Humans of Liberty: A Missionary Kid Discovers Her Calling in Creating a Home for Everyone
For many, home exists as a point on a map, but the concept of home for 26-year-old Caitlin Titus has become much bigger.
The term “third culture kid” describes a child who was raised in a culture that is different from that of their parents. A “third culture” refers to the unique culture that exists within the child as they explore what “home” is to them.
As the child of missionaries, Titus was born in Taiwan and moved five years later to mainland China, where her family worked with the Mongol people. As she began her ninth-grade year, Titus and her parents decided she would attend high school at a Christian boarding school in Taiwan.
Titus’s time at the boarding school composed some of her dearest memories, and she cited this portion of her life as an era of discovering much more about who she truly was.
“I learned a lot more about myself and my passions, like playing soccer for the first time and making lifelong friends that are still my best friends to this day,” Titus said.
Liberty University rose to the top of her college list when Titus learned about the school’s Missionary Kid scholarship. While her family spent time stateside for about six months every four years, her transition after high school to Liberty marked her first long-term move to the United States.
Beginning her Liberty journey in a dorm at the Annex, Titus’s RA was a missionary kid as well, making the dorm a somewhat familiar and welcoming environment.
“I just had so much fun with that group. It was a rag-tag team at the Annex [dorm] back then — a lot of international students, a lot of diverse groups of people,” Titus said. “Right from the get-go, my Liberty experience was different than the typical Liberty experience, depending on what area of campus you live on.”
Wanting to give students an experience as incredible as the one she had, Titus became an RA during her sophomore year. Titus realized almost immediately that not all students saw the hall as a home away from home. She made it her goal to create an environment that would alleviate the culture shock experienced by many students, whether coming from a different nation or a different state.
“I began to find ways that I could grow in learning about other stories, but it really all started because I felt different,” Titus said. “I felt like I was Asian because I spent my whole life there. I still wasn’t very American. I still had some American pieces to [my story] as well, so it’s just piecing it together.”
Titus began working as a Resident Director at Auburn University after graduating — a time she credited as pivotal for her growth as a leader, as she watched how the men and women around her led well.
Six months later, she began working as an RD at Liberty, and her new focus became equipping Liberty students to be champions for Christ who are not afraid to ask the hard questions and face the complexities of the outside world.
“When I entered into RD, I wanted to create a space in my home that was a place that people felt seen and heard and valued, but also felt challenged,” Titus said. “When they enter into the home, they can decompress from the stresses of life, but when they leave, they feel equipped to face the stresses head on.”
Titus carries out this mission by sharing a meal. She recognizes the kindness in offering someone a meal that reminds them of whatever home means to them, as well as allowing them to open up when realizing someone cares.
“Food is, in my opinion, the gateway to the soul,” Titus said.
Titus acknowledged that a greater sense of depth exists in the stories shared over a meal than simply a cup of coffee. She utilizes this passion of hers and pieces of her cultural makeup to bring together the RAs she leads.
“When you gather together [over food], it is like an equal playing field. There is not like a power dynamic of RD and RA or RA and student,” Titus said. “We are all people getting sustenance, and as we are filling our stomachs, we are also feeding our souls by interacting with one another.”
Titus’s heart for helping other people feel a sense of home works in harmony with her desire to share her home with others. She acknowledges that she cannot take everyone to Taiwan, but she can make a dumpling alongside them and share the stories that come with the dumpling.
Titus was raised in an “honor-shame” culture, an upbringing that is now a driving force behind a lot of her decision-making as an RD. In the context of Titus’s RD role at Liberty, this collective mindset prioritizes bringing honor to the Liberty name and emphasizing the community over the individual. Honor-shame culture is exemplified throughout scripture as a perfect picture of how God interacts uniquely with different cultures to connect to His children.
“Honor-shame culture is seen so much in Scripture… God not only redeems us and justifies us, but he lifts us up in honor, and he restores us from being a submissive follower to being a brother in Christ,” Titus said.
For Titus, the role of an RD is all about connecting human beings to one another and back to their Creator through mentoring, discipling and intervening in their lives and making others feel the sense of home Christ gives us.
“Mentorship is so much more than sitting down one-on-one in a coffee shop, having your deep moment and then walking away,” Titus said. “It’s bringing someone into your community and your family.”
Vires is a feature writer. Follow her on Twitter at @nadiavires.