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.
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!