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An Opportunity to See God Move (#ShareYourStOOry)
by Mary Kathryn Tiller
Posted on Tuesday, June 05, 2018
It is rare to realize we are on the precipice of life change, as it often comes in small, unexpected ways. This was certainly true for Kelly Liston, who had no idea the pamphlet she was given by her son’s teacher, would lead her on an eight-year journey of service, faith, and growth.

“My son’s teacher served with Orphan Outreach” Kelly remembers, “She led teams to Guatemala and shared her experiences at a community service event they had at the school. I had missed the event, but I read the handout she sent home and signed up for the Orphan Outreach emails that day.”

For the next several months, Kelly received emails inviting her to go on the many trips coordinated by Orphan Outreach. While she had donated to mission trips in previous years, she had not felt drawn to go herself, until one day, when she received yet another email, asking her to consider traveling to Guatemala.


“I can't say it was a tug, it was more like a push,” Kelly said, laughing, “It wasn’t anything that had been on my heart and I didn’t know anyone else going on the trip; but, God pushed me to do it, so I signed up.”

Kelly describes that first trip as a deeply moving experience. As the mother of an adopted son, she had been on the side of the adoptive parent for many, many years; but, this was the first time she had been able to see the other side of that coin: orphan care.

“My son is from Ecuador, so Latin culture is very dear to my heart. And while I was grateful to the women who cared for him prior to his adoption, I never considered my experience as having anything to do with orphan care until my trip to Guatemala. That’s when I began connecting the dots and it changed my life.”


After two trips to Guatemala, Kelly began praying about where God would have her go next. He led her to Honduras, where, after interacting with the leadership and people of Honduras she realized this is what she wanted to do long-term. This is how she wanted to share the love of Christ. During her fourth trip with Orphan Outreach, Austin South, the Regional Director of Latin America for Orphan Outreach, approached her about leading groups on mission trips.


“I thought, ‘No, I lead at work and it’s so draining. I don’t want to do that outside of work, too.’ So, I had to pray about it.” says Kelly. She discussed the opportunity with her brother, who at the time was considering going with her on her next trip. “He was nervous about going,” She remembers, “So I thought, ‘You know, he’s nervous about going and I’m nervous about leading, maybe this is something we can try together.’”

Kelly has been leading trips ever since and has found that while many of her leadership and organizational skills play a part in the success of her trips, leading a group in love is different from leading a group in the corporate world.

Kelly loves watching the light come on in her team members as God works through them: “It’s amazing to see teams who come to serve, to love, and to share Christ with others, end up experiencing God in a deeper way personally; and, then to see how that extra grace pours out of them and onto the local kids and the caregivers.”


Throughout her years of continuous service, Kelly has developed deep friendships with those she serves in Honduras, considering many of them to be her extended family. One of her most cherished relationships is with a young boy who lives at the San Jose home in Honduras. His name is Milton, and while she is not his sponsor, he and Kelly instantly connected and have maintained a friendship over the years. She has loved watching him grow up and particularly loves knowing that each year she leaves, she can say, “I’ll see you soon” rather than goodbye.

Another person who has deeply impacted Kelly is Edith, a former nun, who is a mother to Milton and seventeen other children in San Jose.

“I was amazed by Edith when I first met her. I have a friend in the States with six kids and I’m surprised she’s sane, but when I met Edith, she had eighteen kids and she was calm and happy. She would sit down with the kids and listen to them. I was floored because she was doing everything on her own at that time. She had unbelievable faith. She just trusted food and help would come. Her faith stood out to me, and as I went back I thought, ‘At some point, I’m going to see her harried!’  I’ve seen her upset, you know, I’ve seen her get on to the kids when things happen; but, she just has the calming inner peace and it spills onto the kids. Those children have been through such hard things but they are happy. That’s something I’ve learned and have taken back with me: it’s all about faith. That kind of faith can change lives.”


It is this life change that has fueled Kelly’s passion for leading trips with Orphan Outreach these past eight years.  She takes great joy in building relationships with each of her team members, new and old, often starting that relationship in the months leading up to their trip and continuing it for years after.

“I love to tell others about my experiences abroad. No two trips are the same, but each is an opportunity to see God moving through His people. I just love it.”

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