If you have been following us or reading our articles for long, you know how difficult it is for me to describe what we do. There isn't just one tidy little answer. Well, I guess there actually is... Love. Love is what we do. But that seldom hits the spot and satisfies the person asking the question. They want to hear exactly what we do. And that is an answer that is almost as complex as the human mind can be! Because, truly, I wear many hats and do many things - just as I have many feelings and emotions and thoughts and dreams, there are also many, many ways that I act out the "love one another" mandate on my life.
Lately, I have been doing a lot of caring. Specifically, caring for others as they retreat. Last month, we hosted a retreat for cross-cultural workers from The Mission Society who came down to Spain to spend a week reflecting together, dreaming together, laughing, and even crying together. It was a time for people to rest and to refresh and to talk face-to-face with others who love them and care for them.
Sometimes, retreat looks like a couple or a family coming to our home to spend time in debrief, in deep counseling and coaching, and in a period or recouping and refreshing and gathering new strength to go back in to service again.
Last week, I had the awesome privilege of being a counselor and coach with a small team of missionary women who hosted a retreat for our peers... specifically, our Latina peers. Woman from Central and South America who are missionaries serving in Spain and in North Africa. We hosted 36 women from Mexico, Guatemala, Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Puerto Rico. Women who have been sent out as missionaries to work in tough situations. Eighteen of them are working in North Africa in Muslim contexts. The other 18 are working in Spain - some in Muslim contexts and some in other difficult situations.
I cannot give you specifics due to the sensitive nature and security issues that these women face on a daily basis. They will remain nameless and without identifying details in this writing. But they will NEVER be nameless or faceless in my heart! I will forever be honored to be in the company of my Latina peers.
I will forever be humbled by my friend who has been working in a North African Muslim context country for 14 years on a funding budget of $350 per month. After fourteen years of service and love for the people of XXX country, she is being called off the field and in to retirement by her agency. She is heartbroken. She does not want to go home. She does not want to leave the people she loves in XXX. Her extreme sadness at leaving the relationships she has built speaks volumes about the depth of her heart - about the depth of Jesus' heart. We shed many tears together.
I will forever be touched by the testimonies of women who struggle daily with finding means to do their work for lack of funding and lack of attention or care from their home countries or churches or agencies. One woman said,
"They send us some money to do the job. Then they call us to get a report on what their money did or how we used their money. But no one ever asks, 'How are YOU doing? How do you feel? We are thinking of you.' This retreat is a blessing to me, because some other missionaries and a couple of women from the United States actually thought about ME! They thought about taking care of me and blessing me and really serving me. I can't believe it! No one from back home even does that."
I had the privilege of listening to women who work with human trafficking, who nightly go out to listen to women who are working as sex slaves. Women who have a heart for women and youth and even children who have been sold or tricked in to a life of sex and drugs and smuggling. The lives of these mission worker friends is amazingly delicate as they always work to stay one step ahead of pimps and mafia and drug lords, all for the sake of loving people who are being trafficked and need someone who loves them enough to be there every night with a hot coffee and a smile and a listening ear and maybe a clean pair of clothes for today. This work takes it's toll of missionaries and humanitarian workers. Part of their soul is always in turmoil as they are weighted down with the stories of others. What an honor it is to be given the privilege of sharing in that story and carrying that burden with them for a while.
I am so honored to have been able to be available. To be able to serve and to offer my counseling and coaching skills in this way to these women. To be a friend and to be a shoulder to cry on. To be there when someone needs a good long hug. To be a listening ear when someone needs to say all of the things that they can't ever say in their country or area-of-service because it is dangerous or forbidden. To listen when someone doubts whether they have the strength to continue. To shoulder their sobs when the weight is too much. What a privilege.
This is a part of what I do.
Who am I? In my USA life, I was a teacher in Texas 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 Sarah (14) 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 small town 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!