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.
Did you realize that you have a specific food culture? Food is a major connector for cultures and ethnicities. It ranks in the top 3 topics of how people relate to each other when they meet. Immigrants often talk about food patterns and customs, and food is one way that they retain their identity.
When we first moved to Spain, we began attending a church where there were many Central and South Americans. One Sunday after services, I found myself seated next to a woman that I did not know. In the process of introducing myself and trying to open a conversation, I found out that she was an immigrant from Nicaragua. It just so happens that while we lived and served in Costa Rica, we worked among Nicaraguan immigrants and refugees! So we had the beginnings of a connection. But the number one thing that surfaced was FOOD! The foods that we missed from that region. We found ourselves reminiscing about gallo pinto and fried yucca. We dreamed of guanabana juice and platanos fritos, of tres leches cake and Central American coffee. We were instantly connected as we remembered the deliciousness of the region and her eyes danced as we talked of foods that meant ‘home’ to her. It is no wonder that we are very good friends even to this day! We had good beginnings—a culture of food.
When I have met Peruvians outside of Peru, we almost immediately begin talking about food. Oh, how I miss Cordero al Palo, ceviche, pachamanca, and aji de gallina (my favorite!). What I wouldn’t do to have my friend, Liz, make one more Causa Limeña for me, or papas Huancaina, or Rocoto Relleno. Oh my goodness… I shouldn’t be writing this while I’m waiting for lunch! Yummmmm!!!!! (I just might have a problem with food…)
Here in Spain, there is also a specific food culture. Yes, there are specific dishes that are regional favorites and no self-respecting Andaluz would ever live without… porra and gazpacho, berenjena con miel (fried eggplant with honey), pulpo Gallego (octopus), and Spanish tortilla (crust less egg and potato quiche). But there is also a life and norms around food. Specific times of day for specific meals or breaks, and what foods are allowable at those times. For example, Spaniards do not eat eggs for breakfast. An omelet or a quiche or an egg casserole is considered ’too strong’ for a breakfast meal. Breakfast consists of breads and possibly serrano ham and a fresh tomato puree. There are social norms that revolve around food patterns. Meals are social events. Expect to spend at least a couple of hours over a lunch with someone… any less would be disrespectful and rude. Meals are to be lingered over and savored, and the company is to be savored even more! There is no culture of ‘eat and run’ or a ‘quick lunch’. Fast food is actually translated to “comida de basura” (trash food) and is looked down upon by all but the youngest generations. And portion sizes are scrutinized… a drink over 12 ounces is considered excessive, unless it is water. A local friend was recently appalled at the idea that soft drinks come in 32 and 44 ounce sizes in the USA.
In Spain, the lunch time meal is the big meal of the day. It is a time to go home from school or work and the entire family gathers around the table. This is the large cooked meal of the day. Businesses close down at 2pm so that everyone can go home for lunch. Then socialization and table talk. Then a rest. It is very common, if not expected, that after a meal and a time of socialization and rest, a walk is in order. It is very common to see entire families out taking a stroll after a meal. Then back to work at 5pm and work until 8 or 9. The evening meal is light… fruit or cheese or yogurt or a light sandwich if you are in the house. Many choose, instead, to opt for relationship and take an evening stroll in town, stopping for a tapa (small appetizer) and a time with friends in the cool of the evening… a couple of hours over a small bite in a café and lots of talking and laughter.
Last week, we were living in our own version of the Fiery Furnace, with temperatures well over 100 degrees. One day, we hit 113! It was not pretty here in The Drum household, being as we do not have air conditioning. We were moving slow, drinking lots of water, and wiping down our bodies with wet towels.
Literally, that was one week ago. Today, we are sitting in 71 degree Heaven! The evenings are cool and we are finally getting those beautiful Fall breezes that make life lovely! I had to put on a robe and socks this morning and cover up with a quilt to drink my coffee! Ahhhh… back to nice temperatures!
September has brought us ‘back’ to a lot of things. August in Spain is a very slow month. Almost everyone saves their yearly vacation time for August. School is still out and businesses close for weeks at a time. Even church cuts back to bare minimums… there is a Sunday service, but no bible studies or Sunday school classes or meetings. For us, that means that we spent most of our August doing coaching and counseling work via Skype for other workers around the globe, hosting visiting workers for coaching and counseling, and preparing for some upcoming trainings that we will be doing for other workers. But locally, not much happening.
It all changed on September 1st! Back to Business. Back to schedules and agendas and meetings. Back to bible studies and classes. Somehow, the slowness that is August here—that slowness that was making me bored and fidgety—changed to a steady busy-ness that now has me begging for the slowness to return!
Back to School. School children went back to school this week. Sarah started her second year of ESO (Escuela Secundaria Obligatoria), which would be equal to the 8th grade back home. She is continuing in the Bilingual education program in Spanish public school, which means that she takes some of her classes in 50% Spanish / 50% English, some classes are taught completely in Spanish, and she is in her second year of French language. She’s a typical pre-teen… excited to start school because she’s excited to be with her friends again, but not so excited about starting the classes again. Prayer Point—please pray for Sarah’s teachers as they spend the majority of their day with our daughter. Please pray for her friendships—for them to be healthy and life-giving, and for Sarah to be a light in the lives of her non-believing friends and their families.
Back to Training. Sarah had a full month off of her Equestrian training, mostly because her trainer got married. She continued to ride several times a week during the summer, but now we are back to training. She competed last week and came in 1st in one of her events, so she’s still doing great.
Billy and I are also back to training… back to planning for training workshops that we will be leading in the next months for other mission workers, back to language training and working with language helpers to refine and hone our skills, and back to training local leaders and workers in Spain. Prayer Point—please pray for teachable spirits, for open-minds and for a willingness to learn.
Back to Escuela Dominical (Sunday School) - We started the new Sunday School year this past weekend. Billy and I are the Directors of the Sunday School program at the church here. This year brings lots of changes to the program. Changes in teachers and placement, changes in curriculum, changes in classes and age-levels. Prayer Point—please pray that our teachers develop in to a team, pray that changes are embraced and pray that growth occurs in both the teachers and in the students.
Back to Study Groups—September brings new beginnings to the study groups and cell groups and home fellowship groups. Sunday was the beginning of the new study year for the Café con Jesus inductive study group that meets before church each Sunday morning. We had a full group last week! Pray for this group to continue to be a risk-fee environment where everyone feels open and vulnerable, yet safe… safe to bring important biblical questions and arguments to the table and have real discussion with others. A praise point and a prayer point here is that the pastor believes that they way to foster real growth and real change in the church and in the community is to have MORE groups like the Café con Jesus group! More opportunities for people to come together for authentic discussion and learning.
Another group that has started back up is our home fellowship group in Campillos (the small pueblo where we have an outreach about 40 minutes from here). We have two homes that are open for fellowship groups there, but normally we only have a small handful of people who are regular attendees. Today, we had 14 in the group! And 8 of those were new! Prayer point—please keep this fellowship group in your prayers, pray for the 2 homes that are open to holding meetings, pray for the 8 newcomers to the group, and pray for bonds and relationships and real community to begin to grow among these new believers. Pray for Pastor Miguel and Billy and I as we work to disciple this fellowship.
Back to Leadership—Our Leadership team is back together again, too. This summer was a time of furlough for part of our team, as they went back to Puerto Rico to reconnect with churches and family and friends. We stepped back during that time so that we could devote time to hosting other workers and doing debriefing, counseling, and coaching work. Now we are all back in the saddle and we have hit the ground running. Leadership meetings, strategy and planning are all in full swing. We will also be back to our weekly time of inductive study starting next week. Prayer point—please pray for this team as we work together. Pray for us to continue to be a beautiful example of Kingdom work, being an international team made up of different cultures and ages and backgrounds. Pray for us to continue to grow as leaders and to be teachable and flexible.
Back to Greece— October will send us back to Greece to work with refugees on the island of Lesbos. As of right now, we will be working in the Kara Tepe camp. Two friends from the USA will be joining our team this time, as will one Spaniard (from our Café con Jesus group). Prayer point—please pray for our travel to Greece, please pray for us to be good servants and to be ready, willing, and able to do anything and everything that is needed while we are there. Pray especially for Cristobal, our Spanish friend who will be joining us. He has answered the call to serve and is stepping out in faith and obedience, but he is terrified. Going out and serving in this way is not the norm for the Spanish church, and Cristobal is the only one to respond and go. This could be a big growth point for him (and for the Church) and we are waiting and watching with great expectation for what God is going to do in and through Cristobal on this trip. And, of course, pray for the refugee situation, for peace within the camps, for joy even in times of waiting and uncertainty.
URGENT UPDATE - Last night (Sept. 19th), a fire destroyed the Moria camp on Lesbos island. The NGO that we work with was spared - this is a miracle since every tent and every NGO around them was burned to the ground. Thousands of refugees are without shelter or services today. But, thanks to God, they still have NGO REMAR to feed them and be there alongside them this morning! Pray for this very difficult situation, and for the relief workers who are there to care for others in the wake of even more heartbreak and dispair. Pray that they continue to be a Light in the days ahead.
Below are my video updates from my work in the Moria refugee camp on Lesbos Island, Greece.
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 witnesses (CCWs) with The Mission Society. For five years, we served in three rural Quechua Wanca villages in the Andes of Peru. And when I say rural, I mean RURAL - like no potty! We have three incredible children... two adult boys who live in Texas, and the princess Sarah (12) lives with us in whatever country we are serving. I'm still teaching, still taking photos, still leading mission teams and working with interns, I just do it all in full-time mission service now! And I'm working hard at giving Southern Living and Martha Stewart a run for their money! I spent my days in Peru learning to live a Quechua lifestyle in a rustic adobe house - cooking Peruvian foods, sewing with Quechua women, raising my chickens and goats and pigs, and planting my gardens. Now I live my life in el campo in Spain, serving other cross-cultural workers and immigrant peoples, writing, and trying to figure out what life looks like for a Texas girl serving Christ in Southern Europe. Life in His service is AWESOME! I'm happy to share it with you here... Enjoy!