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!!!
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!