One of the ways we minister in Spain is serving in youth ministry. One role that we did not anticipate when we came to Spain was that of Youth Ministry. One afternoon, while sitting in the garden at the church with the pastor, he approached us with the request of leading the youth Sunday school class for a short period… 3 months. He needed to give the current teacher a break (the teacher had been in the role for several years with no break) and asked us to step in for a bit. I’ll be honest—my initial gut response was fear and trembling. The idea of teaching teens was a bit equivalent to Daniel in the lion’s den… I just kept thinking about how they would eat me alive! But the poor pastor was a little desperate for a sub for those 3 months and we have a hard time saying no or letting others down (basically, we were sitting ducks and he knew it), so we decided that we could do anything for just 3 months. There was an endpoint and we would have an ‘out’, so we said okay.
Well, here we are, 2+ years later… still teaching the youth class and now serving on the youth leadership team… and loving every minute of it!!! The previous teacher did not want his job back, and by that time, we were smitten with these awesome kids! So, we stayed in the position.
Youth Sunday school mostly looks like a group inductive bible study / disciple group. These kids are smart and driven and eager to learn! They are willing to wrestle with Scripture and with ideas and with each other’s opinions. They go deep… often deeper than we expect. They are growing every week. They are amazing! This past Sunday, we started a discipleship study series with them (Life Transformation Studies). During the first session, they made connections and new discoveries like never before. One student shouted out, “Wait! Stop! I can’t handle this. My head is exploding!” Another said, “I’ve learned more today from the bible than I have ever learned in all my years of Religion class! (Religion classes are mandatory in school here.) I always feel like I don’t know how to respond or argue my point in class. I can’t wait till the next time I get to say something! This is amazing! This stuff about Jesus and God and then Adam and humanity… What?! This is awesome!” Then, to top it all off, an adult came to us after class and asked if we would please personally help them to study the bible like that.
Mind blown!!! Guess youth ministry might have been a good thing after all.
We also serve on a youth leadership team with other CCWs Axel and Delilah (Puerto Ricans), and with a college student (Ana –Spaniard) who is passionate about youth ministry. Axel and Delilah lead ‘youth group’ while we are responsible for youth Sunday school. Axel and Delilah are in their 30s and are younger and more gifted than us in many ways!!! Ana keeps us all straight, giving us the Spanish perspective and making sure we are culturally appropriate, as well as giving us the youthful insight of a twenty year old! She is ‘youth leadership in training’, an intern of sorts...an indespensable part of the team. Priceless. A real gem!
Our youth are diverse, to say the least!!! We have many Third-Culture Kids (TCKs). These kids come from Brazil and Nicaragua, Spain and Argentina and the USA. One has a parent from Ukrania, another has a parent from Canada. Three of them are missionary kids who consider themselves to be from several places and not defined by any one place… including Sarah from Texas / Costa Rica / Peru / Spain, another who has lived in Argentina / Peru / USA / Spain, and another who has lived in Mauritania / USA / Canada / Spain. So, to say that these kids make up an incredible mix of cultures and worldviews is an understatement!
This month, the team hosted an overnight youth retreat. The kids were so excited and we had great plans for teambuilding/community building games, debriefs, bible studies, and creativity activities. A crazy weather pattern caused us to scramble for Plan B on several outdoor activities and re-arrange a few things for indoors, but the rains did let up long enough for a midnight campfire and marshmallow roasting.
To say that the retreat was a success would also be an understatement. It far surpassed our expectations! The kids were fantastic! They dug deep when it was time to debrief the community building games. They mined Truth from the bible study times that we never expected them to reach. They self-instigated times of prayer for each other. They played hard, studied hard, and loved deeply.
Because these kids are so diverse and come from a variety of backgrounds, and because many of them are TCKs, they relate to each other in very special ways. During one session in particular, several opened up about how much they missed family members in other parts of the world and about issues in school, at home, and about being in a different culture / language. Impromptu prayers for each other broke out and tears flowed. Youth hugged each other and talked about how much they understood each other and how much they, too, miss their family members or struggle with home issues or school things. It was really beautiful and special. (Okay… I was a little choked up, too!) I think that Billy and I, and Axel and Delilah are in this role for exactly this reason… we ‘get it’. We get what it’s like to leave home, to be immigrants, to leave family behind and to grieve that loss. We understand what it is like to be working and studying in a new culture, a different language, and a completely different set of norms and values. We understand families that are under special pressures as immigrants. It’s hard. It takes work. It is stressful. And we can relate.
The theme of the retreat was No estas sol@ (You are not alone). The kids latched on to it and are now using it in everything they do. We are a family - a new kind of family, a community, a team. It’s fun to hear them remind each other, “No estas solo!”
We’re moving forward with these youth. We continue with Sunday school and bible study time. We will be having a youth event on May 27th with some out-of-town youth ministry folks coming in. There is a region-wide youth event on May 28th in Malaga that many of the youth will also be attending. In June, we will have a youth pool party, as well as we will be having Youth Sunday in our church (pray for this!). A handful of students have bubbled up to the top and want to go deeper and begin some leadership training and mentoring. It’s a lot of fun to watch these kids rise up and get excited and motivated to move forward!
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!