Caitlyn Boutros, a bubbly pastor’s kid from Melbourne, Australia, was deep in prayer when her overseas calling began to crystallize. Out of nowhere, the question welled up inside her: “Do you want me to go to Japan?”
The peace that followed was unexplainable. She phoned her old youth pastor’s wife, whose family had just moved to Japan for a long-term placement.
The couple had planned to spend two years immersed in full-time study of the Japanese language and culture when they discovered they were pregnant with their third child. The daunting tasks of language acquisition, cultural adjustment, and raising three children were beginning to seem insurmountable. They couldn’t do it alone, and they encouraged Caitlyn to come.
Just two weeks after the baby’s birth, Caitlyn arrived in Sapporo, Japan for a year-long placement. Her role as a mission volunteer was a supportive one: to meet the needs of overwhelmed missionary families.
In a cross-cultural context, the complications of child-rearing come in particular abundance. Even if one parent is stay-at-home in theory, they still need to acquire language and cultural knowledge. And so do the children, if they’re old enough to retain the influence of their past culture. Assimilation itself can be a full-time job.
Such was the case with this family and their two oldest children. Upon Caitlyn’s arrival, the girls were missing Australia, uneasy in their new home, and afraid to learn Japanese. But with Caitlyn around, they had a familiar face and fellow Australian to take comfort in. Caitlyn walked with them through the gradual process of acclimating to the culture and acquiring the language.
In addition to childcare, Caitlyn took on a myriad of other tasks to meet the diverse needs of missionary families. For one mother, a quick swim in the pool was her only chance to exercise, but her youngest child’s inability to swim posed an obstacle. Caitlyn, a seasoned swimmer, offered swim lessons for the children while the mother took the time to unwind.
Caitlyn was also asked to clean and prepare the rooms of a guest house. With years of studying hospitality and working in a hotel under her belt, she was ridiculously well-suited for the job.
And when someone needed her to design pamphlets for a women’s retreat, Caitlyn, having built her own computer in the past, was more than equipped. “All these random skills I acquired over time—God was able to use them,” she marvels.
Caitlyn’s short term trip broadened her perspective of mission work. “I learned to appreciate the support roles like my own. If I can babysit the kids, so the parents can go on the first date they’ve been on in months, I know I’m making a difference,” she explains. “Serving other missionaries is just as important as serving the Japanese people. We’re all on the same team.”
When her twelve months drew to a close, Caitlyn was sad to depart. But in 2018, she returned to Japan to visit her old youth pastor’s family for a month. Not only was she reunited with the children she had cared for during her mission trip, but she also got to meet the newest addition to the family—a fourth child who had been born while she was away.
Are you interested in going on a short term mission trip? To learn Caitlyn’s top five tips for short term missionaries, check out her insightful video.