her life through the stories and friendships she has gathered over the past decade.
“When I think back on my first trip, I remember realizing there was so much more to the world than my little bubble in Maryland. I really enjoyed that the whole trip was focused on hanging out with the kids. I’m a very relational person and so I remember loving that,” Caitlyn shared.
Caitlyn’s chaperone for that first trip was a woman named Stacey. Stacey had known Caitlyn since she was eight years-old and had become like a second mother to her. Stacey had traveled with Orphan Outreach in 2008 and 2009; in 2010, she invited Caitlyn to join her.
“I tell people I was 15 when I went on my first trip, and a lot of them are shocked. And yes, I guess it is pretty wild that my parents let me go that young, even with Stacey as my chaperone. But I think Orphan Outreach is probably one of the best organizations to travel with as a teen. It gives you a chance to experience other cultures and learn what faith looks like outside of your own Christian bubble. I think it challenges you to learn how to put your faith into action,” shared Caitlyn.
Since 2010, she has attended the same trip led by Courtney Nowakowski and Ronne Rock, trip leaders and staff members at Orphan Outreach.
“Courtney and Ronne are some of the greatest role models I have in my life. I care for them so much and look up to them in so many ways. They do a great job planning these trips and making sure we get to see the same people every year. That’s something I love about Orphan Outreach. They build relationships with these organizations and individuals so it’s possible to keep returning each year.”
Some of the organizations Caitlyn has been able to consistently serve with each year are CadaNiño, Down Guatemala and The Community Care Center (CCC). That’s where she met Roxanna.
“Once I was in college, I knew I wanted to be a sponsor,” Caitlyn explained. “But I wanted to make sure I was doing it for the right reasons. I wanted there to be a connection and not just a sense of obligation, so I was praying for God to make it obvious.”
And one day, He did. Caitlyn and her team were spending the day at the CCC, putting on a dance for the children. Caitlyn got on the dance floor, attempting to coax some of the children off of the sides of the room. They were all too shy; all except one:
“I remember I pointed to Roxanna and she got up and danced with me! We spent the rest of the day together, dancing and doing crafts. Then, the next day, I was in her class for the tutoring session. As I got to know her, I just fell in love. Before I that trip was over, I started sponsoring her. That was four years ago.”
Roxanna was eight years-old when Caitlyn met her, the same age Caitlyn was when she met Stacey. She sees her role in Roxanna’s life to be very similar to the role Stacey has played in her own: a consistent figure of love and support.
“I write her letters as often as I can. And, because I’ve built friendships with so many people on these trips, if one of them is going to Guatemala on another trip I always ask if can I send some things with them for Roxanna,” Caitlyn said.
While Caitlyn has come to know countless new friends over the years, she has also come to know God in a fresh way, seeing Him work miracles right before her eyes.
“One year we were painting a room at a children’s home in Quezaltenango, and we experienced a total 'loaves and fishes' moment. We were supposed to paint this whole room, but we absolutely did not have enough paint. We didn’t have time to go back into town to get more, so we said, ‘Ok, let’s just paint until we run out and we’ll see how far we can get.’ Somehow, we were able to paint the whole room and still had paint leftover. We continued to paint everything we wanted to and ended up with what felt like more paint in the can than when we first started! I remember wondering, ‘Is this a thing that happens here??? God even cares about paint?' That experience was a big shift for me. I realized that God still does miracles.”
From the extraordinary to the ordinary, Caitlyn believes the experiences she has had on these trips have shaped the way she views her life and ministry in the United States.
“It’s taught me that you can do ministry anywhere,” Caitlyn said. “Courtney and Ronne are very fond of saying, ‘What we do here isn't Guatemala-specific!’ You know, I can do ministry at my job, in my apartment, and in my life. Just because I’m not in a Red Zone in Guatemala doesn’t mean I can’t minister to my coworkers and serve them with the same of love and grace and have the same type of conversations. You don’t have to be on a mission trip to do that.”
Caitlyn plans to continue traveling to Guatemala every year she is able, though she is careful to pray and ensure God is, indeed, opening that door. She is passionate about the organizations she serves there and hopes to see even more people get involved.
“I really encourage people to go, whether you are 15 or 75,” said Caitlyn. “It’s never too late to go on your first mission trip.”
Are you ready to go on your first mission trip? There are so many opportunities to travel with Orphan Outreach. Click here to learn about them all.