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Out of Africa

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Hutchinson returns home after two-year missionary trip

By Bryan Marshall

Awa has returned home to Grant County.

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That was the African name given to 26-year-old Krystal Hutchinson during her more than two-year mission trip to Mali in West Africa.

The Dry Ridge resident arrived home in mid-November to a slew of signs and happy family members and friends.

“It was hard not seeing everybody,” Krystal said about being gone. “Just so many changes happened. Everybody grows up, that’s life. Everybody showed up at the airport. They had signs and stuff. It was sweet. There are signs everywhere. I felt like I was a celebrity. I didn’t expect that at all.”

A 2000 Grant County High School graduate, Krystal decided to participate in the Journeyman program through the International Missions Board after learning about it as a Campbellsville University student.

After graduating from the Southern Baptist university in 2004, she jumped at the opportunity.

“The Lord really engraved in me a heart for ministry and missions,” Krystal said.

Krystal spent two months training in Virginia to learn about what to expect and not expect when traveling to a foreign country before finally leaving for Africa in October 2006.

The weather and the lack of resources were something Krystal had to get used to in her new, temporary home.

“The poverty was something that was hard,” she said. “I lived with a family in a village in a mud hut with no running water and no electricity. I’m still thankful and surprised when the water here is hot. It’s so cold here. I’m still adjusting to all of that. I’m really thankful to be home.”

During the first six months, Krystal said she did not see one cloud in the sky.

“It was hot. The hottest it got was about 130 degrees. That was hot season,” she said. “In the cold season, it got down to about 70 or 75 degrees. Actually, after being there for awhile, that actually felt cold. Africans were wearing parkas, ski caps and snow boots.”

While in Mali, Krystal lived with and spread the message of God to the Senufo Supyire, villagers who speak a language known by only about 300,000 people.

Through the One Story project, Krystal and other missionaries worked with a native speaker to try to create an oral Bible story set in their native language for the people to learn and listen to over the radio.

The stories were tested at local villages to make sure they were Biblically accurate and were being understood.

“The goal is that these stories will be used,” Krystal said. “I know that the Lord says that His word will never fall to the ground. It was difficult the workload of it all. I feel confident that the product we left is high quality. The result also is groups gathering and small churches forming.

“We saw a couple different people come to belief in the Lord,” she said. “We got to see one person baptized. It was really cool.”

Living in a complex of huts with about 60 members of a family, Krystal also got to know many of the African villagers.

She watched as they farmed to provide crops to feed their families for the entire year.

A baby was even named after her after she jokingly suggested a newborn she was holding should be named Krystal.

“Names are not important there,” Krystal said. “It’s kind of like whoever calls the child whatever name first, that’s it. A lot of children are named after the day they are born. I feel sorry for that kid because nobody there can say Krystal.”

Although she was miles away, Krystal occasionally did get reminders of those at home.

She spoke to her family about once a week and communicated through e-mail when she went into bigger towns.

From time to time, Krystal also received letters and care packages from Grant County churches.

“It really meant a lot,” she said. “One church sent us mosquito tents. That was great because we could sleep outside. One church sent a box of everything I needed to make pizza. People sent letters telling me what was going on at home. The support from the community has been really a blessing.”

To give back to the community, Krystal has visited Dry Ridge Baptist, Lawrenceville Baptist and Williamstown Baptist to share her experiences.

Although she is glad to be home, leaving those she spent the past two years with in Mali was not easy.

“Africans don’t cry. The day we left, I was crying like a baby and getting scolded for it,” Krystal said. “My entire (African) family was crying. One of my dearest friends said, ‘Who is going to come and tell us God’s words now?’ It was a sweet goodbye. It was hard to go.”

“Everytime I get time to sit, I just keep seeing faces of my friends there, friends who heard the stories, but didn’t make a decision to follow the Lord, friends who said they were interested but didn’t commit,” she said. “I can’t get their faces out of my mind.”

Shortly after arriving back in the United States, Krystal went to a debriefing conference in Virginia where she learned that it can take awhile for missionaries to adjust being back home.

Having experienced the less structured and more laid back African lifestyle, Krystal said it has been more difficult to come home than it was arriving in Mali.

“I don’t want to become a person who falls back into the American mindset of just leave me be because I can take care of myself,” she said. “Over there, day-to-day, you had to be focused on the Lord and what He was doing because it’s too hard to do it alone.”

Krystal said she will definitely return to Africa to visit.

As for another extended missionary trip, it is not out of the question.

“I don’t know what’s in the future,” Krystal said. “I want to do whatever the Lord has for me to do.”