Sad news from our home. We had to put Sarah’s horse, Rompeolas, to sleep. She was not eating well and losing weight. The vet had done blood tests and found a problem with her liver, which we had hoped to combat with a special diet and some medication. But it turned out to be a terminal condition. She was very weak and was obviously not well. On a Friday morning in March, we went to the stalls to find she was having trouble breathing and was in shock. Her body was shutting down. The vet came and gave us no option but to do the humane thing. We went to get Sarah from school so she could say goodbye and hold her as they gave her the injections to put her to sleep. Very sad time around here. Lots of tears. Lots of grief. Sarah has lost her best friend and teammate and is now without her much loved buddy and her sport. She had saved her money for 10 years to buy her horse and is now starting over after only having Rompeolas for one year. Please remember Sarah in your prayers.
We recently spent some time in Jordan so we could get face-to-face with the work going on there, and to visit and encourage our peers. We visited a clinic run by dear friends. The clinic serves many refugee communities. We also visited a school run by other peers. The school serves as a hub for people in the community to come and learn not only English, but to also study holy books together. We also went to several historical sites and had some cultural learning time.
One of my dearest friends in the area told me to call her buddy, Mohammed, and get him to take us around Petra. Mohammed is Bdoule (a Bedouin tribal people) who was born in a cave in the ancient city of Petra. The Bdoule around Petra hail from the Huwaitat tribe, direct descendants of the Nabateans and therefore are the rightful heirs to Petra and this land. However, since UNESCO awarded Petra with world heritage status in 1985, the Jordanian government removed the Bdoule from the archaeological site and their land in order to protect it. The mountains continue to be inhabited by Bdoule people today, although most have been moved to a nearby community that was specifically built for them by the government, known as Umm Sayhoun. Many continue to practice their cultural way of life, choosing to sleep in the desert caves and herd sheep and goats in the surrounding hills. My friend gave me Mohammed’s contact information and said, “Give him a call! He’s the best! You’ll love him! Tell him *Karen sent you, we’re good friends.” All the while, I’m thinking that this sounds unreal. Am I really going to call up a random Bedouin guy and tell him *Karen sent me? And then meet up with him, sight unseen, and go off in to the Jordanian desert on a donkey? Evidently so.
We did call Mohammed and I had my doubts. What are the odds that Mohammed the Bedouin guy is going to actually be there when we arrive at the designated meeting spot? What are the odds that he is trustworthy and safe – safe enough to just jump on donkeys and head off in to the desert with him? Rest assured - after a day full of hiking and riding donkeys in the desert, learning about the history of the area and seeing these amazing historical sights through the eyes of a true local, a man who was actually born and raised in this very spot, we were more than pleased to have met Mohammed! *Karen’s friend was a gem and we had a wonderful day with him in his element.
When it was time to head home at the end of the day, Mohammed said, “I’ll take you home the back way. We will ride out the other side of Petra and take the donkeys home. This is the area no tourists get to see.” So off we went, through more rugged terrain, more caves, and more desert. We came out in Umm Sayhoun, the community where many of the Bdoule now live. We dismounted our trusty donkey mounts and they all turned their faces toward home and walked themselves through the streets. Mohammed said, “They know where they live. They’ll go home alone.” Mohammed put us in his truck and drove us back to the place where we were spending the night.
Before we got out of the truck, Mohammed asked what we were doing for dinner. We hadn’t made plans yet, so he invited us to go out in to the desert with him again, to watch the sunset over Petra, and to enjoy a traditional Bedouin meal. If Billy Drum has a life motto, it is probably, “Never turn down a traditional meal, especially not one cooked on a campfire under the stars!”
By far, this was our favorite part of the day. First of all, you just can’t beat a sunset… never, on any given day, can you do better than a God-breathed sunset! And to watch it while standing in the desert mountains between Petra and the Jabal Haroun ("Aaron's Mountain") was priceless. After sunset, we went to sit around the campfire, where we met up with Mohammed’s brother and two other men of the family. One of them looked like he could have been Moses’ brother, quite elderly (yet still able to sit fully cross-legged on a rock) and smoking. Both of these men were fully dressed in the traditional heavy full-length Bedouin dishdash robe and headscarf.
We were immediately given glasses of hot tea with mint that had just come from the kettle on the fire. I’m positive that our glasses were refilled at least three times - I thought I might float away on mint tea! Then they took our glasses and served tea for themselves. Guests first - Hospitality first, always. I so love the emphasis on hospitality in this culture.
As we warmed ourselves by the fire and waited for dinner to cook, we talked with Mohammed and his brother, Abraham. Mohammed had talked with us freely all day long, but in his brother’s presence, he was subdued and took his place in the family as second in line. Abraham was the leader of conversation for the night.
We discussed life in Petra, life as a Bedouin, and life in general. Abraham entertained us with history and shared stories with us about ancient times in the area. We were sitting in the desert below the area where it is believed that Aaron, Moses’ brother, died and was buried. And that began quite a conversation – a conversation that I never dreamed I would have! Never would I have ever believed it possible to sit around a campfire with several Jordanian Bedouin men and discuss stories from our holy heritage, but there we were, doing just that!
Abraham asked us if we knew of Moses.
“Yes”, we said. “We know stories of Moses. These stories are in our holy book.”
“Yes they are”, replied Abraham. They are in your Book of Exodus. We also have stories of Moses and Aaron in our book.”
We responded, “We have many stories in common. Many of our prophets are also prophets in your Quran. And your namesake, Abraham, is in our book.”
He smiled. “Yes, and your name, Sarah (pointing at our Sarah), is from that same story.”
And so the door was open, and we went on in to the evening, discussing Moses and Aaron and many other stories that we have in common. We are trained for these conversations, we study for these conversations, we always hope for an open door to these conversations, but it is still amazing and breathtaking when we actually find ourselves sitting IN THESE CONVERSATIONS! Divine appointments and blessed interactions. Two different faith foundations finding common ground and building bridges together.
We dined on an absolutely amazing meal of chicken, potatoes, eggplant, onions, and whole heads of garlic, all cooked under the campfire; literally, under the campfire in a pit that was covered with wood and set ablaze an hour ago. We sat on the ground, cross-legged, and ate with our hands straight from the pit that cooked our meal. It was glorious!
After dinner, as the fire died down and the evening was coming to a close, I asked Abraham one last question. “What do you like the most about Bedouin life and culture?”
Without hesitation, he responded, “That’s simple. We live a simple life. The more simple your life, the more happiness in your heart. We are simple people. We have only a few things, not many things. We live simply. This makes us very happy. It’s good to live a simple life.”
In our initial training so many years ago, we are told to live out our lives as a witness. I've always admired St. Frances who said ‘Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.’ The way we live speaks so much louder than our actual words. I try to do that, but sometimes I let life get in the way. I unintentionally ignore my neighbor. I get frustrated at someone in traffic and respond in a way that is not appealing. I say things that I wouldn't want my children hearing or repeating. No, I am not perfect. I don’t think any of us are.
There are those times, though, when something does shine through; where you do make a difference; where you do exemplify the gospel through living your life well.
I got a glimpse of this in action this month. It happened during a time of prayer. Actually it began before that. I was preparing breakfast and I received a message on WhatsApp. "Hola" (Hello) was all it said and no name was associated with it, so I was suspicious. Then I noticed that the number was from Peru and I thought that maybe it was someone I knew from our time there, so I asked “who is this?”. I was not prepared for what followed.
The message was from a former neighbor. We knew him during the time we lived in Huancayo. He is now 14 years old, but when we lived next door to him, he was around 5 or 6 years old. He used to come over and play with Sarah at our house. We always fixed a snack for the kids and had backyard play time together.
In the subsequent messages, he told me how he was hoping for a better life and how hard it was for his family now - his younger brother and his mother. A few years ago, his mother took the kids and fled from the father due to the abuse. We had suspected that was happening all those years ago, but the system in Peru is not in favor of interfering in family violence cases and there was nothing we could do. There was physical and emotional abuse and oppression. His mom was not permitted to earn an education because the father said she couldn't. They now live in a small one room apartment with her working at whatever she can find.
He told me how much it had meant those many years ago to play at our house with Sarah. His words were "I felt safe. I knew that you cared". It struck me that all these years later this young man took the time to contact me. I know that during that time many years ago, I probably did not say anything intelligible to him in Spanish! It was our first year on the field and we were still working hard to learn the language. In fact, I probably didn't say a lot to him at all, as he was busy playing and running around the house. The thing that I did do is live out the gospel for him. He saw a glimpse of the Kingdom in our family and it was something that he liked. He saw kindness and ‘love your neighbor’ acted out daily.
During our text chat I was able to counsel him some and to pray for him. I now have a chance to stay in touch and in some way continue what God started in him almost 10 years ago. We have texted back and forth quite a lot over the past month. Who knew that my Whatsapp texting app on my phone would become such a link between worlds?! Josue has started asking me deeper questions about faith and life. He’s open and he’s seeking and he needs someone who feels safe and will talk to him. So, I’m here, on Whatsapp on my cell phone, connecting to Peru and to Josue and a relationship that was started 10 years ago over toys and games and cookies and juice. ~Billy
On Tuesday, we shared a lunch table with people from 6 different countries. Last week, we did bible study in a group of 50 people that represented India, Kazakhstan, Thailand, Kenya, Turkey, Costa Rica, Spain, Colombia, Panama, Brazil, Liberia, and more. We introduced our awesome leadership team in Spain to our TMS Global peers. Our Spain team is multinational / multicultural (Puerto Ricans, Texans ☺, Spaniards) and multigenerational (30s– 60s) with varied career backgrounds (a teacher, a pharmaceutical rep, a horticulturalist, an economist with a law degree, an author, a pastor, a former monk, and more). As I think on this, I realize just how diverse my life and my world has become!
This diversity is sometimes tough to navigate, but it has the potential to bring such beautiful benefits to everyone who engages and connects! In connecting and building relationships with so many different people, we have the incredible benefit of getting a glimpse of what The Kingdom of God is really about. We are also helping others make connections. By introducing our Spain team to our TMS Global team, we helped connect the Spanish church and leaders to resources and a world of possibilities that they never dreamed possible. We helped to connect them to a whole new world of stories and people that they never would have known otherwise. They are now thinking ‘outside the box’ and looking at a bigger picture than they were seeing a week ago. They have now sat at the table and listened to the stories of their Christian brothers and sisters who are serving in other parts of the world. They are now connected to the son of a tribal chief in Africa who lost his son to Ebola last year. They are connected to a young pastor in Kazakhstan who is forbidden to have a church or preach, so he opened a sports center and connects to people via soccer and gym time. They had conversations with a Brazilian pastor and were able to ask him about the best ways to connect to our Brazilian immigrants here in Spain. And they were able to begin conversations about how to receive more training and help, and how to bring in trainers who can build up the pastors and churches here in Spain and mobilize people here for outreach and service.
Thank you for connecting with us so that we can connect others, so that we can help others partner with the right people and the right resources to grow in The Kingdom!
We’re still using the acronym TMS, but we are no longer The Mission Society. We have changed our name to TMS Global. This name change was an important and strategic move for many reasons. One of the biggest ones being security. In this ever-changing world with rapidly changing views, using the word “mission” or “missionary” is actually quite damaging and dangerous for us. In many countries, this is reason enough to be arrested or to have your visa revoked and be deported, or worse. In our case in Spain, the term “missionary” carries a lot of baggage… from the Inquisition to the Conquest of the New World. It’s not really a term that carries warm and fuzzy feelings to people! So, to keep it safe and simple, The Mission Society is now called TMS Global (Training, Mobilization, and Service). No worries… we’re still the same people doing the same work, just under a better name for all of us. To learn more about the name change, go to the Unfinished Magazine page 2
We have been concerned by the numbers of youth that we know who are struggling in school. Struggling to the point of failing subjects and at risk of repeating the school year. The school system is quite different here. The subject load is rigorous and the pressure is extreme. In many ways, I really like the system. I feel that our own daughter is getting a great education and the level of competence is high. But in others, I am saddened as a teacher. It is very much a system of ’cans and cannots’, and if you cannot… you’re pretty much sunk. There is no real system for helping students who are failing. Outside of school, there are ’academies’ where you can go to pay for outside tutoring, but it isn’t cheap. And best practices for teaching and learning styles are not the norm. Every year, several of Sarah’s classmates fail and are held back. Every year, there are fewer and fewer students in her class.
Over the past few months, Billy has been putting his teacher face back on and helping out youth who are in danger of being left behind by the system. He has been dusting off those Algebra books, pulling the Physics formulas out of hiding, and throwing his hat in the Chemistry ring. He has even been doing a little English tutoring.
Why does this matter? How does this transform lives? One of Billy’s students is an immigrant, working in his second language, and has already repeated a year. He is one of the thousands in Spain who are at high risk of dropping out and becoming part of the 30+% unemployment rate for young adults. He lives in the region of Spain with the highest rate of young male suicide. He has very few male role models in his life. Time with Billy is not only time for tutoring, but time for connection and relationship and a loving father-figure. It’s time invested in a young life, time giving hope.
The following is another of the stories I collected while working in refugee camps in Greece. These are true stories of real people, people who are now my friends. I share their stories in an effort to shed light on the situation...
I notice that with each day, Tiago* is looking more and more down-trodden. Each day I give him a hug and try to have cheery conversation during his infrequent breaks from the work. But each day it is more and more difficult to see happiness in him.
“How are you today, Friend?”, I ask.
“Fine. Well, actually not. Do you really want to know?”, he says, looking at me with eyes that are about to burst with sadness today.
“Yes, really. I really want to know. Tell me. How are you?”
“I am bad. Very bad. My health is not good. This work is very hard. Psychologically, I’m a mess.” He takes a couple of deep breaths to try to keep himself composed.
“I’ve been here for 3 months. It’s too long. Too much. Everything I see and hear and know – it’s all too much.” He can no longer look at me to speak. To look at me would surely start his tears, so he looks away, he looks down, he looks past me. But he can’t look into my eyes.
When he finally regains his breathing and his voice, he says, “But I can’t stop. I can’t stop as long as they are here (gesturing to the refugees behind me). Someone has to care for them. Someone has to cook.”
And with that, he stands up and goes back to the kitchen. Back to prepare another 1000 meals for the next round of feeding.
(*Tiago's name has been changed for security reasons)
The following is one of the many stories of my refugee friends that I listened to and recorded while working in refugee camps in Greece.
This is the story of Ammar* (name changed for Ammar's security).
“What do you miss the most about home?”, I ask.
“Lots of things”, he says, looking down at his feet and thinking, remembering. Then a smile starts to break across his face. “I miss my mother’s sweet cakes. There is nothing that tastes like that!” The smile shows a love that radiates from his face, a smile almost too big to contain.
“When I was young, before university, I didn’t like my mother’s cooking. I complained about her food a lot. Every day I complained.
“But when I got to university, I only knew how to cook rice and pasta. McDonalds became my favorite meals, because it was fast and I didn’t know how to cook anything. McDonalds all the time.
“When I went home from university for a visit, I LOVED my mother’s cooking!”, he laughs and shifts his weight back and forth and looks down. I’m struck at how much he looks like a little boy right now, embarrassed and shy in this moment of transparency.
“What are your favorite foods from Syria?”, I divert the question a little bit to give him some space, to allow him to pull out of the memory of his mom, if it’s too tough, but he dives right back in and stays with her memory.
“I miss everything! Too many things. No one in the world cooks like your mom!”
He stops what he is doing and quickly turns to my 13-year old daughter, Sarah, and puts on his best big brother face. “Sarah, one day, you too, will go away to university. And you will miss your mom. And you will miss your mom’s food! You must always respect your mom and all that she does for you. You will miss her. You will dream of her cooking and of everything about her.”
He continues to talk of his mother.
“My mom, she was a teacher in Syria. I used to go in to her classroom to help her students. She would ask me to come and teach about computers. Oh my! It was so frustrating!” He gets very animated. “I have no patience. None! I don’t know how she does that every day! I cannot teach. I don’t understand why it is so hard for them to understand! And I don’t understand why it is so hard to teach them. No. I have no patience with that.”
All of this makes me laugh, because all I have seen from Ammar * is extreme patience and an uncanny ability to remain calm and help others to understand.
In his animated state, he is physically acting out his frustration with teaching young children, but also laughing hysterically. I point out that he is saying one thing with his words and body language, but he is laughing. It seems incongruent.
“Ah. That’s because I am imagining my mother and remembering. She has zero ability to use technology. My father is a computer expert. That was his job. My brother was in technology. I was studying IT in university before I had to escape. But my mom? She cannot even use her smart phone! She stabs at it – the touch pad on the phone. She stabs at it so hard,” he says, laughing and acting out his mother’s finger stabbing in to his palm. “I tell her that she is trying to kill it. ‘Stop stabbing it! Stop killing the phone!’ But she just can’t understand.”
By now, he is belly laughing and tears are rolling down his face. “My mom says that she sometimes wishes she was a computer so that all of her boys would pay attention to her like they do their technology.”
And just like that, he is brought back to reality. The idea of his mother wishing that her boys would pay attention to her. A switch is flipped in his head, and in his heart, and he is back. Back to his current situation. He is a refugee, living in a refugee camp, far from home. Far from his world of university studies. Far from his girlfriend that he would like to marry. Far from his mom, and her cooking. Far from the sweet cakes that he loves.
And I am haunted by his words earlier, “I miss everything! Too many things. No one in the world cooks like your mom! …one day, you too, will go away. And you will miss your mom. And you will miss your mom’s food! You must always respect your mom and all that she does for you. You will miss her. You will dream of her cooking and of everything about her.”
You might be celebrating the holidays ‘away from home’ if…
We love that we can be surrounded by friends and new family here. Last year, Thanksgiving in Texas was a juggling act of trying to juggle people’s schedules and football games and work. In the end, only the three of us and our mothers were able to have dinner together. This year, 16 of our friends and family gathered in our home in Spain for dinner. We celebrated with a family from Puerto Rico (USA), a family from Mexico/Texas, Billy’s mom, and a family from Spain. The Spain family are commonly referred to as “Sarah’s Spanish Family”, as they adopted her (and us) years ago and they are never not involved with us. If a day or two goes by without contact, they check in on us. If Sarah has a cold, they want to take her to the doctor or bring her a home remedy. In fact, each of these families is so special to us and is so closely connected to us that we consider them family. So, when I say that we celebrated with friends and family, I mean it in every sense of the word! I’m thankful for these great people.
There are several things that I’m especially thankful for during the holidays in Spain:
Pray for us as we spend another holiday season away from Texas. It won’t be easy. It never is. We miss our boys. We miss our mothers / brothers / sisters / friends more than ever during these times. And thank God that He has surrounded us with friends and family here in Spain that help us to have new traditions and feel loved and connected. We are home for the holidays, because home is both in Texas, and in Spain - home is where you have relationship roots, home is where you are loved!
~ Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas from
Laurie, Billy, and Sarah
Did you know that you can give a gift to the ministry in honor of someone else? Or that you can give in their name as a special Christmas gift to them? Did you know that your gift to this ministry effects hundreds (actually thousands) of lives?
During this holiday season, would you consider giving a special gift for ministry? During the year, we receive financial gifts that help us to live work overseas and do the ministry that God has called us to. God has always been faithful, as have many of you, and we always have what is needed to meet the budget… sometimes we ‘just make it’, but we manage to make it.
End of year giving is what pushes us over the hump and makes up the deficit from the year. If you find yourself in a position to give a little something extra for the end of the year, please consider these options:
Fund bible study hospitality and coffee ($40 per month = $480 for the year)…
Did you know that the majority of our discipleship and bible study time is done over coffee and a sweet? This is how this culture functions. Meetings are almost always at a café. If we’re not in a café, then we meet in the homes of others, or we open our home for meetings. But there is ALWAYS coffee and a small snack. That means that we spend significant time in mom-and-pop type coffee shops, or preparing coffee and banana bread or snacks to host a study group. Do you have the gift of hospitality? Consider an end-of-year gift to help with this part of the ministry.
Fund a youth retreat ($700)…
This year, we were able to take our youth group on an overnight retreat to a camp near our town. It was an amazing time of prayer and study and growth… and some fun and play, too! We wanted to have a retreat twice a year (one Spring and one Fall), but we were unable to do the funding. Your end-of-year-gift of $700 could fund a retreat for the youth of Antequera.
Fund care and counseling for a missionary family in need of debrief and rest ($500)…
as a part of our care ministry, we host missionary families who find themselves in need - in need of a break from a traumatic situation, in need of a safe place in times of political unrest, in need of care when the work has pulled them under. This year, we have hosted several families in these situations. Our arrangement with them is that they pay their travel expenses, and we will care for them in Spain free of charge. We host them in our home, make home-cooked meals, care for their children, have counseling sessions with the adults, and give them time and space and tools so they can go back in to the field healthier and restored. You can be a part of this restoration and care ministry by helping us to defray the costs of hosting, meals, on-ground transportation, and care for these missionaries. By doing so, you help not only the missionaries themselves, but you help to keep them on the field so they can continue to help others. Please consider an end-of-year gift of $500 to help one missionary family in need of care.
Sponsor a Sunday School class ($20 per month = $240 for the year)…
Did you know that Laurie & Billy are the Sunday school directors for the church they serve. This includes adult and children’s classes. This also includes the role of actually WRITING the curriculum, printing out the lessons and booklets, training teachers, and coordinating activities. The church they serve only has a working budget of $24,000 for the YEAR, and that includes the full-time pastor’s salary, operating budget of the church building, and the cost of a satellite church and several outreaches within the county. The church budget is STRETCHED! As a result, the Drum’s budget is currently covering Sunday school costs. A year end gift of $240 would cover the cost of materials and necessities for a Sunday school group (there are 4 total classes at the church). A gift of $960 would cover the entire Sunday school department for a year!
Support ministry among refugees ($1000)…
Billy and Laurie will be returning to partner again with the refugee relief being done along the European borders. As winter progresses, fewer and fewer volunteers are present in the camps and the ministries that are serving refugees are short-handed. The need continues to be staggering. Your end-of-year gift of $1000 would allow one of us to assist and give relief to workers who have been with the refugee crisis for many months. $2000 would allow both of us to return and give the support and love that is needed during this difficult situation.
Any amount of end-of-year giving would be greatly appreciated. The above ideas are just that - ideas, options, examples of real ministry costs. There are many other ministry costs that we cover, as well. Any gift would be a gift to the people we serve, in Spain and around the globe. Thank you for your continued love and prayers for the ministry the people we serve!
To give a special end-of-year gift, please print mail this card, or go online at www.themissionsociety.org/give , scroll down to the Give to a Missionary box on that page, and post your gift. Use Missionary ID # 0321.
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!