While many seniors are scrambling to figure out summer plans, Katie Cranfill has already planned out the next five to 10 years of her life.
Although she can’t pinpoint the exact responsibilities she’ll have, Cranfill, Spanish major from Copperas Cove, she’ll spend that time doing long-term mission work in the central highlands of Peru. There, she’ll continue to feed her fascination of spirituality and Spanish culture.
“I don’t think, in my mind, it’s ever been separate. That’s the whole point, you can’t separate yourself from what you believe in,” she said.
Admittedly, she hasn’t always been as enthused with Hispanic culture as she is now. Cranfill remembers hating the focus in her seventh-grade history class on Texas-Mexico relations, wanting the curriculum to focus more on Texas.
Less than a year later, Cranfill found herself pointedly obsessed with everything Spanish-related that she once rolled her eyes at and dreaming of missionary life and becoming.
“I would read all these book about all these martyrs throughout history, all these Christians who died because of what they believed in,” she said. “All of it was in a different culture, so early on, I guess, I committed my life to God and that was when I said, ‘God, I want to go.’ I guess I knew I didn’t want to live a life that doesn’t mean anything, because I knew early on that time was short, and I wanted to do something meaningful with it.”
For more than a year, she double majored in Spanish and communications but soon found her Spanish skills were lacking when, after three years of the language in high school, she couldn’t even CLEP out of Elementary Spanish.
The summer between her freshman and sophomore year, Cranfill spent 10 weeks doing mission work in Costa Rica with WorldWide Witness. There, she stayed with a host family, enrolled in a language school and helped out wherever she could in the church.
“The whole reason I wanted to do WWW in the first place was because I remembered being in junior high and having such a strong desire to go with God and willing to be sent,” she said. “It was still on my heart, but wasn’t as strong as it had used to be. So, I wanted to see if that was something that God would want me to do.”
Three weeks after returning from Costa Rica, she found herself on a plane with 10 other students, flying about 5,000 miles to study abroad for a semester in Montevideo, Uruguay. She took advanced language courses at the local Catholic university and worked at developing her fluency even further.
She spent the next summer in Abilene, participating in Beltway Park Baptist Church’s 10-week discipleship course and learned more about the importance of spirituality in her life.
“It just basically took me to a whole different level in my relationship with God,” she said. “It’s a very intense program, which is exhilarating,” she said. “It’s essentially you learning how to be a disciple in Christ, and learning how to encourage others to do the same, and walk with people in their life, and walk with Jesus at the same time.”
The summer after her junior year, Cranfill said she saw a post by one of her professors, Dr. Gary Green, about traveling to Peru with a few students. Feeling left out, Cranfill said she contacted Green about accompanying the group.
“Katie immediately sent me a Facebook message asking for an explanation. My explanation was ‘sorry, my bad; that was not for you,'” Green, coordinator of WWW, said. “Katie, however, persisted in asking for more information. When I explained about the forming team, Katie asked if there was the possibility of adding another member. The rest is history. Sometimes the Father accomplishes his will through human error.”
The group left a few weeks later to explore one location in Ecuador and two in Peru.
Toward the end of the summer, Cranfill joined the team and agreed to spend the next year in training for the upcoming five to 10 years she’d spend as a missionary.
“I’d always wanted to be a missionary, but I never felt like I’d bring anything to the table,” she said. “I struggled a lot with the thought, ‘I don’t have anything to offer,’ and I think a lot of people struggle with this. But that’s exactly the point, because we’re average. We don’t have to have our lives together.”
The first semester of her senior year, Cranfill flew back to Montevideo, Uruguay, to study abroad for a second time.
While taking advanced Spanish courses, Cranfill participated in training sessions with her mission team through Skype almost every week.
As their approach to the mission work developed, Cranfill and her teammates were forced to decide where they would enroll in a language school. Ultimately, they chose a school in Costa Rica- the exact school at which Cranfill studied during her WWW internship.
“It was great, because I had promised my friends from Costa Rica that I’d be back. Which I’ve since learned not to make promises for things you can’t control,” she said.
After the team completes its language courses, which are expected to last about a year, they will spend an additional year observing the site’s culture and forming relationships with the townspeople. In about two years, Cranfill and her teammates will finally begin their church-planting mission in Huancayo, Peru.
“One thing I struggled with a lot was that I don’t have anything to offer. I’m average, and a lot of times people just think, ‘Oh, because I’m just average God isn’t going to use me.’ But that’s exactly the point, that’s why God wants to use us. He is so much more visible through us because we’re average,” Cranfill said. “There’s nothing special about us without him.”