MEET KEMPSEYANN BARNETT: she had a second chance to serve, was all in this go-round, and found her world view forever changed.
What led you to serve in Mexico?
I was a sophomore in high school when I went to Mexico for the first time. I’m not really sure what my motivation was there. I just wanted to go. It was my first out of country mission trip, and I just thought it would be cool. I was going through a really hard time in my life when I was a sophomore. Unfortunately, I don’t think I let the Lord use me on that trip. It sure didn’t affect me. I don’t think I saw it for what it was. It was just another spring break trip. I was so excited to go back this spring. I really wanted the Lord to use me, and I wanted Him to teach me things. I’ve grown a lot in my faith since sophomore year of high school. This trip was so eye-opening.
While in Mexico, you worked with middle schoolers. What did you take away from this experience?
Ahh, middle schoolers. Such a tough age. I have searched and prayed about what God is leading me to do and where He is leading me to serve. In the last 6 months, I have really seen that He has been preparing me to serve with middle schoolers for a long time. Back in January, I was a college leader for a group of 9th grade girls at a discipleship weekend at my church. I also lead a group of 7th grade girls in a group called D-Groups. Basically D-Groups are composed of 3 or 4 students and one college or adult leader, and we walk through books of the Bible together every week. Middle schoolers here in America are very different from the middle schoolers I worked with in Mexico. Here in America, it feels like pulling teeth sometimes to get them to talk. In Mexico, if one of them started sharing something, almost all of them would share. It didn’t take long for them to open up to us. That was absolutely amazing. The group of us with middle schoolers went prepared to do all of the talking, but there were some days when we didn’t even get to cover all of the things we planned. This group of 14 middle schoolers shared some very deep and personal stuff with us. They were getting it. They were understanding what we were talking about. Some of them were overcome with emotion, and some of them asked very deep, meaningful questions. It really taught me to not underestimate anyone. They really surprised me.
What did you learn about sharing your faith while serving?
I learned that sharing your faith is not as intimidating as I made it out to be. I’m very self-conscious, especially when it comes to talking to people I don’t know. But, I learned that you don’t have to walk up to someone and ask “Do you know Jesus?” Not that you can’t do that, but sometimes it is about building relationships. It’s about asking people about their background and what they are going through. Sometimes it’s playing games and just sharing life with them. Yes, asking them about Jesus is super important, but you don’t have to open with that. You can build a relationship first. Have simple conversations and then delve deeper into spiritual conversations. Meet their physical needs and then address their spiritual need.
How did this experience affect you long-term?
Wow. This trip was so eye-opening to me. Sometimes on trips like this, I don’t know where I fit in. I don’t know what my role is. I’m not a nurse or a doctor. I’m not a teacher and I can’t speak much Spanish. I wonder if God can really use me. Oh boy can He. Why do I ever doubt Him? Mission trips aren’t about knowing the plan. Because the plan is probably going to change anyways. I’m talking to the daughter-in-law of the pastor of the church about going back next summer and spending the whole summer at the summer program at the school. I learned that I don’t have to know my place before I get there. The Lord is going to use me in more ways than I know, and He will equip me if I allow Him to use me and equip me.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to serve but doesn’t know where to start?
My advice for someone who wants to serve is this: GO! Go into your city. The need is there. Some people are called to go overseas and some are called to stay and serve where they are. But either way, the command is the same: to make disciples of all nations.That includes your city. If you’re gong on a mission trip to another state or country, it’s okay to be nervous about what’s going to happen. Just let the Lord use you. You don’t have to know the language. That’s why there are interpreters.
You don’t have to have a profession like a nurse, doctor, dentist, pastor, etc. You can be a high school or college student who feels the call to go. It’s okay to not know exactly what your place is. The Lord knows how He is going to use you. A really important thing to learn before you leave is how to be flexible. You’ll be told a plan, but it will change. Not might, will. Something always happens that “messes up” the “plan,” but it’s okay. The Lord is working. We had to have a lot of flexibility on this last trip. They cancelled our returning flights to America, so our team left Mexico on three different days, instead of traveling together on one. But, everyone made it home safely.
One thing they often tell Americans is, “You’re now on Mexico time.” This means that nothing is going to be done when someone says it will be. If we are supposed to leave the school to go to dinner at 5:30, you might as well not even show up until around 6, because you’re probably not going to leave until 6 or 6:30. We also made some home visits of some people in the church. We were supposed to be there from 5ish until about 6:30 one evening. My group got to our home at 4:45pm and didn’t leave until almost 8pm. This means we completely missed dinner, but the Lord was moving in our conversations, so it didn’t bother us at all. You could have asked anyone in our group if they would have preferred to sit there and fellowship with this family or go have dinner and everyone would have chosen fellowship over dinner. Flexibility is just key. Nothing ever happened on time, and that’s okay. Time isn’t important.
You also have to be flexible with meal times. Here in the South at least, we eat breakfast between 6am and 8am. Lunch is around 12pm and dinner somewhere between 5pm and 7pm. In Mexico, breakfast is at 8am, lunch is at 2pm, and dinner can be anywhere from 4pm to 9pm. That’s just how it is there. You just have to roll with it. There’s no point in getting irritated about it. That’s what they are used to and you are in their country. I don’t feel that we should feel entitled for someone to accommodate to us. Just saying, authentic Mexican food is amazing. I usually don’t eat nachos for breakfast, but that is what was fixed for me. It’s always good to have a granola bar or something in your backpack in case you’re really hungry between breakfast and lunch, but you just have to be flexible with the times. The Lord really reminded me about flexibility. As our minister of music used to say at church, “Be thou flexible so thou doesn’t get bent out of shape.” So to recap, my advice about mission trips… It’s okay to not know exactly what your role is. YOU. ARE. IMPORTANT. And second, don’t stress about the schedule. It will change. The Lord is working in ways you have no idea about.
Mission trips are amazing. I focused on Mexico in this, but inner-city missions are amazing too. I have had the privilege of going on several mission trips. I have done missions camps in Texas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, and North Carolina. Every time, I am in awe of God. I’m still trying to figure out how I can take everything I saw and learned in Mexico and apply it here in Mississippi.
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