Come enjoy dinner and a time of reconnecting! We will be in Texas soon and Christ UMC is hosting an evening of yummy food, dessert, and a time to hear about what's going on in Spain. We would love to see you there! You do NOT have to be a member of CUMC to join us! Just come to the fellowship hall at 5:30 with a hungry tummy and a big smile!
We are constantly perplexed by the question, “What does your life look like? What is a typical day or week for you?” The truth of the matter is, there is no typical work schedule or work day or work week. The most typical thing about our lives is that we wake up every morning and we amble downstairs to get a cup of coffee. And that is where typical stops and ‘real life’ begins. Here are just a few pieces of what ‘typical’ has looked like for us over the past month.
Sarah - school / languages / challenges of travel schedules… Sarah entered middle school this year (hard to believe!). She has a tough course load of 11 classes in a block schedule. She is in the top class in her school. This class has a bilingual curriculum. Students study 3 languages concurrently = Spanish, English, and French. Spanish and English are both considered Sarah’s ‘first languages’, and French is her second/third language. All sciences are taught in 50% English, 50% Spanish. Sarah’s biggest challenge right now is our travel schedule. She must keep up with her studies and take exams upon return. While we are in Texas in November and December, she will have all assignments given to her and she will be responsible for doing them and testing in January. While in Albania this month, Sarah participated in cross-cultural training with her peers in mission, as well as doing her classwork for her courses after hours.
Discipling / mentoring / leadership development… Each week brings an array of discipleship activities, mentoring opportunities, and leadership development. Some of our local friends are in constant disciple relationship with us. We are both active in several study groups and community outreach groups. Via video conferencing, we mentor and work with new missionaries who are preparing and training for their positions overseas. We also meet regularly with leaders in ministry (both local and international) for on-going development and discipleship. The venues are varied - sometimes we meet in private homes, sometimes in coffee shops, sometimes in a church, sometimes in someone’s office, and sometimes via Skype.
Hosting… During this calendar year to date, we have hosted people (overnight guests) in our home for a total of 159 days! That’s a lot of meals, a lot of clean sheets, a lot of sharing about life and ministry! Those include, to name a few, an intern that stayed with us, our mission agency field director coming to learn more about the work in Spain, a couple who came to lead puppet ministry workshops, a family from the USA on a visit in Europe, a family coming to see if they might join our team and serve in Spain, a missionary family in need of rest and retreat and coaching/counseling care… we host all kinds in all seasons for all reasons!
Training / teaching / travel… We traveled to Albania to attend a conference of our missionary peers working in Africa, Europe, Middle East, Balkans, and Asia. It was a time of teaching and training. Laurie taught a 3-day course on Basic Coaching Skills in Ministry. Billy attended a special 3-day course on Leadership and Team Development. Both of us taught 2 classes on Best Practices in Disciple-Making. We also attended several other workshops and training classes for our own development. And we spent several hours using our coaching and counseling skills to serve other missionaries.
Coaching / counseling...While in Albania, we were able to coach and counsel several missionaries from around the globe as they sought help in dealing with issues. We also do this in Spain—Billy has several standing appointments with people whom he coaches or counsels each week. Some of these folks are other mission works, and some are locals from our area on Spain. Some of this work is done face-to-face in-person, and some is done via Skype or video conferencing.
“So, I had this weird dream last night.” My husband and I were walking down the street this morning, taking a short stroll together before a coffee meeting with our local Spanish pastor. I began to recount the dream to Billy:
You know those dreams that seem so real that they don’t feel like dreams? Yet, they seem so confusing and you can’t figure them out?
I was waiting to pick up Sarah from school. I was waiting on the street outside the gym. It was twilight, which is weird since she usually gets out of school at 3:00. Anyway, I was getting anxious because lots of other children were coming out of the building and streaming down the street to meet their parents, but Sarah wasn’t coming out. You know that moment when your mom-sense kicks in and you just know that the worst has happened and your kid has somehow been kidnapped or disappeared in to thin air. You’re already in crisis mode and your head is already going through your crisis response plan. Call the local police. Call the embassy. Call the agency. Pray. Freak out. It happens in a split second. One second you’re just standing there waiting for your kid, and in a fraction of a second you are crazy with fear that the worst has happened, which 99.9% of the time is NOT true. So, I get that awful fear that this is that moment. But then, of course, she walks out of the building and she’s ready to go home. Crisis averted. Move along.
I give her a hug and remind her that we are in a hurry because I don’t have a car today, so we have to take a boat home. (What on earth? When have we ever taken a boat home?) So we run down to the pier only to find that the boat is already gone. And, of course, it was the last one today. Now what?
We start to try to find a taxi to get us home. When we finally find one and get in to the car, the taxi driver turns around and says, “Where to?”
That’s a problem, because I can’t figure out how to tell him where my home is. I can see it in my mind. And I can picture the general area. But I can’t remember the name of the town or the streets or even how to get there. It is just a weird memory that seems like it is only half-real. When I try to picture the inside of the house, it is empty. When I try to picture the street signs, they are blurry. Mostly, I can only see houses and big trees and nice yards in my mind. But I have no words to describe it or to explain where home is. I don’t know any phone numbers. I don’t have any familiar landmarks or names. It’s just all a strange out-of-focus image in my head. I know it’s real, but I know I can’t find it.
So now, I’m just sitting in the taxi and feeling confused and realizing that I don’t know how to go home.
It was a dream. I woke up stressed and confused. But as I was retelling it this morning, I realized how it was also true.
I am confused and stressed. I can’t picture home. I don’t know where home is anymore. I want to know it, but I don’t. It all seems strangely out of focus. I know it is supposed to be Texas, but it feels like it is also Peru, and it is also Spain. It has all changed since we left the Brazos Valley many years ago. I no longer have a house. The last time I saw my Texas house, it was empty. And to some extent, I haven’t ever really grieved the loss of my beautiful Victorian farmhome. When I try to remember street names, they are sadly a blur in my mind. When I try to remember where friends live, I can see their faces and their houses, but I can’t remember what street they live on. Add to that the fact that new things have been built and new roads made, and some people have actually moved. I feel lost, and I’m not even there yet.
I know that our upcoming homeland assignment / furlough is causing this confusion and stress. I don’t so much ‘feel’ the confusion during my waking hours, but I know it is there. It is coming out in my physical health and in my dreams.
I am worried about how to dress. Missionaries are notorious for being out of style when they return home. I fear getting home and looking like a character from Little House on the Prairie in a sea of Barbie dolls and perfect hair.
I’m worried about how to interact. My daily cultural norms have changed often depending on the culture I have been living in. Just last week, I gave the traditional Spanish greeting of two kisses to a woman I was introduced to from Kosovo. It was just my instinct, but she looked at me like I was nuts. The week before, I greeted a South American woman with one kiss (traditional to Peru and to her native Brazil), but we were in Spain so she went for the double kiss… which ended in an awkward nose smash. And when I was introduced to a new colleague in our mission agency during a conference this month, I was momentarily stunned by the coldness and distance that comes in the traditional USA handshake greeting. I wanted to grab him and give him a cheek kiss and a hug, because that feels right to me now.
I’m afraid I don’t know how to relate to my own children. I haven’t seen my adult sons in over two years. I feel lost as a mother and I feel like I’m walking in to a self-confrontation of my own inadequacy as a mom. I fear this will not go well, since I know that the greatest determination of stress in a situation is the difference between expectations and reality. What I want and hope for is a family that is reunited and who can spend some happy holidays together, maybe take a family photo or two. What I fear is that our reality will be a family that has grown so distant that we are just awkward and confused as to how to be family anymore, that physical distance is now intertwined with emotional distance, and that connection will be difficult, at best.
I want to enjoy my short time in the States and reconnect with family and friends, but I also know that there is much planned for us and there are many people to see and the schedule is already looking stressful to me. My daydreams of cooking Thanksgiving dishes and making Christmas crafts and going to see Christmas lights, of evenings curled up with family watching Christmas movies and drinking hot chocolate… is it even possible? Does anyone else even care to do those things? How will I carve out time and set boundaries so I can make the necessary meetings and speak in places I need to speak, but also have some enjoyable holiday times that I have missed over the years?
In many ways, I feel out of control and confused by all of the unknowns. I don’t even know how to have realistic expectations because I can’t seem to put my head around what is real.
In many ways, my dreams of being lost and not being able to figure out how to get home are very real. I’m excited and looking forward to this time in The States, and I’m also daunted by the journey and what awaits me ’back home’.
At this writing, 400,000 refugees have entered Europe during the first nine months of 2015. In the past three days alone, 22,500 landed on the beach in Lesbos, Greece in rubber rafts after crossing the Mediterranean. European countries are negotiating how to absorb the vast numbers of displaced people.
“It is important to remember that getting refugees through borders safely is the very beginning of the crisis for many of them. These people need work, and homes, and language training, and child care, often post traumatic counseling, and on and on the list goes.
“We have to stop letting the size of the problem consume and overwhelm us to the point that we just sit there with our eyes glazed over, motionless. It is comparable to a million people staring at the flames of a city burning, so engrossed by the sheer magnitude that they fail to see the buckets of water which stand at each of their feet. Imagine if the million of them took their eyes off of the fire, picked up their own bucket of water and threw it on the flames they could reach?
“Think, who are the people you know who might have something they could offer to help one family? Then pick up the phone, send an email, start a conversation.” ~M. Chastain
Some of our peers in The Mission Society are doing something to help. They are currently amassing supplies for refugee families – tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, basic living supplies that can be carried in a pack and help sustain them via shelter and warmth. The Chastain family, currently serving in Estonia, will be packing these supplies in their van and traveling the route that is currently being taken by many refugees, driving south from Estonia to Albania. Once in Albania, they will refill the van and make the trip back to Estonia again. If you would like to be a part of their help for refugees, please give to their fund at https://themissionsociety.org/give Please go to the area for "Give to a Partner or Project" and type in "Chastain Special Project Refugees".
Immigrant: noun (im·mi·grant \ˈi-mə-grənt)
refugee: noun (ref·u·gee \ˌre-fyu̇-ˈjē)
I am an immigrant. I have been an immigrant for the past 8 years. I know that makes some of you nervous. You think of me as a missionary or as an expat, but I’m an immigrant in the eyes of the rest of the world.
I first occupied the definition of immigrant status when I moved to Costa Rica. I was a newcomer, a new arrival, a biological being in a new place surrounded by a new habitat, an outsider. I later immigrated to Peru, where I became a legal, card carrying resident for 5 years. But I never gained status as a citizen or as a native of Peru…no, I would always be thought of as an immigrant, an outsider, different. Now, I have immigrated again. I now live in Spain as a permanent resident. We’ve been here for two years so far. I came here speaking the language. I look like everyone else. I’m not as easily distinguished by my appearance. But, I will forever be an immigrant. It is a label that never goes away for me.
It is tough to be an immigrant. Yes, it is something that I chose to do. I’m here because I want to be here to do the work that I am called to do. But that doesn’t make being an immigrant any easier. Immigrants, aliens in a foreign land. Outside of our home culture, away from our native language, separated from family and friends and all of our emotional support systems. Nothing seemed familiar, everything seemed strange and different when we moved here. Away from home. Away from community. Away from any sense of belonging. Lost.
It’s hard living in a new world and trying to adapt and fit in and find people who will stand beside you.
All of this brings on heightened stress, transition shock, culture shock, financial struggles, family stressors, marriage and relational stress, frequent misunderstandings and conflicts. Loneliness. Exhaustion. Depression. Yes, we’ve been through all of that. And we still fight some of it, even after being immigrants for many years.
I want to show you some other immigrants. (see below)
These are the people that we work with, that we love, that we share life with here. We are all immigrants. Some of my friends, by definition, are also refugees. They fled persecution or danger in their home country. Some ran from physically abusive situations. Some of them are not legal, due to their fears of eventually being found and sent back to the situation that sent them here in the first place. These are people who left behind family, who left their culture and their language, who left all of their belongings.
The current issue of mass migration in Europe is astounding. The refugee population is clamoring for hope, leaving behind all that they know. Immigration touches every age group and every socio-economic status. It isn’t choosy… it doesn’t elect whom to touch… it touches us all. When hundreds of thousands of souls decide that life is worth risking it all and striking out on epic voyages that have costs thousands and thousands of lives already, we should sit up and take notice. As followers of Christ – disciples of Him – we should fall back on what we know to be Truth:
Matthew 2:14 - And he (Joseph) rose and took the child (Jesus) and his mother (Mary) by night and departed to Egypt. Jesus was an immigrant. Jesus was a refugee fleeing a murderous king and tyranic government.
Exodus 22:21 - “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. The Israelites were a nation of immigrants and refugees, fleeing from Egypt and the oppression of an unjust government.
Leviticus 25:35 - “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. Deuteronomy 10:18 - He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Original law of the old testament was highly in favor of hospitality, especially to strangers and those traveling through your land in search of a new life.
Hebrews 13:2 - Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. The new church is warned to remember who they are, remember hospitality, and remember Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 25:40 ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
I leave you with two more:
Philippians 3:20 - But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ
Mark 12:30-31 - And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
We minister to the least, the lost, and the left out. We love them, because we are one of them. We are immigrants. That’s who we are.
This is a sampling of our immigrant friends. Many of our friends are NOT pictured here. Over 80% of our work is with immigrants and people living outside of their home culture.
Well, it's official. Spain has seen it's worst July in recorded history. The heat has been off the charts. In our area, it has routinely hit 100-104 each day. Very near to us, they have recorded temps of 114 on several occasions.
Now, to some of my Texas friends, this doesn't sound too terrible. I can hear you saying right now, "We see 100+ temps all the time in Texas. Why is this so terrible?"
Well, we do not have air conditioning. Nope... most Spaniards do not have AC. We have one room (our living room) that has a small cooling unit, but it cannot make a dent in the heat for the size of the room. Most Spanish homes in our area have one room that has a cooling unit. And electricity is expensive. We all have box fans. And Spanish hand fans. Ever wonder why Spanish women are always carrying fans? Read on.
So, our days look like this...
Wake up and give thanks for the one or two hours of decent sleep you got when the air cooled off enough in the bedroom to allow you to rest (at about 4am).
Shut all the blinds upstairs to keep the sun out during the day. If there is any breeze, leave the windows open to allow for cross ventilation. If there is no breeze, pray for mercy on this day.
Go downstairs and open all downstairs windows to capture the couple of hours of decent temperature. Enjoy the morning, because noon is approaching. If you need to do anything, do it now.
Somewhere around noon, start the window dance... where is the sun entering the house? Close those blinds. Is the wind coming from the South? Danger! Close all windows that allow the Sahara wind to come into the house. Sahara wind is like living in a convection oven.
Start up the box fans in the living room and office. Position yourself so as to avail yourself of a little moving air, but so as not to hog the air from the others in the house. Get out your hand fan. Start waving.
At about 2 or 3pm, as the sweat begins to bead on your face and trickle down your neck and back, turn on the cooling unit and position yourself in the living room for siesta. Siesta is the ONLY way to survive the next couple of hours! Be still. Exert no effort. "Bump on a log" is the only cool-ish position. Don't move and cause heat to build in your muscles. Under no circumstances should you go upstairs unless you have a death wish.
Somewhere around 4 or 5, pray that spontaneous human combustion is a myth.
In the late afternoon / early evening, you can start moving again. If you need to water the yard or wash the car or the dog, do it now and give yourself some heat relief. Spend the rest of the evening outside, as it is exponentially cooler (relatively speaking) than the inside of the furnace - um, I mean, house.
At about 8pm, the temperature is becoming better. Still not good in the house, but you can actually breathe again.
Under no circumstances should you cook anything. Do not heat up the house! This is why Spaniards eat cold tapas and gazpacho (cold tomato soup) in the summer! If you absoultely must cook, do it outside. Many Spaniards have a small electric grill or griddle that they use on their patio in the summer.
At 11pm or midnight... you can think about going to bed. TAKE A COOL SHOWER FIRST!!! I don't care how clean you think you are, a shower is a must! It will cool you down and you will go to bed with wet hair and moist skin... good cooling agents! Open all upstairs windows and place box fans in them to suck in the cooler air from outside. Position yourself so that the fans blow directly on the bed and your cool, wet skin.
If it is still unbearable (which is most nights), sleep with a wet washrag on your face or chest. The fan will blow over the rag and keep it cool enough to allow you to fall asleep.
And that's how our days go...lather, rinse, repeat... every day. Don't believe me? Just ask the visitors we have had this summer! The only visitors who thought it wasn't miserable are the missionaries who visited us from a country where they routinely live in 120F+. They thought is was lovely! The ones who visited from Texas thought they might die and decided that AC was something that they take for granted...they are now forever grateful for AC!
July is usually NOT our hottest month. August is. What will August look like??? Who knows. I'm just going to keep fanning myself and dressing in wet washrags.
I grew up watching documentaries with my grandfather. He was the documentary king! He even made his own little documentaries of family vacations and trips using the home movies and photos he took. He would spend countless hours filming (remember the old super 8 movie reels?) and recording his voice, trying his best to narrate the action and share the experience for all to see. Really, he was a teacher in the deepest part of his soul and these films were always attempts at teaching the greater public about the places that he visitied. I have fond memories of sitting in his living room with the shades drawn on the windows, watching the home movie screen and listening to the clackity clack of the movie reel and my Pop Pop's voice.
Later in life, I would watch PBS documentaries on TV with him. We watched travel documentaries and history documentaries. My favorite was on Sunday nights when we would sit together and watch the Nature documentary series.
Somehow, I think my love of learning stems from the thousands of hours of watching documentaries with my Pop Pop, not to mention the countless trips he took me on, the numerous visits to the zoo and the ballet and the symphony, and the non-stop lessons that he was always teaching to anyone who would listen.
He was a great man.
I think it is no surprise that I love learning. And I love teaching. I can't get enough. I soak up new information like a sponge, and I can't wait to share it with others.
You are the learner today! :) Thanks for letting me share what I learned with you:
Yesterday, while on a little day off excursion with two other missionary families, we sort of stumbled upon a treasure trove for me... Roman ruins! Okay, I guess I can't say we 'stumbled upon' it, as one of the girls in our group actually pointed out to us that we were very near an archeological site and that we should go see it. So, we did.
With five kids in tow, in the 100+ degree heat, we headed 9km outside of Sevilla (just a mere 1.5 hours from my front door) to the site of Italica, an ancient Roman city built in 206 BC. Yes - BC... as in Before Christ... as in OLD!!! Like, REALLY OLD!
We walked up to the entrance where two Spanish women were attending the gate. European Union residents get in free (most historical sites are considered property of the citizens and are super cheap / sometimes free to residents) and foreign visitors pay 1.50. We flashed our resident cards and they waved us through. Cool! I love FREE!
Shocked is not even adequate to describe my feelings as I saw this site. This is an all-out Roman city! I have been to Rome and to Cypress and Turkey and many other sites of Roman history. This place was not to disappoint!!! Who knew?!?! This thing is right in the middle of nowhere, 9km outside of Sevilla, and only about 7 or 8 other people were there the whole time we visited.
Some Italica facts:
Founded in 206BC
Birthplace of two Roman Emperors Trajan and Hadrian
It was a full Roman city, with aquaducts, theatres, temples, ampitheatre, theatre, and palacial homes.
Italica's amphitheatre seated 25,000... half the size of Rome's Colosseum and was the third largest amphitheatre in the Roman Empire.
The city began it's decline in the beginning of the 3rd century AD when a flood changed the route of the river. Sevilla became the main city of the area (known as Hispalis in Rome).
Many centuries later, little Italica would also become the sight of a monestery... and would harbor the 'rebels' Casiodoro de Reina and Cipriano de Valera who defied Rome and translated the Bible in to the native language of Spanish (Rome wanted it to forever be only available in Latin). This Bible was known as the Biblia del Oso (Bible of the Bear) because of the cover drawing that showed a Bear reaching for honey - a clever way to disguise the translated Bible's appearance. This Bible is today known as the Reina Valera.
Yep... it happened right here in Italica! The modern-day town of Santiponce now stands on Italica's doorstep and is built over parts of the ancient city.
My Pop Pop would LOVE this!
For those of you who have been following us for awhile, you will remember our neighbor - "Mr. Sunshine". If you have no idea who Sunshine is, see the original story by clicking here. Well, we have news on the Sunshine front...
HE SPEAKS! Yes, he speaks. We went on a walk with the dogs one evening and we passed his place. He happened to be outside working in the yard very close to the road. We waved and said hello, like always. Much to our surprise, Sunshine said, "Good afternoon. You going for a walk?"
I almost passed out! He spoke! You know that moment when something amazing happens and you are shocked, but you try to not let it register on your face because you are trying to maintain your composure? At that moment, my entire being was jumping up and down and having a party, while my exterior was just smiling and carrying on polite coversation in the street.
It was a short 'conversation'...like, it consisted of about three or four sentences of either side. It was obvious that he was struggling to just get that much out, so we didn't push it. We just chatted for a few moments, said our goodbyes, and continued on our walk. I wish I had a video of our faces as we walked away, because we were both completely astounded by what had just occured and trying to remain calm until we got around the corner and out of sight. It took a full YEAR to hear this man finally speak to us. Sometimes fruit takes a long time...
But wait! That's not all!
Sarah and a friend were walking the other day and they passed by Sunshine's place. He and his wife ('Mrs. Sunshine', equally as quiet and standoffish as the Mr.) were in the garden harvesting summer vegetables. Sunshine calls out, "Hey, do you like watermelon?"
"Yes, sir!", answered the two kids.
"Go get some bags", he says to his wife. "We'll send vegetables home with the kids."
Sarah and her friend returned to the house with two huge bags of peppers and cucumbers, zucchini and eggplant and tomatoes, and one giant watermelon! Sarah was so excited she was almost in tears. "You will NEVER believe where this came from!", she squealed. "SUNSHINE! Sunshine just picked all of this and sent it home with us!" We stood on the front steps in amazement as we watched Sarah and Dylan carry the bags and the melon up the walk. We all said a little thank you prayer for the change we are seeing in Sunshine's heart.
A little later in the day, we drove by and Sunshine was out in the yard. We stopped to say thank you for the veggies. He smiled real big and waved us off with, "it's nothing", then he turned his back and kept working in the yard, obviously uncomfortable with our show of gratitude and how to respond.
Sunshine's story is not over. It has taken a year to get to this point. It might take another year to build enough trust and confidence that he will share his real name with us.
I'm reminded that it took 2.5 years for people on the mountain in Peru to trust us enough to let us live in their village. It took Paulina many encounters before she admitted that she had given me a false name originally because she didn't know if she should trust me. So, it might take Sunshine a while. That's okay.
Poco a poco (little by little)... relationship is a stroll, not a sprint.
More food for thought:
Trusting in the Fruits - from Henri Nouwen's Bread for the Journey
We belong to a generation that wants to see the results of our work. We want to be productive and see with our own eyes what we have made. But that is not the way of God's Kingdom. Often our witness for God does not lead to tangible results. Jesus himself died as a failure on a cross. There was no success there to be proud of. Still, the fruitfulness of Jesus' life is beyond any human measure. As faithful witnesses of Jesus we have to trust that our lives too will be fruitful, even though we cannot see their fruit. The fruit of our lives may be visible only to those who live after us.
What is important is how well we love. God will make our love fruitful, whether we see that fruitfulness or not.
"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." - Galatians 6: 9 (NIV)
Back when Billy and I were teachers in the USA, summertime meant a time for a little rest and recoup, a time to recharge our batteries, a time to
go see family in far off places or take a vacation. As a teacher, many are also gearing up for the next school year, starting to look for new lessons,
new classroom management ideas, and new books for the students. As a mom, many spend lots of time trying to keep the peace, keep kids moving
and entertained and NOT sitting in front of the TV, and keep all of the family cool in the Texas heat.
For our family, summertime back then meant moving our base of operations to the Texas Mexico border. We were mission workers to the colonias
in Reynosa and Rio Bravo, Mexico. Our summers were spent in the Mexican desert heat, facilitating bible school in neighborhoods and helping
in a relief effort that built shelters for families that had none.
Nowadays, summertime looks a lot different. Our summers look a lot slower, which is a little odd for us. In our part of Spain, it is HOT! Most
homes do not have air conditioning. If they do, it is only in the living room ‐ not in the rest of the house. Spain is always serious about siesta
hours, but they are MEGA SERIOUS in the summer… absolutely nothing occurs between the hours of 2pm and 5 or 6pm because it is just too hot.
Last week, we hit 106. That’s hot, and with no air, it’s a killer. So, life here gets VERY slow in the summer. As for activities, there just aren’t many.
Many businesses and organizations cut their hours in the summer. Some only work until 2pm. Some close down completely for the
month of August. Most jobs, by law, require a one month vacation period. Unlike in the USA where vacation time is earned, vacation is mandatory
by law and is usually a full month. So, in our area, due to the heat, many decide to take their month in August and completely close their businesses,
giving all employees their mandatory one month then, as well. In July, people just try to survive the heat and hold on until August.
So, what does that mean to us? Well, yesterday in church, overall attendance was less than half. Our adult bible study class that we teach is
down by a third. Our youth class is down from 15 kids to 5. In August, there will be no classes at all and no ministry activities ‐ only Sunday service.
My Thursday bible study group is down to 3 ladies. Our Thursday morning group is off for the summer due to travel and kids out of school.
Basically, nothing is ’normal’ and everything feels out of whack. It messes with my work‐oriented mindset because I keep feeling like I’m not doing
enough. But then I remember that when I was teaching in Texas, this is what life looked like, too, and that was okay. So why do I feel like this
is NOT okay? The slower times are tough for me; it’s tough to slow down my rhythm and focus on what I can do and what is happening, and not
focus on what isn’t happening. Things ARE happening...
We just finished hosting a pastor on sabbatical and his family for several days as they came to visit us. Next week, we will be hosting a missionary family who work in an area with high security issues (so I can’t give
names or locations) as they come to spend some time in rest and relaxation, as well as a time of coaching and counseling and debriefing with us. We will also be helping them with dental appointments and doctor appointments
while they are here. Last night, we hosted a cookout and fellowship for other ministry workers who live in our area. So, part of our ministry in these summer months is not necessarily ‘local ministry’, but it is a ministry of caring for other ministry workers as they need rest and refreshment and a listening ear and a
community of other workers who understand their needs. Billy continues to meet weekly with local pastors and workers as a coach and counselor.
So, school is out and things feel a little slower, but there is definitely
still a lot going on in the summer!
If youth had the chance to ask God anything, what would it be?
That was just one of the questions that we put forth in our youth class this week. There was a list of 6 questions. To keep things fun and lively, the kids had to roll the dice and answer the question that corresponded to their roll.
1. Name your favorite characteristic of Jesus.
2. Who taught you the most about Jesus?
3. If you could ask God anything, what would it be?
4. If you could be anyone in the Bible, who would you be and why?
5. What is your favorite story from the Bible and why?
6. If Jesus could tell you one thing today, what would he say?
It was a fun activity. My teacher fears of “who will be the first one to crack a joke?” or “who will take us way off topic and make it silly?” were quickly put to rest as they began to ponder and react and discuss in serious ways. By far, the most interesting question was the ‘ask God anything’ question. Have you ever wondered what youth might ask? Here is a sample of what was asked in our group:
“How did you create the universe – literally, how? Was it really a big bang? Did it really only take 6 days? Exactly how did it happen?”
“What do you think of the whole evolution argument? What’s the truth?”
“If you knew that man would sin, why did you create him anyway?”
“If Satan confessed his sins and acknowledged the authority and power of God, would he be forgiven and allowed in to the Kingdom?”
“If our memories are stored in our brains, and death is the end of life in the brain – will we recognize people we love when we get to heaven?”
“Are there other beings in the universe?”
I wish I had written them all down. They were so good and they provoked such good conversation. Once again, I am blown away with the depth of the youth in our class. When given the freedom and opportunity to ask questions and to debate them with their peers and loving adults, they go deep and get real. Good stuff!
Who am I? In my USA life, I was a teacher for 15 years. I was also a professional photographer, a Southern Living / Martha Stewart wannabe, a soccer mom, and a short term mission team coordinator / intern director for missions in Mexico... you name it, I probably tried it! In 2006, my husband Billy and I became career missionaries with The Mission Society. For five years, we served in three rural Quechua Wanca villages in the Andes of Peru. And when I say rural, I mean RURAL - like no potty! We have three incredible children... two adult boys who live in Texas, and the princess Sarah (11) lives with us in whatever country we are serving. I'm still teaching, still taking photos, still leading mission teams and working with interns, I just do it all in full-time mission service now! And I'm working hard at giving Southern Living and Martha Stewart a run for their money! I spent my days in Peru learning to live a Quechua lifestyle in a rustic adobe house - cooking Peruvian foods, sewing with Quechua women, raising my chickens and goats and pigs, and planting my gardens. Now I live my life in el campo in Spain, serving other cross-cultural workers and immigrant peoples, writing, and trying to figure out what life looks like for a Texas girl serving Christ in Southern Europe. Life in His service is AWESOME! I'm happy to share it with you here... Enjoy!