Hi there, I’m Kathryn, or as I am called here in Costa Rica, Catalina.
I am a photographer, artist, writer, bookworm, and serious coffee snob. I am a bit obsessed with beach cruiser bicycles (always with a basket!), extra large sunhats, fresh pineapple, and Taco Tuesdays.
Most importantly though, I am the new communications/media coordinator for ReachGlobal Latin America/Caribbean, and will be curating this blog for the next few years, so I thought I’d take a moment to introduce myself.
I am a Southern California girl raised in the mountains of Colorado, with an insatiable desire to travel and explore new places. Because of this, I have gotten to see many parts of the world, and live in some interesting places, my favorite being a remote village in the Alaskan bush for two years. My education is in art, with a degree in music first and photography second. My photography degree had an emphasis in photojournalism and documentary work, with the purpose of working in the non-profit world. I had the privilege of working in depth with an inner city Christian school in Denver for several years, helping them with their fundraising and awareness efforts by making short videos and doing expansive photographic stories.
My heart is to tell God’s stories around the world, and I am over the moon that I get to do that here in this region.
I will be based out of Costa Rica for the next few years, making my way around Latin America and the Caribbean, telling the stories of our teams, ministries, and partner churches along the way. You can expect an abundance of photos and videos here on the blog, as well as the grand narrative of how God is building His church in this part of the world. I look forward to learning, sharing, and hearing from you as well!
My other passion is teaching art to people who are walking through trauma or just need a safe space to open up and make beautiful things. Art journaling is my specialty, which is really just “mess making with a purpose” as I like to call it. It has been a wonder and privilege to watch the Lord transform hearts and open up closed off spaces during art classes over the years. If you are interested in learning a bit more about this, you can read my blog post here.
My heart and vision for this blog is to be a space for connection, for stories, and for community. We can all use updates on each other’s ministries, but storytelling is so much more than just reporting the news. We get to all be a part of this Kingdom work, whether we are in Latin American countries or somewhere completely different and participating by prayer and giving. This blog has been, and will continue to be a place where we can go to see the stories that God is writing in His church, and the ways we are connected to one another in the body.
If you are interested in learning more of my story, please visit my personal blog over at www.kathrynbronnblog.com. I can’t wait to walk this journey and see where God leads us as a Division and the Body of Christ over these next few years! ¡Pura vida!
There’s no question why Jonathan and Maggie Hunter are smiling these days. After waiting more than two and a half years between applying to ReachGlobal and landing in San Jose, Costa Rica, they’re glad to finally have reached their goal.
Jonathan and Maggie, who have been married for almost four years, have a toddler son, Patrick, and a baby girl on the way in January. Jonathan, 25, who grew up as a missionary kid (MK) in Ecuador, serves as the director of the AMCA youth ministry in San Jose. AMCA ministers to about 75 expat and Costa Rican (Tico) teenagers in the San Jose metro area. While Jonathan takes over the reins of the youth ministry, Maggie is attending full-time Spanish language school at The Spanish Language Institute in San Jose.
The couple took some time recently to talk about their journey and what they’ve seen God doing as they dive into full-time youth ministry.
Their call to youth ministry:
J: During the application process, we spent a lot of time in prayer. There was something inside us – we knew this is where the Lord was bringing us.
M: Both of us have known we wanted to do something with youth ministry. The Lord led us to missions, and we didn’t necessarily see youth ministry in missions. [But] this position is just a perfect fit, because we’re able to serve students, and with Jonathan himself being a missionary kid, a third culture kid, he’s able to be a resource for the students and the parents in our youth group.
Value of Jonathan knowing Spanish:
J: It’s really been invaluable. It helps you relate to students, because there is a little bit of a clique, in one sense, when you have the long-term MK’s who already speak Spanish and have integrated with the Tico students and youth group. So knowing Spanish and being an MK gives me an instant credibility that otherwise wouldn’t necessarily have been there.
It also helps me communicate with a lot of the parents of the students who won’t speak English or can’t speak English. Just being able to speak the language breaks down a lot of barriers that you might otherwise have when you’re trying to work with parents.
J: Some people come into a new field, and they’re kind of overwhelmed and entirely lost. We’re familiar with Latin cultures and Latin cities, but we for sure didn’t know where to go to buy groceries. We had no idea how to put chips in our cell phones – we didn’t know you had to have your passport with you.
Our ReachGlobal team was really spot-on. When we got here, our team leader [Jim Wilson] met us at the airport and drove us to the apartment that [Jim’s wife] Melanie helped find. We had people to show us around the first day.
M: We had our Internet installed within 24 hours of making our first phone call, and in the states it took two weeks for that to happen. Other people where have had longer experiences, having to wait a week or two as well. Melanie Wilson laughed – she said, “What are we going to do to make this more of a missionary experience?” I responded, “Good luck. We’ve had people praying for two and a half years about this transition.” The Lord definitely has had a huge part in how smooth it’s been.
J: Our first [goal] in the ministry is to make the transitional into the director role, and that means not changing too much at one and getting a lot of feedback from people.
Another immediate goal that I have is really helping the people that I get to work with in Bible study and whenever we do the big group teachings to, even at a young age, develop a good hermeneutic Bible study methods and to help form an expectation with how people are going to be approaching the Bible.
Long-term team goals – we have three of them:
First would be just discipling students and helping them mature in Christ and in their walk with the Lord.
Number two, supporting families: A lot of them are missionaries, and one of the main reasons that missionaries leave the field is problems with children. If we can help provide stability and discipleship by being there, if we can help support the families in their everyday ministry life, hopefully we’ll be able to see them remain in the field. If we can in any way strengthen the family unit through youth ministry, that’s a huge plus.
Finally, helping the students in their transitions …
M: We have many people in the youth group who are here from anywhere form just three months to a year while their parents learn Spanish. A huge part of our ministry is to help people through the transition, as they transfer into Costa Rica and prepare to transfer out to where their parents do ministry or to go to college.
The whole thing about the youth group is that it’s the place that you’re not alone in that emotion or in that frustration. Also having Ticos there, you can’t just reject the culture that you’re a part of. You can learn to incorporate and adjust in this transition. Going through that process is something that’s completely normal.
Samantha Loesch is the newest member of the Mexico City city team. We asked her to fill us in her background and how in the world she landed in one of the world’s largest cities.
Where are you from, and where did you go to school?
I was born and raised in the northwest suburbs of Chicago with my beautiful family that is so crazy about Jesus! In 2011, I completed my distance learning and graduated from Thomas Edison State College with my B.A. in communications. Several months later, I completed the remainder of my Advanced TESOL Diploma from Global TESOL college.
How did you meet Christ, and what are some milestones in your faith journey you can tell us about?
On July 5, 1995, I prayed with my mom to accept Christ into my heart. I understood that it was a personal decision, not dependent on my parents. And besides, that’s what good kids do, right? It wasn’t until I was in junior high that it finally clicked for me. God’s sacrifice for me was tremendous, His love for me incomprehensible, so how could I not surrender my life to Him? After rededicating my life to Jesus Christ, I was baptized on June 5, 2005.
Why did you pursue Mexico as a ministry field?
Since being actively involved in missionary with Latin children as a young teenager, I’ve had a passion for the Latin people and their intriguing culture. Tied to a series of other events, this led me to pursue my first international missions trip and, the following year, an internship in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Between these two trips, the Lord began confirming in my heart, through His word, through prayer, and through other people, that He was leading me into missions. It felt as though God was directing me back to Tegucigalpa for full-time ministry; but He redirected me, not unlike Paul’s missionary journey in Acts. For over a year, I was in a waiting period, unsure of when or where God would have me be. But as I sought Him, He was faithful to work on my heart, purify me and prepare me.
After beginning to attend a new church, I learned of ReachGlobal and pursued the application process with them. Several months later, I was accepted and was presented with four Latin American placement options: Mexico City, Costa Rica, Brazil and Haiti. Graciously, God made it an easy decision to choose Mexico City — although that was not the most attractive to me, but rather, the most frightening. He gave me unity of spirit with those who I sought counsel from and those in authority over me, and I gave the official thumbs-up to Mexico almost exactly one year ago.
Can you tell us about any surprises that greeted you in Mexico?
The best surprise? The amazing family I get to live with and be apart of: Joshua [Smith] is the team leader for the Mexico City team and lives in Colonia Roma with his beautiful wife [Naomi] and three precious kids.
Need I even mention the food? I knew it was going to be good, but was definitely not prepared for how good and how many dreams I would have about my next meals. It all works out pretty well because Mexicans are extremely proud of their food; looks like I’ve joined right in!
What are some challenges you’ve found in adjusting to a new culture? Any pleasant surprises?
Since arriving in Mexico, I’ve had some health challenges in adjusting to all the changes from my life in Chicago. The typical stomach bug was expected, but I wasn’t quite prepared for things like passing out on the metro and waking up to being carried off by Mexican police!
Despite the association that people make between Mexico and beaches, flip-flops, and golden tans, it is not the case here in the city. For one, it’s cooler here because we are in the mountains; but also, Mexico is a formal culture, so Mexicans err on the dressier side. You won’t see shorts or sandals, and as silly as it sounds, I always look forward to jumping into my running shorts and flip-flops when I get home.
Because I never did a vision trip and had never been to Mexico, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect upon my arrival in the Federal District. I pictured a never-ending concrete jungle, whatever that looked like. The city does often feel never-ending and is covered in concrete, but I was pleasantly surprised by all the parks sprinkled throughout my neighborhood. On my first walk through Roma Norte, we passed through just one of many cool, shady parks with a fountain in the center, and as it started to rain, a big rainbow shot straight across the park.
What are some of your short-term goals there? What about long-term plans?
My commitment to the Mexico City team is two years. The role in which I serve consists of: developing reproducible English conversation groups with the intention of reaching the city for Jesus, and the discipleship of young, Mexican women.
Short-term, I will be actively involved in churches, universities and ministries to teach English in an informal setting, developing relationships with Mexicans, and sharing the gospel in these environments.
The long-term goal is to connect these groups with local churches who can come around the people involved, care for their physical and spiritual needs, and provide long-term support and a place for growth in Christ. This empowers the local churches to serve their communities and prepares for long-term help instead of dependency on missionaries.
How can people be praying for you and your ministry there?
Please be praying for the first English conversation group I am currently involved in. It is at UNAM, Mexico City’s largest and most prestigious university. Daily, I have the opportunity to interact with both believing and non-believing students. During my first month here, I’ve been able to develop significant relationships with some of the young women and am excited to see how He will use these discipleship opportunities to glorify His name!
Please pray for our team! We are small, but growing. Besides Joshua Smith and his family, we have one other couple in Mexico City. In the next two weeks, we will welcome Marilyn, a retired nurse, and we continue to support James and Christina (and their sweet, baby girl!) who are currently in the support raising process. It has already blessed me to witness God’s hand of direction as couples and families come on vision trips and seek Mexico as a placement option. God is building our team and equipping us for increased ministry and a broadening focus on the people throughout Mexico City. Praise to Him!!