Hoping to Backpack, Getting to Serve

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Gretchen Bartlett ’00 has always had a passion for youth. When she was 17, Gretchen found herself called to serve in missions. With her limiting schedule, Gretchen realized only three trips worked with her schedule—Tanzania being one of them. Incentivized primarily by the prospect of it being a backpacking trip, Gretchen chose Tanzania. There, her heart transformed, and her love for Africa began. Three years after graduating from Cairn in 2000 with her Bible and social work degrees, she eagerly returned to Nairobi, Kenya, to serve with the Rafiki Foundation.

At Rafiki, her role included teaching classes, leading Bible studies, and guiding teenage girls through vocational training. Out of Rafiki, Gretchen and a missionary friend created Faith House, an organization that provided a safe Christian space for teenage girls. For nine years, Gretchen faithfully worked as Faith House’s resident director.

In her time in Kenya, one of Gretchen’s most meaningful experiences was adopting her daughter, Kendi, at 14 months old. For nearly four years, Gretchen and Kendi stayed with Faith House until they transitioned to the United States. Gretchen currently serves as the assistant to the head of school at a Christian school in Michigan. Her love for teaching children and teens has only grown since her first mission trip, and she is excited to be in an environment where she still can be with children as well as other people who share her passion of sharing their love for the Lord.