As Italy and Greece and other European countries have worked to seal their borders, Spain has become Europe’s number one destination for immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. Numbers of arrivals have more than tripled during the first half of 2018, and still a steady stream of people arrive by land and sea every day.
Billy attended the meeting for Coordination of Immigrant Services this week in our pueblo. Antequera is currently the settling point for 2413 immigrants. In little Antequera, our neighbors include people from Afghanistan, Albania, Argentina, Brazil, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Kenya, Morocco, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Paraguay, Poland, Romania, Russia, Senegal, Serbia, Syria, Ukraine, Uruguay, Venezuela, and Yemen… and that is just to name a few! In all, there are 74 nationalities represented in Antequera as immigrants and refugees.
Neighboring initiatives are really important to us! Jesus says there are two biggies that we need to focus on. In Matthew 22:37-39 he says, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Well, the way we see it, this ‘love your neighbor’ business must be pretty important! And obviously, in Antequera, our neighbors include a pretty big population of immigrants and refugees.
We have a neighbor who received asylum in July. (name withheld to protect his identity and security) He is new, he is alone, and he needs friends. He speaks zero English and zero Spanish. He speaks a very specific dialect of Arabic. We were connected to him via cross-cultural worker connections in other countries and agencies— they knew him and knew that he was being resettled in our town, so they sent us his name and contact info. He joins us for church, he comes to our young adult group, and we share a cup of tea and occasional meals together. Yes, we have our communication issues - he is beginning to learn Spanish, and we have become pretty efficient at using translator apps to fill in the gaps. But even with language struggles, this relationship is so worth it!!! He is a blessing to our lives! Being able to be “family” for him is a privilege!
This is just one example of what loving our neighbors looks like. This is normal in our house. Last night, we had people from 5 different countries around our table. Our life is enriched by all of these friends and their cultures. Life spent with them is beautiful and precious! Try it… go out and love your neighbor. I promise, it will be the experience of a lifetime. Jesus said so!
This. This is walking alongside someone. This is discipleship. This is my husband helping a friend. This is the Bible in Spanish and English and Arabic all at the same time. This is what it looks like to walk with an immigrant friend through language learning and faith and culture. This is loving your neighbor.
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!