Sometimes things don’t work out like you expect.
Like the fact that we’re currently living in a guest room and cooking in our garage. Like the fact that we’re washing dishes in an ice chest. Like the fact that the contractor who started the demolition on our kitchen and bathroom didn’t pull the right permits and the police came and shut down the construction. Like the fact that the city says it will be at least two months until the paperwork clears. Ugh.
Nope… we didn’t expect any of that.
I know that all sounds like it stinks. And frankly, it really does. It’s no fun. We’re having a lot of days that are not at all like we wish they would be. But, life is like that sometimes.
There are other things that don’t go quite like we expected, either. When we opened La Mesa Turquesa, we had visions of refugees and immigrants filling our center and sharing tough stories with us on a daily basis. We were prepared for emotional days and how to work through trauma. There has been some of that, for sure. We have had our share of tough stories and tears. But there has also been a lot of good in the unexpected.
We never expected to make a new Syrian friend who also happened to be a champion horse trainer in the Middle East! He and Sarah have shared lots of stories. He has even been to see her compete and help at the riding club.
We never expected to fall in love with the twin babies that were born after their mother fled her country, pregnant and afraid. We never expected to become aunties and uncles and cousins to these precious little ones. We never expected to cuddle them every Sunday while their mom attends our church. We never knew that one day we would witness their first laughs, their learning to crawl, and the joy when they reach out for us to hold them.
We never expected to witness the first black man to ever pray from the pulpit in our church. A refugee from Nigeria stood up and asked to pray and he rocked the world that day. We never expected to see history made and a church forever changed by a humble man seeking a new life in a new country and new culture.
We never expected to meet Peruvians in our center! It’s like old home week when they come in! We never expected to be helping them settle in to our town, to be helping their children learn English, or to be reminiscing about everything we love and have in common about Peru.
We never expected to become “mentors in everything”, but we find ourselves negotiating rental agreements for immigrants, helping people find food, tutoring and helping with homework, teaching English and Spanish, and trying to help people navigate the rocky waters when cultures clash. We find ourselves in tough conversations about racism and world politics and global economies, all from varying cultural perspectives.
In some ways, we expected to have to fight for our place in the community and to stand our ground for helping refugees and immigrants. What we didn’t expect is the amount of love and support that we have received. We didn't expect locals to hang out here as much as refugees and immigrants do.
What we didn’t expect was the questions about, “Why do you do this? Why do you help people with out charging them anything? Why is the coffee free? Why do you accept everyone – blacks, whites, immigrants, refugees, Spaniards, Muslims, Christians, tattooed teens… why are you so open to everyone?”
What they don’t expect is our answer. “Jesus said to ‘Love your Neighbor’. He didn’t say to love the people who look like you. He didn’t say to love the people who are perfect or popular or accepted by society. He said, ‘Love your Neighbor’. All these people are our neighbors. So, they are welcome at our table.”
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!