Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Out With The Old - In With The New

10....9....8....7...6...5...4...3...2...1!! HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! The common tradition of blowing horns, and yelling those three words, and hearing Aude Lang Syne will by a distant memory in the background. This year - something different awaits, and what it is, I am not entirely certain. I know it involves 12 green grapes, a very large party, lots of amazing food and friends, and dressing up to the nines. Yes, New Years this year will be VERY different...

Along with many things that I have recently been experiencing here in this beautiful country of Spain - I am continually seeing things that are vastly different from the traditions and lifestyle that I would encounter in the States. I continually am reminded that this country is a first world country, and you can definely tell, but at times i wonder if the definition of 1st world is a bit...skewed here. And possibly, MY definition was skewed back home in the states...i wont' be so quick to say "No..."

Being sick in another country is one way in which I can say I see the differences in the cultures with raging boldness. I have come down with some sort of cold-like sickness while here and so the last week has been a smorgasboard of attempting to get me back to full health - what a chore that is becoming. On Sunday, with a high fever, it was decided I needed a clinic - or basically a walk-in ER. Only problem - it was a holiday, so nothing was open. Including the clinics. I am certain the hospitals nearby were open, however it was decided FOR me, that I would just spend hours sitting and getting very few answers. My wondeful host-mom began calling everyone she knew (from her sister who is a nurse in Honduras, to one of the doctors from the church) in order to describe to them my current symptoms and to get some kind of medicine. Within the hour I was drinking (a very disgusting) Amoxicillian mixed with Orange Juice and water. I was baffled - how on earth did she get me a prescription without me seeing a doctor...with caution I asked my question. The answer shocked me a bit...apparently here, if you know what you have, and you know what you need, you go to the pharmacy, tell them what you need, and the attendent gets it off the shelf...including Amocillan apparently :-). I choose not to ask questions because I am extremely grateful for this medicine - and i can't wait until it actually starts working :-D

Within a few days, I had not improved at all, and it was then decided i actually needed to see a medic - it was important now. So, off my host mom went, with my Passport ready at hand and her cunning ability to describe my symptoms to a T. 20 minutes passed and I then found myself walking down the street to the medic - I finally had an appointment.

Yeah - not so much. There I stood in front of this desk and listened to the doctor as he informed me and my host mom that there was no appointments available that day and I would have to come back tomorrow night. And if I decided to come back for an appointment, it was merely going to be a 15 minute consultation. If I decided I wanted the 15 minute consultation, I would need to pay 50 Euros for the "emergency appointment" and then 30 Euros MORE for the actual consultation. With this description I realized with horrific clarity that it would cost me 80 Euros (right now that adds up to $113 American Dollars) just to get a 15 minute discussion with a doctor and that didn't even mean I would get an answer to what i had. And then he said something even more discouraging..."Ella es de Los Estados Unidos..." The only reason I was being asked to pay 80 Euros was because I was an American... wow. I guess thats one reason why health care in Europe is free... yikes.

Please know that at this point, my host mom was livid...We promptly turned down the offer and made our way out of the clinic. While walking back to the house, I was mulling over the experience in my head - just processing what I felt about the extra expectation on Americans here in Spain. I have always taken health care for granted back home - I've always known that if I had a problem, I could drive to the hospital and receive treatment - and I knew my insurance would cover the majority of the damage. Its not something I ever really thought about. But what about those people in the United States who do not have health insurance and their child gets sick. What then? And what if they aren't even legal immigrants...

Thankfully in my case, my host-mom knows a lot of doctors throughout Spain and within 20 minutes I had yet another medicine in hand...but this time I was much more grateful for it. She promptly gave her quite descriptive example of the health care throughout Europe as - "In Honduras, they look at you, shake your hand and already know whats wrong with you. In Europe - you could be stone cold dead and they'd still not know what was wrong with you."
I personally wouldn't go that far - I am thankful for the medicines I have received and I do hope they start taking effect sooner than later, and I am even more grateful for my renewed appreciation for the hospitals in the states. I know little about health care policies, and to be honest, I'd just as soon stay out of that mess, but I am extremely grateful that I know if I walk into a hospital and ask for treatment - I will receive it. And I am grateful that through it all God has promised "Worship the LORD your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you." - Ex. 23:25.

On this New Year, I am going to celebrate the fact that I am blessed. The New Year, I think my resolution will be something like "don't take the most important things (like health care) for granted". This New Year, I'll celebrate with grapes and food and friends. And this year I have decided to celebrate with my friends across the globe as well - so here in Spain I will have 6 different New Years. I have bought a bottle of soda just for me, to send up a toast to every different country as they ring in the new year in the different ways - starting at 5:00 PM with my friends in Asia, then (around) 8:00 PM with my friends in India, at 10:00 PM with my friends in Kenya. I will celebrate here at my own midnight, and then at 1:00 AM with my friends in North Africa. And in the morning, I will toast a glass of OJ at 5am (yes, I will be setting an alarm...) with my friends in Guatemala and Honduras and finally at 6 am with my friends in the US.

And through all of it, I will remember that God's Grace is what got me this far, to this New Year, and it will be His Grace that goes with me through the year that is to come. I look back and I see His handwriting all over the wall of my life - and my prayer is that you can too.

May God Bless your New Year as much as He has already blessed mine.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

It was the Best of Times, it was the Worst of Times!

So here I sit, next to a woodstove, in the mountains of Spain an hour away from France, with Sarah using my leg as a foot stool and Melanie trying her hardest to figure out the four by four Rubik’s Cube. Beth just walked in the door after trying to find gas for the house that we are currently staying at (more on that later). I will start by telling you how we got here.
Christmas Eve morning, Sarah and I headed for the train station, with four bags and a random box (containing Beth's Christmas presents from her family). Once the two of us got to the station we sat for an hour until Melanie, Marlene, Daniella, and Amy arrived. We boarded the train with four minutes to spare. Beth and Irma were not there as they had to take the car with the food.

After a two hour train ride we arrived in the town of San Quirze de Besora. As we were getting off the train Beth called to let us know that at that moment she and Irma were lost - they were a mere 40 km. away from France! We waited in a square in the center of town until Beth got there and we loaded all of our stuff in the car. On the car ride to the house, we had story time, and Beth recounted, as we marvelled at the scenery, all that had happend during her first drive up to the house with some of the women from the church earlier that week. Her tale included almost falling off a cliff, driving up and down the lane that was just past the correct drive way, and yelling for a woman named Amelia, (they never did find Amelia, but luckly they found the house). We were greeted by a beautiful veiw of mountains and small stucco houses built into the mountain. The sun was shining on the houses and the surrounding montains, making it almost too warm for a coat. However, inside the house was a different story - we knew it would be a long three days if we didn't get the fire going, or the heat turned on. We had to wear our coats inside as opposed to outside - it was freezing! After dumping our stuff off, we started preparing for the weekend - Beth attempted to start the fire while Melanie, Sarah and I helped put up Christmas lights.
Now, some cultural differences - the Latin American culture has a really big Christmas dinner at 11:00 on Christmas Eve and then at midnight they open presents. Unfourtunatly by 10:00 Sarah started getting sick so she wasn't able to eat dinner. After supper we prayed for Sarah and she started feeeling a little better but just wanted to go to bed. We thought that Beth should go ahead and open up the package from her family even though it techniqly was not the 25th (sorry Linda, but Sarah and I wanted to have the satisfaction of seeing her open the box we had to lug through the metro station). Just after Beth opened her present we were all called out of our room to open presents from our host family. We were given a brand new wallet that perfectly matched our personalities. The team took a few minutes to exchange gifts with each other - some had managed to travel with them stuffed in their suitcases all the way from PA! Dessert and a Christmas Day toast followed, with bed not too far behind.
Christmas Day was filled to the brim - cooking meals, hiking mountains and receiving much desired Christmas Day phone calls from family. Every day was ended by sitting next to the fire reading books, doing rubix cubes and crossword puzzles, and enjoying each others company. It was a different feel for Christmas Day - as we didn't have all of the hullabaloo that encompasses Christmas back home...just a bunch of friends in a random house, with goats and sheep as neighbors...and some hot cocoa. It was perfect.
Christmas Day was wonderful - however the day after Christmas brought...calamity after calamity. The hot water heater stopped working which meant cold showers for most - Beth and Melanie somehow escaped the torture... And I being the graceful ballerina that I am, slipped on the floor in the bathroom and sprained my ankle... We ran out of gas (I mentioned this part earlier) which in turn sent Beth, and 3 others on a wild goose chase across 4 various "pueblos" in search of Gas... only problem being the day after christmas is ALSO a holiday in Spain so nothing was open and no one was selling. On the bright side - the house actually DID have gas...and Beth got to visit the monastery she had hoped to see while in town. We lost power for a few minutes, and continued with no hot water.
Overall we had a great 3 days and we were so blessed by our new friends and the new traditions that we got to experience. Thanks go out to our devoted families who called us on Christmas Day - it meant the world and more.

Lots of love to family and friends!!


Sunday, December 21, 2008

"Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat..."

Wait...Christmas? Are you serious?

And honestly - what geese?! Let's talk pollo y frijoles here...:-)

So - it's Christmas on Thursday, which we can't believe! It doesn't feel like the Christmas season to those of us in Spain. We're all used to seeing lights, decorations and Christmas trees everywhere, hearing Christmas music, smelling the delicious Christmas cookies baking, and then experiencing the joy of tasting all the Christmas treats. We are experiencing a little of what we have every other year of our life, but not nearly as much we would be if we were in the States. Because of the lack of this familiarity, it's hard for us to believe it's so soon... We also can't help but realize that our Christmas this year will be quite different from anything any of us have experienced before.

However, as we were discussing this change we were swiftly reminded that those things are not the true reason for Christmas. The true reason, is a manger, a baby, a star, and a promise. Miracles and signs. Angels, shepherds and wisemen. (Luke 2:1-20.) Jesus Christ is the reason we celebrate. Jesus Christ is the reason we sing songs like "Away in a Manger" and "Silent Night". While we will definitely think back fondly on memories of Christmas's past, of the traditions and routines that I am sure we all have, we, as a team, are excited that we have the opportunity to focus on the true reason for the season.

During our first Christmas away from home, we will be going to a house in the country, from Wednesday to Saturday. It will be the four of us, Antonio & Irma's family of 4, as well as 3 of their closest friends, and on Christmas morning, we will welcome more friends from the church. We will be disconnected from the world, where we will just spend time together. No internet, no phone and no television. Just us, the beautiful countryside, friends and family. And all the time in the world.

It will be different, but it will be good.

To those parents who would like to get ahold of us on Christmas morning, (which, PLEASE do call us...PLEASE!!) you can call our cell phone (incoming calls are free for us - unfortunately it might cost you all a little....) The number is as follows... 011 (thats the code to dial OUT of the states.) 34 (thats the country code for spain) 645 411 204 (that's Beth's cell). Also, in case you weren't quite yet used to the time difference, we here in Spain are 6 hours ahead of you. Therefore, we will be available YOUR TIME from when you get up, to approximately 6-7PM. That puts us at 1am...on a rare occasion Beth and Melanie will still be up..:-)

For now, we wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year. We may be apart from you this Christmas, and we will miss you all, a lot. But as you think of us, take time to also remember the true meaning of Christmas, and the gift that was given to us that morning so long ago in Bethlehem. We will be doing the same thing, from across the ocean. Feliz Navidad y Dios te bendiga!

The Spain Team

Yet Another Priceless Moment

Train Ticket to Gerona = 12 € each.
Supper = 7 € each.
Taxi ride home = 100 € for 12 people.
Missing all 4 trains home = priceless!

Now, let me explain: on Saturday, we went to Gerona for the day. The day started out uneventfully. We left for the train station at 10:30, and to make things easier, we discussed our drama on the train. Nothing too exciting, except when Sarah and Melanie accidently clotheslined a random man while practicing with the rope used in the drama...and so it begins.

Once in Gerona, we went to a house, where we, surprise, surprise - ate. A lot. Some ate more than others, as Beth was served 2 plates. Fascinating...she had gone to throw away her plate, and instead ended up with more food. We practiced our drama in a nearby parking lot, while being watched by some local hoodlums. Awkward.

Evangelism included walking down the street and handed out tracts to people, while repeating the phrases we were told: "Dios te bendiga" (God bless you) and "Feliz Navidad". Evangelism in Spanish was new for all of us. Some people completely ignored us, or said "no." Others accepted the tracts. Some said "Gracias," and a few even replied with "Dios te bendiga." A couple people responded in French, and others in Catalan. Whatever the langauge, we knew God was present.

We ended up at a square in Gerona where we stayed for awhile, handing out tracts. We thought we were going to do our drama, but ended up doing it for a church service that we didn't know we were going to be attending. It's funny how the agenda can get lost in translation - we just follow Irma like little ducklings following the mother duck, doing whatever she tells us to do.

The church service was held in a meeting room in a hotel on the square, which was quite beautiful. The service was with the sister church of Amor Viviente in Barcelona. It was a Christmas celebration. These churches sure do know how to celebrate - the passion for Jesus is amazing. When we entered the meeting room, we were served candy and water and the service included some songs, our drama, a mime, a message by Antonio, and more singing. We are all growing to love the church services in Spain, even though they are all in Spanish, and we don't always know what's going on.

Now: a new discovery - Spain (possibly all of Europe) puts their lights on a 2-minute timer, including the bathrooms. If for some reason you are not finished in the bathroom prior to the 2 minutes, you will be in the dark. Literally. And if you happen to find yourself in the dark, you will also find yourself slapping frantically at the wall for whatever light switch you can find to press....Interesting. And yes, we are speaking from experience.

The conclusion of our evening was not without incident. Almost immediately upon arriving at the station, a train left that we should have been on. Instead, we got coffee, a common pasttime in Spain. The next train was at 9:15. We had a little while, so we ate supper. Let's just say this wasn't our favorite meal. We all got (cold) chicken wings and french fries. Sarah informed us after we were done eating, thankfully, that there was still some hair on her chicken. Also, Melanie found out that her coat is waterproof when a large bottle of water was knocked over and splashed in her general direction. Nice to know.

Then we sat some more, waiting for the 10:15 train. We went outside by the tracks when we thought our train was going to come. Interestingly enough, a train came from the opposite direction at the same time that we thought our train was coming. We commented on that to those we were with, but noone seemed concerned. After waiting awhile, in the cold, we went back inside to check the times again. At this point, Beth realized that everyone had been looking at Arrival times of trains, not Departure times. There were 4 trains that went back to Barcelona that we could have been on. And we managed to miss them all. By the time we realized what we had done, the last train had already left. At this point, we figured we would either be spending the night in the train station, or sleeping under the stars.

Our solution: we took 2 big taxis. The taxi ride was...interesting. We traveled fast - literally. We reached speeds of over 170 kilometers per hour, which is over 105 mph. Normally in America, when you go through construction, you slow down. Not here - we actually sped up. Police: who needs them? or pays attention to them? Actually, the police passed us at one point. Who doesn't love driving in Europe? Oh wait, Beth still doesn't. The whole night...what an experience. We all actually found the experience to be quite funny, and had fun laughing about it...

Once on solid ground, that is.

And we get to do it all month. :-) Stay tuned...

Melanie & Team

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"Creo En Ti...."

Hello All! Beth again... If you couldn't tell before, I have found that God has blessed me with this innate desire to write and write and write while in Spain. Never before have I had a desire to write as much as I do on this blog and in my journals! So, I will write a bit of what I am experiencing!!
Day 8 brought about the pleasant surprise of Melanie and I taking a short jaunt to the store - by ourselves!! Our first "solo flight!" How wonderfully liberating it is not to feel like a tourist for just a few moments. To say - I need to go to the bank, and then actually walk out the front door with my friend and go down the street to the nearest bank was so refreshing!! Going to the bank - such a simple and mundane task in America, has brought so much purpose to my life after I have needed to depend on everyone else for the last 2 weeks!! I LOVE THE BANK!!! :-)

And so, Melanie and I walked down the street. Everything was going along well and the bank trip was quite a success. And then - BAM! - back to "Americans in a foreign country” mode. We just wanted to buy a phone shouldn't be that difficult, right? Yeah....somehow, it was. Finding the store was not the problem. Getting IN the door, yes - that is where we struggled. We pulled, and it didn't open. Pulled again because maybe the first time was - wrong? Pulled 1 last time for good measure - nope...not happening. Now, we had officially identified ourselves as "Gringos" to everyone inside the VERY OPEN store, and everyone walking by. Awkwardness ensued as we stood outside the door waiting to figure out what to do. It wasn't time for Siesta (Yes, they have those here - from the hours of 1-4 or 5:30 depending on when the locals decide to go back to work), and people were inside the store, but why wasn't it open?! So, we waited, until a random person walked right up to the door, and - PUSHED - and entered. A brief look of "Oh Man...Why didn't WE do that" and then we just followed. As I went to buy the card, the man at the counter said "Yes, I can speak English" even before we asked him to...Oh the joys of figuring out life overseas.

Next up on the list of New and Exciting Experiences – Team Spain’s debut on the RADIO!!! Saturday afternoon, we were taken to the local Christian radio station, (which happened to be located in the very back of a used furniture store) and given a 1 hour time slot in which we talked about our ministry here in Spain, politics (whenever anyone finds out we are from the US, they ask us if we voted for Obama…yikes), and the spirituality of The Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus, and whether or not we will ever live in Spain on a more permanent basis. I must admit that some of the questions were a bit nerve-wracking, as I don’t typically enjoy discussing politics with my friends, so thinking about discussing it with people I didn’t know had me shaking a bit, and the girls did a wonderful job of handling The Jonas Brothers question, as I don’t really know ANYTHING about them! Apparently the message we brought, which was that we came to Spain to serve the people and to bring a little bit of God’s love to them, was just what they needed to hear. Someone actually called the Pastor’s house and said that the message was wonderful and was so thankful for our presence in Spain. We later found out that the small radio station was broadcast throughout Barcelona City, the entire district of Barcelones, the entire District of Catalunya, Girona and Madrid. I personally am so grateful that I didn’t know that going INTO the station or my nerves would have gotten the better of me! As it is, I nearly broke the girls’ hands as I was holding them so tight! :-)

Exciting News: We were blessed on Sunday, to have a 45 minute conversation with Chad, as he sat in a coffee shop in China. We attempted to set up a time in which we as a group could talk to them as a group using web-cam, however due to the time difference and not knowing the daily schedule, it didn’t work out this time. It will eventually though!!

Monday’s are our “days off,” however this week our day off consisted of MANY different activities. I spent the morning chauffeuring one of the Pastors from Honduras, Jose Luis and his wife Rosario to the airport. – yes, more driving. (Its getting better now...i might even pass as a European driver much to the chagrin of the girls who reminded me they have to ride with me when we get back to the states...) Sarah and Audrey packed their suitcases (again) and prepared to move (again) to their “new” home! Melanie stayed busy making breakfast for the group. However, before breakfast could be made, the girls were made aware that there was “nada en la casa para desayuno” (nothing in the house for breakfast). This resulted in an impromptu trip to the grocery store down the street. They were told it opened at 9, but in reality – it opened at 9:15 – so 15 awkward minutes outside standing on the street corner. (We seem to find ourselves doing that more often lately…) Once inside, the girls were accosted by a woman yelling at them in RAPID Spanish that there was “NO BREAD!!” Apparently, she was upset…at them? At the store? Who knows… Otherwise – uneventful beginning to an eventful day. The most important task accomplished was the purchasing of winter coats. Prior to coming to Spain, we were under the impression that it was warmer than Pennsylvania at this time of year – even if it is still “invierno aqui” (winter here). However, we have found that the combination of wind, rain, and unexpected hail storms have combined to make a winter jacket quite necessary. We have also found that you can peg an American a mile away – they just don’t wear the same things. We have wanted to discard our warm sweatshirts and hats, for something more “fashionable”. Alas – for monetary reasons, we will remain “frumpy”.

Now, for those moms out there who might wonder if we are eating well - um, the answer would be...YES. Everywhere we go – we eat. And we eat well. We eat Honduran, we eat Algerian, Chinese, Japanese, Albanian, Argentinean and even McDonalds which classifies as an entire food group in itself – grease. Whole chickens – check. Fresh salsa and tortillas – check. Potatoes and vegetables – check. Rice and seafood – check. Thank goodness for needing to walk everywhere. It’s helping with the digestion of the massive meals.
Along with eating all the food, we also get to cook it!! That has always been an interesting task, as for myself, I'm used to an oven. But here - no such luck. Oil or Microwave are the two options. One afternoon, irma bought a WHOLE you are probably wondering the SAME thing I was: How on EARTH do you cook a whole chicken iin oil, or in the microwave!? She made it work, and taught us the same process so by the time we come back - we will have a recipe book as well!!! :-) Our favorite job is making French Fries - they taste like Fair Fries (french fries from a fair). Meals are often so varied here but they are always so colorful: Desayuno (Breakfast) is usually Bocadillos (sandwiches made with Grilled Pork and cheese) and Cafe con Leche, Almuerzo (Lunch) is usually HUGE, chicken and potatoes etc., and Cena (dinner) - tapas are common:-)
Okay, so I must be off to help Melanie make Bocadillos. As I write, Sarah and Audrey are on the Metro traveling to get here! :-)

"Creo en ti,
Creo en ti,
Creo en ti el hijo de Dios
Me has dado la vida
Nadie puede salvar
Solo Jesús."

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Using My Senses

"Tap...tap...taptaptap...tap." Its silent all around me, except for that noise..."tap tap tap..." and every so often a soft "whooshing sound" outside the window. A soft sigh every so often...

The sound of a rain storm in Spain. The sound of my fingers on the keyboard of the laptop...The sound of my roommate resting after a long day.

This may seem trivial to write about, and I promise this entry won't be a description of the rain (although it is colder here than i expected...), however, rain is only just the beginning.

Every day here is a challenge for each of my senses...each one is in overdrive. I can't seem to take it all in. The sound of the Spanish language (which is so amazingly beautiful if you truly listen to it...), the subway noise, the random street performers, the cars honking, the police sirens, the roaring of the busses...and still more Spanish language. Even the TV can be overwhelming at times... My mind struggles to keep up with everything, and I have found myself "zoning out" at times while riding the subway, because I think my body tells me to just shut down for a few minutes so my brain can catch up. It may sound funny, but cultural submersion is certainly no joke...Every so often I hear English, and my ears strain to catch it...I miss it ... but I am thankful for that feeling...

At the end of the day, my eyes seem to almost ache because they have strained to take in everything they possibly can - the culture here is absolutely ancient and the country likes it that way. They strive to keep it that way. Although to my amazement, the ancient city streets of Barcelona are immediately contrasted by the blaring lights of "La Rambla" where the nightlife of Barcelona rears its head...immediately across the street. Two different worlds, one ancient, and one modern, separated by a few stones....old and new meet in the middle. A contrast my mind struggles to wrap around. Older couples sit at street cafes while young couples stroll hand in hand down the way wandering from shop to shop for the next "big purchase."

The smells of food fill my head as I go from house to house, visiting my new "church family". Every day it is a different house, a different meal, and a different experience - but always the smells. And outside, the air is so cold and fresh it stings my nose and makes my eyes water. Perfume is everywhere, but so is the smell of Diesel Fuel, and cigarette smoke and tonight - I am blessed by the familiar smell of rain.

Spain, in all its wonderful glory is a different world, a different culture. 1st world or not, Barcelona is NOT Harrisburg, PA...and so I've got to make sure that since I'm here now, I take it all in. I've GOT to experience everything I can to the fullest extent...Otherwise, I'm missing out...

I've got to see it,

hear it,

taste it,

and feel it...

So, as the day comes to a close...I allow myself the freedom to rest - but just before I close my eyes - I come to my senses...

And I listen
....tap, tap, tap....
to the rain.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

How much hospitality...

Looking outside my window, I see rows and rows of apartments, all similar in height and size. I turn around and I see a little boy, watching cartoons on the TV, wrapped up in a warm blanket, I hear the sound of water running and I smell breakfast cooking. At first glance, my life hasn't changed all that much.

And then, I take a closer look.

The signs around the buildings are all in Spanish, the little boy is watching TV that is all in Spanish, the water running is the sound of my host family preparing for the day, and breakfast will be served most likely at 11:00 AM. In the wonderful words of Dorothy - "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore..." And what a wonderful realization that is!!

If I am correct, the date is Wednesday, December 10 and I have officially been in Spain for 1 week. And in that one week, I have experienced more cultural changes than my mind can quite comprehend.

But, I think the one thing I have experienced the most has been hospitality. Upon arriving I was given a home - complete with "brothers and sisters". I have a bunkbed that I get to share with one of my closest friends, and I have a "family" that is caring for my needs. Granted, I have to assist in this process by paying for things, but ultimately, I am being cared for. Each new person that I have met has done everything they can to communicate with me, and most have attempted to speak in English! Not one person that I have met has been rude or disappointed at my lack of ability to communicate to them proficiently in Spanish...and they enjoy helping me learn. They are willing to work with me in my weakness, and assist me to become strong. And the desire goes both ways - I have this desire within me that I didn't know was there, to learn the language so that I can communicate with them SOLELY in their language.

In some ways, this paralells my relationship with Christ. I can see my weaknesses at times - and in my rough days, those weakened spots are the ones that stick out to me the worst. But Christ has this desire to work WITH me, to walk WITH me, and to love me unconditionally. He wants to communicate with me. He wants me to listen, as He speaks His words of love and life into my life - and even though sometimes I might not understand the message - He is thankful that I am there with Him and listening. He is grateful for my attempts...He is thankful that I am trying.

And so, I will sit down next to the little boy, who speaks next to none of my language, and I so little of his. I will watch cartoons with him, because cartoons are a universal language all their own. I will enjoy my "late" breakfast, and I will wander the streets of this beautiful country - accepting the gracious hospitality offered me.

And I will continue to pray for the wisdom to know how to offer just a little bit of my own to them...because Christ did it for me.


Some of our newest friends in Spain, from Amor Viviente Church

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Our First Day In Spain

Hey all! Melanie writing...

We arrived safe and sound in Spain, and have been having an awesome day so far! Our adventure started yesterday, around 1 pm and since then it has been constantly interesting. Here are some highlilghts:

- we got to the Philadelphia aiport really early, so we had a little over 3 hours to hang out in the terminal

- on top of that, the flight was late, and then we sat in the plane for a while, so we were over an hour late taking off

- we had some interesting people sitting behind us on the plain, including a kicking and sick child behind Sarah, and a lady behind Melanie who didn't lett her to put her seat back at all

- between the 4 of us we ranged from between 20 minutes to 1.5 hours of sleep overnight

- we then almost missed our next flight, and had to run through the airport to catch it, only to find that the plane was surprisingly and strangely empty

- we got here safe and sound, with all of our luggage

- we piled all of our luggage - 8 suitcases, plus 3 of our carry-ons, into a car, and took a bus to our new home

- we carried all of our luggage up 3 flights of stairs

- our first Spanish meal was a Chinese buffet in the mall - which was amazing, by the way

- at the Chinese buffet, all of us got what we thought were onion rings...only to find out that they were fried squid rings - and we all surprisingly enjoyed them

- Beth enjoyed her first cup of Spanish coffee at a "street cafe" in the mall

- we saw all kind of things that Judit would tell us about during training

- we went grocery shopping in the mall, and Sarah got to carry toilet paper though the streets of Barcelona back to the house

Yesterday, it was really hard to say good-bye to 5 other teams of fellow HDCers. However, we were really excited that we got to fly with the Indipali team, so we got to be with them a little longer. Saying good-bye to them was really hard, because we've gotten to know that team especially well. Also, it was the last team we had to say good-bye too, so at least for me, it kind of felt like my last little connection to home was being taken away. Then, it was just the Spain team! We watched some videos from training of people at HDC just being themselves, so that made us all laugh. We are all a little overwhelmed by the fact that we're actually in Spain, and will be here for 6 months, but it's been great so far!

Thanks for all of your prayers and well-wishes! We will continue to be updating as we go along!


Monday, November 17, 2008

The Beginning of the End...Somewhat...

Dressing up or dressing down, neck ties or sweatpants, Frisbee, soccer, flag football, ultimate Frisbee, piano serenades, late night chats, hot cocoa and a warm blanket, hugs and wrestling, mail and packages, sessions and worship, ministry nights...ministry period, long games of Rook and even longer games of Risk, coloring books and crayons, quiet moments with God and loud moments with friends, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese and Swahili and every so often Spanglish, Coffee (but only 2 cups) and tea, water and...water, Crown's Chicken (A.K.A Chicken Charlies to some) and Angels Pizza, leftovers (need I say more), Walmart and the park, big vans and small parking spaces, Olympic Games and scavenger hunts, playgrounds, computers and sometimes the lack there of, missing friends and making new ones, happy moments and sad moments, learning about each other and learning about ourselves, highs and lows, ups and downs, realizations and changes, laughter and tears... and so many more things that couldn't even begin to sum up the end of this phase of our lives together...

Hello blog followers...Beth here. This entry will be written from my personal perspective as each of the girls have their own experiences that I am sure you will read about to come. As you probably already know, it is the final week of training, and so this blog entry will merely touch upon the last 2 months of my life. As I am nearing the end of this chapter I am forced to look back on where I came from. It was not too long ago that I was sitting in my house wondering silently to myself and to God, "what is next for me?" I couldn't imagine staying where I was any longer, but I wasn't getting any answers about the imminent "next step..." That is, until I spoke with John King and Chris Epp. I remember the days to follow: the tearful phone call to Mom stating "I'm going overseas" and the tearful response of "I think I knew this before you called." The packing up of my life in boxes and in suitcases, the final day at a job in which I would have an income, the haste in calling as many of my family and friends to inform them, the list of "things to do before..." and then, the sound of my apartment door slamming behind me as I left behind (for a few months at least) the life I had become accustomed to and was comfortable in.

That sound has been and will be ingrained in my mind as the moment in which I chose to free-fall with God.

I have come a long ways in the last few months. I have become confident in my prayer life, and my Bible has become so much more than just a book - it is God's Love Letter written specifically for me. I have seen people's lives changed, and I have observed changes in my own. I have given myself over to the healing process and allowed God to heal me. I have, in some ways, grieved the life I left behind, and have begun to rejoice at the prospects of the life I have ahead of me. I have walked the path of "weighing the cost." What am I willing to lay down for the cost of following my Savior where He calls me? It really isn't much. Yes, I may lose a few friends along the way, I may not have a job or an income when I return, the life I led before will not be the life I lead when I come back, no matter how hard I try to make it so. But Christ has called me to something serve the Kingdom. And so, I have weighed the cost, and I have chosen Christ. I have accepted this ministry. I have accepted Spain. And the best part about this is:

Christ has also chosen me.

The path that lies ahead of this team will be full of ups and downs and twists and turns. I would expect nothing less than to take a few wrong turns here and there and possibly become so confused and frustrated that we all flop down on a couch and cry out, "What am I DOING here?!" And yet, I somehow long for that time...because it is in those vulnerable and painful moments, when we cry out to God with the only strength we have left in us, that He is faithful and provides an overwhelming sense of peace. He won't always give answers...and to be honest, being as independent as I am, I am thankful for this. But He will ALWAYS show up. And that brings more comfort than anything. It was in that moment, when I cried out to God saying: "What am I doing?!" that he brought me to this program, to this moment in my life. I see the pathway now - clearly marked. It was practically paved...I just didn't see it until now. God was faithful...and faithful He will remain.

Some of you may be saying: she shouldn't be doubting! She should be confident. And please trust me, the confidence in this team is beyond words. But there are honest moments when we all look at each other and our eyes express what we are all feeling. This is all new for each one of us, and we have a lot yet to process.

The list of things we have experienced here at HDC is small...and there are many more things to be added, of that I'm certain. I expect a period of mourning, a deep sense of sorrow related to missing the friendships we just made, and a sense of confusion as we leave a safe place to go to a ... well... completely different place that is not yet "safe" for us. But with those things, I believe that God will be faithful and show up...

It is with that expectation that I continue to free-fall...

For Christ and for Spain,


Matthew 4:19

Friday, October 10, 2008

Sessions This Week!

Audrey (and Beth) here,

We have been through alot this week...Sessions have become much more intense, with the topics all ranging from Pride, to Emotional Boundaries, to Hospitality to God's Gift of Prophesy. Our personal favorite at the moment is the series on putting our Identity in Christ. At times it is difficult to sit and listen to someone speak on how we change our identity at times, to things that are other than Christ, but it is also vitally important to our ministry that we learn these things and become familiar with them before outreach.

We are all feeling emotionally and physically exhausted, as our schedules are rather busy every day. Last weekend was an exception - it was Family Weekend!! Last weekend we had the opportunity to share our living situation, as well as our ministries and our friends with our families. Each member of our team was able to share with at least 1 member of their family for at least a few hours. Bethany's brother visited from West Point, which was a surprise as it is an 8 hour round trip drive. Audrey was blessed by her Mom, Dad, and brother as well as 3 members of her Care Team. Sarah was pleasantly surprised when her Mom and Dad came on Sunday afternoon to share with her, and Melanie was graced with her mom, dad and 1 of the 2 sisters as well as 1 member of her Care Team. To all who blessed us with your presence during our Family Weekend, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We long to share this journey with you and are so thankful that you are supporting us in such real and tangible ways. To anyone else who is reading this - you are just as vital to our team as our direct families and we are so grateful to have you in our lives. Family Weekend was a success, even though at the end of it, we all wished it was at least 3 days longer...

Now, onto a tangible and very hands-on project that we as a team have begun to embark on. Community Outreach!! Some of you may be aware, and others may not, so we have decided to let you in on what we are doing for this aspect of our training. The story begins when during a Life Group session, we took a walk to visit The Silence of Mary Home, which holds significant meaning for Beth. She told us the story of her friend Danielle Forney, who had worked there during their college years and shared a bit of her heart with the group. She also shared that Danielle had passed away a few months following their graduation from Messiah, and the garden we were sitting in was designed in her memory. While we were there, the group really felt that God was leading us to begin our outreach in this garden. It is an opportunity to make a big difference, and also to be a part of a legacy. Beth was ecstatic about this because it gave the group an opportunity to join in a story of her life!! So, that same day, we spoke with the director of the home, and she accepted us with open arms. Since then, every Tuesday and Thursday we have begun working on various projects there - weeding the garden and straightening things up. It is a beautiful place, but tends to get over-run because there is not a lot of people to keep it up. Just yesterday, Sue, the director, came out to see our progress and was overjoyed with what we had been doing. She was so grateful. The coolest thing about this ministry opportunity, is that not only is God working through us, but He is still working through Danielle... The only downfall currently: the horrific mosquitos. We now affectionately call them "Super Bugs" because even with the "Skin-So-Soft" on...we each have at LEAST 3o bites a piece... Moms: Bug Spray and After Bite are welcome in any care packages...:-D

The team is greatly looking forward to this weekend - this will be one of the first weekends of which we do not have anything necessarily planned. We have a lot of free time to just sit and enjoy each others company and do....NOTHING!

Please continue to join with us in prayer for the health of the group, as well as for our exhausted bodies...we need renewed energy!

And as always, pray for Spain...

Blessings to all,

The 4 Spanish Roses

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Address for here...just in case

Just in case it is ever a is our address in Harrisburg

C/O Harrisburg Discipleship Center
333 South 13th Street
Harrisburg, PA 17104


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Just some fun pictures...

Hey All! This is Beth writing...I suppose now we are going to have to specify who is writing these posts! We just thought it would be good to post some photos for those "followers" who wanted to see our pretty faces! We will do our best to keep this as updated as possible!!

Lots of Love to All!


Last saturday, the boys at HDC gave the girls a "special night" that we got to dress up for...This is the 1st unofficial team photo!! Man, we looked so gorgeous all done up!!

Judit & Beth

Sarah smiling pretty while having fun watching HDC Flag Football at the park...

Melanie playing with "Gabe" (Gabriel Epp)...

Audrey smiling big with Lavonda and Margaret after the "Girls Night"

More to come!!! :-D

Monday, September 29, 2008

Training Week 3...A Post From All of Us

So, we started a blog...

None of us have ever really spent any time blogging, none have ever really created a blog site, and so this is the beginning of an educational journey into the world wide web.

We decided to start the blog during our training, as we are aware that it is difficult to disseminate the massive amount of information we want to tell everyone. This way, we can each take turns writing some of our thoughts, and you, our blog viewers can have a round-trip ticket into our lives as we know it! We will each write at different intervals, and we will have the opportunity to write our prayer requests and our praises, and our experiences with each person who reads this blog. Please feel free to share it with others, as we would love our lives and our experiences to be a testimony of God's love in us and through us to others.

As for right now, we are all concentrating on building up relationships with each other. We are realizing each day how much we have in common, and we are also forced to realize how many differences we have. This journey will be exciting for all of us.

For the mom's who will be reading this: we are all attempting to maintain our healthy sleeping habits, although it is difficult to adjust to the noise and the roommates. We are forced to keep our rooms as clean as possible, as we are getting room checks every week...and our diets consist of "fairly balanced meals." For the dad's who will be reading this: we don't ever leave the house except in large groups, and after 8 pm we never leave without a male present. Promise! :-D The guys are all gentlemen here...We have upped the ante a bit in what we expect for our future husbands!

We are being taught how to be given massive amounts of information and spend time processing with each other and alone. Our 1:1 time with God has been challenging and stretching but also exciting. He is showing Himself very evident in our lives and it is exciting! However, we all have felt that the one thing we have seen God in the most is the moments during worship. When corporately we are singing the same song, to the same God, but each expressing our love for Him in different ways. Worship is a place where connecting with God is not difficult!

We thank you all for your constant prayers and support. We as a team are excited for the future and for the ways that God will work through us to support those we live with currently, and those we come in contact with in the city of Harrisburg, and beyond! Please maintain us in your prayers, as we will you!

Blessings from us to all!

Beth, Audrey, Melanie & Sarah