Pepi is one of our La Mesa Turquesa volunteers. One day, while walking her grandson to school, she walked past our front window and looked in. She saw people inside and got curious. So, after dropping off her grandson, she came back and asked what we were doing. We explained that La Mesa Turquesa is a community center and that we help people connect to their community, especially people who are new to Antequera (immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers) – people who need friends and need to learn about the language and culture so they can find a way to fit in. She began to get teary-eyed and told us her story:
Pepi has Spanish grandparents and parents, but she lived in Germany for many years as a child. Those years in Spain were hard due to Franco’s government, so many people fled to other European countries. She remembers how difficult it was to be an immigrant in Germany, how alone she felt. Then her family moved back to Spain and she experienced the struggle all over again. Struggling with language, trying to fit in, trying to make friends. She said, “I wish there had been a place like this when I was trying to find my way in a new community.”
She signed up to be a volunteer right away.
Pepi is our energizer bunny volunteer! She is at La Mesa Turquesa every day. She shows up before the door is even open. She comes to all of our workshops and volunteer training opportunities. She is now a trained language helper and she helps teach Spanish to new arrivals. Her current class has people from Russia, Hungary, Pakistan, Georgia, Morocco, to name a few. She also participates as a student in our English Conversation Groups, and she occasionally throws in a free German class here and there. She has a good heart and is eager to serve others. And she is the class clown! Pepi is our constant source of jokes and laughter… she is sunshine at our table.
Pepi found a purpose in La Mesa Turquesa. Before volunteering with us, she would drop her grandson off at school and then go home and sit alone and wait out the hours until she went to pick him up again. She openly admits to struggling with loneliness and depression, and she suffered with anxiety when she sat around and let her mind dwell on all the difficult things in life. Now, she has friends from different nations who surround her in love and empathy. She has a reason to get out of the house. She has people to share her life with. It is good to see how the love of God is there to comfort her through the love of those around her. The very community that Pepi was seeking to reach out and help has, in turn, become her help and her community. Together, they find healing and acceptance and the true meaning of "love your neighbor".
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!