"So, what exactly do you do over there? I get that you are missionaries, but what does your work look like?" We get this question all the time when we are back home in the States.
We serve in several roles in ministry, and each of those holds a variety of ways that we work and serve others. Our roles as Care Coordinators for Europe and the Middle East / Balkans and as local Cross-Cultural Workers to Spain include coaching and counseling, teaching and mentoring, leading and equipping—and a LOT of loving others! This column will be dedicated to sharing parts of that work with you each month.
One of the ways we minister in Spain is via a ministry of hospitality. Hospitality comes from the root word ‘hospital’. But does hospital mean what you think of it in modern terms? Not really. Hospital originally meant guest house. It also meant a place of shelter or a place of care. Hospitalize meant ‘to receive, to care for, to entertain and lodge’. In many ways, that is what we try to be. We are a place of care. We receive and lodge many throughout the year… in fact, last year, we had 159 nights of overnight guests in our home (not counting my mom who stayed for 6+ weeks). That’s 159 dinners and lunches and breakfasts. But so much more than that! It’s 159 nights of caring for others, of listening and long talks, of laughing and crying with others, of hearing stories of pain and stories of success. These guests range from visitors from the USA who are here to learn about Spain and the ministry here, to leaders from our agency here to visit with us and have meetings, to people who come to serve with us for a short period, to other missionaries who come in need of a rest and a respite and to receive counseling or coaching or mentoring. All come at various stages and needs—some come just to visit and share time and encouragement, while others come in a state of brokenness or exhaustion and in need of some special love and care.
These overnight guests are over and above the local work we do… this doesn’t count the every day / every week hospitality and care. I think I made at least 50 banana breads and coffee cakes, zucchini sweet breads and bread puddings last year. Actually, I know for a fact that it is more than that… all for our weekly Café Con Jesus adult bible study group, the youth group at church, and my women’s coffee group in Campillos. That doesn’t count the breakfasts that we hosted for the bible study group that meets each Thursday, or the cookouts and barbeques we hosted on our patio for the church and for friends. Most of those groups revolve around a bible study time. But is it necessary to bake and cook and host dinners? In our opinion, yes. It is part of a ministry of hospitality. It’s part of a ministry of care and loving others well, a ministry of listening and spending time with others… time that is precious and necessary to building deep relationships and truly knowing each other’s stories. So, if loving my neighbor well means whipping up a cinnamon cake and putting on another pot of coffee, then that’s what we will do. If it means sitting around the table till the wee hours of the morning listening to the tough stuff that my friend is going through, holding a hand or wiping a few tears… that’s part of hospitality.
We are a place of care. We are a guest house. We are a place of shelter, a place where people feel received, where people are entertained and well fed. Mostly, we are a place where people are well loved, regardless of nationality or social status or religion. Be they Spaniard or Nicaraguan or Brazilian. Be they missionaries serving in Asia or the Middle East or Africa or Europe. Be they local pastors or farmers or students. They are welcome in our home. We’ll put on another pot of coffee and set the table and settle in for the evening, together.
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!