Want to build better community with your neighbors? Come to the table! Here are some suggested reads around this subject:
The Turquoise Table: Finding Community and Connection in your own Front Yard
by Kristin Shell
A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, and Mission Around the Table
By Tim Chester
The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside your Door
By Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon
Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition
By Christine Pohl
The Simplest Way to Change the World: Biblical Hospitality as Way of Life
By Dustin Willis and Brandon Clements
Trust me... you already have everything you need. Invite people to the table and build community.
It’s Monday. It’s drizzly and cool. We just changed our clocks forward last week, so the sun is just barely starting to rise as the school day rush begins. For our newest neighbors in town, their school rush started at least an hour before ours because they must walk their children in to town for school – in the dark, in the drizzle, in the cold, carrying backpacks and babies for 6 kilometers one way. Back in The States, I remember paying good money for the opportunity to do 5K walks on the weekends. But my new friends do this every day, one way, because it’s a privilege to have a home and food and a new chance at life and education. After they drop their children off at school, they walk some more. Not back to their temporary housing, but around and around town, trying to find a warm, dry place to sit for a few hours until school gets out and they can pick up the kids and start the walk back to the center for lunch at 3pm. With little to no disposable income to spend on a coffee or a drink, they are not welcome to spend time in a warm café or shop. And until they receive employment status (6 months or more), they cannot find work.
This is what daily life looks like for many of our refugee friends in Antequera. New arrivals are placed in one of two relocation housing centers to await processing of their paperwork and be given refugee or asylum status. These centers are strictly housing and meal centers – there is no community space or activities and nothing for the residents to do. The largest center for our town is located in the industrial park, in between storage buildings and warehouses, factories and car dealerships and mechanic workshops. It’s not exactly where you want to raise your children, but it’s better than where they came from and they are more than pleased with the bedroom and meals and safety that is now a luxury.
In the past several months, our TMS Global team in Antequera has become more and more involved with the refugee community here in Spain. As routes shift and situations continue in war-torn and high-conflict areas, Spain has become the number one European entry point for refugees and asylum seekers in the past year. We have new friends from Russia, Georgia, Syria, Nigeria, Somalia, Morocco, Pakistan, Mali, Venezuela, and many others. While the Spanish government and the EU are scrambling to meet basic needs, our team and church are reaching out to fill in gaps and help welcome people in to our community, in to relationships, and in to a new “normal”. As we walk alongside our new neighbors, we are listening and watching and the main need and desire is the same for all… acceptance, belonging, relationship, and a place to call ‘home’.
Enter “La Mesa Turquesa” Community Center!
La Mesa Turquesa Community Center directly reaches diaspora people, connects locals to diaspora people and culture and the reality of global issues, gives opportunity for community members and the church to serve and connect in a variety of ways, breaks out of traditional outreach and church circles and integrates daily life with community, brings various city / community / and church entities together to work on a single initiative, connects newcomers to our community in positive ways… AND YOU CAN BE A PART OF THIS PROJECT!
La Mesa Turquesa Community Center gives our USA partners a way to connect to refugee outreach and effect real neighboring initiatives and change in a global way.
Our team feels very strongly about joining both local AND international forces in this effort. Our local connections are getting on-board and joining with us via volunteers and support. But we want this to truly be a GLOBAL effort to love our neighbors!
How can you get involved and be a part of La Mesa Turquesa Community Center?
We are honored by your faithfulness to partner with us in prayer for the things that we see happening in the world and for the ministry that we partner in with you. Thank you for laboring with us!
· Praises for our recent travels to Morocco to learn and to train with TMS leaders from around the globe!
· Praises for the Bosnia trip and for the important work that we were able to participate in there, as well as for the development and learning that we received.
· Praises for our ability to take Pastor Miguel with us to Bosnia. SPECIAL THANKS to those who stepped up and funded this very transformational time for him!!! We couldn’t have done it without you! You guys are superheroes!!!
· Please pray for our friend, *Ahmed. He has completed his first 6 months in an asylum placement center and is now moving out and integrating in to an apartment in Antequera. He has another 6 months of relocation and integration support, and then he will have to be fully on his own. Pray for this time of learning and growth, and especially for him to feel loved and welcomed in Spain… his new home.
· Pray for our team as we work to help Miguel with new vision and new initiatives for neighboring well with refugees entering our community.
· Pray for us as we continue to care for other CCWs and host people in the La Posada care apartment. Just today, we had to turn away 2 different requests for dates because we are already booked with care services and debrief sessions. It’s a busy season!
Y’all, really, I can’t make this stuff up. Sometimes our life is just too nuts!
In January, we were in Morocco where we met with 21 other mission workers for leadership development. I (Laurie) taught the opening development session to set the stage for the week and it kicked off lots of really deep discussions and strategic planning for development. Anyone who knows me knows that I love nothing more than teaching and training and helping people move forward with their personal and professional development! Billy did what Billy does best... he spent the week walking alongide people and listening to their stories, helping to bridge gaps and heal wounds, and giving the deep care that they need to keep them healthy and thriving in the field. And yes, part of that time was spent on a camel in the desert, because we hang out with some pretty interesting people!
Then it was back home to Spain to switch gears and change out the clothes in our suitcases. Going from the Sahara desert and camels to Bosnia snow and refugee ministry in a week's time is a little crazy! Okay… it’s a lot crazy. But that’s what our life looks like right now.
We attended the Refugee Highway Partnership roundtable discussions in Sarajevo. Christian humanitarian aid workers gathered together to share best practices, tools, and development support. In the afternoons, we worked with a local pastor in Sarajevo who has opened a refugee community center as an outreach in the streets and camps, and to give support to the long-term workers who continue to work the refugee crisis every day. It may have fallen out of the daily news cycle, but it is still a serious crisis for Europe and the Middle East. People continue to come, crossing borders in sub-zero temperatures with little to no clothing or personal possessions. Many arrive sick and with injuries from war or from torture received during their journey to try to escape. While we were working, one man died and another was critically injured from burns sustained when their tent caught on fire from the small camp heater they were using to try to keep warm.
The effects of the stress and trauma and difficult living conditions (for both the refugees and the humanitarian workers) is taking a huge psychological toll on people. Billy received an urgent email before the conference asking if he would be willing to serve in a care capacity during the week, taking appointments to help workers who are suffering from chronic trauma and exhaustion. These are people who are seeing front-line injuries, both physical and mental, and are trying to meet the most basic needs of people who have lost everything. The incidence of PTSD and serious mental breakdown among humanitarian workers who deal with refugees is a growing concern, surpassing what has been seen in the past in active military personnel.
Another note about our time in Bosnia... our local Spanish pastor (Miguel) has recently become active in refugee outreach in our town of Antequera! He has been visiting the relocation centers and meeting refugees. This has been a huge turning point for him!!! You're always afraid of what you don't understand, and Miguel has been timid and afraid to step in because he just didn't know how to do it. The turning point was... soccer. Yes, soccer. It's a language the whole world understands. He began inviting refugees to play soccer with him. Pretty soon, there were so many that he had 4 teams of them! So he held a tournament! And that led to inviting them to participate in some activities at the church. And then several started coming and using the church kitchen to cook a meal from "home" and share. And and and and... it just kept getting better!
We invited Miguel to go to Bosnia with us to participate in the conference and to learn from others. Honestly, we thought he would say no. He hasn't ever traveled out of Spain. He doesn't speak anything but Spanish. He didn't have a passport. And then, from the pulpit in church one Sunday, he announced to the congregation that he would like to go to Bosnia with us! WHAT?! We were shocked.
Our local church is tiny and our budget is tinier. The entire yearly operating budget is 24,000 euros, and that includes pastor's salary, utilities, maintenance, etc. That's it! So finding the 900 euros that he needed to travel to Bosnia would be a tough hurdle. The day before we left, he was able to raise 500. We raised 300 more for him in private donations. We went ahead on faith and registered him and bought his plane tickets and hotel reservations. At the last minute before we boarded the plane, a couple of more donations came in and topped off the deficit! He was beyond excited (and terrified). We prayed for Miguel to have a great experience, to meet lots of like-minded workers who can network with him and help him develop and grow in this area, and for us to be able to walk alongside him in this process. There is a fine line between being stretched and challenged and being completely overwhelmed and broken. We prayed for God to be delicate enough to protect him, but tough enough to push him in his growth.
God delivered BIG TIME! Miguel struggled with language and translators. He spent many days with both a wide-eyed wonder and deer-in-the-headlights look. You could almost physically see the lightbulbs going off during each session and workshop and conversation he had as he began to catch a new vision and see things in new ways. And in the end, we brought home a new man… a pastor with a new sense of service and calling and a heart for the nations. Most importantly, he has that beautiful balance between fire and peace that only God can produce in someone.
It has all been so good and I really wanted to share it with you. You are making a difference!!!!! Your partnership is important and good and it makes a difference all around the globe... in mission workers who gather in Morocco for development, in aid workers who gather in Bosnia for development, in humanitarian workers who need mental health care and support, in a Spanish pastor who is growing and learning to reach people in his own country and context, and in displaced peoples who come from everywhere and have desperate needs. You are making a difference! Thank you! Blessings!!!
Many of you will remember that our first year working in the village of San Juan de Iscos was not at all easy. In fact, it was downright scary at times. We were accused of poisoning children, human trafficking, and harvesting human organs. We were verbally abused by locals and the children in our program were attacked by townspeople swinging leather belts and beating them for associating with us. We even had local witches cast curses on us and read tarot cards prophesying against us. We wanted to quit in a big way.
It was our little team of Peruvian teachers who begged us to stay, to stand up and persevere. And so we did. Years later, we had three educational programs, a women’s discipleship group, and community health and development works going in Iscos and the surrounding villages. Yet Iscos continued to be a “hard place” and we struggled to keep things going there while being people of peace amidst the chaos.
One of our Peruvian teachers, Rosio, has continued to work and live in Iscos, doing discipleship and working with the children and mothers in the area. She married a local boy from Iscos. She now has a baby and is a young mother in the town that worked so hard to persecute us for our faith. She has been a testament to all of the training and development work that we poured in to that small team of young teachers. This week, as I write this, she is holding a week-long Vacation Bible School in Iscos (it is summer in Peru) in conjunction with the opening of a new church that she and her husband have planted!!! Y'all, Rosio is planting a church… IN ISCOS! This is HUGE! This is the kind of fruit that we dream for and hope for and pray for. This is the reason that we train and mobilize and serve, that we pour out development and pour in to local believers who can carry on in our absence, who can reach their own people in their own language and culture. THIS IS IT!!!
Please pray for Rosio and her family as they begin this new work in a hard place. So exciting! Pray for the other young Peruvian teachers that we trained and developed in Peru, too. Tania has started an education program and outreach to families in Lima, and Milagros is working in areas of the Peruvian jungle where the government pays hazard pay and stipends to teachers because of active terrorism and narcotrafficking. And thank God for watering those seeds that we planted during our time in Peru. You sowed seeds of support and love and prayers in to us - we sowed seeds of love and encouragement, discipleship and development and formation in to the local people - Rosio and Tania and Milagros continued to tend those seeds and work that field - and now look what’s springing up! Thank you for being a part of that! Sometimes it take a long time and we have to have a long-term vision, but God is faithful and He will bless our faithfulness and obedience to loving our neighbors well.
We have a tradition of putting up the tree and Christmas decorations during the weekend after Thanksgiving. It’s a common tradition in the USA. We try to keep as many of our American traditions overseas as we can, in an effort to honor our own heritage and culture and family, and as a way to share and teach those things to Sarah, our daughter has who only lived 3 of her 15 years in the USA. It’s a way to keep her connected to her American culture and family.
We also have a mix of Peruvian and Spain traditions that now weave in to the tapestry of our lives. We will eat chili on Christmas Eve, just like our family has always done in Texas. We will also have panettone sweet bread and hot chocolate, just like we did with our Peruvian neighbors. In the kitchen as I write, there is a heap of cinnamon mantecado cookies, a traditional Christmas treat in Spain - Sarah’s favorite. And tomorrow we will spend the afternoon with some of our neighbors at a flamenco Christmas lunch.
Christmas is always different and strange and a little bit hard for us. It’s always a time of mixing old traditions with the new, remembering Christmases past, and struggling through the grief of being far away from loved ones. But it’s also a time of learning new customs and doing things in new and different ways.
Last year, we kind-of missed Christmas in Spain… it just disappeared. We had just moved in to this house last November and we weren’t even unpacked well yet when a terrible flu swept through Spain and knocked us off our feet for weeks. The three of us literally spent Christmas in our pajamas for days, curled up on the couch with Kleenex and blankets and medications, not able to eat anything, and feeling like death would be preferable to the aches and coughing and Billy’s two emergency room visits for breathing treatments and chest x-rays. We didn’t even shop for gifts. We just let Christmas pass us by and prayed for relief.
We did recover (obviously), and we were able to travel to Texas to see family and meet our new granddaughter, Lily. So, our Christmas holiday was redeemed in January!
This year, we are settled in our home and neighborhood and the house is decorated and ready. We were the only people on our block with a tree up at the end of November! Christmas customs are a little different here and the idea of decorating the house quite so much for Christmas definitely sets us apart. But here’s the great part… IT’S DIFFERENT! On most days, we try to fit in and NOT be different. But during the holidays, different is a big plus! It’s a great way to start conversations!
Just last week, someone came over for coffee and pastries in the afternoon. Part way through our time together, he pointed to our stockings and said, “They all have your names on them. Did you buy the names separately, or how did you get the names on them?” (The custom of stockings is not a tradition here, but they know about it a little bit from TV and American movies.) This was one of those open-door moments when I got to share about my family and the stockings that were handmade and beaded by my great-grandmother, then how the tradition passed down and my aunt made the family stockings for years, and how it fell to me by the time that Sarah was born. So, our mantle and our stockings are a glimpse in to family history and generations of tradition.
We have had people notice our advent wreath and candles and wonder about that. Here, that has been traditionally only a catholic observance and the fact that a protestant celebrates advent is different and cause for conversation.
Even our tree has caused conversation over the years. Some are surprised that we even have a tree, because many protestants do not have Christmas trees or decorations… so we are different. Again, the “party lines” have been pretty strongly divisive here with regards to Catholicism and Protestant believers. And don’t forget the growing number of nominal believers, marginalized believers, and non-believers. So, the fact that we have different customs has opened doors to those conversations about belief and faith, form and meaning and tradition. And the fact that we have nativity scenes from different cultures – those have been conversation starters, for sure!
Next weekend, we will break with cultural norms (again!) and have an Open House Christmas Party for our neighbors. Christmas is a family holiday here. Christmas here is celebrated much like Thanksgiving is in the USA – extended family travels to the big family gathering and there is a giant family feast on Christmas Eve. There really are no Christmas parties among friends in private homes. Office workers may have a dinner together at a restaurant but going to an individual’s home is just not the norm. But we’re going for it. We’ve invited folks from our street to come over and enjoy party foods and each other’s company.
“If it’s not the norm, then what makes you think they’ll come?” Because it’s DIFFERENT! Curiosity. Just the fact that people don’t invite people in to their homes makes this interesting. Only 2 of our neighbors on our block have ever been in our home. We’re confident and can’t wait! We’re hoping that this is the beginning of new conversations and deeper relationships with our neighbors. We’re stepping out and breaking down barriers to build bridges. Please pray for this time of connection with our neighbors on December 22nd.
Christmas and holidays are perfect times to reach out. People want and need connection. And Christmas can be a time of loneliness and isolation for some. Invite someone over for Christmas cookies and coffee. Invite a few neighbors over. Or take them a cookie or a muffin and a Christmas card. Just do something to break down barriers and build bridges. Love your neighbors.
Merry Christmas and Feliz Navidad!
Let me tell you a little story.
An elderly woman had two large pots. Each pot hung on the ends of a pole, which she carried across her shoulders. Every day, she used this device to carry water to her home.
One of the pots was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. The other had a deep crack in it and leaked. At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.
For a full two years this situation occurred daily, with the woman bringing home only one and a half pots of water. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection and miserable that it could only do half of what it had been made to do.
After two years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, the cracked pot spoke to the woman one day by the stream, saying, “I am ashamed of myself because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house.”
The old woman smiled and replied, “Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side? I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walked back home you watered them and made them grow. For two years, I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table and give to my friends and neighbors. Without you being just the way you are, there would not have been this special beauty to grace our homes and lives.”
Sometimes, it’s the “cracks,” or what we perceive as imperfections, in this reality that create something unexpected and beautiful.
To be honest, I have a lot of cracked days… days when I feel like I’m not able to accomplish what seems effortless for others. Days when I feel like I’m not pulling my weight on the team and that I’m more of a burden than a help. There are days when I feel like I’ve worked myself to exhaustion and I have little to nothing tangible to show for it. Days when my language skills get in the way, or the fact that I just can’t physically do something that others can do, or (the worst) when my north American cultural norms butt up against Spanish culture and my expectations end up having a throw-down with reality (I always lose that fight!). Not kidding, I have a LOT of cracked days!
Maybe that’s why the story of the water bearer and the pots made me cry when I first heard it. Sometimes you just can’t see through your own imperfections and realize that they are the parts of you that make you valuable and special.
Looking back, I can see how God has transformed and used the cracked parts of my life for good. Hard times in my youth, family struggles, professional setbacks, parenting tough spots, and even things that seemed like utter failures and disappointments… God has eventually turned those in to “flowers beside the path” and allowed me to use them to share with others. My hard days eventually became teaching points. My brokenness and darkness has given me great depths of empathy and compassion for others as they go through those times. Even the days that don’t seem all that bad or hard, but they just seem ho-hum or unproductive or slow - God has found the tiny grain of goodness in those days and used it. I know because on the seemingly average, nothing-special kinds of days, someone always ends up telling me, “I love seeing you, your hugs are the best” or “I’ve been seeing you play with the dogs every day. It always makes me happy.” God uses the normal (and the broken) to do the extraordinary and shine light for others.
Our cracks and brokenness and our normal averageness allow something to change and ultimately make life much richer and more interesting. Every day and every crack has it’s own special purpose and potential.
So, are you feeling a little cracked today? I say, “hallelujah for the cracks!” Who’s with me?!
The Cracked Pot story is now the feature story that we use in the La Posada care ministry. Lots of ministry workers, pastors, CCWs and humanitarian aid folks come to us feeling broken and cracked, and wondering if there is any way to repair and restore and be useful again. The Cracked Pot story is a beautiful example of how God can use our perfectly imperfect selves for good.
2 Corinthians 4: 7-18 Treasure in Jars of Clay
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.
13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
Just can’t recommend these enough! We have been spending our morning study time with a podcast from BEMA Discipleship. We HIGHLY recommend this! Start at the beginning - yes, all the way back in Genesis 1. This podcast really helps you study and understand the scriptures and their original culture and context. We listen and follow along in our bibles, take notes, highlight, etc. And, if you’re anything like me, you will want to study even more between podcasts! Do it on your own, or better yet, as a couple, with a friend, or in a small group or a class. Y’all… don’t miss this!
Another highly recommended study tool… The Bible Project puts out some really great video overviews for each book of the Bible. You can view them on your You Version bible app on your phone, or on the computer. Our team is studying Colossians right now and we watched the video overview last week. So good!
These last two months, we have been having an abnormal amount of stress and tough days. After a long conversation with some friends, we decided to make a list of the things that we are hoping for, dreaming for, aching for… the things that we would like to see really improve and change. (see list at below) We invite you to please join us as we pray for these big-picture situations. Print out this list and put it somewhere that you will see it each day… stick it on the fridge or in your daily planner or on the dinner table, copy it and share it with your Sunday School group, etc.… We would love to know that we have people out there praying these big things for us and with us. Let us know if you are joining us!
· That we would be vital members of our community in Spain
· For improved communication in our marriage, for everything to be seasoned with love and grace
· That we would grow and become better care providers for workers around the world
· For team dynamics and loving, supportive community
· For improved communications with our family in the USA
· For healthy lifestyle amidst the challenges of living overseas
· That we would each develop deep and lasting friendships in Spain, no loneliness or disconnection
· That our home would be open and welcoming and give peace to all who enter
· That we would have more doors open to us to work in the refugee and immigrant community
· That we would hear from God about our involvement in the local church
· That our Home Team and community and supporting churches in the US would be anchors of authentic connection and support
· For Kingdom-thinking to break forth in Antequera
· For people to live out the beauty of Kingdom and “love your neighbor” in our community
· For La Posada care apartment and ministry to be used to it’s potential and purpose
· For improved financial provision so we can continue to work and serve others
· For our family to be growing in The Word and in prayer and faithfilled community with others
· For Antequera to have a beautiful model of church and Christian community
· For a movement of small groups, house churches, and dinner church groups to take hold and grow and live out the beauty of faith communities
· For us to each feel valued and feel that we are using our unique gifts and talents in ways that make a difference to others and to the Kingdom
I have to be honest with you. I made a promise to you, my tribe, to be vulnerable and open, and so here we are. We are down and disheartened right now.
My husband and I have worked our way in to roles where we have more influence and impact on global issues and global missions than we have ever had in our careers. We now serve in circles and countries and situations where we can effect real change and empower people to make significant differences in the world and the Kingdom. We work directly with people who are changing the face of world poverty, human trafficking, water issues, human migration patterns, leadership development, and education around the globe. We coach and counsel and lead people who regularly sit in the offices of mayors and ambassadors and prime ministers and presidents. All of this is good. In fact, all of this is great! Real impact and real influence. Empowerment and development of grass roots programs, and people doing incredible things. But one fact remains…
Leadership is not sexy.
We aren’t doing “sexy missions” anymore. We are now leading and developing and caring for those people who do. We help to empower them and lift them up. We help to train them. We are the faceless mentors behind those incredibly great front-line workers.
We serve in a different way now. We are about Training, Mobilization, and Service. We aren’t digging the water well personally – but we counsel the guys who do. We aren’t living in a high security, closed access country teaching education programs and empowering local teachers and students – but we are the coaches for the ones who do that work. We aren’t sitting on dirt floors with mothers and babies in impoverished villages in the bush – but we mentor those who are. And we aren’t personally curing disease or bandaging the injured in medical clinics in the jungle or on war-torn borders – but we are helping heal the trauma that those people carry with them day in and day out.
There was a time when we did many of those things personally. We spent years doing work with poverty, with empowering women, and with hunger. We spent years helping with medical campaigns and serving in places that never see doctors or health care. We founded education programs in villages with little access to resources and high rates of illiteracy. We served in community development projects and harvested crops and milked goats and raised chickens and fed the hungry. And we planted churches and discipled new believers where before there had been none. We have vast experience on the front lines of ministry, mission, and humanitarian efforts. That experience and those years of service are exactly what lead us to be what we are today… mentors, leaders, trainers, coaches, and counselors for the next generation of cross-cultural workers that are taking up the torch and stepping in to serve.
In the corporate world, this is exactly how it should work! Younger workers spend years getting their feet wet, working their way through roles and job descriptions and career paths until one day they are really good at what they do, and they have the experience necessary to step up the ladder and train up the new recruits. They become leaders and mentors. Their earning power increases and their resumes build. They become team leaders or department heads or executives. They have arrived.
But it’s just not quite like that for cross-cultural workers who become leaders and take on leadership roles. At least it hasn’t been for us, nor for some of our peers. There hasn’t been any earning increase – we continue to be fully dependent on churches and partners and donations for funding the work. Now that 80% of our work and roles are related to leading others and mentoring, training, developing, and coaching, we are no longer seen as “real missionaries” by the general public. Our influence is greater, our responsibility is greater, our ability to impact effective change in real world issues is greater – yet we are losing funding every day because we aren’t “front line enough”. We don’t post photos of us curing diseases or healing the sick. We don’t have video of us wandering through dusty streets with native people groups. We don’t personally plant churches in war-torn areas. And we aren’t seen wearing traditional clothing or eating unknown foods. That used to be us, but not in this season. This season is a season of leadership and of training up and empowering and caring for our peers - other cross-cultural workers.
Leadership isn’t sexy. It doesn’t fit the traditional narrative for cross-cultural work. It doesn’t yield spectacular photos or near-death experiences or wild animal tales. But it’s necessary. It’s dirty in a different way. It’s front-line in a different way. It reaches the unreached and least-reached in a different way. And it’s what we are called to in this season. It’s the role we have risen to. It’s what we believe in.
I know we make a difference. I know we are holding others up when they don’t think they can keep going for one more day. I know that training matters, that development matters, that mentoring matters. It matters in the corporate world. It matters in the academic world. And it matters in the mission world. I know it matters.
Not all cross-cultural work is sexy. But that doesn’t make it less valuable. I know this calling still matters to God.
In my USA life, I was a teacher in Texas for 15 years. I was also a professional photographer, a soccer mom, a horsewoman, and the neighborhood hospitality queen. I did "Joanna Gaines farmhouse style" before Chip and JoJo were even a thing - we restored an 1884 Victorian farmhouse in small town Texas and did shiplap walls until I thought I'd go crazy. I taught at NASA, scuba dived with astronauts in training, and studied animals at Sea World for educational purposes. I've tried just about everything, because I have an insatiable need to know if I can do it! Never underestimate a Texas girl in cowboy boots!
In 2006, my husband Billy and I became cross-cultural workers (CCWs) with TMS Global. 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! 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 small town Spain, serving other cross-cultural workers via teaching and training and care, and helping displaced people to navigate their new reality in Europe.
I'm passionate about fostering personal growth, growth in community, and growth in The Kingdom. Walking alongside others and helping them to use their unique design, their gifts and strengths and maximize their abilities to fulfill their God-given purpose - that's what makes my heart sing!