From Museums to Mexico

By Karissa Uhlig

In Oaxaca, Mexico, Katherine McCarthy asked the bewildered Walmart associate for batteries. She described them as best she could with her basic Spanish, trying to convey what she was looking for. The associate just looked at her blankly. Experiences like this were common when Katherine first began her service in Mexico. 

Katherine teaches missionary kids in third and fourth grade in Oaxaca. Though she had learned some Spanish before she moved to Mexico, it was still a relatively new language to her. Katherine has learned to adapt quickly while serving overseas to change the words she’s using or try a different process to find the supplies she’s looking for.

Katherine McCarthy in Mexico

Katherine credits JAARS with planting the initial desire in her heart to serve in foreign missions. As a fifteen-year-old, Katherine was on a choir tour that stopped to sing at JAARS. That night, she heard a JAARS staff member speak about his life overseas. 

“The people [at JAARS] are touching lives.” Katherine said. “I wonder if the man who spoke that night knew that one day some of the kids he was speaking to would become [mission workers].” 

The Museum of the Alphabet and the Mexico-Cardenás Museum at JAARS also inspired Katherine. Their tangible examples of Bible translation, like Bibles in other languages and artifacts helped missions come to life for her. She also learned that the way JAARS helps Bible translation isn’t an abstract idea occurring halfway around the globe. No, Katherine could actually see the translated Scripture and the process in which they are created; she could see the fruit of how JAARS had helped produce Scripture in a person’s language. 

The patience of the staff at JAARS with that rambunctious tour group of teenagers also impressed Katherine. Ten years later, one of those rambunctious teenagers is an overseas mission worker herself.

After five years of working in the U.S. public school system as an elementary school teacher, Katherine felt God was calling her to teach in a foreign country. Cameroon came to mind because she had studied French—the primary language of Cameroon—in high school. But when she asked Wycliffe Bible Translators where they could most use teachers, they listed five other countries. Mexico was the one God stirred her heart for. 

Katherine returned to JAARS in 2018 to take the Intercultural Communications Course (ICC) before arriving at her assignment in Mexico. She highly recommends ICC and the preparation it gives mission workers for serving on the mission field. She learned practical lessons throughout the course that she still draws from today: “I think the most important lesson I learned was to be patient with myself and that culture shock is a real thing.” She’s learned that adjusting to a new language and culture is exhausting but rewarding. 

Katherine has noticed that mission workers are sometimes glamorized in the Church. But, while living at JAARS, she realized the people surrounding her were people just like her. “I think oftentimes the idea [in the church] is that it takes a special person to be [a mission worker].” However, God calls all kinds of people to do his work around the world. He used museums to call Katherine to Oaxaca, Mexico. How is he calling you to further the mission of Bible translation? 

Click here to see how you can visit JAARS and discern where God might lead you next.