Kathleen Cantwell began following Jesus at Frontier Ranch, a Young Life camp in Colorado, during her junior year of high school. From that moment on, she felt a strong pull toward ministry.
“When God got ahold of me, He got ahold of me,” Kathleen says. “From that first year of coming to faith, I’ve felt a call on my life to ministry. And though it has never been [a vocation] for me, it has always been a very strong call. That’s been a thread that has just been woven through, and World Vision became a part of that.”
During college and for several years after earning her teaching degree, Kathleen volunteered as a Young Life leader. She met her husband, Kevin, through the ministry. Kathleen taught middle school and high school biology and chemistry for a number of years, took some time off when her children were born, then worked as a substitute teacher for a bit. But when Kevin started a landscaping company in 2005, she left teaching to help him manage the office.
Over the years, Kathleen remained heavily involved with Young Life while also serving in her church’s youth ministry, on the youth ministry worship team, and in women’s ministry. She currently works part time on staff at her church overseeing adult ministries. So when a family friend invited Kathleen to consider joining Women of Vision, Kathleen was tentative.
“I was just too busy and I really didn’t want to do it,” she admits. She already balanced a full schedule with her family and ministry. “My kids were in high school and middle school, and that was no easy thing.” But her friend was persistent. She began inviting Kathleen to lunch, and Kathleen started to learn more and more.
A change in heart
“Every time we had lunch, she would bring what I would call ‘show and tell,’” Kathleen says. “She would bring me a picture. She would bring me a pamphlet.” In time, her friend’s persistence paid off and a spark was lit in Kathleen’s heart.
Kathleen attended a luncheon with that family friend in 2010 and heard a World Vision speaker share about a water project. The work was compelling, but Kathleen couldn’t help feeling intimidated by the doctors and attorneys seated around her.
“I’m just thinking, ‘Lord, who am I and why am I here? I don’t have this kind of money,’” she says. But soon after the luncheon, she found herself agreeing to host a meeting in her home as a favor to her friend. Hospitality was Kathleen’s gift — and calling.
“We (Kathleen and her husband) prayed that our house would be used and the doors would be flooded wide open,” she says, “and that’s what God has done with us and our home.” Around 25 women showed up that day, and the Albuquerque chapter of Women of Vision was born.
“None of us knew much about World Vision, so we took almost an entire year just to study,” Kathleen says. The chapter officially launched in 2012, and Kathleen agreed to serve as co-chair. Much of the leadership team has been on board from the start, giving the chapter a strong base.
Kathleen says their events are very successful because they keep overhead low and have great support: “Even though we’re small, we have raised a lot of money because the generosity here is incredible.” As co-chair, Kathleen invested in the women of her chapter, building relationships with them and helping them grow in their understanding of World Vision alongside her.
One of the biggest blessings for Kathleen has been going on Vision Trips to see the projects she and other members of her chapter have supported. She’s traveled to Ethiopia, Honduras, and Immokalee, Florida.
“In each of those places,” she says, “you fall in love with World Vision staff.” Kathleen was able to see World Vision’s community-based approach in action and how it was helping communities lift themselves out of poverty.
“They are all about sustainability and teaching and bringing in the community to execute any projects that they have. And so it’s sustainable. The impact of seeing our dollars go to work in countries where I was privileged to go has been enormous. I feel as though God has given me a glimpse on the other side of the veil. It’s hard to come back from those [trips] and not just want to sell it all and go.”
In Ethiopia, she got to meet her sponsored child, Yimam. “That was a dream come true,” she says. While Yimam was quite shy, his grandmother opened up. Through an interpreter, Kathleen was able to share about her own special relationship with her grandmother. Kathleen praised Yimam’s grandmother, telling her that she was doing an amazing thing by helping raise her grandchildren. This interaction ended up being one of the most impactful parts of her trip. She hopes to go on more Vision Trips in the future.
No longer strangers
Another significant blessing for Kathleen is the relationships: She treasures the ones she’s gained through Women of Vision. Women who were once strangers have become some of her closest friends.
“It’s a safe place for us to challenge one another and to learn how to listen to one another, even in our differences,” she says. It’s also brought opportunities to share her faith.
“It’s been easy to invite people into World Vision,” Kathleen explains, “to bring them into a place where we’re not just after their money, but we really are desirous of increasing the yield of their faith. And so it’s been its own mission field. World Vision has been the conduit in some ways to help other people see Jesus. When they see Jesus, their lives are changed. Then they have a great impact because they want to contribute.”
Kathleen has also grown closer to God through her experience with Women of Vision.
“It has increased my faith,” she says. “I have seen answered prayers. I have seen God move through our Women of Vision group, through our community, through Albuquerque, to do things that seemed exceeding and abundant. And it has really challenged me not to get comfortable or complacent.
A responsibility and motivation
“There’s a world out there that needs us to be consistent in loving God and loving others — that needs our attention, our involvement, our money, and our notice. The whole of Scripture says to love the other. It says to love the downtrodden, the orphan, the widow — to bring justice to those areas, and to bring relief to poverty.”
Kathleen considers it a joy and honor to join in God’s work in the world through Women of Vision: “When God has taken care of you, then I truly believe to whom much is given, much is expected. And so I have a responsibility. And that’s what Women of Vision for me has been. It’s been a reminder of that. It’s been a motivator of that.”
Kathleen served in her role as co-chair for four years, but in 2016 she passed the torch to a new chair and stepped into an advisory role where she can offer support. She continues to pour her heart into the ministry, and she invites others to explore the possibility of joining Women of Vision.
“World Vision is one of those places where you can see impact, even as a young person,” she says. “[And it’s] a place where they will harvest greatly — they will reap greatly what they sow in time, talent, and treasure.”