from Billy Drum, Romania/Ukraine
We’ve come to visit a house where our partners are housing Ukrainian refugees. In this modest 3 bedroom, 1 bath house, there is a strange juxtaposition of both joy and shock. Even under the difficult circumstances, a culture of hospitality still reigns and we are invited to come in and have a cup of tea. While adults are in various states of emotions, there are several children playing happily around us. A couple of the children have used the small kitchen table to make a blanket fort and I’m struck by the fact that some things are the same in every culture.
There are three families sharing this home that is being provided by All4Aid. It is one of several housing aid projects that the organization is providing here in Romania. Three families are sharing one kitchen and one bathroom. Three entire families in a three-bedroom house with only 4 chairs at the kitchen table, but it doesn’t seem to be a problem for anyone. I am not sure how many people make up these three families. There are people everywhere, various generations, and some have stayed back in the bedrooms and not come out. Sometimes grief requires solitude.
One of the adults says, “It is good to have a place, to have somewhere safe to stay. It is good. But it is also hard sometimes. There are a lot of us in one house (laughing). But we are safe and we have food and clothing. So it is good.”
All4Aid and their volunteers are providing for the needs of the people in this house and others like it. Through donations, they provide the housing, food, clothing, and other basic necessities.
“We have food. We have shelter. We’re good”, says one of the elder men, a grandfather to some of the little girls.
“Bombs were falling everywhere. Bombs destroyed our city. We had no choice. We had to leave.”
“We want to return, to go home. We will wait here until that is possible”, says another.
One of the younger men has a disability – a back problem – and could not stay behind to fight. “I just want to work. I want to be useful again. I need to find a way to do something.”
One of the women in the house is an accountant. She is able to continue working remotely. The business that she supports in Kyiv is trying to keep doing business. She works on a laptop that she shares with another one of her housemates.
The communication in the room is a mix of Russian and English. A cross-cultural worker who has been serving in Ukraine for many years is here with us and is helping us by translating and giving us cultural guidance. This work would not be impossible without her training, experience, and assistance. One of the older teen girls has absolutely beautiful, perfect English. Between all of us, we are able to communicate well.
The eldest gentleman says to me, “I am too old to learn English, so you need to learn Russian so we can talk more!” A moment of laughter as we visit and drink tea.
I am here on a two-fold mission. I’ve come to give help to our partners at All4Aid in whatever capacity I can. Yesterday, that looked like laying flooring and hanging cabinets and doing other renovations in a building that will soon house more refugee families. It also looked like visiting with a local pastor about his work and what his current needs are. I looks like driving a frightened young woman to the airport to board a flight to safety in another European country as she escapes the war. She takes with her only a suitcase and her violin (she was in the orchestra). Later this week, it will look like driving a vanload of vital supplies into Ukraine to hand them off to Ukrainian pastors who have stayed behind to serve their people. We will be filling the lists they have sent to us, things that they cannot get because their supplies are now depleted. Oil, flour, pain medications, and other items. We will fill the van and cross the border alongside Red Cross trucks and other humanitarian aid and deliver to our contacts on the Ukraine side.
My other focus during this trip is to give care to refugees and refugee workers. Listen to their stories. Help them process trauma and grief. Sit with them, let them talk, hear the cry of their hearts. As I sit with these families, I’m realizing the importance of care in the waiting, care during this time of limbo. No one knows how long this war will last. No one knows how long they will be away from their country. No one knows what next week or next month or even next year will hold. And that alone causes a special kind of stress and tension and unrest. The stress and fear of the unknown is a heavy weight. For refugee workers, the weight of carrying the stories of others can break you. It is vital that they, too, are receiving care, a listening ear, encouragement, and rest.
The losses have been great already. Loss of home and country, loss of jobs and schools and friends. Loss of everything ‘normal’. Those are the obvious and the big losses. But some losses are less obvious. One of the teen girls lost her birthday – it occurred as the family ran from bombs and was in the frantic middle of an escape. Forever, she will remember her birthday as the day the bombs fell on her town and they ran for their lives. This is how trauma embeds itself in the brain. It latches on to memories and holds on tight.
It is difficult to stay present, to stay in the moment and not think of my own family and my own circumstances. While I live far from my homeland, it was a choice I made, and I always know that I can return. That is not so for these families. They live in the unknown. When will they be able to go home? What will they find when they do return? Life will never be the same again. I have to consciously bring myself back to a ministry of presence and stay out of my head while I’m with them. I can process and debrief later with others who can help me work through all that I’m seeing and hearing and holding in my heart.
While the adults are talking and the children are playing and we are enjoying tea, a cell phone rings. It is a video call from the husband and father of one families staying in the house. He is still in Ukraine, fighting the war. The wife talks to him for a bit, then the little girls go and talk to their father. And the mood of the house completely changes. The joy and laughter and playfulness is suddenly replaced as the girls become withdrawn and somber. “They don’t know how to handle their own emotions,” someone says. “They don’t know what to do with how they feel.” And in a matter of moments, minds shift back to the war, to home, to loved ones left behind.
If you would like to give to help us help Ukrainian refugees, please go to our special project account at
Nueva Vida Mosaico on the TMS Global giving page.
Wanted to give you a really quick rundown on what's going on and how we are working to help:
Everything changes. It's the one thing that we can count on. Change. We train new cross-cultural workers to hold their projects and plans lightly, because moving with the ebb and flow of the needs of the culture and context is part of the work. If we are to be relevant in our communities, we have to be attentive to the Holy Spirit and be prepared to adapt.
La Mesa Turquesa is changing. Over the past two years, almost everything about the situation and our world has changed. The refugee situation is different in our town. Covid has forced many adaptations and pivots. We have lost teammates and volunteers and have been running with a dramatically reduced workforce. Our vision has stayed the same, but the needs of our community have shifted. And now, we have made the hard decision to close our doors and start a different project. Today is the day that we shut the doors and say goodbye to this chapter of our lives and work.
If you have been with us throughout our entire cross-cultural worker journey, this is nothing new. Our projects and plans have had to shift and change several times over the years. But the vision has always been the same - it just takes on a different form according to the needs of our community and context.
La Mesa Turquesa has been a truly wonderful project! That's why this decision was so difficult and carries with it a sense of grief and loss. As we have gotten the word out about the closure, we have had some really sweet conversations and comments from people in the community.
"We thank you for so much dedication, love, humility, and for your example.....We have felt wrapped in love and included, understood and important. May God repay you. Much prosperity and luck in your new paths and projects, because where there is that eagerness and will, there is no barrier that can oppose you. THANK YOU SO MUCH." (one of our neighbors and constant user of La Mesa)
Words like these are confirmation for us and reaffirm that our values and our love was lived out in this project. If La Mesa Turquesa existed for no other reason than to make people feel "wrapped in love and included, understood, and important," then it was enough.
Now, we move forward. When one door closes, another opens. Our team already has several new opportunities and new doors and we are truly excited. So, while this day is bittersweet for us and it carries a certain amount of sadness and grief, it is also exciting. Our team is now available to work in the community even more. Our schedules are opened up and we can be out with people even more than before. We are already partnering with other community projects and we can now come alongside those people and projects in deeper and more meaningful ways.
One of our most exciting new projects will begin next week. Stay tuned to hear and see more from our amazing storytelling project ¿Quién es mi vecino?
This project is all about stories - the stories of our neighbors and their unique paths. They are stories of diversity and inclusion, stories of struggle and redemption, stories that make our neighbors come alive. We'll be posting all of our stories and photos in our team's Facebook and Instagram sites, so you need to go follow us to stay on top of this new project!!! Go to Nueva Vida Mosaico on Facebook and Instagram. We will start posting on Monday, Jan. 31, and you aren't going to want to miss a single word!!!! These stories are GOLD!
And, if you read this far, then I think you deserve a little treat... for a sneak peek at some upcoming content, go check out the blog at NUEVA VIDA MOSAICO - Proyecto ¿Quién es mi vecino? The English version of each story follows the Spanish, so find the language you want to read and ENJOY!
We celebrated Thanksgiving last week. It’s our 15th Thanksgiving as cross-cultural workers. While Thanksgiving is a decidedly American holiday, we continue to celebrate it wherever we are. It is part of our customs and traditions, something that carries memories for us and transmits part of our culture to our daughter and to those around us.
This year, we held a Thanksgiving meal at La Mesa Turquesa. We fixed our traditional foods: Billy made a turkey, I made cornbread dressing and sweet potato casserole, our teammates made green bean casserole and pie. Then we invited neighbors and friends and all the people who come to La Mesa to bring a dish that is typical in their family and share at the Thanksgiving table.
After we all ate and laughed and talked around the big turquoise table in our center, I shared that it is customary at Thanksgiving to spend some time giving thanks around the table for the past year - what are you grateful for in your life this year?
We each took our turn, sharing the blessings from the past year and what we are thankful for. Health, family, food on the table, jobs, and more were discussed. One of our volunteers who just started helping teach Spanish lessons at La Mesa in the past few months said that she was so thankful that she had this “job” at La Mesa. She said it makes her feel valued and like she has something to contribute. (I almost started crying at this point.) She said that she loves coming and helping the students—the immigrants and refugees and asylum seekers who come to learn language and culture and find community in our center. Her husband said he has become her assistant at home, helping her prepare language lessons and materials and taking care of things at the house while she works on her plans for the classes. She prided herself in having lessons planned out three weeks in advance. She was beaming! I love this because I have known this woman for 8 years now and I have never seen her have so much enthusiasm and excitement about something. It is obvious that she has found purpose in her volunteer work at La Mesa.
As we continued around the table with more thanks for families and health and provision, we came to one of our refugee students. *Asha talked about being thankful for the opportunity to study and go to school. She talked about having a place to live. And then she talked about being thankful for the team at La Mesa and all that they have done for her. Especially for her birthday.
A month ago, *Asha and her twin sister came to language class like they do every day. During the regular greetings and warm-up, it came out that it was their 17th birthday. The class got very excited and began singing and congratulating them, but the girls immediately became very sad and broke down crying. They live in a house for unaccompanied minors who are in the refugee system. Life with other 13-17 year old refugee children in one house with a Spanish guardian is difficult, at best. That morning, the twins had blown up some balloons for themselves to celebrate their birthday. But, some of the other teens made fun of them and popped the balloons and said hurtful things. So here they were, far from home, no family but each other, no one to celebrate with, and crying their eyes out on their birthday.
Our teammate, Kat, sprung in to action and ran to the bakery. She quickly bought cupcakes and ran back to the center to throw an impromptu birthday party. Everyone in class hugged the girls and said encouraging words and blessed their day. That night, one of the students went home and made handmade earrings for both of them and brought the gifts to the girls the following day. This is what our little community center is doing! We are becoming family to people who have none. We are building caring community for people who have lost everything. We are living out what it means to “love your neighbor”. We’re trying to be a light in the darkness.
Holidays are never easy when you are far from home. Far from loved ones, far from traditional foods and customs and family happenings. Over the years, it hasn’t gotten easier for us to be far away during the holidays. And for our newest neighbors who find themselves far from home this year for various reasons… war, famine, poverty, political asylum, etc… it is even more difficult to find anything to be thankful for or to celebrate.
As neighbors and friends, that’s where we can step in and bridge the gap. That’s where we can come alongside and lift up our new friends. The holidays are hard. Thanksgiving and Christmas and birthdays and the new year… those all carry customs and traditions and family connections that make it a really rough season for those who are far from home. It can be a dark time.
As you reflect on your own family traditions and celebrations and your own gratitude about his year, please remember those who are far from anything familiar and lift up prayers for them. Then go a step further and reach out to them - invite them over or take them a meal, share a cup of coffee or bake an extra pie or pumpkin bread or another dozen cookies to take to them. How can you be a light in the darkness? How can you “love your neighbor” - your immigrant neighbor, your refugee neighbor, the lonely neighbor, the neighbor who has lost everything this year?
We are thankful for you and for your support of the work we do for refugees and immigrants and asylum seekers. Because of you, Maricarmen has found renewed purpose and calling and feels valued as a volunteer teacher. Because of you, *Asha and *Bhama were not alone for their 17th birthday. Because of you, Billy is able to serve on the leadership team for the Refugee Highway Partnership - a Christian organization that empowers cross-cultural workers and ministries to give help and hope to refugees in Europe. Because of you, global ministry leaders and humanitarian workers are being specially trained and cared for so they can care for others and extend the love of Christ to their new neighbors.
Thank you for loving your neighbors well… at home AND all around the globe!
All those celebrations (see previous blog post) make it sound like life is all hunky dory, huh? Well, I don't want you to think that everything is coming up roses. Yes, we are extremely grateful for many things in our life and work right now and we want to give praise for those. But we also have situations and circumstances that are hard and that we are struggling through. Please join us in praying through these:
What do a wedding, a dissertation, an anniversary, and a job have in common?
They are all celebrations we have enjoyed in the past few weeks!!! Those and more!
At the beginning of September, we were honored to participate in the Spain wedding of Nathaniel Foster (son of Judy and Tim Foster, College Station, TX) as he married his lovely bride, Ana. Nate and Ana are both serving in the United States Navy and are stationed in Rota, Spain. They contacted Billy to see if he could officiate their wedding in Spain. With a marriage certificate flown in from the Brazos Valley and a wedding celebration comprised almost entirely of naval officers and shipmates, we celebrated a beautiful wedding at sundown in the Spanish countryside outside of Ronda. We were so blessed to be a part of their big day, and to see Tim and Judy, Dottie and Nathaniel, and several other Brazos Valley folks who traveled to Spain for the occasion!
September 20 was a big day in the Drum household - it was the day that Billy finally hit "SEND" on the final copy of his dissertation!!! Trust me, the entire family and our Spain team breathed a huge sigh of relief as the final words were written and final touches were placed on that baby! It has been several years in the making, but it's now complete! His research was titled "Burnout Among Cross-Cultural Workers: An Analysis of Systemic Issues that Lead to Burnout Within Medium-Sized American Mission Organizations". Everybody, all together now, breathe and smile... *sigh* :)
In June, we celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary. Our intention was to take a special vacation cruise in September to celebrate (we did the same thing for our 25th). However, thanks to Covid and travel issues and crazy port restrictions for cruise ships, our anniversary trip was cancelled. Boo!!! But we did go ahead and take a few days after Billy's dissertation was turned in and go up to Belgium to meet up with friends Ron and Amanda Phillips (formerly College Station, now living in Austin) for a short break and retreat. Not just anyone will fly across the ocean to celebrate with you! Ron and Amanda are troopers and we loved getting to spend a few days together wandering around with absolutely zero schedule. It was marvelous!
While we were in Belgium, Billy received an email with an awesome opportunity. He was asked to be on the Refugee Highway Partnership leadership team and to help develop a care program for cross-cultural workers who serve in refugee camps and outreaches throughout Europe. The timing was awesome (just after his dissertation was complete) and this fits perfectly with his strengths and gifts and his vision for building up care and training for CCWs. He now has his hands full! Developing a comprehensive care program for hundreds of CCWs working with refugees, plus working to build up La Posada Training and Care in Spain, plus leading the team in Antequera... he has plenty on his plate!
Our other big celebration revolves around Sarah. She completed her certification for Equine Sports Tech (trainer/coach specializing in equine Olympic Disciplines). In September, the center hired her to work as a trainer and coach in their riding school. She is working hard 6 days a week, training people from 4 years old through 50+. And because of her level of certification, she is also now working with a local physical therapist and together they are offering Equine Assisted Therapy for people with a variety of special needs (physical and emotional). Somewhere, in her non-work hours, she continues training her newest competition horse and they made their debut in the show jumping ring at the end of September. Watch out, World... this kid is on FIRE! PS - Sarah turns 18 this month!!!!!
Just a little taste of what we've been up to this summer and how we're working to reach far and wide...
All travel plans are tough right now. Spain (Europe as a whole) is slow on the vaccine rollout, travel restrictions are still in play, but we are moving forward with our plans with hope and faith to come see friends and family this summer!
· First stop, June 25-July 17: we will be in North Carolina leading a three-week training program (see page 1-2).
· Upon completion of the training program, we will hop on a plane and head to Colorado to spend a week seeing Laurie's mom, Pat Goins - Colorado Springs, and Ryan and Sara - now living in Denver.
· Stop #3 is Dallas to catch up with Billy's mom (Sherilyn), grandmother, and his sisters and families, and a visit to Laurie's siblings.
· Stop #4 is down to Bryan/College Station for a week to see Miles (son) and Lily (grandbaby) and our friends, partners, and churches in the Brazos Valley.
It's a crazy travel schedule! As our families spread out across the map, our visits also spread out. Looking forward to seeing everyone and having a meal and some good conversations and laughs!!! More details as we get closer to arrival... we'll let you know when and where we will be for meet-ups.
PRAISE! Spain has been speeding up the vaccine rollout this month and we were able to get our vaccines before we travel!
Pray for us to stay healthy until our travel, and to test negative for our PCR tests pre-flight.
For those who can be in the Bryan/College Station area on August 1st, SAVE THE DATE! We will be hosting an Ice Cream Social on that day (see below) and we want to see YOU! Our support team in Texas is currently working out the location details, but the date and time are set. We want to see you, hug you (hopefully!), tell stories, and enjoy some good ol' Texas Blue Bell! Save the date!!!
What do you think of when you think of the work that we do? When you think about Laurie and Billy Drum, do you think of the work we do in Spain? Do you think of La Mesa Turquesa and the work we do with immigrant populations, with refugees, with teaching Spanish and English, etc? While all of that is true, it is just a piece of the larger picture.
At the end of June, we will be leading TMS Global’s yearly flagship training event. Laurie is the Director of Training and Formation for TMS Global and this has been her major focus of work for the past few months. For three weeks (June 25-July 17th), we will be working with a group of expert facilitators to train our newest group of cross-cultural workers. This training is 90+ hours of curriculum designed to prepare global workers for their fields.
This training event is intense! Laurie has put together a facilitator team of 11 experts. The entirety of our training team is composed of facilitators who have lived overseas and have served as cross-cultural witnesses themselves. We have a combined experience of more than 175 years of cross-cultural service and ministry. Our most ’rookie’ facilitator has 7 years of cross-cultural experience, while our most experienced have 25+ years. Our trainers have lived and served in Latin America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.
Billy joins the facilitator team to teach sessions on valuable member care topics. “Community, Connection, and Care”, “Theology of Risk”, “Theology of Suffering”, and “Conflict Management and Resolution” are some of the sessions he leads. He also comes alongside the TMS Global Member Care department as a counselor and coach during this intensive training event, to help our newest workers as they plan and work through their transitions to their respective fields.
This training event is designed to train not only TMS Global cross-cultural workers (CCWs), but also other local believers who seek to be more fruitful in cross-cultural ministry among their own people. This is an intense, multi-week training event that bring together missiology, skills training, and experiential learning - all while learning with and from our multicultural peers. Training topics include Bible storying, bonding and becoming bicultural, discipleship, Inductive Bible Study, prayer, the lifestyle of a CCW, and much more.
Our curriculum scope and sequence includes four main training threads:
Spiritual Formation (24 training hours)
Joining Jesus Cross-Culturally / Cross-cultural ministry skills (27 training hours)
Member Care (12 training hours)
Language Acquisition Skills (18 training hours)
All of our training sessions are highly interactive and put and emphasis on active engagement, lively discussion and debate, and real-life situations and case studies.
Outside of our four core threads, we include several hours of experiential training activities designed to help cross-cultural workers learn through activity and through specific assignments that push students to work through issues and problems that they will encounter in their fields of work.
We also run a special training program concurrently for the children of our cross-cultural workers. Our TCK program (third-culture kids) is designed to help our youngest family members be well prepared for life in another culture. We have dedicated trainers and caregivers who specialize in the unique issues that effect cross-cultural worker families who are raising children outside of their passport country. The TCK curriculum mirrors many of the same topics that are being taught for the adults, but in age-appropriate ways. Additionally, children of cross-cultural workers have very unique needs and, therefore, have a very unique curriculum tailored to their well-being, growth, and development.
In 2021, we have 23 cross-cultural workers preparing for launch. They have been working through the initial phases of their training and preparation and are ready for this last step in preparation before launching in the Fall/Winter. These workers will be serving in a total of 13 different countries. In addition, some of these trainees have influence and reach to more than one country due to strategic partnerships. Via this training program, we will be equipping workers to go and have influence and outreach in India, Albania, Spain, Colombia, Peru, Jordan, USA, Kenya, Ghana, Egypt, Thailand, Kosovo, Germany, and more! These cross-cultural workers will be serving in a variety of roles and ministries as they join teams and local workers in their fields of service: outdoor education, leadership training, outreach to teens and young adults, university ministry, teaching in local schools, training local teachers, refugee ministry, English teaching, discipleship, prison ministry, diaspora outreach, racial reconciliation, church planting, and ethnomusicology, to name a few.
YOU are a part of this amazing training event! Thank you for your constant support of us and our work as we not only reach the people of Spain and our neighbors, but as we work to prepare the newest generation of cross-cultural workers to go forth and reach the nations!
She did it! Sarah finished her coursework! She is a certified Equine Sports Technician in Spain! She can now train both horses and riders in Equine Olympic Disciplines. We are so proud of her for this epic achievement! Normally, this would have been a full two year program to reach this level, but Sarah chose to enroll in the intensive program, which means that she did it in one year by taking double the hours and double class time.
What’s next… Now she returns to our hometown and her home equestrian center to complete 210 hours of practicum (think ‘internship’ or ‘student teaching’). During that time, she will be helping the center to host an Andalucia Territorial Show Jumping competition, a Classic Dressage Territorial competition, and a Spanish National Classic Dressage Competition. It will be valuable experience.
In the coming two years, she will work toward the highest certification - Superior Grade Equine Sports Technician. She will be able to complete that while staying closer to home and remaining at her home equine center.
She is also coming back to the competition ring herself! After a year away from competition to concentrate on her studies, she is super excited to get back in the ring (and on the podium!). She comes home to a thriving equestrian team that is excited to welcome her back.
Join us in congratulating Sarah on a job well-done and wishing her well in her return to competition and her future as a Equine Sport Technician! We are so proud of her and all that she has accomplished to graduate from the prestigious CAVA center with this certification.
In my USA life, I was a teacher in Texas for 15 years. I was also a professional photographer, a soccer mom, a horsewoman, and the neighborhood hospitality queen. I did "Joanna Gaines farmhouse style" before Chip and JoJo were even a thing - we restored an 1884 Victorian farmhouse in small town Texas and did shiplap walls until I thought I'd go crazy. I taught at NASA, scuba dived with astronauts in training, and studied animals at Sea World for educational purposes. I've tried just about everything, because I have an insatiable need to know if I can do it! Never underestimate a Texas girl in cowboy boots!
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! 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 via teaching and training and care, and helping displaced people to navigate their new reality in Europe.
I'm passionate about fostering personal growth, growth in community, and growth in The Kingdom. Walking alongside others and helping them to use their unique design, their gifts and strengths and maximize their abilities to fulfill their God-given purpose - that's what makes my heart sing!