You may recall that for the past few years, we have participated in an international group of global workers called The Refugee Highway Partnership.
The Refugee Highway Partnership is a network of Christ-followers who share a common passion to see the Church minister amongst those who have been forcibly displaced – including the refugees and asylum seekers who arrive in Europe.
As a Christian network, The Refugee Highway Partnership seeks to connect and mobilize leaders, churches and organizations to effectively engage with refugees.
The Refugee Highway name comes from the well-worn paths around the world that refugees travel upon; water and land routes leading to safety and the simple hope for a normal life. These paths make up the refugee highway. Like any highway, there are entry ramps, crossroads, roundabouts and exits.
Every continent on the globe finds itself connected to this winding network of roads. For many refugees and asylum seekers, the final destination will be Europe.
The people who work to serve in this way need special training and benefit from special outreach and conferences aimed at equipping them for the specific tasks involved in caring for refugees and asylum seekers, people who have lived through (and are still living in) various forms of trauma and crisis. It is emotionally taxing work.
In January, the Refugee Highway Partnership - Europe leaders reached out to Billy and requested that he lead a seminar on self-care that is specifically aimed at global workers who deal with these situations on a daily basis. The issue is compounded by the fact that workers now find themselves not only dealing with the stresses and strains of refugee work, but also with the ever-present issues of Covid restrictions and constant exposure to a very transient population that is under-protected and has very few resources for health care.
(*side note* The idea of self-care that Billy is teaching is NOT about bubble baths and spa days and flavored coffees. Those things are all nice, and the word 'self-care' has evolved in some sectors to be defined as that, but that form of care will not lead to resilience and keeping global workers holistically healthy for their work. Billy's teaching touches on a four -fold method of caring for ourselves physically, mentally, relationally, and spiritually.)
Billy put together a seminar for the RHP and had 46 global workers from all over Europe. It was very well received! In fact, he has received numerous emails and contacts afterwards thanking him and asking for more resources regarding care for global workers and people who work with refugees. One group in Norway even asked if they could use his seminar information and translate it to Norwegian for their organization because they had never heard of the concepts that he taught and they thought it was very important information. So awesome!
In March, he will be leading a 5-Day virtual workshop on Self-Care for global workers and ministry workers. He has many people already signed up from various countries and organizations. To learn more about the work that Billy does with La Posada Training and Care, check out the website at laposadaspain.com
It's always good to revisit your values and your "why", and we did just that this week with our team and our volunteers that serve at La Mesa Turquesa. As a group, we talked through what each statement meant to us and how we see that being lived out at La Mesa. Here's a quick look at what we value (a translation of the poster):
All of the La Mesa Turquesa statements for why we run the center the way we do has it's roots in the statutes of our non-profit and in the distinctives, values, and mission of TMS Global.
I was particularly happy that one of our volunteers raised his hand after about 45 minutes of discussion and said, "I think these values are all great, but I think we need to talk about WHY we value these things. Why do we think these things are important?"
This was the perfect segue to the WHY... because all people are created in the image of God. All people are His creation and He cares about all of them. It doesn't matter what color, what race, what country or culture or religion. It doesn't matter why they fled their country of origin. It doesn't matter is they have a job or if they are living on free meals and clothing from the church clothes closet. We don't judge if they are Catholic or Muslim or Russian Orthodox or atheist. They are children of God, created in the image of the Creator. And so, they have immense value - to our God, and to us.
We want to celebrate with you!!!
Because we are an official non-profit organization in Spain and because we receive a small grant from the city to help with our work, we must turn in specific reports regarding our work and accountability. Well, our final report for 2020 was recently due and the final numbers are in. La Mesa Turquesa had a record-breaking year! Even amidst a pandemic, even amidst being in full lockdown in Spain from March through May with no ability to open our doors, and even with over half of the year having restrictions on our hours and the numbers of people who could be in the center at any one time, WE SERVED 3,417 people!
Y'all - that's a God-thing!!!!
Our team worked hard to stay connected to people in our community and to continue to reach out and serve. We continued to offer language classes and conversation groups. We held online workshops and Facebook Live events. We did everything we knew how to do - and we invented new things - and somehow, we managed to still reach out and serve 3,417 people! That's a miracle.
It’s all because of YOU!!!!! Thank you! Thank your for sticking with us. Thank you for praying for Spain when things have been ridiculously difficult. Thank you for continuing to send funds and support and for never backing down. Thank you for being on our team and for serving alongside us as we reach marginalized and vulnerable people and work to make the world a better place. Thank you!!!
This month, we turn the page and begin a new year. In some ways, it feels like a continuation of the old year, with Covid still spreading and restrictions still in place for our travel and movements. We continue to have restrictions on what businesses can operate and what hours we are permitted to be outside of our homes or at work. Spain continues to struggle greatly, as does the USA.
Billy and I were so distressed and dismayed as we watched the news about the Capitol, as well the constant news of the continuing unrest around the elections and race relations and inequality in our home country. As the news cycle runs rampant and the international community watches, heads turn to us, and our neighbors and friends in other countries ask questions about democracy and what is occurring in the United States.
Sadly, we have no answers.
The past few years and the situations that continue to keep the USA in the news are complicated and difficult. Do we have opinions? Of course. But it’s not as easy as just stating your opinion. Every one of these issues is intricately tied to another. Every one of them has a long and deep history. This is not just a case of the past year or two (or four or ten) as some believe. Some of these issues are decades and centuries old and have taken many turns and twists in the journey that brings us to present day.
As we have wrestled with these issues and the news stories and reading the daily inflammatory Facebook posts, it has become more and more disturbing for us. Watching our dear friends and family, church members and neighbors back home have heated arguments and write fierce responses to each other and others, we have struggled with what to say or how to engage.
The statistics prove that 50% of our homeland community will be unhappy with whatever we say or believe or do. No matter what we do or say, we will be “on the other side” of half of our friends and family. That is where we are as a country right now – divided. On any given day and on any given issue, half of the people whom we love will have an opposing viewpoint. It feels like a no-win situation. In fact, it feels like a lose-lose, no matter what you chose to say or do.
This has made daily interaction and conversation quite strained, and every word and topic and Facebook post and newsletter article has pained us as we weigh out what to say and how to say it, or if we should say anything at all. On many occasions, we have chosen to say nothing for fear of alienating half of our community. Living overseas, our relationships with our homeland community feel so very precious and fragile due to distance, and the thought of losing anyone or placing even more distance in the relationship due to possibly saying the wrong thing is overwhelming. So, we have stayed silent and stuffed our voices on much of what we have seen and heard and felt coming from our home country.
The voice of my grandmother is in my head. “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Not that what I have to say is ‘not nice’, but someone will take my opinion as fightin’ words and come out guns a-blazin’ (figuratively speaking, I hope)! Silence has seemed a good choice, at least for Billy and I and our very conflict-avoidant personalities.
Until last week.
After the Capitol incident, we were shaken. We were left unsure and off balance. When ‘home’ no longer looked like home and no longer felt secure and safe, we were confused. As global workers who always have contingency plans in place in case of government unrest or disaster or whatever might come our way, once again, we were left reeling. We were again left with the realization that our contingency plans didn’t take in to account this particular situation. Last year, every global worker realized that their emergency plans were not equipped for a pandemic. This week, we realized that we were not prepared for a possible collapse of our own passport country.
During the days that followed, we have listened as countless global workers have processed their feelings. During one of those video calls, a friend and colleague was processing with me about the current situation, specifically as it relates to race relations and privilege and how she was feeling it. My friend is a person of color, and she has felt the strains and stresses of this past year more profoundly than I ever could. For her, this is not a 2020 thing, but a lifetime of hard conversations and situations. I shared my feelings and how difficult it was for us to share those feelings with others, and how I have chosen silence most of the time in order to keep the peace. Her response has haunted me for a week now…
“When you chose silence, you are choosing your comfort and your security over me and the issues of people who look like me.”
I haven’t come to grips with that yet. I do not know how to walk through these times. I am often paralyzed by the fear of how others will respond to my words or opinions. Another friend said, “we need to fall back on the ‘what would Jesus do’ idea”. But even that causes me to pause. What WOULD Jesus do? Which part of his emotions and actions should I model in these situations? Should I be the Jesus that stormed the temple and tossed tables? Some have said that that was exactly what they were doing at the Capitol last week. Should I be the Jesus that quietly knelt in the dirt and drew circles in the sand and asked questions? Or should I be the Jesus that went to sleep while the storm raged? Every single day of my life, I work hard to live out his words and to love my neighbor and be at peace with others. Every day I teach others about his life and his stories and character. Yet in this particular moment, I am at a loss for how to live in to those footsteps.
I am very greatly conflicted and confused by the events around the world. I do not have any answers. I only know that I can lean on him and bring all of my confusion and worry and doubts and fears to him without having to judge my own words or fear that he will be offended and abandon me. I know that he is the one relationship that will stand rock solid through all of this, and that he can handle it. He can handle my tears and my confusion and my opinions. He can even handle it if some of my thoughts and opinions aren’t quite “right” in his eyes… he’ll work on that and we’ll get through that eventually. I can trust in his transformative power in my life.
As to the rest of our friends and family and community – be patient with us. Know that our silence is not intended to harm. Know that our opinions never weigh more than our love for our neighbors. Know that politics or race or gender issues or immigration or even religious differences will never mean more to us than you and your heart. You are precious in the eyes of God, and you are precious to us. No matter what! If our silence has felt like a choice against you in any way, please let us know and let’s open the conversation. We welcome the vulnerability and transparency. We cannot love our neighbors and build healthy community without honest conversation and sharing our struggles. Know that you are loved.
Let’s do this! Let’s make 2021 the year that we sit at the table together and talk without fear.
Our teammate, Kat Marcum, has some great skills! She made this new promo video for La Mesa Turquesa yesterday and we are smitten! So in love with what she did!
To be a part of the work that we do in Spain at La Mesa Turquesa community center, click here:
How about a one-week trip to Spain to visit us?! No one can travel right now, but we still want to host you!
It's "Church Has Left The Building" International Style!
Coming in November, we will be hosting the Spain Virtual Experience! A chance for your small group or Sunday School class to visit Spain and our work. The Virtual Experience is a series of short (5-10 minute) daily videos that we are producing specifically for you. Each video shares a different aspect of life and culture and work in Spain. Here's the plan:
Once your group/class decides to take this journey with us, just let us know so I can schedule the final meeting day and get it on our calendar. The last day of the Experience will be a live Zoom call between us and the members of your group. We can do that any time on a Saturday or Sunday before 1pm Texas time. You may wish to do it during your normally scheduled Sunday School or small group time on Sunday. Or, if you are meeting in-person, you could choose to do it as a special breakfast, brunch, or lunchtime gathering on Saturday. The call will be a time to meet the group, discuss what you learned during the week and how it impacted you, and a time of Questions and Answers. It's a great time for your group to get together and celebrate your virtual mission trip.
This is going to be a great time to focus on international issues and missions - and you can't beat the month of November for learning about other cultures, prayer for the nations, and a focus on thankfulness and gratitude!
This is a great one-week study for your group—a break from the normal and a way to be people who engage with God’s mission in the world, even during Covid.
Send us an email for more information or to sign up your class / group!!! Don’t wait! Others are already signing up!
email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Fall semester began last week for Spain. Elementary children started back on Sept. 10, while Secondary school kids began Sept. 15th. School is 100% in-person (for now). Do we still have Covid? Yes... Spain is still registering hundreds of new cases every day. Are there precautions in place for in-person school? Probably as much as they are anywhere. Honestly, there is only so much you can do with 28 students in one room and hundreds in one building. Everyone is wearing masks. Everyone is washing hands and disinfecting desks and classrooms. Administrators are attempting to keep distancing rules and lower hallway traffic.
In this situation, we are all the same. It doesn't matter if you are in Texas or Spain or wherever in the world... this is hard. No one knows the right answers. Everyone is doing the best they know how to do under these circumstances. But it's hard. And it's stressful. Teachers are stressed and bearing the weight of education AND public health and safety. Parents are stressed and worried whether or not their children are safe, but they also need to go back to work. The local government is stressed and stretched beyond their limits... no one signed up to lead during a pandemic and no one in city hall can predict what will happen next. There is no good answer. Everyone is just doing their best.
We feel it, too. Trust me. As a former teacher, I feel it as I think about my teacher friends. As a mom, I feel it - I have a son who is a teacher and a daughter taking classes. In fact, my family is full of teachers... my son, my brother, my cousins, my aunt. Many of our best friends back in Texas are the people we taught with. And if you aren't a teacher, you are a mom or a dad who is concerned about your child or grandchildren this school year.
At La Mesa Turquesa, we are also "back to school". On September 7th, we started back with our full schedule of morning and afternoon offerings. We have Spanish classes for non-Spanish speakers every morning, as well as English Conversation groups and language support. Our mornings are full of energy as people from many different countries and cultures come together at our table to learn language and build community.
We have several new volunteers! This is very exciting for us!!! Our volunteers came in for special training on how to be language guides and they are really stepping up to the plate. It is so nice for us to have help, and for the people who use La Mesa to have several local faces to help them learn and grow and assimilate in to the community.
In the afternoons, we offer English homework help for 5th-12th grade students (all students are required to take English every year). We also have a variety of relationship building activities... story time, game nights, afternoon coffee and conversation times, special workshops, and field trips to cultural sights in town.
All of this comes with it's own stressors for our team. Just like teachers and administrators and local officials, we are constantly concerned with public safety and keeping the Friends of La Mesa Turquesa healthy. We are always watching our cleaning protocols, always monitoring masks, always counting bodies and making sure that we are keeping our capacity in check with distancing regulations. We worry when someone coughs. We notice when someone isn't there for a class and we wonder if they are healthy.
Just last month, we were forced to close for 2 weeks because 50% of our team was exposed to a positive case of Covid - not in our center, but at another event in town. We had to wait while our teammates quarantined and awaited negative testing results. Because of our close contact as a team and the work that we do with others, we must be careful. Our team is not big enough to be able to handle a 50% shortage of workers. Any hit to our workforce is detrimental to our work. Another reason we are REALLY happy to have new volunteers now!
Pray for us as we navigate this Fall schedule and how to stay safe while ministering to others.
We are definitely praying for YOU as you also navigate a very different "back to school" season.
If you would like to partner with La Mesa Turquesa and be a part of this work for neighbors and community...
La Mesa Turquesa exists because of partners like you. 100% of our funding comes from donations from people who believe in the work we do. Would your like to help? Could you or your small group partner with us each month? Your provision makes it possible for people to learn language and culture and build relationships with neighbors as they learn to make a new life in Spain. To help us:
TMS Global link (online giving) - be sure to check the box to make your gift recurring each month. Go to https://www.tms-global.org/partners-and-projects/details/refugee-community-center
UPDATE: Sarah moved to Sant Marti Vell in Girona, Spain at the end of June to begin her new realm of studies at one of the most well-known and highly recognized schools in Spain in the field that she will be studying. She's going to spend two years working on her certification and qualifications for TÉCNICO DEPORTIVO EN HÍPICA. In English, she will be a Professional Sports Technician dedicated to Equine Sports. She's be studying at CAVA (Centro de Adiestramiento Victor Alvarez) about 30 minutes from the border between Spain and France.
It was really good for all of us to be able to go help her move and stay in the area for the first 5 days. We were able to take her and help her learn to navigate learning a new town and new grocery store, and to see what she was missing in her tiny house living. She shares a teeny tiny house with another rider in her class. Neither one has a car (you can't drive in Spain until after your 18th birthday), so they catch a ride with another student once a week to go to town for groceries. Otherwise, they stay on-property at the riding center all week.
(By the way... this kid is SUPER frugal! Her first week, she spent 19 euros on groceries - that's $22. How is that even possible?! And she says she had plenty of food. Now, that backfired the second week, when she and her roommate only bought groceries for one week and then couldn't find a ride to the store to replenish at the end of the week! So, they went two weeks on one-week's groceries and left-overs. They got smarter this week and bought two week's worth of meals. She's so super careful about her spending and accounts for every euro. She's amazing!)
So far, so good. She is happy. She's enjoying classes. She begins classes at 7am each day and ends at 7 or 8pm, depending on the day. She has two riding/training classes every day, and 4 theory classes, plus responsibilities with the horses and the stables. When we video call every couple of days, she is happy (and exhausted). She has made friends with other riders/students. The Jenga game that she took with her has quickly become a campus favorite and they sit on the porch in the evenings and play games. PS... no one has a television.
Please continue to pray for Sarah and for her transition. And for her parents, who might go bankrupt trying to go visit her in this ridiculous Covid economy. Train tickets and plane tickets are more than triple what they usually are! And pray for Spain and Covid. With new outbreaks, we all feel that another quarantine will occur eventually. That will mean that Sarah will quarantine at her school, far from home. We've already discussed it and run through the scenarios and all feel that it is safest for her to quarantine there, in the country, away from population sources, and surrounded by horses and the life she loves. Certainly better than being locked in our home in the city and not being allowed to go out at all (minors were not allowed outside during quarantine).
Stop for a second and think about going to the grocery store or a market. Think about a visit to the doctor or to your child's school. Now think about how those everyday errands would be impacted if you did not speak the language of the place where you were living.
I remember once, when my mom (Patricia) came to Spain to stay with Sarah while Billy and I were away for 5 weeks. My mom does not speak any Spanish. I think her entire vocabulary exists of 2 or 3 greeting words and that's it. I remember getting a text from her as she was trying to buy groceries. "I have no idea what this meat is that I'm buying. I know that it is meat. I can't read the label and I can't ask anyone because I can't speak Spanish. So, I'm just trying to look for any pictures or clues. One has a pig on it... we'll assume that it is pork. Whatever. We're going to eat it." They survived their inventive meals and Mom learned to take Sarah with her as a translator (Sarah was 10 or 11 then).
Language learning is vital to learning how to live and build relationships when you are new to a community. It's a crucial first step in learning how to handle daily life and all of the everyday things that happen. The majority of the people who come to La Mesa Turquesa are not native Spanish speakers. They come to us with Arabic, Twi, Farsi, Urdu, Polish, French, and many other native languages. So one of the biggest needs that our new neighbors need is language help.
We have Spanish language help every day. Small groups come for language support, encouragement, and new lessons. Learning looks different on every day, because our people come with many different levels and many different needs. Some come with very little knowledge at all, and they need to start at the very beginning with learning nouns and verbs and vocabulary. Others have been coming for awhile and they are honing skills and learning to put together more complex sentences and conversations. And still others come with very specific needs... how to fill out an application or how to register their kids for school.
Language learning is very hard work and exhausting! Your brain is doing new things and it takes a lot of mental energy to fine tune your ears and listen to accents and letter sounds, to hear the subtle differences in how verbs change as you build a sentence, and to remember all of the new vocabulary and teaching. An hour or two of that and you are toast!
Now try all of that while wearing the government-mandated masks for Covid! No lip reading now!
We make it fun! We play language games. We cheer each other on. We play with babies while mothers take classes. The fun makes it a lot less difficult!
We also have conversation groups at La Mesa. Every day, we have a time for people to come in and practice English and have conversation time. Lots of Spaniards have learned some English, but they aren't confident or practiced in speaking it. Again, games and fun conversation makes the learning go so much faster and easier. Many of our asylum seekers also come from countries where English was taught or where English was a second-language, so it is a great time to sit with those friends and relax and speak in a language that is less "foreign" for them.
Continue to pray for the work of La Mesa Turquesa and our team as we connect to friends and neighbors and help people build language skills that will help them foster new relationships. Pray that we find creative ways to navigate restrictions and safety protocols, and that we continue to foster connection and love our neighbors well.
We cannot even believe it, but Sarah is headed for greener pastures - literally! She leaves at the end of this month to begin her new realm of studies at one of the most well-known and highly recognized schools in Spain in the field that she will be studying. She's going to spend two years working on her certification and qualifications for TÉCNICO DEPORTIVO EN HÍPICA. In English, she will be a Professional Sports Technician dedicated to Equine Sports. In Spain, this is an official professional certification that anyone working in the world of horses and training and equine sports must have. It involves books and books and books of theory and anatomy and equine science, loads of classwork and lecture, and daily practicum in the arena and stables with horses.
Are we ready? Absolutely not! Is Sarah ready? Most definitely yes! This is her heart and she is following her love. She would eventually like to go in to the field of Equine Assisted Learning or Therapy. This is an essential step toward that goal.
So, she's headed out in two weeks. She'll be studying at CAVA (Centro de Adiestramiento Victor Alvarez) in the North of Spain, near Girona. She'll be about 30 minutes from the border between Spain and France. For our USA friends, the distance that she will be from home will the the equivalent of the distance between Amarillo and Corpus Christi, Texas - 660 miles. Literally the same as being on complete opposite sides of TEXAS! So, yeah... she's going to be far from home. Billy keeps saying that he'll just rent an apartment and stay up there near her. She just rolls her eyes - she's not having it. Like I said, she's ready to follow her dreams. We're just not ready to be apart from her.
Pray for Sarah, for her transition, for her good-byes and all that will be changing in her life very soon. She admits to being a little nervous about feeling lonely and being on her own, having to cook for herself, and having to make new friends. And, she is leaving a boyfriend behind. Please lift her up and think of her in the coming weeks.
If you want to help Sarah with her new venture...
Sarah has new education needs. If you would like to help her with the costs of her studies or with the things that she will need to relocate both herself and her horse and set up her little studio room at school, you can help in these ways:
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!