We celebrated Thanksgiving last week. It’s our 15th Thanksgiving as cross-cultural workers. While Thanksgiving is a decidedly American holiday, we continue to celebrate it wherever we are. It is part of our customs and traditions, something that carries memories for us and transmits part of our culture to our daughter and to those around us.
This year, we held a Thanksgiving meal at La Mesa Turquesa. We fixed our traditional foods: Billy made a turkey, I made cornbread dressing and sweet potato casserole, our teammates made green bean casserole and pie. Then we invited neighbors and friends and all the people who come to La Mesa to bring a dish that is typical in their family and share at the Thanksgiving table.
After we all ate and laughed and talked around the big turquoise table in our center, I shared that it is customary at Thanksgiving to spend some time giving thanks around the table for the past year - what are you grateful for in your life this year?
We each took our turn, sharing the blessings from the past year and what we are thankful for. Health, family, food on the table, jobs, and more were discussed. One of our volunteers who just started helping teach Spanish lessons at La Mesa in the past few months said that she was so thankful that she had this “job” at La Mesa. She said it makes her feel valued and like she has something to contribute. (I almost started crying at this point.) She said that she loves coming and helping the students—the immigrants and refugees and asylum seekers who come to learn language and culture and find community in our center. Her husband said he has become her assistant at home, helping her prepare language lessons and materials and taking care of things at the house while she works on her plans for the classes. She prided herself in having lessons planned out three weeks in advance. She was beaming! I love this because I have known this woman for 8 years now and I have never seen her have so much enthusiasm and excitement about something. It is obvious that she has found purpose in her volunteer work at La Mesa.
As we continued around the table with more thanks for families and health and provision, we came to one of our refugee students. *Asha talked about being thankful for the opportunity to study and go to school. She talked about having a place to live. And then she talked about being thankful for the team at La Mesa and all that they have done for her. Especially for her birthday.
A month ago, *Asha and her twin sister came to language class like they do every day. During the regular greetings and warm-up, it came out that it was their 17th birthday. The class got very excited and began singing and congratulating them, but the girls immediately became very sad and broke down crying. They live in a house for unaccompanied minors who are in the refugee system. Life with other 13-17 year old refugee children in one house with a Spanish guardian is difficult, at best. That morning, the twins had blown up some balloons for themselves to celebrate their birthday. But, some of the other teens made fun of them and popped the balloons and said hurtful things. So here they were, far from home, no family but each other, no one to celebrate with, and crying their eyes out on their birthday.
Our teammate, Kat, sprung in to action and ran to the bakery. She quickly bought cupcakes and ran back to the center to throw an impromptu birthday party. Everyone in class hugged the girls and said encouraging words and blessed their day. That night, one of the students went home and made handmade earrings for both of them and brought the gifts to the girls the following day. This is what our little community center is doing! We are becoming family to people who have none. We are building caring community for people who have lost everything. We are living out what it means to “love your neighbor”. We’re trying to be a light in the darkness.
Holidays are never easy when you are far from home. Far from loved ones, far from traditional foods and customs and family happenings. Over the years, it hasn’t gotten easier for us to be far away during the holidays. And for our newest neighbors who find themselves far from home this year for various reasons… war, famine, poverty, political asylum, etc… it is even more difficult to find anything to be thankful for or to celebrate.
As neighbors and friends, that’s where we can step in and bridge the gap. That’s where we can come alongside and lift up our new friends. The holidays are hard. Thanksgiving and Christmas and birthdays and the new year… those all carry customs and traditions and family connections that make it a really rough season for those who are far from home. It can be a dark time.
As you reflect on your own family traditions and celebrations and your own gratitude about his year, please remember those who are far from anything familiar and lift up prayers for them. Then go a step further and reach out to them - invite them over or take them a meal, share a cup of coffee or bake an extra pie or pumpkin bread or another dozen cookies to take to them. How can you be a light in the darkness? How can you “love your neighbor” - your immigrant neighbor, your refugee neighbor, the lonely neighbor, the neighbor who has lost everything this year?
We are thankful for you and for your support of the work we do for refugees and immigrants and asylum seekers. Because of you, Maricarmen has found renewed purpose and calling and feels valued as a volunteer teacher. Because of you, *Asha and *Bhama were not alone for their 17th birthday. Because of you, Billy is able to serve on the leadership team for the Refugee Highway Partnership - a Christian organization that empowers cross-cultural workers and ministries to give help and hope to refugees in Europe. Because of you, global ministry leaders and humanitarian workers are being specially trained and cared for so they can care for others and extend the love of Christ to their new neighbors.
Thank you for loving your neighbors well… at home AND all around the globe!
All those celebrations (see previous blog post) make it sound like life is all hunky dory, huh? Well, I don't want you to think that everything is coming up roses. Yes, we are extremely grateful for many things in our life and work right now and we want to give praise for those. But we also have situations and circumstances that are hard and that we are struggling through. Please join us in praying through these:
What do a wedding, a dissertation, an anniversary, and a job have in common?
They are all celebrations we have enjoyed in the past few weeks!!! Those and more!
At the beginning of September, we were honored to participate in the Spain wedding of Nathaniel Foster (son of Judy and Tim Foster, College Station, TX) as he married his lovely bride, Ana. Nate and Ana are both serving in the United States Navy and are stationed in Rota, Spain. They contacted Billy to see if he could officiate their wedding in Spain. With a marriage certificate flown in from the Brazos Valley and a wedding celebration comprised almost entirely of naval officers and shipmates, we celebrated a beautiful wedding at sundown in the Spanish countryside outside of Ronda. We were so blessed to be a part of their big day, and to see Tim and Judy, Dottie and Nathaniel, and several other Brazos Valley folks who traveled to Spain for the occasion!
September 20 was a big day in the Drum household - it was the day that Billy finally hit "SEND" on the final copy of his dissertation!!! Trust me, the entire family and our Spain team breathed a huge sigh of relief as the final words were written and final touches were placed on that baby! It has been several years in the making, but it's now complete! His research was titled "Burnout Among Cross-Cultural Workers: An Analysis of Systemic Issues that Lead to Burnout Within Medium-Sized American Mission Organizations". Everybody, all together now, breathe and smile... *sigh* :)
In June, we celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary. Our intention was to take a special vacation cruise in September to celebrate (we did the same thing for our 25th). However, thanks to Covid and travel issues and crazy port restrictions for cruise ships, our anniversary trip was cancelled. Boo!!! But we did go ahead and take a few days after Billy's dissertation was turned in and go up to Belgium to meet up with friends Ron and Amanda Phillips (formerly College Station, now living in Austin) for a short break and retreat. Not just anyone will fly across the ocean to celebrate with you! Ron and Amanda are troopers and we loved getting to spend a few days together wandering around with absolutely zero schedule. It was marvelous!
While we were in Belgium, Billy received an email with an awesome opportunity. He was asked to be on the Refugee Highway Partnership leadership team and to help develop a care program for cross-cultural workers who serve in refugee camps and outreaches throughout Europe. The timing was awesome (just after his dissertation was complete) and this fits perfectly with his strengths and gifts and his vision for building up care and training for CCWs. He now has his hands full! Developing a comprehensive care program for hundreds of CCWs working with refugees, plus working to build up La Posada Training and Care in Spain, plus leading the team in Antequera... he has plenty on his plate!
Our other big celebration revolves around Sarah. She completed her certification for Equine Sports Tech (trainer/coach specializing in equine Olympic Disciplines). In September, the center hired her to work as a trainer and coach in their riding school. She is working hard 6 days a week, training people from 4 years old through 50+. And because of her level of certification, she is also now working with a local physical therapist and together they are offering Equine Assisted Therapy for people with a variety of special needs (physical and emotional). Somewhere, in her non-work hours, she continues training her newest competition horse and they made their debut in the show jumping ring at the end of September. Watch out, World... this kid is on FIRE! PS - Sarah turns 18 this month!!!!!
Just a little taste of what we've been up to this summer and how we're working to reach far and wide...
All travel plans are tough right now. Spain (Europe as a whole) is slow on the vaccine rollout, travel restrictions are still in play, but we are moving forward with our plans with hope and faith to come see friends and family this summer!
· First stop, June 25-July 17: we will be in North Carolina leading a three-week training program (see page 1-2).
· Upon completion of the training program, we will hop on a plane and head to Colorado to spend a week seeing Laurie's mom, Pat Goins - Colorado Springs, and Ryan and Sara - now living in Denver.
· Stop #3 is Dallas to catch up with Billy's mom (Sherilyn), grandmother, and his sisters and families, and a visit to Laurie's siblings.
· Stop #4 is down to Bryan/College Station for a week to see Miles (son) and Lily (grandbaby) and our friends, partners, and churches in the Brazos Valley.
It's a crazy travel schedule! As our families spread out across the map, our visits also spread out. Looking forward to seeing everyone and having a meal and some good conversations and laughs!!! More details as we get closer to arrival... we'll let you know when and where we will be for meet-ups.
PRAISE! Spain has been speeding up the vaccine rollout this month and we were able to get our vaccines before we travel!
Pray for us to stay healthy until our travel, and to test negative for our PCR tests pre-flight.
For those who can be in the Bryan/College Station area on August 1st, SAVE THE DATE! We will be hosting an Ice Cream Social on that day (see below) and we want to see YOU! Our support team in Texas is currently working out the location details, but the date and time are set. We want to see you, hug you (hopefully!), tell stories, and enjoy some good ol' Texas Blue Bell! Save the date!!!
What do you think of when you think of the work that we do? When you think about Laurie and Billy Drum, do you think of the work we do in Spain? Do you think of La Mesa Turquesa and the work we do with immigrant populations, with refugees, with teaching Spanish and English, etc? While all of that is true, it is just a piece of the larger picture.
At the end of June, we will be leading TMS Global’s yearly flagship training event. Laurie is the Director of Training and Formation for TMS Global and this has been her major focus of work for the past few months. For three weeks (June 25-July 17th), we will be working with a group of expert facilitators to train our newest group of cross-cultural workers. This training is 90+ hours of curriculum designed to prepare global workers for their fields.
This training event is intense! Laurie has put together a facilitator team of 11 experts. The entirety of our training team is composed of facilitators who have lived overseas and have served as cross-cultural witnesses themselves. We have a combined experience of more than 175 years of cross-cultural service and ministry. Our most ’rookie’ facilitator has 7 years of cross-cultural experience, while our most experienced have 25+ years. Our trainers have lived and served in Latin America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.
Billy joins the facilitator team to teach sessions on valuable member care topics. “Community, Connection, and Care”, “Theology of Risk”, “Theology of Suffering”, and “Conflict Management and Resolution” are some of the sessions he leads. He also comes alongside the TMS Global Member Care department as a counselor and coach during this intensive training event, to help our newest workers as they plan and work through their transitions to their respective fields.
This training event is designed to train not only TMS Global cross-cultural workers (CCWs), but also other local believers who seek to be more fruitful in cross-cultural ministry among their own people. This is an intense, multi-week training event that bring together missiology, skills training, and experiential learning - all while learning with and from our multicultural peers. Training topics include Bible storying, bonding and becoming bicultural, discipleship, Inductive Bible Study, prayer, the lifestyle of a CCW, and much more.
Our curriculum scope and sequence includes four main training threads:
Spiritual Formation (24 training hours)
Joining Jesus Cross-Culturally / Cross-cultural ministry skills (27 training hours)
Member Care (12 training hours)
Language Acquisition Skills (18 training hours)
All of our training sessions are highly interactive and put and emphasis on active engagement, lively discussion and debate, and real-life situations and case studies.
Outside of our four core threads, we include several hours of experiential training activities designed to help cross-cultural workers learn through activity and through specific assignments that push students to work through issues and problems that they will encounter in their fields of work.
We also run a special training program concurrently for the children of our cross-cultural workers. Our TCK program (third-culture kids) is designed to help our youngest family members be well prepared for life in another culture. We have dedicated trainers and caregivers who specialize in the unique issues that effect cross-cultural worker families who are raising children outside of their passport country. The TCK curriculum mirrors many of the same topics that are being taught for the adults, but in age-appropriate ways. Additionally, children of cross-cultural workers have very unique needs and, therefore, have a very unique curriculum tailored to their well-being, growth, and development.
In 2021, we have 23 cross-cultural workers preparing for launch. They have been working through the initial phases of their training and preparation and are ready for this last step in preparation before launching in the Fall/Winter. These workers will be serving in a total of 13 different countries. In addition, some of these trainees have influence and reach to more than one country due to strategic partnerships. Via this training program, we will be equipping workers to go and have influence and outreach in India, Albania, Spain, Colombia, Peru, Jordan, USA, Kenya, Ghana, Egypt, Thailand, Kosovo, Germany, and more! These cross-cultural workers will be serving in a variety of roles and ministries as they join teams and local workers in their fields of service: outdoor education, leadership training, outreach to teens and young adults, university ministry, teaching in local schools, training local teachers, refugee ministry, English teaching, discipleship, prison ministry, diaspora outreach, racial reconciliation, church planting, and ethnomusicology, to name a few.
YOU are a part of this amazing training event! Thank you for your constant support of us and our work as we not only reach the people of Spain and our neighbors, but as we work to prepare the newest generation of cross-cultural workers to go forth and reach the nations!
She did it! Sarah finished her coursework! She is a certified Equine Sports Technician in Spain! She can now train both horses and riders in Equine Olympic Disciplines. We are so proud of her for this epic achievement! Normally, this would have been a full two year program to reach this level, but Sarah chose to enroll in the intensive program, which means that she did it in one year by taking double the hours and double class time.
What’s next… Now she returns to our hometown and her home equestrian center to complete 210 hours of practicum (think ‘internship’ or ‘student teaching’). During that time, she will be helping the center to host an Andalucia Territorial Show Jumping competition, a Classic Dressage Territorial competition, and a Spanish National Classic Dressage Competition. It will be valuable experience.
In the coming two years, she will work toward the highest certification - Superior Grade Equine Sports Technician. She will be able to complete that while staying closer to home and remaining at her home equine center.
She is also coming back to the competition ring herself! After a year away from competition to concentrate on her studies, she is super excited to get back in the ring (and on the podium!). She comes home to a thriving equestrian team that is excited to welcome her back.
Join us in congratulating Sarah on a job well-done and wishing her well in her return to competition and her future as a Equine Sport Technician! We are so proud of her and all that she has accomplished to graduate from the prestigious CAVA center with this certification.
Pepi is one of our La Mesa Turquesa volunteers. One day, while walking her grandson to school, she walked past our front window and looked in. She saw people inside and got curious. So, after dropping off her grandson, she came back and asked what we were doing. We explained that La Mesa Turquesa is a community center and that we help people connect to their community, especially people who are new to Antequera (immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers) – people who need friends and need to learn about the language and culture so they can find a way to fit in. She began to get teary-eyed and told us her story:
Pepi has Spanish grandparents and parents, but she lived in Germany for many years as a child. Those years in Spain were hard due to Franco’s government, so many people fled to other European countries. She remembers how difficult it was to be an immigrant in Germany, how alone she felt. Then her family moved back to Spain and she experienced the struggle all over again. Struggling with language, trying to fit in, trying to make friends. She said, “I wish there had been a place like this when I was trying to find my way in a new community.”
She signed up to be a volunteer right away.
Pepi is our energizer bunny volunteer! She is at La Mesa Turquesa every day. She shows up before the door is even open. She comes to all of our workshops and volunteer training opportunities. She is now a trained language helper and she helps teach Spanish to new arrivals. Her current class has people from Russia, Hungary, Pakistan, Georgia, Morocco, to name a few. She also participates as a student in our English Conversation Groups, and she occasionally throws in a free German class here and there. She has a good heart and is eager to serve others. And she is the class clown! Pepi is our constant source of jokes and laughter… she is sunshine at our table.
Pepi found a purpose in La Mesa Turquesa. Before volunteering with us, she would drop her grandson off at school and then go home and sit alone and wait out the hours until she went to pick him up again. She openly admits to struggling with loneliness and depression, and she suffered with anxiety when she sat around and let her mind dwell on all the difficult things in life. Now, she has friends from different nations who surround her in love and empathy. She has a reason to get out of the house. She has people to share her life with. It is good to see how the love of God is there to comfort her through the love of those around her. The very community that Pepi was seeking to reach out and help has, in turn, become her help and her community. Together, they find healing and acceptance and the true meaning of "love your neighbor".
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
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!