It’s Monday. It’s drizzly and cool. We just changed our clocks forward last week, so the sun is just barely starting to rise as the school day rush begins. For our newest neighbors in town, their school rush started at least an hour before ours because they must walk their children in to town for school – in the dark, in the drizzle, in the cold, carrying backpacks and babies for 6 kilometers one way. Back in The States, I remember paying good money for the opportunity to do 5K walks on the weekends. But my new friends do this every day, one way, because it’s a privilege to have a home and food and a new chance at life and education. After they drop their children off at school, they walk some more. Not back to their temporary housing, but around and around town, trying to find a warm, dry place to sit for a few hours until school gets out and they can pick up the kids and start the walk back to the center for lunch at 3pm. With little to no disposable income to spend on a coffee or a drink, they are not welcome to spend time in a warm café or shop. And until they receive employment status (6 months or more), they cannot find work.
This is what daily life looks like for many of our refugee friends in Antequera. New arrivals are placed in one of two relocation housing centers to await processing of their paperwork and be given refugee or asylum status. These centers are strictly housing and meal centers – there is no community space or activities and nothing for the residents to do. The largest center for our town is located in the industrial park, in between storage buildings and warehouses, factories and car dealerships and mechanic workshops. It’s not exactly where you want to raise your children, but it’s better than where they came from and they are more than pleased with the bedroom and meals and safety that is now a luxury.
In the past several months, our TMS Global team in Antequera has become more and more involved with the refugee community here in Spain. As routes shift and situations continue in war-torn and high-conflict areas, Spain has become the number one European entry point for refugees and asylum seekers in the past year. We have new friends from Russia, Georgia, Syria, Nigeria, Somalia, Morocco, Pakistan, Mali, Venezuela, and many others. While the Spanish government and the EU are scrambling to meet basic needs, our team and church are reaching out to fill in gaps and help welcome people in to our community, in to relationships, and in to a new “normal”. As we walk alongside our new neighbors, we are listening and watching and the main need and desire is the same for all… acceptance, belonging, relationship, and a place to call ‘home’.
Enter “La Mesa Turquesa” Community Center!
La Mesa Turquesa Community Center directly reaches diaspora people, connects locals to diaspora people and culture and the reality of global issues, gives opportunity for community members and the church to serve and connect in a variety of ways, breaks out of traditional outreach and church circles and integrates daily life with community, brings various city / community / and church entities together to work on a single initiative, connects newcomers to our community in positive ways… AND YOU CAN BE A PART OF THIS PROJECT!
La Mesa Turquesa Community Center gives our USA partners a way to connect to refugee outreach and effect real neighboring initiatives and change in a global way.
Our team feels very strongly about joining both local AND international forces in this effort. Our local connections are getting on-board and joining with us via volunteers and support. But we want this to truly be a GLOBAL effort to love our neighbors!
How can you get involved and be a part of La Mesa Turquesa Community Center?
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!