All of us all around the world are experiencing some form of “different” right now, some sort of space between the life that was normal and a life that is something new. We are all is some form of lockdown or quarantine or social distancing. For our family and our team in Spain, we are in to week 5 of very strict lockdown protocols. Only the lucky few who have a patio or a rooftop terrace have the luxury of fresh air and stepping outside. Police and military are on the streets enforcing the laws that are now in play regarding the national State of Alarm.
It has been a big change for us! The La Mesa Turquesa community center, a place meant to be a refuge and welcoming home to those who need community, has been closed for 5 weeks. We are missing our people, missing visiting around our big table with friends from so many countries, missing the ministry that we had been working so hard to build and the people we had come to love in the process. Not only has our daily ministry “normal” changed and been in lockdown, but our goals and projects have all suddenly taken drastic twists and turns. We have no idea when things will loosen up, when our current lockdown will end, or when we will be able to return to our work with La Mesa Turquesa and other ministries. Some goals and dreams seem to have gone dark and left us wondering if we will be able to postpone them for later, or ever. We’ve had to cancel events from March through May, and we are now facing the very real possibility of cancelling several summer events and ministries, as well.
I won’t sugar coat it… we are feeling a fair amount of grief and loss. We have our days. We have days when we feel lost. We are so accustomed to going, going, going and having full calendars and being surrounded by a team and a community, working hard and always planning for the next thing, the next leadership development, the next outreach. We have days when we feel unfocused and scattered and unsure of what’s next.
A friend shared this with me yesterday:
"Everyone who saw the risen Jesus saw him after. Whatever happened in the cave happened in the dark. As many years as I have been listening to Easter sermons, I have never heard anyone talk about that part. Resurrection is always announced with Easter lilies, the sound of trumpets, bright streaming light. But it did not happen that way. If it happened in a cave, it happened in complete silence, in absolute darkness, with the smell of damp stone and dug earth in the air. Sitting deep in the heart of Organ Cave, I let this sink in: new life starts in the dark. Whether it is a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb, or Jesus in the tomb, it starts in the dark." ~Barbara Brown Taylor
That really hit me. There will be good things at the end of this! New life will come from this. It’s not easy now, in the dark moments of being isolated, of not knowing what’s next, of not feeling connected to our goals and dreams, to our communities and team. But there will be an end! There will be something new. It won’t look like our “normal” looked before, but it will be new and God will do something wonderful with it.
Even now, new things are happening. In the midst of a worldwide crisis, TMS Global has 180 adult cross-cultural workers and over 100 children who are facing this around the world. Some of those families are serving in places where life is really, really hard on a perfect day. Some of those families are directly responsible for running businesses and employing dozens of local people who rely on those jobs to feed their families. Some of our workers are medical personnel in other countries. Some of our workers care directly for orphans or vulnerable peoples. In the midst of all of this chaos, Billy is leading a Crisis Care Team who is connecting with each and every one of our workers continually to check on their well-being and ensure that they are not losing connection, community, and hope. TMS Global has put out emergency pleas for funds to help our workers who are directly responsible for feeding communities and vulnerable families. Our staff has been working around the clock to ensure that CCWs have what they need and are cared for. In some cases, we have helped to repatriate workers who had to evacuate for special reasons. The vast majority of our workers elected to stay in their countries-of-service and continue to live among and love their neighbors and weather this crisis together with their communities.
Billy and I have had sweet times of connection with neighbors as we meet at our windows and balconies each evening at 8pm for the applause and nightly “pep-rally” that continues. I really cannot believe that we are five weeks in to this and not a single night goes by that the neighborhood does not explode with applause and music and cheers as neighbors gather to wave to each other, check in, and encourage one another.
I really do believe that new things are going to happen when we all come out from this time of uncertainty. Yes, there is grief and loss and ‘darkness’ right now, but there is also hope and light and a new thing coming.
Thank you for being a part of all of this! Thank you for standing with us.
We know that perhaps we all have more in common today than ever… we are all in this Coronavirus Crisis in some form or fashion. Know that we are thinking of you and we pray for the United States and all of our friends and family who are facing this back home. If it is any encouragement at all, Spain has been the worst hit country in the world for per capita contagion and per capita deaths, and we are seeing light at the end of the tunnel. We are facing each day with our chin up. It will be over one day. And so far we have a 100% success rate at making it through our hard days, right!? If you’re reading this, you have that same success rate, too! Congratulations!
Stay connected! The world is having to use their technology like never before. And they are using it to connect with the whole world! Call each other. Have a video chat. Can’t get them online? Send a video text or a voice clip and tell someone how much you love them and how much they mean to you. Check in. Be encouraging. Love your neighbor well!
We love you!!!! Hang in there! God is doing a new thing!
Isaiah 43:19 Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
~Laurie & Billy
One of the things that TMS Global is doing to help our cross-cultural workers around the world is to reach out to their children. We have approximately 100 children of CCWs in the field who are currently in quarantine and struggling with the effects of this pandemic. TMS has a dedicated TCK Department (Third Culture Kids) who's specific role is the care and formation of our children in the field. One of their current initiatives is to record storytime and make fun stories available to our kids. Here is the book that Billy and I recorded for TMS TCKs last week. Feel free to share with any little people in your life who might like to listen along.
The current situation has had huge impacts on cross-cultural workers around the globe. Not one of our TMS Global colleagues is untouched by this virus. All of our peers are in various states of quarantine or lock down. Some of our peers serve in areas where there is little or no access to adequate health care or provisions. CCWs and their families are now facing food rationing and government curfews alongside those whom they seek to serve. Some of our peers were caught outside of their communities and countries when borders began to close and they were stranded away from home. Some were forced to leave their country of service due to situations beyond their control, only to find themselves back in The States with no home and no place to self-isolate and scrambling to find somewhere to stay for the foreseeable future. All of us are now isolated and trying to figure out how to do life and ministry in various states of confinement.
Billy is now coordinating the Crisis Care Team for TMS Global. Alongside the Coronavirus Response Management team, we are reaching out to meet the needs of our 180 CCWs and their families around the world. Billy’s team has been in continual contact with every one of our workers to provide connection, communication, and care during this time. While we are all physically isolated by this current reality, no one should feel emotionally or relationally isolated and all should be cared for! Please keep Billy and his team in your prayers as they care for others.
The best things you can do right now for your CCWs in the world:
I write this from my fourth week of shelter in place in Spain, the current European epicenter of the pandemic. Life and circumstances change by the hour nowadays. Such a paradox, to be sitting still and locked in our homes, yet circumstances outside are changing so rapidly. By the time this goes to print, I have no idea how things will have evolved and what life will look like. The only certainty is that it will have changed.
There are so many questions on the minds of those who have moved overseas to be cross-cultural witnesses. Never did I consider a pandemic when we were answering the call to go and serve and love our neighbors in another land. What does Love your Neighbor look like when you are forced inside? What effect does lock down and social isolation have on sharing the gospel? What effects will the traumas of forced isolation, illness, and death have in the long term in our communities?
For us in southern Spain, the government decreed state of alarm has been a harsh blow to life as we know it. We cannot leave our homes, not even to go for a walk. Most homes have no yard or garden. The only way to leave home is to go to buy food, and you must go alone. Police and military are on the streets enforcing the lock down. In a culture that prides itself on close-knit extended families, social connection, community bonds, and a pedestrian lifestyle, this has been almost unbearable. The impact and loss that is being felt by all is possibly as devastating emotionally as the physical devastation of the virus itself. We are, after all, created to be in relationship. We are created for connection. The grief of forced disconnection has been brutal.
Neighbors gather at their windows and on their balconies each evening to applaud those who continue to be on the front lines of this battle every day, and to encourage each other as we wait out our confinement and fight our own struggles of isolation and the inevitable fears that creep in. Neighbors who were casual nod-and-wave folks are now jumping up and down when we see each other and waving wildly from our living room windows. Neighbors who casually chit chat as we stand in line at the bakery are now singing and dancing on their balconies and cheering each other on as we rejoice in another day of health. My daughter make a heart sign with her arms to a friend in the next block. We worry about the neighbor on the corner who hasn’t opened their blinds for two days. We call out to the neighbor who has an 85-year-old mother and check to see that Miss Ana, the matriarch of the neighborhood, is well. Even “the cranky neighbors” have changed their tune and have been showing up each night on their balcony to clap and wave and ask how we are doing. When this is all over, we’re going to have one heck of a neighborhood cookout! In fact, we’re going to have one every month. We’re going to find excuses to gather often and love each other well. Because this is a new beginning. This is a new start for “love your neighbor” in Spain!
Doors are being opened to spiritual conversations. Now, during times of forced isolation when we are only connected to our friends and neighbors via text messages and social media groups, more and more spiritual comments and ideas are popping up in the conversations and we are able to join together in those and connect in ways that show our commonalities and diminish our differences. We are able to enter in to spiritual conversations that have been quite taboo in a country that has been steadily distancing itself from anything having to do with religion. It has been eye-opening for some, the realization that we are more alike than different, the idea that we all have something deep within us that asks spiritual questions and seeks answers. If this is a product of this pandemic, it would be a huge step forward and a step toward reconciliation and peace among people seeking God in Europe. ~Laurie
(This article has been solicited to appear in the May/June edition of Good News Magazine.)
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!