Student Spotlight: Cali Watkins
On June 25, 2015 Mariners Church sent a group of just over 20 high school and college-aged students on a faith adventure to Haiti. While, for most, it will be their first time to Haiti, some even their first time overseas, for Cali Watkins, a junior at Woodbridge High School in Irvine, it will mark a return to a place where her eyes were opened to the love God has for her and for the people of Haiti.
We had the opportunity to ask Cali a few questions about why she felt called to go to the Haiti the first time and about what she is most excited about this time, returning this week with a group of her peers. To read our interview with Cali, read below.
Why did you feel called to go on a faith adventure to Haiti the first time?
I had seen my parents go on countless faith adventures and then come back with amazing stories of how they experienced the Lord and all the incredible interactions they had with the people of Haiti, and I just wanted to be as rooted in my faith as they seemed to be. I remember looking through pictures from one of their trips and just feeling this insane urge that I needed to go help and serve these people. I found myself thinking and praying about it a lot and there was no question that that was what God was calling me to do. When I asked my mom if I could go on the next trip, she responded by saying that she had already thought of it as a possibility, and right then I knew I was actually meant to go.
What was your overall experience in Haiti?
Before my first faith adventure I was in a place of doubt with my relationship with God, questioning how he could care for me just as much as he cares for the other millions of people on this Earth and how everything that is said he can do is actually possible. My perception was totally changed in Haiti. I knew there was no way this country could function without the Lord looking over them. Their country was in complete despair, yet the fact that Jesus was felt so intensely in some of their hearts meant that they looked out for each other and were able to maintain a sense of hope in what seemed like a helpless situation. I’m living in the United States in a nice home with a complete family and a great public education doubting the very existence of God, and here these people are with almost nothing except their incredible dependency on one another and their complete trust in the Lord. It is the most amazing thing I have ever seen.
What is something you took home with you from that experience?
The vast majority of the people in Haiti live with the tiniest fraction of what we depend on in day to day life, yet they find joy in the simplest things such each other and their faith. I have never felt more welcomed into a community in my entire life. You would think that the poverty and government corruption would lead the people to become cautious of one another, but it did the exact opposite. It taught them how essential it is to stick together and how important it is to love and care for one another. The United States is one of the wealthiest countries on this planet, but we still fail to grasp the concepts of giving and hoping and loving. During my time in Haiti, I learned so much more than I ever thought would be possible. I expected to go in to “help” these people when really they were teaching my team and I so many insanely valuable lessons on how to walk through life like Jesus did. It’s an experience that can’t be put into words.
Why do you want to go back to Haiti?
From the first day of my trip in October, I knew that my heart was going to be left in Haiti. Eight days wasn’t nearly enough as I had so much of my heart left to give and so much left to learn about myself and the Lord. I was asked to speak about my experience during one of the high school services [at Mariners Church], and during those short minutes of me talking, I knew I wanted to go back as soon as I could. It was hard to tell the difference between me wanting to go back, and me being called to go back but after a lot of praying, I’m positive it’s me being called. Since my last trip I’ve shared my experience with so many people who don’t know the Lord and I’ve seen them grow curious about what a relationship with him would look like simply through me talking to them. I want to be able to share more, and I think God’s definitely on board with that becoming a reality.
How do you think God used your first trip to prepare you for your second trip?
On my first trip, I was the baby in a group of older women who taught me so many things and told me stories of their lives and past faith adventures. I felt so taken care of and assured by their presence. Not to mention that I had my mom beside me the whole time. However, on this trip, I’ve been given the opportunity to share that knowledge with peers, which is so cool. Being a student returning to Haiti, I was trusted to be a leader of the VBS [Vacation Bible School] groups, and I’m able to answer questions about what life is like in Haiti. I now know what to expect when it comes to the culture in Haiti, which I hope is going to allow me to focus more on what the Lord is saying to me and how I can better serve the people of Haiti.
What is your prayer as you go on this next faith adventure to Haiti?
Haiti is becoming less and less of a place where my family goes to serve several times a year and more like a country that is going to be considered our second home. On this second trip, I’m going to be viewing everything while thinking about the fact that this could be where I visit my parents during Christmas vacation (since they’re discussing going back for 3 months this winter), and I’m really nervous about how I’m going to react to that. I love Haiti and its people with everything in me and I just pray that God’s going to continue to assure me that I’m investing my heart in the right place.
Please remember to pray for these students as they embark on the incredible journey God has in store for them.
For stories and updates while the students journey together through Haiti, continue to check out our blog!