Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Barcelona, The End: Greater Things Are Yet To Come

I remember flying into this city five weeks ago thinking to myself, “Well, that’s a pretty beach”, but having no idea what was really in store for me on the ground below.   That day, and the thirty-four to follow, became some of the best days of my twenty-two years combined. I am filled with joy and heartache tonight as I prepare to leave the place I have called home for the past several weeks: heartache, because I know I leave in a matter of hours, and joy because I know I’ll return.  Not once before has my heart so quickly attached itself to a place as it has to Barcelona, Spain. There is no way to elucidate through words my gratitude for my time here. 
            In addition to having the best travel partner in the world, the excitement, splendor, and personality of this city has set the standard high for my future endeavors. The awe of the sites, however, was greatly surpassed by the beautiful hearts of the people I have met during my time here, and whom I now consider my family.  Thank you for so graciously—and at the last minute! -- letting me join you this summer in your work with the people of this city.  I admire each of you for your perseverance and faithfulness. I feel so honored to have spent my summer with such fearless and powerful world changers. At times, I could see on your faces the difficulty and pain that comes with a life of full-time ministry, but these looks were  only temporary, and always overshadowed with an overwhelming love and trust for the God who carries you through each day.  Jesus is present in this city because of each of you. Everywhere you go, He goes. Everywhere you speak, He speaks.  Thank you for showing me the beauty of true, Christ-centered ministry. Thank you for loving and serving the broken and hopeless  that so many forget.  Thank you for making me laugh until I cry and for making me instantly feel like a part of your wonderful team. I have loved every minute with you and can’t wait to see you all again soon.
Every moment has helped shape this experience to be unforgettable, and although Anna and I weren’t able to recount the entirety of our adventure through our blog, we hope that it captured some of it for you.  We loved writing it, and thank you to those who took the time to read it and come alongside us in prayer. We have felt the provision, power and abundant love of Jesus in our lives more than ever.
One of our favorite times with the team were our staff meetings on Tuesday mornings. Our team was so fun, even staff meetings were a blast.
 Two of the missionary kids whom we ADORE. They are so precious and dear to our hearts. Miss them already.
Jesus, guide and direct them. Bring them to you.
       How does one even begin to say goodbye to a place that so tenderly and thoroughly holds your heart? How do you leave new acquaintances that have so completely made the transition to family? What a drastic change has taken place in our minds and hearts in five too-short weeks; how we have grown to feel so completely at home in this city and with our beloved team.
         I could never condense the life and heart changes I have experienced this summer in a short blog entry. I will, however, try to paint at least an incomplete picture of the incredible place we are, ever so reluctantly, leaving.
Although I did not plan to be in Barcelona this summer, thank goodness Jesus knows my heart better than I ever can. One of our team leaders, and a woman who has become a mama to Maddi and me in our time here, noted the other day that she could not believe that they almost didn’t know us; we feel the same! Thank you, sweet friend, for all that you have taught us, for all of the times you have allowed us to stumble alongside you and learn from you. We see Jesus in you in so many ways. You have changed and challenged my heart and, in the best possible way, it will never be the same.
In addition to a mom, Maddi and I have found sisters here. Although we will not mention them by name, they have taught us, laughed and cried with us, challenged us, prayed over us, shared their sweet children with us, and thoroughly changed our lives. Thank you all, for your willingness to give of yourselves and share your hearts, even knowing the brief time we would be with you. The thought of leaving each of you brings quick tears to my eyes.
To our new brothers, thank you for making us laugh, looking out for us, challenging us, and our hesitancies, and providing such real examples of Godly integrity.
       For the ministry we have been given the opportunity to be involved in, I am profoundly thankful. The servants here struggle, are discouraged, and wait years to see even the smallest fruit of their labors. And yet, in the same breath, the servants here approach each opportunity to share and show Jesus with joy, excitement, and prayer. The harvest may be gradual, but who can know a deeper joy than watching freedom wash over the face of a beautiful woman as she removes her veil and lays it at the feet of her Savior.
      Although my heart aches right now, I will not say goodbye, because I know that I will be back. This place has become my heart’s home in so many ways. And so, as an ending that also serves as a beginning, I offer the song that has become our anthem during our time here:
JESUS, Name above all names
Beautiful Savior, Glorious Lord
Emmanuel, God is with us,
Blessed Redeemer, Living Word. 
The wonderful Indiana team had an event for the women of the team one night when they were here. They washed all of our feet and then we made these cute flip flops.
 The team!
 Fun in the park.
Our wonderful sister and friend. We love you!
Hasta Pronto! 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Barcelona, Day Twenty-Eight: Was That a Fat Joke?

      We have officially been in Barcelona for four whole weeks!! It feels a little more like two days, but in this time, we have done so much, learned so much, seen so much, and of course(since we are in Europe), have eaten SO MUCH amazing food. We feel the need to go ahead and post the "food blog" that we have been planning for a while.  Through strategic shopping and exploring, we have managed to stay right within our budget while trying a ton of new, extravagant things. It has been so fun. 
        Along with many other similarities, we discovered early on in our trip that we both agree there are several food rules that one must stick to when traveling in a foreign country. 
Rule #1: Absolutely NO CHAIN restaurants.
Rule #2: Packed-Picnics always trump eating out. 
Rule #3: Never order the same thing, Rather,  always get two different things and split them. 
Rule #4: If you have a kitchen, then cook! 
Rule #5: Olive oil makes everything better.
Rule #6: Every good meal ends with gelato. 
Enjoy the pictures! And don't laugh at us. We love food. 
Everything in Europe is cute, and perfect, and....small.
Lunch in our apartment. Egg and goat cheese on a baguette 
Also, goat cheese, spinach, and tomato sandwich. Really, we just love anything with goat cheese.
 Needless to say....goat cheese. A staple. 
Our favorite OJ 
 This is from the time we went grocery shopping, but forgot we had to walk 10 blocks back to our apartment. Whoops. Anna had to get creative when all of our bags started tearing. 
Our very full shelf in our apartment. 
We are also allotted one very spacious shelf in our fridge. 
One of our home cooked dinners. Tortellini with sauteed veggies. (And goat cheese.) 

This is our favorite meal we have made here so far. It probably costs us a total of 2.00 euros for the whole meal. Rice, garbanzo bean combo, and fresh salad. Oh, and a stale croissant transformed into croutons. Not a big deal.
Pizza picnic dinner on the beach one night.  Now that you have already judged us for the two boxes of pizza, you should know there was a third person involved...we promise.
 Anna has been so awesome to join Maddi in her vegetarian meals:)
Fruit stand. One of our daily stops.
This place might or might not have been on the top of an old bull fighting ring.
We have a perfect little Panaderia just one block from our apartment. We are friends with the baker, and go there to get warm baguettes for just .50 cents.
We also have a cute little cafe just a short walk from our apartment. The girls who work there are precious. They call us guapas, and love when we come in for our morning coffee. This cafe has the most delicious expresso we have found so far, and it is called "Anna", so naturally it is "our place".

We have gotten pretty good at ordering Dos Cafes Con Leche!
 We can't really tell you how much we love gelato. Let's just say, its a good thing we walk everywhere.
Yum. Chocolate. Another staple. 
 Clevy, Ev, and Phil. This one is for you! Miss you guys.
 Out of all the food we have tried, Middle Eastern cuisine is still at first place in our hearts when it comes to love for food. We went to a Lebanese restaurant with our team the other night, and thoroughly enjoyed our Fatteh, Gebne, and felafels! 
 This picture is funny. Period. We don't know why. It just is. Go back, look at it again. It's just funny. 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Barcelona, Day Twenty Three: His Blessings Abound

The ministry we are working with has touched our hearts in such profound ways since we have been here.  We want to share with you a compilation of some of our thoughts, prayers, journal entries, and experiences we have had so far in regard to this ministry opportunity. 

"What can I offer the LORD for all He has done for me?" 
Psalm 116:12

I have seen what it means to be a true missionary. Complete abandon of self, and constant focus on loving Jesus and loving people. -Maddi

Language barriers can be such an intimidating hurdle in any ministry setting. I quickly learned, however, that ministry, particularly to Muslim women, can be almost completely nonverbal. At the beginning of a summer picnic with some of the women yesterday, we played a few simple get-to-know-you games. We were all asked what we liked most and least about Spain. I answered that, although it was completely a fault of my own and not of Spain itself, I didn't like not being able to communicate freely. One of the women, after some translation looked directly at me, touched her hand to her heart, and then pointed at me and smiled. No words were needed; she felt the same way. When she left for the train home a few hours later she gave me three, not two kisses on the cheek. This is the Moroccan way of saying that they have accepted you as a friend, close to their hearts. The very thing that I considered such a burden and a barrier was the same tool the Lord used to bind my heart to this precious woman, and open a door to a deeper trust. -Anna

Being with these precious Muslim women on a day to day basis, whether it be at a ministry event, or in a local grocery store near my apartment, has revealed to me a change I must make in my own heart. For months I have been praying for these women as if they are remarkably different from me, as people with problems that I want to understand and help fix. Now that I know so many of them--their names, their faces, their children, their stories--I have realized that they are not so unlike me. They love fashion and shopping, they have favorite foods and favorite songs. They love to laugh at inside jokes with their friends. They love to talk about weddings and girl stuff; like the time one of our Muslim friends let some of our team members try on her wedding dress and had them model it for all the girls at her house. I have so loved getting to know these women. They are smart, hilarious, sarcastic and alive! I have learned so quickly that this is the most important part of being able to reach someone. You must see them for who they are. I think I knew it a little before, but i know it more now, that there is so much underneath those satin veils. I love thinking about how much Jesus loves these awesome women, how He formed them each individually and so perfectly. - Maddi

Today in Arabic church, one of the missionaries here spoke on the call Isa has placed on our lives to be salt and light to the world. As he spoke, it called to mind a passage from a book I have been reading on ministering to Muslims. The author, Carl Medearis says "It always amazes me how often those of us from Christian backgrounds don't know how to party...Sometimes I've wondered if I've replaced being a vibrant witness of Jesus with cheap, lifeless imitations...What if your house were known on your street (and by your Muslim neighbors) as a party house?" Middle Eastern culture is all about relationship, and often these relationships are developed and nurtured around a meal. Our Savior came from this same cultural setting, and being a part of this ministry has left me in no doubt that He calls us to show our Muslim neighbors how to enjoy the genuine joy of life in Him. After all, if salt loses its saltiness, what is it good for but to be thrown out? I am reminded daily here not to forget how to enjoy life and joy in my zeal to reveal Good News. In reality, I lose a big part of my witness, especially in this cultural context, if I "forget how to party." - Anna

In my first journal entry of this trip I wrote these words: " I am really hoping and praying that Anna and I will connect immediately with our team. I pray that our time here is productive and helpful to this program. I pray that we will be given the strength to be a part of anything, even if it might seem scary, obscure or difficult."  Since the day we arrived here, Jesus has filled us with the power of His Spirit. He has given us so much joy and excitement for every aspect of our ministry here. We know it comes from Him and we give Him all the glory. It has been really cool to see how both of our passions and skills fit right into the needs here. It's almost like Jesus had this thing planned out all along... -Maddi

I have learned the true value of mentors in ministry. The women who serve here have taught me, in word and deed, how to love as Isa does. Their love changes the faces of these precious Muslim women, as they begin to understand and reflect the love of a Savior. -Anna

 A new commandment I give you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. 
John 13:34-35

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Barcelona, Day Twenty-One: WE. HATE. STAIRS.

We have lived for the last two and a half weeks in a wonderful apartment in downtown Barcelona. We love our little piso! The flat is owned and run by another ministry based here in Barcelona and because of the short notice of our stay here, they had a team booked in the apartment from the 30th of June through the 5th of July. 
This meant that we had to move out for a week. We were actually very excited at the opportunity to stay with a few of the new friends we have made here, and since we both packed light (be proud of us), we weren't too worried about making the short move. 
Unfortunately, our 'light' packing did not include the fridge and cabinet full of groceries we have accumulated over the last two weeks. And friends, those suitcases look small, but we know how to pack efficiently and they are HEAVY. But still, not that much stuff. We can do it! We are in Spain! We love adventure!
Did we mention that we used the metro as our mode of transportation for the move? Oh, and that Europe is not particularly handicap-friendly, so when it comes to metro stations, the escalators and elevators are in short supply? In case you were wondering, Europeans who travel on the metro are calm, cool, collected, and impeccably dressed. Needless to say, we didn't blend in so well that morning.
Ask us if we care.
What we're trying to say: there were A LOT of stairs. And every staircase meant taking the bag of groceries you see perched so gracefully on Maddi's suitcase and shouldering it, the suitcase, and each of our two smaller bags up and down. Each. and. every. staircase. Unfortunately, we don't have documentation of the stairs in the actual metro stations because, well, we were dying.  But hopefully you get the idea. At one point, probably to keep from crying, Anna was laughing so hard she physically could not make it up the stairs. Maddi quickly solved this problem: "Come on Anna! Think about your muscles! Arms! Legs! Butt!" By solved, we mean Anna then had to sit down. "Maddi! STOP making me laugh! Seriously."
By the time we got to our metro stop (a mere hour and a half later) even this little trip DOWN the stairs felt impossible. Maddi's comment at the top of this last metro stop was: "Well, want to get a taxi?" Yes, for the 20 steps to our new apartment. Yes.
"Maddi...I can't. I can't do it. Don't make me."
Success! Take that stairs! We showed you! Done and Done.
No matter how you cut it, we looked rough and probably smelled rougher. BUT. We did it! We navigated those metro stations and those stairs (God bless their hearts) and when we got to that apartment, we felt a little bit like we had run a marathon, which gave us the justified excuse to bring on the Gelato and dark chocolate. 
We have to do this again in four days. 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Barcelona, Day Twenty: The Heart of a Servant

       We have mentioned several times the humble, beautiful hearts of the missionaries we work with. Hearing their stories and the sacrifices they have made to live in this place and serve these people is a daily testimony to Maddi and me of the power of the Gospel lived out. They bring to mind the verse from Micah 6:8: “Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.”
        In addition to our desire to serve the Muslim students here, we also feel a deep commitment to serve these missionaries. They have treated us like family and welcomed us into their lives, and we want to do whatever we can to ease their burdens.
       At one of the two centers where we are working, Maddi noticed that their supply closet needed a little organizational help. On Friday afternoon, before our planned event that night, Maddi, Leigh, Lisa, the WGM team and I went out to the center a few hours early to take care of this for them.
       Unfortunately we didn’t get a before picture, but here are a few of us in the process of organizing. The task would have seemed impossibly daunting for one person, but with seven of us, worship music, and fresh espresso, the time seemed to fly.
       We organized, cleaned, and put the room back together. When we finished, we brought one of the missionaries in to show her the change. With tears in her eyes, she thanked us profusely and said, “You know, guys, it is one thing for you to serve our people, and we love watching you do that. But it is another thing entirely for you to serve us. Thank you.” What a blessing, to be able to really serve these servants, to take care of them when that is rarely, if ever, their main focus.
After the organizational frenzy, we had an hour or so to spend with the kids. We sang a few songs, and our new and dear friend, one of the missionaries here, shared her testimony.  We also made an impromptu craft, taught expertly by one of the kids. These kids may not quite understand Issa’s love yet, but they know the love of the people who serve them. They return that love with abandon, and it is a remarkable thing to watch.
       At then end of our time with them, the missionary we have already mentioned asked if the kids wanted to sing a song for us. Several of the girls responded enthusiastically and stepped up to the front to perform. Their song of choice was “I’ve got the Joy,” sung in Spanish, English, and Arabic. Listening to these precious young women sing about the joy, peace, and love that Jesus brings to our hearts brought quick tears to my eyes. I prayed as I watched their excited, dear faces, smiling and singing with all their hearts.
       Jesus, reveal yourself to these cherished little ones in the words of these simple songs that they may not yet fully understand. We praise you for the obedience of the servants here as they gently guide and love these children to You.