The word “encourage” comes from the French, and it actually means “to insert courage” or “to give to the heart”. We do a lot of encouraging in our work. For example, just in this week, we have been helping students during exam times and giving lots of encouragement… courage to keep studying, to stay focused until the last exam, and to believe in themselves. We have spent time with other mission workers, encouraging them in their training and preparation and partnership development efforts. We have had various phone calls and texts and emails to workers, encouraging them in their current situations. And we frequently have coffee meetings that are times of encouragement for weary pastors, friends, and neighbors in town. We actually love these times of “giving to the heart” of others and “inserting courage” in to those who are currently fearful or tired and feeling overwhelmed.
But who encourages the encouragers? We are asked that periodically by our mentors or other counselors and caregivers. “Who gives you encouragement? Who pours in to your heart when you are tired and overwhelmed or fearful?”
In polls and surveys and research regarding ways they feel encouraged, cross-cultural workers consistently respond with the same handful of answers.
· When people read our newsletters and updates and they reply to us about them
· When people let us know that they prayed for us
· When we receive real mail and real phone calls
· When we are remembered on birthdays and holidays
· When people come to visit us for the purpose of encouraging us and blessing us and our team
We have a handful of really great encouragers who encourage us! We have a couple of ladies who faithfully send us emails of encouragement. They are also the folks who never forget our birthdays and always send a letter and a card. We have one special partner who sends a package to us every month! The days when these small acts of encouragement come are special days that pick up our spirits and remind us that we are not forgotten.
In May, we had a super special visit. Two long-time friends in mission came to visit us FOR THE PURPOSE OF ENCOURAGING US! What?! That’s right… they came only to encourage us. They weren’t here to do sightseeing or anything special. In fact, they asked us to please NOT worry about entertaining them or taking them to all the sights. They just wanted to sit with us, to hang out on the patio, to eat long meals and have long coffee chats and (most importantly) to listen. They wanted to listen. To us! They didn’t really want to see us do anything special. They didn’t want to go see all of our ministry work. They just wanted to be with us and to listen. And they specifically asked us to not change our schedule for them or do anything out of the ordinary. They just wanted to come alongside and be available to us for encouragement and support and listening. What a blessing!!!!
This week, our teammates Axel and Delilah, had a similar situation. (I think God knew that as a team, we have been really needing some encouragement! It’s been a tough couple of months.) One of their long-time friends in mission came to visit them FOR THE PURPOSE OF ENCOURAGEMENT! Unbelievable! And he has lived in Peru for many years, so he wanted to meet us and encourage us, too! WHAT?! We had a wonderful time sharing stories about Peru and the places / foods / experiences we have in common. He was a huge blessing to us, giving us words of encouragement and lifting us up, letting us know that we are seen and understood and not forgotten, that we are in the prayers of the people and that even though the work is difficult, our hearts and our spirit of peace in the community will prevail. Wow!
We are so grateful for the Encouragers—those who have a spirit for blessing others with their acts of prayer, letter writing, mailing small gifts, phone calls, emails, and above all, TIME to talk and listen and remind us that someone cares. You may never know how much your acts of kindness have meant to cross-cultural workers who need a little pick-me-up on those overwhelming days!
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. ~1 Thessalonians 5:11
Heroes in the garden - Seven faithful ladies stepped in and put on their Wonder Woman attire (flowered dresses and garden party hats) and raised over $4000 for the La Posada ministry (http://www.drumsforchrist.org/la-posada.html)! Who knew that tea cakes and cucumber sandwiches and scones and cookies would bring us a miracle, but that’s what happened! Dozens of women showed up in their party dresses and came together to bless the La Posada care apartment and all of the front-line ministry workers who will be receiving care and counseling, rest and restoration here in Spain. Special thanks to all who went above and beyond with donations and gifts.
Thanks, Hometown Heroes!!!! So glad to have you serve in ministry and mission with us! Way to go, Team!
There has been a theme running through our lives for the past year or so. We are noticing it everywhere. We see it in several of our neighbors. We hear it in lots of our conversations with other cross-cultural workers (CCWs). We see it in immigrants and natural-born locals. It isn’t picky… it is prevalent in all socio-economic groups, all ages, and all races. So much so that Billy started doing research on it for his dissertation.
It’s a growing sense of loneliness and the need for connection and community.
It’s the reason that my neighbor stands on her front stoop every day and talks to whoever walks by. She lives alone. She’s in her late 80s. Standing outside every day to talk to the folks walking to the bakery is what is keeping her sane and alive. Because if she stays inside her cozy little living room sitting in her chair and watching TV, she will quickly lapse in to a deep loneliness that eats away at life. So instead, she holds court on her front step every day, waving and greeting the neighbors and having 5 and 10 minute chats with everyone who passes. She’s a doll!
Paco walks his little Yorkie dog by our house every day. I’m convinced that the little dog is finished with his business long before Paco is finished with the walk. Actually, the walk isn’t very “walk-ish”… it’s more about standing in the park and waiting for someone to come along so Paco can talk. And that someone is me on many days. I take our dogs out and while the dogs all run around and check out every smell and every pinecone and every tree in the park, Paco tells me anything and everything. His wife died a couple of years ago. He’s alone now, just him and his little dog. He tries to wow me with his ability to say greetings or phrases in several European languages. He gives me the town history, or gossips about folks that walk by, because “I’m a foreigner and I need to know these things”. Really nice man.
Billy and I attended a conference on Trauma and Resilience for care workers in early April. The research is quite compelling. The number one factor in resilience is Community – feeling connected to others, having people who you can share with and talk to, people who are there for us, who are available, who laugh with us and who cry with us. People who have connectedness and community are people who have the highest ‘survival rate’ when the tough stuff happens. Hmmm…
Then I went to a workshop on Team Development, specifically teams of cross-cultural workers. Guess what the number one factor was for team cohesion and success. A sense of belonging and community. Hmmm…
The thing that makes me sad is that the research also shows that the biggest factor that is missing for CCWs (and immigrants and refugees and anyone who is living in another culture or in transition) is a sense of belonging, community and security.
Think about it. When you move, you immediately lose those things. There is a sense of feeling a little lost, you don’t know where you fit, your normal routine is no longer there, your friend group (and family) is
now far away. Your sense of identity might take a pretty big hit due to these losses.
Speaking from experience, I would have to agree. With every move we have made, we have had a sense of loss, a sense of no longer belonging, a sense of feeling insecure in where we are or who we are. Our friends from home are now thousands of miles away. Our families are also far away. Who do you call when you need a hand? Who do you call when you want to celebrate something or when you have had a bad day and you need to vent? Who just shows up at your house for an impromptu cookout on Friday night? That used to happen EVERY Friday night in Texas. But when you move to another country?
The key is community. We are so lucky! We have never been completely without community. Sure, we moved far away. But we have always had our foot in several types of communities, no matter where we are. And, that automatically makes us more likely to be resilient, to be able to bounce back and survive the tough stuff, and to thrive wherever we are.
“Everybody has a home team: It’s the people you call when you get a flat tire or when something terrible happens. It’s the people who, near or far, know everything that’s wrong with you and love you anyways. These are the ones who tell you their secrets, who get themselves a glass of water without asking when they’re at your house. These are the people who cry when you cry. These are your people, your middle-of-the-night, no-matter-what people.” ― Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way
I’m going to make a little observation on that quote. Not everybody has a home team – because everybody doesn’t work to cultivate that connection - but I think everybody NEEDS one. We have these people! Yes, most of them are 5000 miles away, but they are there! They are always there. We also have a community of friends and peers who are CCWs. People who we can always call or text and say, “Hey, I need to talk. Do you have some time?” Yes, most of them live in other countries all around the globe, but they are community for us. They are a place where we know that we belong and we feel loved. They are the people who ‘get it’.
I was talking to one of those friends just yesterday and I realized that she knows all of my bits and pieces. She knows all of my personality, my quirks and my ‘stuff’. She knows what I’m thinking and how I’m going to react under stress and what pushes my buttons, and she knows that it’s okay and I’ll bounce back after I process and chill. She knows that she’s Miss Bubbly and I’m Mrs. Reserved – but I wish I was more like her, and she has the unique power to make me laugh till my sides hurt. She lives 4000 miles away from me! And we talk every week. Folks, that’s belonging and community. Thank you, Internet! Messenger and Skype and other programs make connection work for us!
What about local community and belonging? Yes, we have that, too. It’s a little tougher. Language and culture sometimes make deep connections harder to come by. It takes a longer time to cultivate. But we have it. We have local friends who do life with us. We have folks who we trust with our stories and our laughter and our tears, and who trust us with theirs. People who are helping us raise our daughter or navigate cultural norms. And there are a few who are on the fringes, who are just now – after 5 years – starting to open up their lives and connect. Trust takes time.
Does it always have to be deep emotional connection to be community? No, not always. McMillan & Chavis define sense of community as "a feeling that members have of belonging, a feeling that members matter to one another and to the group, and a shared faith that members' needs will be met through their commitment to be together." For my friend, Delilah, the ladies in her gym class are a community. They matter to each other. They notice when someone doesn’t show up and they call or text to check on that person. They cheer each other on in their goals. Do they all have a deep emotional connection? No. But they are connected. They matter to each other.
For Ana (my neighbor across the street), community looks like all the individuals who pass by and chat with her each day. They aren’t part of a formal group. They don’t meet at a designated time. But they all stop and chat with Ana. They matter to Ana. And they notice if she isn’t on her front step. I have seen people knock and call out her name and check if she’s okay, simply because she wasn’t out there when they passed.
The need for connection and community is primal, as fundamental as the need for air, water, and food. ~Dean Ornish
I’m going to challenge you. Right now – Who are your people? Who is your community? Who comes to mind when you read this? Right now – call them! Text them. Go see them. Reach out. Because this is deeply important! People need connection and community, and people need to be seen and heard and loved. So do it. Right now. Check in and let them know that you’re thinking of them and how important they are to you.
Every time that someone partners with us in ministry, they become a hero. That’s right! Through their gifts and prayers, they step in and give a helping hand to us and to the work we do in Spain. Let’s give a special shout out to a couple of our heroes this month:
Jennifer and Alan Shoalmire used their feet and their hearts to be superheroes this month! They challenged their friends and neighbors to raise support for this ministry by donating when they ran in the recent Run Houston! 5K race in Minute Maid park. By setting TMS Global and our ministry up as their Reason2Race http://info.reason2race.com/about-us/how-it-works/ they raised $388! That’s enough funds to sponsor 9 full days of care, coaching, counseling and debrief for a cross-cultural worker or humanitarian aid worker— that includes lodging, full board meals, and care services! That’s amazing!!! Thank you for helping give care to those who are in desperate need of a break, a little TLC, and restoration!!!
To learn more about Reason2Race and how you can raise funds while you have fun in your local 5K or triathlon or marathon (any race, any time!), go to http://info.reason2race.com/about-us/how-it-works/
Interested in becoming a hero? Want to have your photo or your business highlighted for being a hero and helping the ministry and care work we do? Check out Looking for a Few Superheroes for some ideas, or go straight to the giving link at TMS Global and sign up to be a hero in service to others.
We are looking for a few Cross-Cultural Superheroes - people who can personally champion some important aspects of this work. Maybe that hero is YOU! Do you know of a business who might sponsor something on this list? Do you know a doctor or a care professional whose practice might wish to sponsor the important care work we do? Could your class or your group help? Could you put on a superhero cape and sponsor a part of this life-giving ministry?
Situations currently in need of a Superhero:
La Posada Care Apartment - lodging, full board, care / coaching / counseling / debrief for cross-cultural workers, humanitarian aid workers, pastors… folks in need of restoration and new life.
Sponsor the cost of a one night stay for a cross-cultural worker to receive care? $40/night
Could you sponsor a week of care and restoration for a worker? $280/week
A small sink, a microwave, and mini fridge are on our wish list. The cost for installing the sink and outfitting La Posada’s kitchenette is budgeted for $1000. Are you the Kitchen Hero we are dreaming of?
La Posada desperately needs a dedicated bathroom. Local workers in Spain have estimated the budget to be no more than $3000 for this work project. Could you give the gift of a good hot shower and a dedicated bathroom to the La Posada apartment?
Local Heroes -
Our presence in Antequera, Spain helps to build Kingdom in a variety of ways. We are active in our community and in service to others. Coaching local pastors, teaching in the church, building up and caring for other cross-cultural workers serving Spain, serving with the food bank, helping immigrants connect and find community, and leading discipleship groups are just a few of the things we are involved in locally. And every day, ministry in the local setting looks like doing life with our neighbors, having conversations with the single elderly woman across the street, and sitting in the park with the widower while we watch our dogs play. Our daily presence and ministry needs a few good heroes, too. Could you be a Dollar-a-Day Hero? Could you commit to $30 per month to help us reach out and help our community in Antequera every day?
Already a Hero? Are you already a member of our Team?
First of all, THANK YOU for being a faithful partner of this ministry! Seriously, YOU are already a HERO! Thanks for donning your cape and super powers and taking up the cause!
Second - we have a few partners who are raising the bar… they are digging in and giving a little more each month. Gotta love a superhero who decides to go even higher! If you find yourself in a position to become a Hero at a higher level, we encourage you to do that! If you decide to add to your giving for us, great. If you decide to begin to support a new CCW, we can give you ideas and suggestions! We just want you to be a blessing to the Kingdom and God’s work, wherever that may be!
“A hero can be anyone. Even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat around a young boy’s shoulders to let him know that the world hasn’t ended.” ~Bruce Wayne, Batman
If you are ready to put on that cape answer the call and help sponsor part of this important work, go to the giving page at TMS Global and give to this ministry. In the Give to a Missionary Box, you can type in our name and our account number #0321 and give online to help us serve others. We all need a hero every once in a while. Thanks for answering that call!
We wandered in to this Catholic church yesterday. It is one of 30+ churches in Antequera...a town of 40,000. It was built in the 1600s. There was a woman manning the door and collecting €1 from anyone who came to visit. In talking with her, we learned that this is one of many churches in Antequera that are no longer in use. "Its not a church any more, just a museum of sorts. There weren't enough people in the congregation to keep it going and not enough money to run a church. No more weekly services. You can pay to have a wedding here. But the only mass they hold is on Easter morning, only for tradition," she explained. "It was still open when I was a young mother. But it just slowly died. Now it's just for tourists to see. That's why I'm here - to let the tourists in."
This is what is happening all over Europe.
"Religion - Many Europeans are proud of it. Some think it is too bad. However, both agree: Europe is a secularized continent. Europeans do not go to church anymore, they do not believe in God anymore, and they do not seem to be religious at all. Are these assumptions true?” To find out more, go to the European Values Study at www.europeanvaluesstudy.eu
“It is obvious that a vast majority of all the Europeans nominate themselves as religious persons. There are even more people who consider themselves as religious as there are people who attend church. It is a kind of 'believing without belonging'. People pick and choose religious beliefs, doctrines and practices and they are mixing and matching them, as they would select food in a cafeteria. Sociologists talk about this trend as a 'cafeteria religion', or as 'church-free spirituality'. Europeans remain religious, their approach is eclectic, and they borrow ideas from several traditions. Meanwhile many institutionalized churches, especially in the West, are running empty.”
Some other findings regarding Spain:
· While a majority of Spaniards believe that there is a god or supreme being, only 50% of Spaniards felt that God holds any importance in their lives.
· Only 10-19% of Spaniards feel happy with their life
· In studies related to tolerance, people in the European South would rather have criminals and heavy drinkers for neighbors than Roma people (Gypsies) - a population that numbers 1 million in Spain. Among the 12 categories given, only drug addicts outranked the Roma as unwanted neighbors.
"These are the best scones I’ve ever had! They are just perfect – just the right consistency and flavor, density and fluffiness. Amazing, Carmen!” Those were my exact words to a friend recently as we visited them in their home for breakfast. I’ve only tried to make scones a couple of times, but they just seemed crumbly and dry and less-than-awesome. I decided that I wasn’t cut out for scone baking, or that the fault was in the difference in local ingredients for the recipe. Yet, here was my friend using those same local ingredients and getting great results. What’s up? Where was I going wrong?
“I think the trick is in the timing of the dough. Honestly, this is the first time they have been this good for me. But I gave them the appropriate amount of rest this time. Usually I’m in a big hurry and I need results quick, so I skip the rest period for the dough, or I cut it short and only give them a little 10-minute quick rest instead of the 30-40 minute suggested period. That’s the only thing I did differently, and it really seems to have made a difference!”, Carmen recalled.
Not being too knowledgeable of a baker when it comes to dough products, I accepted this explanation as truth. “Good to know!”
But Carmen’s husband stepped up to the plate, no pun intended, and explained in a little more depth. “The reason for the ‘rest’ is that the ingredients need to spend some time together. They are all mixed up together, but they haven’t truly had any time to incorporate with each other. They need time for the transformation to start occurring. The water molecules need a little time to truly be absorbed by the flour, and the dough needs a chance to relax. When you mix it up and knead it together, you have put it under some ‘stress’ by forcing the ingredients to mix. When you give it some time, it relaxes, it gets softer, it becomes more pliable and tender and the ingredients start to work together and become one. If you rush that process, you get tough dough or chewy dough or dough that is too crumbly and falls apart. Some things you just can’t rush.”
Okay, point taken. Juan had activated my science brain and this was making loads of sense now. Both Carmen and I are pretty results-oriented and efficiency-driven. If you can do something with fewer steps or in less time, we are going to figure out how. But this dough situation, this was something that needed more time and couldn’t be rushed. This was about chemistry. And the proof was right there in front of us on the plate.
I continued to think on the science of the dough during the following week.
On Thursday, we hosted our weekly breakfast fellowship and bible study. Daniela was discussing how close she has become with the women in her gym class. This is a huge celebration, for many reasons. Spanish culture has pretty tight friendship circles. Most people in our small town have known each other all of their lives. Children start school together at the age of 3 and they remain with the same classmates in the same class all the way through to high school graduation, with very few exceptions. Communities and neighborhoods are close-knit networks. Family fabric is woven tight. Therefore, women in their 40s or 50s have been with their same friend group since they were toddlers! This makes it hard to ‘break in’ to a friend group and find true acceptance and community. Daniela is an “outsider”, like myself. She moved here the same year we did – 2013. Not only is she and newcomer, but she is not a Spaniard. Making friends can be really tough. But Dani has done it, and done it quite well. She is not only accepted in this group of women, but she is sought after. They miss her and check on her when she misses class. They ask her advice on things. They text like their thumbs are on fire. They go out on coffee dates. Some have even started to have breakthrough conversations regarding faith. And not only in this group is Dani experiencing this kind of progress with relationships. She has become an active part of the school parent groups, too, and is now friends with many parents and teachers in the school and is becoming a respected leader in that circle.
But all of this took time. A LOT of time. Four years of time. So this is truly something to celebrate! And it suddenly dawned on me… this is exactly what our work in Spain is like. This is what living life in community in Europe is like. It’s like baker’s dough.
People need time to be together. Relationships are formed through time. People need time with together, time to absorb the essence of each other, time for the chemistry of each other’s personalities to meld together and find a place of understanding. It takes time to build trust. It takes time to let down the guard. Remember the dough? Remember what happens without the time element? The dough stays stressed and tough or it falls apart. But if you give it time, it relaxes, it gets softer, and it transforms in to something more delicate and tender.
So often, we have watched workers come to Europe with efficiency and agendas on their mind. They have a plan and they are driven for quick numbers. We have witnessed the pressures of sponsors and churches and agencies who want to see results. But that’s just not how the Kingdom works. And that’s certainly not how life in Spain or Europe works! Because relationship takes time. Yeast takes time to rise and do it’s work. Trust and community takes time to build. The way I see it, if Jesus could spend three years walking alongside the disciples and teaching and hanging out sharing meals and being a living breathing example, showing them all the things he did, and yet they STILL were questioning and wondering and trying to understand him and his life – well then, I think Jesus probably understands that we can’t rush relationships and faith, either.
I always get to this place - this moment that is the turning of the calendar in to a new year - and I realize just how much of our USA culture and worldview continues to be ingrained in me, even after all these years of being away. I first realized it in Peru. The new year came about and my mind automatically moved in to reflection and goals mode. What went well in the old year? What do I want to improve on in the new year? What plans need to be put in to place for the coming year? Lots of reflection and self-evaluation, then using that to make plans for the new year. It’s also a time of year when my mind automatically goes in to health mode. I need to get back to the gym. I need to do better this year with my physical fitness and my health habits. I need to get in to a rhythm of healthier eating. What struck me in Peru was that, for the first time in my life, no one around me was thinking these things! How could it be that no one else was reflecting and planning? How is it even possible that the rest of society was not making exercise plans and healthy meal plans? I mean, it seemed that absolutely NO ONE had turned the calendar page and realized that a new year had begun!
Then it hit me - this is a part of my North American culture that I was unaware of. I did not realize that all this reflection and planning was cultural. Nor did I realize the effect that media has on our culture when it comes to all this health and new year business. Think about it… what is on TV commercials and talk shows and magazines right now? Diets! Gym promotions, exercise plans, etc. The new Weight Watchers plan. Planet Fitness has a deal going. Rachel Ray is cooking special meals to help you lose that holiday weight and start the new year right. Guess what’s on sale at Target and WalMart and IKEA and everywhere else… organizing supplies, planners, ways to get yourself in order so you can start the year off “right”. By the way, you need a new yoga mat.
Guess what, folks. This wasn’t happening in Peru. I realized that during our first year there and I had a little moment of panic. How will people go forward and achieve their goals if they don’t reflect and plan and make goals in January?! WHAT KIND OF CULTURE IS THIS???? (Yes, I freaked out, just a little.)
So, newsflash… it isn’t happening in Spain either. Nope. No big season of health and gym membership sales. No big discounts on planners or calendars or office supplies. No big promotion of self-help books or yoga mats or diet plans. January is just January.
Even now, ten years after moving out of the USA to live a life of service overseas, that strange feeling wafts over me in January. Even though nothing around me is promoting it or selling it, I get the feeling that I’m supposed to be in reflection and planning mode, and that I need to get back to healthy habits.
Billy and I have begun a monthly process of reflection and planning. It just works better for us. It keeps us a little more focused and a little more accountable to our various goals and projects, and we can make course corrections quickly to keep us on track. It also helps us to celebrate the little things and take stock of what’s going on. It’s easy to miss the little achievements and celebrations if you wait till the end of the year to try to reflect. And it’s really easy to find yourself way off course if you only visit your goals once a year! So, once a month, we have a day that is set aside for reflection and planning. We take a critical look at various aspects of our personal life and our work and we decide how to proceed. In some areas, we might be doing pretty great and have things to celebrate. And in other areas, we realize that we have let some things slip or we haven’t given enough attention to certain goals and we make corrections.
While we’re on the subject, let me share with you a recent celebration that came to light. One of the young ladies who taught for us in the educational projects in Peru recently connected with us. She (Tania) stays in touch and often sends us messages via Facebook messenger. Last month, she sent a message saying that she had been back to Iscos (one of the towns where we had a school outreach and discipleship program) and she had gone to visit Julia. You might recall that Julia was an older woman, a widow, who opened up her home and gave us a room to hold classes for our school children. She cooked meals for 30 kids every day in her kitchen and allowed us to have classes in her home for several years. In the afternoons, she opened up her home so community women could come and have bible study and workshops. Along the way, she became a believer through the discipleship of our young teachers. In many ways, she became a mother to us all and a grandmother to all of our students.
Tania went to visit Julia and then sent us a message. She said that Julia continues to be a believer and continues to read her Bible daily and try to continue learning. She said she will forever be grateful and have fond memories of us and of the school program, and she wanted Tania to specifically send a message to us thanking us for our time in Peru and telling us that we are still loved and remembered, and that the Bible teaching and discipleship that was done continues to live on. WOW! That was an awesome note to receive!!!
Then, Tania went on to give us even more! She asked for prayers for her new business endeavor… she has opened a school in Lima and is modeling it after the work that we did in Iscos and Patarcocha. The school opened in December, with the goal of reaching entire families for Christ via the education and love shown to their children. Again, wow! Those young teachers not only continued the work that we started in Peru, but they have now taken it in various directions and it has grown to something we never could have imagined. One of them continues to work in the area where we began, one of them answered a call for teachers to go in to the most unreached and dangerous parts of the jungle, and now Tania has opened her own school. All remain faithful to their calling and passion… to use their passion for teaching and for children and families, and to live out their calling of discipleship and loving others through their vocation.
Never during any of our reflection or planning did we foresee the future or the fruit that would occur in Peru. Honestly, that’s all God. What we did was to daily walk alongside those teachers, daily pour in to their lives, and stay true to our calling and passion. God did the rest. And we trust that this will be true in Spain as well. We reflect and we plan, we try to focus and be true to our calling. We daily practice our passion of loving and empowering people, of caring for others and walking alongside people in whatever life throws at them. And we trust that God will do the rest. He always does. He’s in the business of showing up and amazing us!
It is sometimes tempting to assume that you know all there is to know about a subject. That you have exhausted the learning process on a particular issue and you’re finally ‘there’, you are an expert. As a teacher who is a firm believer in the inquiry method, I’m here to say, “Look again. What else do you see?”
When I was teaching science, I absolutely loved using inquiry. It’s based on looking deeper, asking questions, and digging for more. It’s learner-driven. It is deeply rooted in observation. It’s hands-on and experiential. I love it!
When I became a coach, I immediately fell in to that same vein of questioning. “Tell me more. What else do you see? What other factors are at play? What more is there to learn here?” When I truly fall in to that groove and the inquiry process takes hold, I’m in heaven!
I was recently on a phone call with some friends and we were discussing our recent move to our home in town. It’s a new situation for us, mostly because we have been living in the country and not in the middle of the city for the past 4 years. There is a different dynamic to life and a different rhythm to how things work now, and we are slowly learning those differences and finding our footing here in ‘city center’. So, we find ourselves in the learner seat, students again, asking those crucial inquiry questions of ourselves and our surroundings. One of our friends asked how it was going and what we were learning—specifically, what is new that we hadn’t seen before when we lived in the country. Hmmm… I hadn’t thought of it that way. I had to think for a second. What’s new for us?
One thing is cleaning the outside of the house. I knew that most Spaniards are fanatics about cleaning the house. Homes are swept and mopped and dusted daily. Windows are cleaned at least once a week, if not more. In fact, a clean home is such a high value in this culture that if you are injured or disabled in some way that would affect house cleaning, a home helper is covered in your health care and sent to your house to do these tasks for you while you recover! Y’all, that’s serious!
What I hadn’t realized was that cleaning OUTSIDE the house is just as important as inside. I’m sure there is a spiritual devotional blog in that somewhere, but today is not the day for that. I’m just here to tell you that it is expected that you will go outside and sweep the sidewalk AND THE STREET in front of your house for the entire length of your property. You should also take your soapy mop water and a stiff bristle broom out and sweep/scrub the sidewalk. Don’t forget your windows and door… you must take a duster out there and dust the window sills and any window bars or decorative ironwork and the front door. I’m not talking once a month. I’m talking several times a week! One day, I was outside sweeping my sidewalk and the neighbor came alongside me and started sweeping the street. We swept together and chatted and I caught the subtle hint of the unwritten neighborhood rules. She said that she usually sweeps one day and another lady sweeps on the next day and they sweep the entire block. The implication was that I would sweep every third day and I would sweep the whole block. Okay. Note taken.
Dress code… Spaniards care a lot about how you dress and that you are dressed appropriately for the appropriate activity. You shouldn’t wear yoga pants unless you are going to yoga. You don’t wear exercise clothes unless you are going to the gym. Not to shop, not to a restaurant, not to the grocery store - only to the gym. Appropriate clothing is important. And makeup - I have been told on more than one occasion I forgot my lipstick today. *sigh* HOWEVER, we have found these rules to only apply after 8am. If you go out before then, anything goes! If you walk to the bakery to buy your morning bread and you go before 8, feel free to wear your robe and slippers. If you go out to walk the dog and it’s before 8, pajamas and tennis shoes are fine. No shame. Greet the neighbors. Flash that lipstick-barren smile. Hold your head high - it’s not yet 8am, so it doesn’t count yet.
Part of loving your neighbor is figuring out how to be a part of the neighborhood. We’re still learning the intricacies of life in town… we’ll keep you posted!
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 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! We have three incredible children... two adult boys who live in Texas, and the princess Sarah (13) lives with us in whatever country we are serving. I'm still teaching, still taking photos, still leading teams and mentoring, I just do it all in full-time 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!