World Refugee Day commemorates the obstacles refugees face each year, while also celebrating their courage and strength. Since 2001, the United Nations and more than 100 countries have observed World Refugee Day annually on June 20th.
Here are a few facts to help you better understand the current refugee crisis:
· There are currently 65.3 million forcibly displaced people around the world.
· More than 21 million of these people are refugees and 10 million are stateless.
· On average, 42,500 people per day flee their homes to seek protection .
· In the last year alone, there have been 13.9 million people newly displaced.
· More than 11 million Syrians are currently displaced. This amounts to 45% of the Syrian population.
· 86% of the world's refugees are hosted by developing countries.
· Refugees only account for a tiny percentage of overall immigration.
· Of the 20 million refugees worldwide, 51% are under the age of 18. This is the highest number of child refugees since World War II.
On June 20, and on every other day of the year, please join our team as we pray for and serve our refugee neighbors and friends. #loveyourneighbor
***Special challenge! Let's step it up this week!!!
Take A Step for World Refugee Day -
Join the #StepWithRefugees Global Challenge
Around the world, communities, schools, businesses, faith groups and people from all walks of life are taking big and small steps in solidarity with refugees. This World Refugee Day, we challenge everyone to join together and take a step with refugees.
You can take a step too. Join today and take part in the #StepWithRefugees Global Challenge. Get moving!
Join the #StepWithRefugees challenge and walk, run, dance, swim 1 km/mile or take any step with refugees. Don't know a refugee? That's okay... take a step anyway and do those km/miles with refugees in mind. Think of the work we are doing with refugees. Walk and Pray for refugees and for our community center - La Mesa Turquesa. Look up refugee issues on the web and get a country or specific issue in mind and walk with that. Just do it!!! Take a step.
Post a photo or video of yourself after you’ve completed the challenge and nominate three friends to take a step further! Let's light up Facebook and Instagram! Be sure to tag your post... #StepWithRefugees #drumsforchrist #lamesaturquesa #loveyourneighbor
We have a pretty exciting schedule this summer, and YOU are a part of it!
· June 14...Sarah graduates from ESO (secondary school). I can’t even. When did she grow up?
· June 23… Laurie flies to Central America to be a part of the TMS training team. Once a year, TMS holds a two-week international intensive to train new cross-cultural workers. This year, we will be training workers from several Latin American countries and the USA to go out and serve in countries all over the globe. Laurie will be teaching modules on culture, cross-cultural communications, and worldview.
· July 6… Billy and Sarah fly to the UK with the Coro San Sebastian de Antequera, a performance choir from our community that Billy has been singing with this year. They will be performing in Wales. In return, a choir from Wales will be visiting our area in Spain in the Fall in a cultural exchange. Billy will also be attending coursework at Redcliffe College in the UK during July.
· Mid-July… Sarah will fly to the USA and meet up with Laurie (flying in from Central America). We’ll be meeting up with Laurie’s mom in Colorado and helping her drive down to Texas for a visit.
· July 23… TEXAS!!! Billy will fly in to Austin and we’ll finally all be on Texas soil! We’ll be staying in the Bryan / College Station / Brazos valley area till the end of August and we would LOVE TO SEE YOU!!! Both of the boys are now living in B/CS and we aren’t going ANYWHERE! We’re going to hang out in the same town with our kids and granddaughter Lily as much as possible, and get to see friends in B/CS a lot!!!
***Special thanks to our Home Team folks who have opened up their homes and agreed to host us while we are in Texas. And to The Johnsons who are loaning us a vehicle while we’re Stateside.
July 24-August 31…
· We are available for visiting, meals, hanging out, Game Night, speaking at church or bible study or Sunday school, cookouts, lake time, the zoo, the museum, plenty of Mexican food, etc. ALL THE THINGS! We want to do all the things! Send us dates… let’s make plans!
· I want to go to Target and Hobby Lobby and Michaels and every office supply store known to man. I want to go sit in libraries and book stores because I miss that!
· I want tacos and enchiladas and anything Cajun or Mexican or Texan. BEEF! We want beef! And spicy… anything spicy! And Blue Bell. Oh Heavens, thank you for Blue Bell! And Shipley’s!!! And real hamburgers. And barbeque!!! (We might need to visit a gym or two, or ten!!!Anybody got connections at the gym?)
· I really want to get family photos done while we’re in Texas, so if anyone knows photographers in the area, let me know, please!!!
· Horse people… Sarah will be away from her horse and riding for two months, which might kill her, so if you can connect a very experienced, competitive rider with a mount (or at least a ride or two) during August, we would be forever grateful!!!
Looking forward to seeing friends and family and soaking in all of the Texas-ness that we can while we're back this summer! Hope to see you and spend some time catching up. Let's make a plan!
I am humbled every single day lately. Seriously - every day. I am convinced that I get to meet the best people in the world on a daily basis. And not one of them is wealthy or fancy or dressed to the nines. Every one of them is currently unemployed. Every one of them currently lives day-to-day, hoping to find community and friendship and “home”. I think what makes them the absolute best people I’ve ever known is that they are so amazingly hospitable and humble. They exude peace and friendship and love in a way that I am completely unaccustomed to. And honestly, I hope I never stop being amazed by them! I hope I never take it for granted. I hope that I never get to the day when I stop noticing that this amazing love that I am shown is just that—amazing!
Let me share just a little of what I’m talking about:
We were invited to dinner at T* and E*'s apartment last week. They are refugees from a former Soviet block country, here on religious asylum due to persecution. They come to our community center, La Mesa Turquesa, every day. They wanted to make us some traditional food. I was so honored and blessed that they invited us to share a meal with them. THEY ARE THE BEST EXAMPLES OF WHAT HOSPITALITY LOOKS LIKE! They have a small apartment - only 4 chairs at the table, but that didn't keep them from inviting us. They pulled up 2 armchairs from the living room and served the 6 of us. They never ate! Never. They just served us! All the dishes were mismatched sizes. They accidentally bought beer for the kids - it looked like juice in a can to them. Hahaha! Been there! Learning another culture is hard. Sometimes even grocery shopping is a major obstacle. They are still learning the language and it is a non-stop challenge. They have two littles. There were 4 toddlers in the apartment, plus Sarah, plus 5 adult guests, plus T* and E*.
My point to all of this is that they didn't let circumstances get in the way of hospitality and
relationships. They invited us over knowing full well that language and chairs and dishes and space and babies were "not perfect", but they did it anyway. They didn't wait until the living room was perfect. They didn't wait till their language skills were better. They didn't decide that kids would make it too messy or loud or crazy or crowded. THEY DID IT ANYWAY!
This is what hospitality is. This is what builds relationships and community and makes me feel a special connection.
Want more? There are lots more stories! Here’s a taste...
· *K comes in to the center every day. When I first met her, she was terrified and knew zero Spanish. Terrified! No smile and literally trembling. She has been coming for two weeks now. Every day, she comes in and gives me the biggest hug! Huge!!! That is her gift to me every day - that hug that has so much emotion behind it. She then asks about my family using her simple, three-word Spanish sentence that she has learned. Every time. “How is Billy? How is your daughter? How are you?” Then she tells me something about her night last night, or her morning today. Then it’s down to business. “You. Study me. Spanish. Study me. Need more Spanish. Yes? Come.” And she grabs the flashcards and we sit together. We do a million flashcards of pictures and vocabulary. Now she knows about 30 of them by heart, but she continues to flip through the entire deck and try to add more. I encourage her to just choose 5 or 6 new ones so we can focus on them, but she insists that we do them all. K* can’t read or write. The written words on every card mean nothing to her. She just looks at pictures and learns the vocabulary. She listens and repeats. She is voracious! In two weeks, she has learned to communicate with us. Her sentences are simple. Sometimes we have to wade through her new Spanish plus French plus her tribal language and pantomime to figure out what she is really trying to say. Today, we sat together with another friend who speaks Amazigh, Arabic, a little French, and she’s learning Spanish. Our three-way conversation was a crazy mix of languages and cultures. It’s funny—we do a lot of laughing. A lot! K* is learning so fast and I couldn’t be more proud of her. This teacher-heart is just so full!!! When she leaves, she hugs me and she kisses me and tells me when she will be back. And she will! She always says, “Say Billy, Hola”, and she pats her heart. I just love K*!
· *S and *F invited us to their home for afternoon coffee time. It’s a custom in Spain to have merienda at 5:30 - a time of coffee and pastry or light snack. In the home country of S* and F*, it’s also their custom to have afternoon tea or coffee and a bite. When we turned the corner on their block, S* was waiting outside the building for us, to greet us at the door! Their apartment is tiny—almost like a hotel room with a kitchenette. But S* showed us “around the house” with such pride. All five of us sat around a small round “end table” and shared a traditional bread from their home culture that F* had made. It was amazing! We ate off of a mismatch of plates and bowls in different sizes. F* served coffee in various glasses (they don’t have coffee cups). F* suddenly realized that they did not have napkins, so she went to the bedroom and grabbed a towel and began to tear it in to pieces and make napkins, an act that both pained me and honored me all at the same time. If I had so little, would I be willing to tear up one of my towels to make napkins for my guests? When it was time to go home, they pulled out a large bucket of black olives that they had personally harvested and brined and poured them in to a plastic container and sent them home with us as a gift. This morning, F* came over to my house to bring me homemade m’semmen (a type of flat bread from her country). Next week, she’s going to teach me how to make it! She says her mother is the real teacher, but F* taught me how to make couscous, lamb and vegetables last week and she’s a pretty incredible teacher in her own right.
Thanks for supporting and encouraging the La Mesa Turquesa center! THIS is why it's so great! It's building relationships and opening doors and sharing life with our newest neighbors, learning about cultures and embracing a new community and family.
Want to build better community with your neighbors? Come to the table! Here are some suggested reads around this subject:
The Turquoise Table: Finding Community and Connection in your own Front Yard
by Kristin Shell
A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, and Mission Around the Table
By Tim Chester
The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside your Door
By Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon
Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition
By Christine Pohl
The Simplest Way to Change the World: Biblical Hospitality as Way of Life
By Dustin Willis and Brandon Clements
Trust me... you already have everything you need. Invite people to the table and build community.
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?
We are honored by your faithfulness to partner with us in prayer for the things that we see happening in the world and for the ministry that we partner in with you. Thank you for laboring with us!
· Praises for our recent travels to Morocco to learn and to train with TMS leaders from around the globe!
· Praises for the Bosnia trip and for the important work that we were able to participate in there, as well as for the development and learning that we received.
· Praises for our ability to take Pastor Miguel with us to Bosnia. SPECIAL THANKS to those who stepped up and funded this very transformational time for him!!! We couldn’t have done it without you! You guys are superheroes!!!
· Please pray for our friend, *Ahmed. He has completed his first 6 months in an asylum placement center and is now moving out and integrating in to an apartment in Antequera. He has another 6 months of relocation and integration support, and then he will have to be fully on his own. Pray for this time of learning and growth, and especially for him to feel loved and welcomed in Spain… his new home.
· Pray for our team as we work to help Miguel with new vision and new initiatives for neighboring well with refugees entering our community.
· Pray for us as we continue to care for other CCWs and host people in the La Posada care apartment. Just today, we had to turn away 2 different requests for dates because we are already booked with care services and debrief sessions. It’s a busy season!
Y’all, really, I can’t make this stuff up. Sometimes our life is just too nuts!
In January, we were in Morocco where we met with 21 other mission workers for leadership development. I (Laurie) taught the opening development session to set the stage for the week and it kicked off lots of really deep discussions and strategic planning for development. Anyone who knows me knows that I love nothing more than teaching and training and helping people move forward with their personal and professional development! Billy did what Billy does best... he spent the week walking alongide people and listening to their stories, helping to bridge gaps and heal wounds, and giving the deep care that they need to keep them healthy and thriving in the field. And yes, part of that time was spent on a camel in the desert, because we hang out with some pretty interesting people!
Then it was back home to Spain to switch gears and change out the clothes in our suitcases. Going from the Sahara desert and camels to Bosnia snow and refugee ministry in a week's time is a little crazy! Okay… it’s a lot crazy. But that’s what our life looks like right now.
We attended the Refugee Highway Partnership roundtable discussions in Sarajevo. Christian humanitarian aid workers gathered together to share best practices, tools, and development support. In the afternoons, we worked with a local pastor in Sarajevo who has opened a refugee community center as an outreach in the streets and camps, and to give support to the long-term workers who continue to work the refugee crisis every day. It may have fallen out of the daily news cycle, but it is still a serious crisis for Europe and the Middle East. People continue to come, crossing borders in sub-zero temperatures with little to no clothing or personal possessions. Many arrive sick and with injuries from war or from torture received during their journey to try to escape. While we were working, one man died and another was critically injured from burns sustained when their tent caught on fire from the small camp heater they were using to try to keep warm.
The effects of the stress and trauma and difficult living conditions (for both the refugees and the humanitarian workers) is taking a huge psychological toll on people. Billy received an urgent email before the conference asking if he would be willing to serve in a care capacity during the week, taking appointments to help workers who are suffering from chronic trauma and exhaustion. These are people who are seeing front-line injuries, both physical and mental, and are trying to meet the most basic needs of people who have lost everything. The incidence of PTSD and serious mental breakdown among humanitarian workers who deal with refugees is a growing concern, surpassing what has been seen in the past in active military personnel.
Another note about our time in Bosnia... our local Spanish pastor (Miguel) has recently become active in refugee outreach in our town of Antequera! He has been visiting the relocation centers and meeting refugees. This has been a huge turning point for him!!! You're always afraid of what you don't understand, and Miguel has been timid and afraid to step in because he just didn't know how to do it. The turning point was... soccer. Yes, soccer. It's a language the whole world understands. He began inviting refugees to play soccer with him. Pretty soon, there were so many that he had 4 teams of them! So he held a tournament! And that led to inviting them to participate in some activities at the church. And then several started coming and using the church kitchen to cook a meal from "home" and share. And and and and... it just kept getting better!
We invited Miguel to go to Bosnia with us to participate in the conference and to learn from others. Honestly, we thought he would say no. He hasn't ever traveled out of Spain. He doesn't speak anything but Spanish. He didn't have a passport. And then, from the pulpit in church one Sunday, he announced to the congregation that he would like to go to Bosnia with us! WHAT?! We were shocked.
Our local church is tiny and our budget is tinier. The entire yearly operating budget is 24,000 euros, and that includes pastor's salary, utilities, maintenance, etc. That's it! So finding the 900 euros that he needed to travel to Bosnia would be a tough hurdle. The day before we left, he was able to raise 500. We raised 300 more for him in private donations. We went ahead on faith and registered him and bought his plane tickets and hotel reservations. At the last minute before we boarded the plane, a couple of more donations came in and topped off the deficit! He was beyond excited (and terrified). We prayed for Miguel to have a great experience, to meet lots of like-minded workers who can network with him and help him develop and grow in this area, and for us to be able to walk alongside him in this process. There is a fine line between being stretched and challenged and being completely overwhelmed and broken. We prayed for God to be delicate enough to protect him, but tough enough to push him in his growth.
God delivered BIG TIME! Miguel struggled with language and translators. He spent many days with both a wide-eyed wonder and deer-in-the-headlights look. You could almost physically see the lightbulbs going off during each session and workshop and conversation he had as he began to catch a new vision and see things in new ways. And in the end, we brought home a new man… a pastor with a new sense of service and calling and a heart for the nations. Most importantly, he has that beautiful balance between fire and peace that only God can produce in someone.
It has all been so good and I really wanted to share it with you. You are making a difference!!!!! Your partnership is important and good and it makes a difference all around the globe... in mission workers who gather in Morocco for development, in aid workers who gather in Bosnia for development, in humanitarian workers who need mental health care and support, in a Spanish pastor who is growing and learning to reach people in his own country and context, and in displaced peoples who come from everywhere and have desperate needs. You are making a difference! Thank you! Blessings!!!
Many of you will remember that our first year working in the village of San Juan de Iscos was not at all easy. In fact, it was downright scary at times. We were accused of poisoning children, human trafficking, and harvesting human organs. We were verbally abused by locals and the children in our program were attacked by townspeople swinging leather belts and beating them for associating with us. We even had local witches cast curses on us and read tarot cards prophesying against us. We wanted to quit in a big way.
It was our little team of Peruvian teachers who begged us to stay, to stand up and persevere. And so we did. Years later, we had three educational programs, a women’s discipleship group, and community health and development works going in Iscos and the surrounding villages. Yet Iscos continued to be a “hard place” and we struggled to keep things going there while being people of peace amidst the chaos.
One of our Peruvian teachers, Rosio, has continued to work and live in Iscos, doing discipleship and working with the children and mothers in the area. She married a local boy from Iscos. She now has a baby and is a young mother in the town that worked so hard to persecute us for our faith. She has been a testament to all of the training and development work that we poured in to that small team of young teachers. This week, as I write this, she is holding a week-long Vacation Bible School in Iscos (it is summer in Peru) in conjunction with the opening of a new church that she and her husband have planted!!! Y'all, Rosio is planting a church… IN ISCOS! This is HUGE! This is the kind of fruit that we dream for and hope for and pray for. This is the reason that we train and mobilize and serve, that we pour out development and pour in to local believers who can carry on in our absence, who can reach their own people in their own language and culture. THIS IS IT!!!
Please pray for Rosio and her family as they begin this new work in a hard place. So exciting! Pray for the other young Peruvian teachers that we trained and developed in Peru, too. Tania has started an education program and outreach to families in Lima, and Milagros is working in areas of the Peruvian jungle where the government pays hazard pay and stipends to teachers because of active terrorism and narcotrafficking. And thank God for watering those seeds that we planted during our time in Peru. You sowed seeds of support and love and prayers in to us - we sowed seeds of love and encouragement, discipleship and development and formation in to the local people - Rosio and Tania and Milagros continued to tend those seeds and work that field - and now look what’s springing up! Thank you for being a part of that! Sometimes it take a long time and we have to have a long-term vision, but God is faithful and He will bless our faithfulness and obedience to loving our neighbors well.
We have a tradition of putting up the tree and Christmas decorations during the weekend after Thanksgiving. It’s a common tradition in the USA. We try to keep as many of our American traditions overseas as we can, in an effort to honor our own heritage and culture and family, and as a way to share and teach those things to Sarah, our daughter has who only lived 3 of her 15 years in the USA. It’s a way to keep her connected to her American culture and family.
We also have a mix of Peruvian and Spain traditions that now weave in to the tapestry of our lives. We will eat chili on Christmas Eve, just like our family has always done in Texas. We will also have panettone sweet bread and hot chocolate, just like we did with our Peruvian neighbors. In the kitchen as I write, there is a heap of cinnamon mantecado cookies, a traditional Christmas treat in Spain - Sarah’s favorite. And tomorrow we will spend the afternoon with some of our neighbors at a flamenco Christmas lunch.
Christmas is always different and strange and a little bit hard for us. It’s always a time of mixing old traditions with the new, remembering Christmases past, and struggling through the grief of being far away from loved ones. But it’s also a time of learning new customs and doing things in new and different ways.
Last year, we kind-of missed Christmas in Spain… it just disappeared. We had just moved in to this house last November and we weren’t even unpacked well yet when a terrible flu swept through Spain and knocked us off our feet for weeks. The three of us literally spent Christmas in our pajamas for days, curled up on the couch with Kleenex and blankets and medications, not able to eat anything, and feeling like death would be preferable to the aches and coughing and Billy’s two emergency room visits for breathing treatments and chest x-rays. We didn’t even shop for gifts. We just let Christmas pass us by and prayed for relief.
We did recover (obviously), and we were able to travel to Texas to see family and meet our new granddaughter, Lily. So, our Christmas holiday was redeemed in January!
This year, we are settled in our home and neighborhood and the house is decorated and ready. We were the only people on our block with a tree up at the end of November! Christmas customs are a little different here and the idea of decorating the house quite so much for Christmas definitely sets us apart. But here’s the great part… IT’S DIFFERENT! On most days, we try to fit in and NOT be different. But during the holidays, different is a big plus! It’s a great way to start conversations!
Just last week, someone came over for coffee and pastries in the afternoon. Part way through our time together, he pointed to our stockings and said, “They all have your names on them. Did you buy the names separately, or how did you get the names on them?” (The custom of stockings is not a tradition here, but they know about it a little bit from TV and American movies.) This was one of those open-door moments when I got to share about my family and the stockings that were handmade and beaded by my great-grandmother, then how the tradition passed down and my aunt made the family stockings for years, and how it fell to me by the time that Sarah was born. So, our mantle and our stockings are a glimpse in to family history and generations of tradition.
We have had people notice our advent wreath and candles and wonder about that. Here, that has been traditionally only a catholic observance and the fact that a protestant celebrates advent is different and cause for conversation.
Even our tree has caused conversation over the years. Some are surprised that we even have a tree, because many protestants do not have Christmas trees or decorations… so we are different. Again, the “party lines” have been pretty strongly divisive here with regards to Catholicism and Protestant believers. And don’t forget the growing number of nominal believers, marginalized believers, and non-believers. So, the fact that we have different customs has opened doors to those conversations about belief and faith, form and meaning and tradition. And the fact that we have nativity scenes from different cultures – those have been conversation starters, for sure!
Next weekend, we will break with cultural norms (again!) and have an Open House Christmas Party for our neighbors. Christmas is a family holiday here. Christmas here is celebrated much like Thanksgiving is in the USA – extended family travels to the big family gathering and there is a giant family feast on Christmas Eve. There really are no Christmas parties among friends in private homes. Office workers may have a dinner together at a restaurant but going to an individual’s home is just not the norm. But we’re going for it. We’ve invited folks from our street to come over and enjoy party foods and each other’s company.
“If it’s not the norm, then what makes you think they’ll come?” Because it’s DIFFERENT! Curiosity. Just the fact that people don’t invite people in to their homes makes this interesting. Only 2 of our neighbors on our block have ever been in our home. We’re confident and can’t wait! We’re hoping that this is the beginning of new conversations and deeper relationships with our neighbors. We’re stepping out and breaking down barriers to build bridges. Please pray for this time of connection with our neighbors on December 22nd.
Christmas and holidays are perfect times to reach out. People want and need connection. And Christmas can be a time of loneliness and isolation for some. Invite someone over for Christmas cookies and coffee. Invite a few neighbors over. Or take them a cookie or a muffin and a Christmas card. Just do something to break down barriers and build bridges. Love your neighbors.
Merry Christmas and Feliz Navidad!
Let me tell you a little story.
An elderly woman had two large pots. Each pot hung on the ends of a pole, which she carried across her shoulders. Every day, she used this device to carry water to her home.
One of the pots was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. The other had a deep crack in it and leaked. At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.
For a full two years this situation occurred daily, with the woman bringing home only one and a half pots of water. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection and miserable that it could only do half of what it had been made to do.
After two years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, the cracked pot spoke to the woman one day by the stream, saying, “I am ashamed of myself because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house.”
The old woman smiled and replied, “Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side? I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walked back home you watered them and made them grow. For two years, I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table and give to my friends and neighbors. Without you being just the way you are, there would not have been this special beauty to grace our homes and lives.”
Sometimes, it’s the “cracks,” or what we perceive as imperfections, in this reality that create something unexpected and beautiful.
To be honest, I have a lot of cracked days… days when I feel like I’m not able to accomplish what seems effortless for others. Days when I feel like I’m not pulling my weight on the team and that I’m more of a burden than a help. There are days when I feel like I’ve worked myself to exhaustion and I have little to nothing tangible to show for it. Days when my language skills get in the way, or the fact that I just can’t physically do something that others can do, or (the worst) when my north American cultural norms butt up against Spanish culture and my expectations end up having a throw-down with reality (I always lose that fight!). Not kidding, I have a LOT of cracked days!
Maybe that’s why the story of the water bearer and the pots made me cry when I first heard it. Sometimes you just can’t see through your own imperfections and realize that they are the parts of you that make you valuable and special.
Looking back, I can see how God has transformed and used the cracked parts of my life for good. Hard times in my youth, family struggles, professional setbacks, parenting tough spots, and even things that seemed like utter failures and disappointments… God has eventually turned those in to “flowers beside the path” and allowed me to use them to share with others. My hard days eventually became teaching points. My brokenness and darkness has given me great depths of empathy and compassion for others as they go through those times. Even the days that don’t seem all that bad or hard, but they just seem ho-hum or unproductive or slow - God has found the tiny grain of goodness in those days and used it. I know because on the seemingly average, nothing-special kinds of days, someone always ends up telling me, “I love seeing you, your hugs are the best” or “I’ve been seeing you play with the dogs every day. It always makes me happy.” God uses the normal (and the broken) to do the extraordinary and shine light for others.
Our cracks and brokenness and our normal averageness allow something to change and ultimately make life much richer and more interesting. Every day and every crack has it’s own special purpose and potential.
So, are you feeling a little cracked today? I say, “hallelujah for the cracks!” Who’s with me?!
The Cracked Pot story is now the feature story that we use in the La Posada care ministry. Lots of ministry workers, pastors, CCWs and humanitarian aid folks come to us feeling broken and cracked, and wondering if there is any way to repair and restore and be useful again. The Cracked Pot story is a beautiful example of how God can use our perfectly imperfect selves for good.
2 Corinthians 4: 7-18 Treasure in Jars of Clay
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.
13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
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!