Student travels globe for mission trips

In 2004, freshman Emily Barkley went to Mexico on her first mission trip.  As a 9-year-old, Barkley doesn’t remember the experience very well, but since that year, she has visited 12 different places through seven other mission trips.  Several mission trips were a combination of more than one country.

Barkley has done mission work in 13 areas: Mexico, Roatan, Honduras, Belize, Haiti, South Africa, Swaziland, Amsterdam, Spain, Britain, France, England and Fiji.

“More than giving us things, [my parents] tried to take us places and teach us and let us experience cultures,” Barkley said.

Barkley’s most memorable trips were South Africa and Swaziland in 2011 with Global Passion Ministries, and summer of 2013 in Fiji with Assembly of God’s youth group, Revolution Church.

For Barkley, Fiji was nothing like what she or anyone else in the group expected.

“Fiji was the hardest three weeks of my entire existence… It was horrible.  I mean, it was the best thing, but it was also super hard,” Barkley said.

While in Fiji, the group had planned on living in a church with food, safety and running water.  Instead, they lived in the mountain village Timbalai.  Timbalai was a community that had never seen Americans before, Barkley said, so the villagers were always interested in the missionaries and what they were doing.

Eating only rice and terra root for three weeks straight added to the discomfort.  Several members of the group even contracted parasites.

A major difference noticed by Barkley was how the tribal culture regarded respect.

“You do everything that you can to be respectful.  Which means you have to be quiet, and you have to be low.  If you are in a room full of adults, you will crawl on your knees to get across the room because if you stand up that is the rudest thing,” Barkley said.

Other ways respect was shown included sitting cross-legged on the floor because people must be invited to sit on the furniture and keeping your head down when an adult entered the room.  Speaking quietly was also important.

Overall, Barkley describes her trip to Fiji as a very difficult, but wonderful learning experience.

“In Fiji, I just learned how to be completely dependent on God for everything because I had nothing.  I had no way to talk to any of my family,” Barkley said.

However, Barkley said her mission trip to Africa also has a special place in her heart.  When asked which country she would go back to, she had no hesitation when she said Swaziland.

“The people are the most sincere and generous people in the world, even though they have nothing… Something about their culture is so full of wonder.  They are just excited about everything all the time, and it makes it so fun to live there,” Barkley said. “I will go back there someday.  If I don’t go back, it’s because I died before I could get there.  I definitely need to go back.”

Through her mission work, Barkley has come to the conclusion that most of the work has been done in her heart by those she has served.

“It blows your idea of God out of the water and shows you what he can really do and how in control he is.  It teaches you to be removed from yourself and to learn to serve people,” Barkley said.

Barkley’s grandfather, Al Hulten, encouraged her to travel the world through mission trips.

“I think she has seen how much we have loved it and been excited to report back to others here in Spokane what we have experienced,” Hulten said.

Hulten himself has travelled to six different countries on 15 mission trips in total. An SPU alumnus, he spent the past five years working for the Valley Assembly of God in Spokane, Wash., in pastoral care with the 60-plus age group. Previously, he was the lead pastor for 23 years.

Barkley said her grandfather lives vicariously through her and pushes her to go and experience more cultures since he recently hasn’t had a chance to go on mission trips.

Hulten’s hope for his granddaughter is that she will live a life of significance over a life of success.

“[Emily] has a heart for God, and we are excited to see what God has in store for her,” Hulten said.

Barkley plans to major in psychology.  Her ideal job would to be a type of counseling that allows for traveling.

“I think a lot of countries, Third World especially, that I’ve been to could benefit from having more, if any, counselors.  However, spending money on food and necessities is usually hard enough, so it would be hard for a counselor there to be able to make a living,” Barkley said.

In the future, Barkley plans on going on more trips.  She hopes to go to Thailand, Brazil, Costa Rica, and anywhere in Africa.

This article was posted in the section Features.