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"I'm not trying to change the world."
by Ronne Rock
Posted on Tuesday, July 25, 2017
Caitlin Moynihan remembers the first time she was told about Orphan Outreach. A freshman in high school, she hadn’t considered serving the vulnerable in a developing country. But a bible study leader she had known since childhood challenged her to prayerfully consider going on a short-term mission trip.

“Stacey (Lawson) traveled to Guatemala on a short-term mission trip, and when she returned, she said, ‘I want you to be there with me next year,’” shares Caitlin. “She said, ‘I think it will a great thing for you to experience.’”

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Caitlin would join Stacey a year later on a trip serving in Xela, Antigua, and Chimaltenango. “I remember so much about that first trip. It was only our second day, and I was really tired and still trying to wrap my head around the fact that I was in a developing country. Everything was different and out of my comfort zone, so I sat down on the ground in a store and began complaining. Stacey took me outside to talk to me privately. She told me to get it together, and that the trip wasn’t about me. I remember it all so distinctly because I now get embarrassed thinking about me acting that way. I’m so thankful that she was honest with me – it helped redirect my focus.”


Caitlin would return to Guatemala with Stacey one more time in high school. Her most powerful memories are filled with the faces of the teen girls she met – girls her age who had been rescued from abuse and neglect. She remembers ministering with the girls at a home for the elderly. “One night, what really hit me is the ‘what happens next’ part of the lives I had encountered. I looked at the girls and wondered if they would ever be given the chance to meet Godly men and fall in love, or if they would ever again know what it was like to have family. And then I looked at the wrinkled faces of the people in the home and thought, ‘Where is their family? They’re orphans too.’”


She came home and tried to process all that she had experienced. As she prepared to graduate from high school, she ached at the thought of not being able to return to Guatemala. But once again, it was Stacey who provided encouragement. “She told me, ‘Just because you’re not in Guatemala doesn’t mean you can’t serve others. There is need right here.’” Caitlin found two ministries in her hometown – both provided care for children and teens who had been trafficked or abused.

“I honestly didn’t think I would return to Guatemala again, because real life happened,” says Caitlin. “I graduated high school, attended university, got a job and watched the years pass.” But at a bible study her senior year, Caitlin says the tug to return overwhelmed her again. “We were going around the room talking about all the places we had traveled. I listed off a few countries I had visited, and then said, ‘OH, and I’ve been to Guatemala!’ I just knew at that moment that I needed to go back again. I went online and saw that the deadline for a mission trip led by people I knew was in two days. I completed the application, and the next day casually told my parents, ‘I think I’m going to go back to Guatemala.’ I wondered at first if I was being selfish in wanting to return, or if it was something the Lord was calling me to do. But I stepped out in faith, believing it was right.

“I had to ask myself the hard questions, ’Why do I want to return? Do I want to go for the stories, or to make myself feel better? Or do I want to go because I believe this is what the Lord desires of me?’ My faith had grown over the years, I knew I would see things differently – my heart would respond differently. I wanted to truly be prepared to minister well. Over the years, my own life had encountered trials and setbacks, and I knew I was both more equipped but also vulnerable. I wanted my heart to be tender so that it could be broken again.”


Caitlin met with mentors and friends to pray and talk. Because she had been working with victims of assault and had friends who had experienced sexual violence, she could feel the Lord preparing her for ministry she hadn’t before encountered in Guatemala. “I think that’s the biggest difference in the two trips in high school and what I experienced this year. This time, I tended to my heart so that I could then tend to others.”

Caitlin’s journey included visits to both the Xela Government Home and Hope & Future. Both homes are filled with young moms who have been victimized sexually. Both homes provide sanctuary and counseling for the moms and their little ones. But she knew that Hope & Future offered more – physical, emotional, educational, and spiritual support for everyone who lived there. And, unlike the government home, the girls were not required to leave when they turned 18.


Caitlin treated each girl with dignity and respect. She engaged in conversation, embraced everyone she met, and took the time to listen to dreams. “I chose to enter into each place with an attitude of “this is life – it may be different, and it may not be the life I would want for them, but this is their life, and it deserves dignity.” At the same time, she ached for the girls she knew would not have long-term support, and prayed they would some day know the security and faith she had witnessed in the girls at Hope & Future. “At night, my roommates and I would weep for the girls we had met because we longed for every one of them to be given opportunity.

“My ringtone is the girls at the government home singing. There are still glimpses of hope in their voices, even in the most challenging of situations. The stories there were hard, but I still saw smiles when the girls we were with had an opportunity to be teens again. No matter what, when we were together, for a moment they got to sing or dance or just be kids.”

She laughs when she things about how things have changed in her own perspective of the purpose of short-term mission trips. “As a teenager, I thought, ‘I’m going to go and make such a difference and help change lives. I’m going to pray the perfect prayers with everyone I meet and do all the right things. And I would leave crushed because I thought I had never done enough. I knew some names but not all of them. I spent time with some kids but not all of them.

“This year in Guatemala, my roommates and I wrote out a list every night – truth and lies. We wanted to remind ourselves of the Lord’s power and His purpose in our time in Guatemala. The truth list was always longer.

“The biggest lie always with short-term mission trips is that you can’t do anything meaningful in a few days, that you are doing more harm than good, and your desire to serve is selfish. They are lies that are popular topics in articles and books, and they are easy lies to believe. The truth is that we truly can’t do much – but God can. And our purpose in going is His purpose in caring. There’s a song that says, ‘little is much when God’s in it.’ I remember thinking on this last trip, ‘I’m not qualified to teach – I’m not a Bible scholar and I don’t know Spanish well enough.’ The thing is, God’s not requiring me to be an expert. He’s simply asking me to be willing. We may have only been allowed to spend ten hours at the government home. But 15 people spending 10 hours each is a lot of opportunity for God to reveal Himself in conversations and prayers and moments.

“I used to think I was there to change things. Now I know I’m there to simply be with them, to encourage or support and remind the ones I meet that they are loved. I’m not trying to change the world. I just want to be present, and provide maybe a moment where kids can just be kids again. The Lord is able to make the change, He is able to use the time, He has a plan long after my time. I may never get to see the kids again, but He is continually with them.”


As a teen, Caitlin dedicated herself to prayer for each location she visited. Now at 21, she has found a new way to invest in lives. She is a friend to Rocxana, an effervescent elementary school student who is part of Orphan Outreach’s family preservation program in Chimaltenango. Each afternoon, Rocxana attends the Community Care Center, where she receives tutoring and a bible lesson, a nutritious snack, and a safe place to play with friends and mentors. She also receives medical care, and her family gets counseling and care as well.

Caitlin has seen promises made and kept in her time at the Community Care Center. She’s been in the classrooms, helped serve the snacks, and visited homes that have been made healthier with clean stoves and drip water filtration systems. “I tell people all the time about the CCC and how incredible it is. I know the stories of the people I’ve met. Building schools or installing stoves is great, but what’s more important to me is that over time we’re building relationships, we’re building trust. We’re opening doors for future relationships –  prayerfully the most important one, a relationship with Christ.”

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