My name is Kallie Hutton, a Saskatchewan prairie girl who stumbled her way around the world and ultimately found herself in Bolivia. I have been working in Bolivia with Canadian Baptist Ministries (CBM) since 2013 and studying in the Master of Arts (Theology) program at Acadia Divinity College since 2019. This is a bit of my story.
I grew up as your typical church-going kid. I was never a rebellious teenager but instead found my people at youth group, really got into competitive Scripture memorization, and geeked out on The Lord of the Rings. The truth is, I grew up comfortably and with privilege. Not having ever experienced pain or injustice, I couldn’t wrap my head around the reality of those who suffer. I owe my development of compassion and trajectory toward ministry to a heart break that shook up my complacency.
My Youth Pastor, Neil McCall, was kind, quirky, and lived with the sort of love that made each person he interacted with feel seen and special. Shy and awkward as I was, I wanted to learn how to show Jesus’ love, just like Neil. He lost his short battle with cancer when I was in grade 9. The loss of my friend shattered any youthful notions of invincibility and made me realize that if I was serious about following Jesus, there was no time to waste. My grief also made me begin to empathize with others’ pain in a way that I never could before. My broken heart felt the pull toward lifelong service.
Having always loved languages and cultures, overseas mission became a dream of mine. I studied Global Ministries as an undergrad at Horizon College and Seminary in Saskatoon. My internship brought me to Bolivia where I served at Casa de la Amistad, a long-standing CBM project that works with children who have a parent in prison. I look back on that time in my life as the moment God opened my eyes to the things that broke His heart. At one point in the middle of my internship, an ear infection from swimming in the jungle confined me to my bed for several days. Without the busyness of my schedule to distract me, God met me in those quiet, still moments and made me process the stories of these children. I experienced grief in a different way; not resulting from loss, but from a desire to mend others’ brokenness and being unsure how to do so. Injustice, poverty, and suffering became realities that I could no longer ignore, even though the ache they caused had made me try to avoid them. God instilled in me a compassion and longing for justice that has followed me ever since.
Coming back to Canada, I married my best friend and after backpacking internationally for 6 months, we moved to Montreal. Tim studied at McGill and I worked as a fundraising consultant for various NGOs and moonlighted as a youth pastor at an inner-city church in the heart of Montreal’s thriving immigrant community. . Unbeknownst to us, God was preparing us for further ministry overseas.
When Tim and I came to Bolivia 7 years ago, the plan was to volunteer at an international school for 10 months and then come back to Canada. Obviously, things didn’t go as planned! Taking stock of our lives, we realized that God was using our skills and talents as well as igniting a passion for His mission right where we were. Our plans to return north were abandoned and Bolivia became our home.
As a member of the CBM Global Field staff in partnership I work alongside incredible people. Together with local churches we serve the most vulnerable, empowering them to serve their own communities. For instance, many of our projects reach out to at-risk women and children. We help women gain marketable skills and provide a safe place for their kids to get support, all while sharing the hope of the Gospel. Another project works with families in rural settings who suffer from a deadly but preventable disease and have limited economic options. In this context we connect families with the resources to treat and prevent this illness while at the same time helping them improve their agricultural sustainability. In addition to development work, I collaborate with the Baptist Seminary and with churches across the country to provide training on discipleship and help them to develop their own integral mission initiatives.
My thesis for my MA (Theology) in Discipleship will look at how the Bolivian Baptist Church currently approaches discipleship and the need to implement active service alongside the poor as an integral part of this formation. My hope is that my thesis will provide a valuable resource for the Bolivian Baptist Union, allowing them to reflect on their vision for discipleship.
While this work is exciting and everchanging, it is not without its challenges. Living through political conflict, seeing the effects of inadequate healthcare and justice systems, and befriending those in extreme poverty has placed me in constant tension with the injustice that the Holy Spirit first used to spark my compassion. I am daily reminded of the brokenness of our world and pray earnestly, as Jesus taught us, for God’s Kingdom to come.
One thing that I have learned is that working for justice is time consuming and messy; because of this, the church may shy away. Many churches put on events that check off the box of caring for the poor. They may provide gifts to children at Christmas or deliver used clothing to a needy family. Still, when a need extends beyond a short visit or small gift, members can lose interest. Meeting these needs requires effort and sacrifice. Somewhere along the way, we have forgotten the call to love others, especially the poor, in our discipleship formation.
It was this need for the church to participate in God’s coming redemptive Kingdom through active discipleship that first drew me to Acadia Divinity College. I knew I must be better equipped if I intended to equip others. Some of my courses, such as Directed Studies in Discipleship with Dr. John McNally, have helped me clarify my understanding of the church’s role in God’s Kingdom and have opened my eyes to the importance of intentional, relational discipleship.
Not only has my time at ADC increased my understanding, it’s also given me practical skills to apply what I’ve learned in mission. For example, Dr. Stephen McMullin’s course The Church’s Response to Domestic Violence has since helped me work with pastors to create a plan for supporting vulnerable women in their congregations. I’ve also been able to run workshops with churches and communities to shed light on and discuss this prevalent and pervasive injustice. I’ve been afforded the opportunity to walk alongside several women who have come forward about the abuses they’re suffering. I’ve learned that sometimes the church’s lack of action in the face of injustice stems from a lack of knowledge on how best to confront the issue. I’ve also learned that leading by example has as much, or more, impact in bringing about change than any general workshop.
I hope I am able to continue applying my learning at ADC to my ministry, allowing my practice and belief to be continuously stretched and grow through theological reflection. May each of us be spurred on by the Spirit to mirror the love and compassion of Christ as we seek the Shalom of God’s Kingdom.