Thursday, November 24, 2011

Spanish Roses

I couldn't resist posting these pictures, taken today, of the roses that are blooming around the edge of the Betel property. Amazing at this time of year! (Well, I guess not for Spain, but for me.)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Church service

Church on Friday night. On Sunday it was full. This auditorium fits about 1300 people.

My Fifth Day

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Ah! I got up this morning and actually prayed, and I felt like a chain had been broken that had me tied to the flesh’s way of doing things. Praise God!

I was struggling between getting up and yielding to sleep. Oh, I almost, almost yielded. But everything put together, all that God has been doing…Ah! He succeeded!

The Lord reminded me of the picture I had first seen a long time ago: Christ is in the midst of the fire, and he beckons me to come. The flesh refuses, flees, resists, but the Spirit is made of sterner stuff and resolutely steps forth into the “certain death” that the fire threatens. However, the spirit is made of inflammable material; only the flesh burns up. That’s why the flesh didn’t want to go there and why the spirit didn’t mind.

So this morning when I sat up and partially emerged from the covers and a blast of cold air hit me, I very nearly turned back to warm, cozy comfort. But the Lord whispered a thought to me that was enough to tip the balance toward obedience: “It’s a very cold fire this morning.”

(Ha! I like that on so many levels. God, I was just wishing for an intellectual conversation with someone and didn’t see any potential immediate source—but I forgot about YOU! You—who can meet me exactly on my level, converse intelligently and knowledgeably about any topic (!) and always have something more, something tantalizing, something so cool and multifaceted and satisfying to think about—YES!)

So I had 45 lovely minutes of communion with my God, my love, my Savior, my life, the Spirit that lives in me and works His mighty wonders according to His will.


We had breakfast a little later since it was Saturday. Devotions were simply gathering in the salon, saying a simple prayer, and scattering to our separate jobs.

U came up to me at breakfast and said, “Can you cook?”

“Yes,” I replied.

So I got assigned to cook lunch, with A2 as my helper.

U said it was “stewed meat and potatoes,” any way I wanted to make them. The meat was lamb ribs, about 10 pounds, which I had no idea how to make, but I just cut it up into chunks, made a broth, made twice-baked potatoes and a salad…and it turned out fine.

As I was cooking, there naturally were things to hand wash, but I couldn’t find any soap. “They must have it around here somewhere,” I thought. “Don’t tell me they wash the dishes without soap.” Finally, I asked one of the girls, and she said, “It’s right there,” pointing. “Oh. This.” I said. It was toilet bowl cleaner. “Okaaaaay—we wash the dishes with toilet bowl cleaner,” I thought. I fought down a rising sense of grooooooosss.” Gulp. I forged ahead, squeezed the toilet bowl cleaner into the sponge, and washed the dish.

One curious thing about cooking lunch was how much time I had to do it. I started at about 9, or a little after, and I had to have it ready by 3. However, all the time I was thinking it was supposed to be ready at 2, and even still, I felt like I had tons of time.

A2 made a soup and cleaned the pantry somewhat and disappeared. D, who is Polish and barely speaks any Spanish, finished what she was doing and came to help me. She has only been in Betel for 2 weeks and misses her home terribly. She also doesn’t like to get bored and tends to stay active doing something or other.

While D was cleaning out the refrigerators, working very fast and being as efficient as possible, I kept hearing U say to her, “D—we’re not in a hurry. D, tranquia. I was trying to be fast and efficient in the kitchen, too, but when I heard U saying this to D, I thought, “I’m going to have to calm down, too, if I’m going to get this food made slowly enough.” What a curious thing to have to do!

After we ate lunch, the girls brought in all this food that they had gotten through recuperación (pickimg up food donations at grocery stores, butcher shops, and bakeries that donate to Betel. They had to open up all the bags and put the food away. This included organizing all the meat so that similar types of meat were stored together and so forth. Y (not my old roommate) was taking notes on everything we had, E was cutting up leeks and filling freezer bags, O was cleaning little sardine-sized fish, and the whole kitchen and dining room area was a swarming bustle of activity.

It was R’s turn to wash the dishes, and I offered to help. “You can dry and put away for me,” she said. “Here’s the towel.”

I looked at it with what must have been an obviously disapproving gaze. That towel had been used for everything from a potholder to a hand towel since I had been in the kitchen, and it was already damp when I arrived, so who knows what it had done before that.

“What, is it not clean?” R asked.

“Not really,” I said. It was damp all over and streaked with visible dirt.

R took a closer look at it. “It’s fine,” she said. “Go ahead and use it.” So I gingerly dried the dishes using the least possible contact with the cleanest part of the towel I could find.

When the dishes were done, I helped R take out the garbage to the van, where they were going to take it to a dumpster. There was a ton of garbage, from a broken exercise bike to a broken dresser to full, stinky bags from the kitchen trash to bags of stale bread that we hadn’t eaten. We filled up the entire back of the van, which was about the size of the area in our 15-passenger van when the two back seats were taken out, and drove off.

When we got to the dumpster, we unloaded all our stuff into and around it. It was empty when we started, and it was full to overflowing, with stuff piled on the street beside it when we finished.

Later I found out that what we had done was illegal. Apparently you can get a big fine for filling up a dumpster that isn’t “yours.” So that’s why they were in such a hurry to dump the trash. But I guess they do it every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, looking for a different dumpster each time.

After taking the garbage, we drove over to Betel’s mechanic shop for some work to get done on the van. I guess it’s always using water. On the way to the shop, R pointed out several groups of girls who were standing in roundabouts and said they were prostitutes. How sad!

We drove back to our house in another van that had followed us to take us home, and I got to talk with Lucy all the way back. She is just wonderful, and we had a great conversation.

We got back to the house and I helped R hang up some laundry. Then I went to our room and watched Q for a while. She was playing with her hair and some makeup samples, because she’s going to church tomorrow, and she’s quite excited about that. She wants to look pretty.

At 9:00, it was time for dinner. Marlene and Lucy had made homemade Mexican taquitos, which were really yummy.

Then we went to bed. 

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First Post: My first day

My Fourth Day

Friday, November 18, 2011

I think I’m starting to get the hang of this.

Get up at 7. (I set my alarm for 6 but slept through it again. The night before, I had the firmest of resolutions to get up in the morning, but Q had to go to the bathroom twice, and as she’s not allowed to go by herself, she woke me up to go with her, and the blast of cold air that hit me each time I got out of bed was enough to knock the sleep out of anyone. Of course, I was able to fall back asleep…just not stay mostly asleep during the trip to the bathroom. The first time it happened, I said to myself, “Ohhhh…I’m going to be tempted to not get up in the morning now.” The second time it happened, I said to myself, “Ohhhh…How am I ever going to get up?” And when the alarm rang, it was theh same old line I always fall for: “Just do your prayers in bed for a few minutes. Then you can wake up.” Eyes closed, head on pillow, “Dear God…” and Boom! The next thing I knew, it was 7:00.)

Anyway—Get up at 7, eat breakfast at 7:30 as fast as you can (4 galletas and a glass of water, for instance), have devotions at 7:45, leave for work at 8:30.

My assigned job was the kitchen in the Betel center with M and O, and we drove there without any incident.

Oh—Let me back up—my roommate Y and another girl left in the morning to go to thei airport. They are returning to their home country, Bulgaria.

In the kitchen, O set me to work washing and breaking up lettuce for salad. Once that was done, I asked what else I could do.

M, who was in charge of the kitchen, seemed to be thinking. “I guess the kitchen seems pretty relaxed today,” she finally said.

Well, this simply wouldn’t work for me. “Can I clean anything?” I asked. “Sweep the floor, wipe the counters, clean the fridge?” (I had noticed that a sign posted on the wall said that the Friday job was to clean the fridge.)

“Okay, I guess you can clean the fridge,” M said. O showed me where a bucket and a rag were, and I began wiping down the inside and outside of the fridge.

At some point during the morning, M got a call that P, A’s fiancée, had come out of the coma. “Wow… I thought. “What is God doing?”

M, the head cook, was preparing garbanzos and quail and chorizo and salad for dinner, which would be at 2:00. After finishing with the fridge, I asked her if I could help clean the quail, of which we had about 60, and they still had all the insides in them. After they were cleaned, M laid them out in a big sheet pan with some seasonings to bake in the oven.

While O was putting the chorizo (typical Spanish sausage) on a cookie sheet to go into the oven, she offered me a piece to taste.

“Um, it’s raw, isn’t it?” I asked.

“Yes, but this kind is okay to eat raw,” O said. “Here, just try a little bit.”

She cut off a slice and I said, “Okaaaaay…” and ate it. Maybe it’s like summer sausage that you can eat as is, I thought. It tasted fine…actually it was quite yummy…so how could I know?

Just then, M walked in. “Why are you eating that chorizo raw?” she asked.

“Oh! Is it not okay to eat it raw?” I asked.

“You’ve got to be careful about things like that,” M continued.

I turned to O and said, “Are you deceiving me, or what?”

O showed M the kind of sausage she had given me. “Ohhh,” M said. “Yeah, that’s fine.”

Whew. What a relief.

We ate lunch and then I had about an hour and a half to get on my computer and write home. I updated my blog and wrote as many emails as I could. I had at least 20 messages in my inbox. YAY!

Then it was time to clean up the kitchen, which O and I did together. We talked and she told me some of her story.

It is amazing to see the transformation God has wrought in these ladies’ hearts. O is the most cheerful, positive, giving person you could meet. You would never know that she had a messed-up past just by meeting her. There is a sparkle in her eye and a kindness in her voice that shows what a profound work God can do in a heart yielded to Him. I love her laugh, and she’s always laughing.

After we cleaned up the kitchen (which I did with much energy, due to a cup of coffee I drank just before starting), I had about 2 more hours to get on my computer, which was great! I almost got caught up on my blog.

Towards the end, I started talking to a woman named Mercedes who told me some of her testimony. She was not a Betelita but attended the Betel church and apparently knew many of the girls. Her story was very interesting.

At exactly 8:30, the church service started and went until…I didn’t check when…probably 9:30. The songs were all so meaningful, it brought me to tears. The Lord really touched my heart regarding getting up in the morning.

We went back to the house, ate dinner about 11:00 pm, and turned out the light at midnight.

Next Post: My fifth day
Previous Post: My third day
First Post: My first day

Friday, November 18, 2011

My Third Day

Thursday, November 17, 2011

We got up half an hour earlier than usual (6:30 instead of 7) to get ready and have breakfast, because instead of having devotions at the house, we were having them at the church (which is about an hour away). So I set my alarm for 6 in order to have time for my devotions. It went off, but I didn't get up.

The devotion was excellent...about moving away from what is comfortable and familiar in order to have a wider range of service and usefulness, with the illustration of the hermit crab, which has to leave its comfortable shell in search of a larger one, and some striking personal examples from her life.

After devotions, I got back in the van. I was paired with U, and several other ladies also came with us. First we dropped J off at the bus station. She is going to lead the women's house in Sevilla until the new year.

Then we went to the grocery store to pick up food donations. We filled the back of the van with what they ave us, and then we brought it to the rastro (secondhand store) where we unloaded it into their food bank.

Then we went back to the house, where R, Lucy, U, and I made some crafts to sell. I was doing the lettering on some plaques that had artwork depicting a certain verse.

The new girl, Q, joined U and I in the afternoon, while R and Lucy went to clean the school that C and I had cleaned the day before. We let Q paint on a plaque, and she asked me to write her daughter's name on it with a verse she had selected. I did, and she was inexpressibly happy with it. Her daughter, Mayte, is 10 and lives with her grandparents.

Curiously, a few of the plaques I was supposed to write on disappeared at some point during the time we were sitting there.

One interesting thing that happened was that suddenly a bird flew up from the floor and crashed into the window, trying to get out. U got up to try to catch it, and so did I, but it flew up from the corner where it had fallen and crashed into another window. Then it flew down the hall. I opened two outside doors and followed it down the hall. I found it on the ground, so exhausted it didn't make the smallest protest or struggle when I picked it up. I took it outside and it seemed half-dead. It was sort of laid stiffly over on its side with its beak open. U came out with me and I asked her where I could give it a drop of water before I let it go. She turned on the hose and wet her hands and held some water up to its beak, at which point it flew over to a bush. It clung there, almost upside down, still panting. Then it darted into a thick evergreen bush, and U and I went back inside.

When R got back from cleaning the school, she was unhappy that we had made the plaque for Q's daughter. She explained that no one was allowed to make personal gifts, because these crafts were things to sell.

Later, she discovered that the few plaques were missing, and that became a pretty big deal. I said that they were there, and then they were gone, and the only person who was there with us was Q, but she never...well, I never saw her take them, so I didn't know if she did it or not.

R said to me, "You don't know us. All of us have had to survive on the street. I could leave you without clothes without you knowing it." I burst into a laugh.

"You don't believe it, but it's true," O said.

"I could get your necklace off just walking by you," R said. "I could get all the coins out of your pocket without you feeling it."

"No, it's not that I don't believe you," I said. "It just gives me such a vivid mental image."

"Q has been here before," R said. "And you have to realize that we know her and what she's like. She has sticky fingers. This is why we can't leave her alone, ever."

"Okay," I said. My whole sense of safety was being shattered. Not just Q, but all these women knew how to do this. And I was about as innocent and unsuspecting a target as they could wish for. Most of them were already changed through the work of God in their lives, but I realized that the only thing standing in between me losing my stuff was each woman's self-discipline, inhibitions, and responsibility. And that invisible barrier surely lay in a different place for each individual. And I could not possibly know where that was for any person. For that matter, the only thing that stands between me and any kind of crime by any person in the world is that person's inhibitions. Self-discipline is where the rubber meets the road. No matter what the law says. All my life I have been around people whose barrier of "What I Will Not Do" is approximately equal to the Biblical standard (and approximately equal to my own). Even general American society, Christian or non, is more restrained (and therefore "safe") than most other countries. But suddenly my assumption was shattered that any given person would have that invisible barrier, this internal impediment to, say, stealing, lying, or committing a violent assault, against whoever they wanted, at any time they wanted.

R came back in with Q, and Q started telling me that the two plaques she had painted were not the ones that were missing. I said, "I know. I know you painted blank ones. But do you remember the 4 or 5 that were sitting right here? One had two flowers, one had a gold ring around the edge, a couple of oval ones and a couple rectangles?"

"No. I don't know what you're talking about. I've never seen them." Q said.

"Remember how you pointed to the two blue flowers and showed me?" I said. "You pointed at the flowers and said you wanted to paint some flowers."

"No, I have no idea," Q said. "I never saw them."

R broke in and said to me, "Okay. Until Q behaves herself, she has lost her bookshelf. She will have to keep all her books in a drawer from now on until she can show us that she can be trusted. And we can not ever allow her to be in our room alone without you or I present.

I nodded my understanding, and Q, who was standing there, understood, too, by reading R's lips.

"I don't care if she gets mad at me," R continued. "That's not important. What is important is that she learn that things don't work that way around here. This is for her own sake, for her own good."

"Okay," I nodded. "Yes, I agree with you."

So R took away Q's bookshelf and she had to move all her books into the salon. There were two little leaflet-type booklets, maybe 24 pages or something, that were hers, and these she took and ripped out the first page, which had her name written in it. "Here," she said sarcastically. "You can have these. I can't have books anymore--If I can't have a shelf, I don't want them. So you take them. They're for you."

"No," I said mildly. "Don't do this to your books." But she crumpled up the ripped-out pages, threw them in the trash, and stuffed the booklets in with my books on my shelf.

About 10:00 pm...or after, I'm not sure... A got a phone call and burst into tears. I was just passing through the hallway where she was when she got the call, and the look of agony and pain on her face was unforgettable.

R and O got one each side of her and they went into her office and closed the door.

When O came out, she whispered to me, "Su novio" (her fiancee). I had heard the girls praying for a "P," and I had asked who he was. "A's fiancee," they told me. "He is a Betelito, too. they had a wedding date set and everything, but then his kidney got really bad and he's waiting for a transplant."

News trickled out little by little that he was now in a coma and wasn't expected to come out of it. Most of us girls went into the salon to pray. We prayed fervently and unitedly for healing for P, and strength for A, who had left for the hospital.

At one point in our prayer, I had a curious, but definite sensation that God had answered our prayer and granted healing. I felt a peace, and an assurance that was so deep, the natural thing to do would have been to break out into rejoicing over God's answer. But I didn't, because I felt like, "Am I hearing right? Is this really God? How do I know?" So I kept it to myself. But the feeling didn't go away, and I decided, "Well, at any rate, I'm just going to give in to it and believe it's true and see what happens. What do I have to lose?"

After our prayer time, everyone was very quiet and we tiptoed to our beds.

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Previous Post: My Second Day
First post: My First Day

My Second Day

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I slept from about 11 pm to 6 am overnight, which I considered pretty incredible, considering my long afternoon nap. I got up at 6:30 and went to the salon grande to do my devotions. I read the Bible for about 25 minutes and prayed for about 5 minutes. Then it was time to get dressed and ready.

Breakfast was at 7:30 and consisted of pastries, cereal, coffee, and galletas (slightly sweet crackers or lightly sweet cookies, however you want to look at it.) I had time for about 3 galletas, a pastry, and half a cup of coffee before breakfast was over. That was the worst way to break a fast I've ever tried. I was jittery, slightly dizzy, and slightly nauseous until at least noon. Oh well... I had determined I was just going to eat what was served without making them give me special treatment. But oh, it sure makes me miss a nice omelette or my usual bowl of oatmeal.

I was assigned the job of "campaña" with C, who had led devotions the day before. Everyone said C was the best at campaña, which consisted of going from shop to shop and soliciting donations from the shopkeepers for a calendar.

After devotions, I boarded one of the white vans and we headed out. I sat next to Marlene, who is here as a short-term missionary from Mexico. She and I had a wonderful conversation. She is 22 and is full of power in prayer.

I kept paying close attention to the roads so I would know how to get to the Betel center, but then our driver dropped us off at a Renault car dealership. "Oh, so much for that," I thought.

Oh! But on the way, along the highway, we got pulled over by the police for speeding (7 km/hr over). While we were sitting there, someone looked back and a second Betel van was right behind us, pulled over, too. Later, we found out that a third Betel van had gotten pulled over right behind that one. Whoever is driving the Betel van has to pay the fine for speeding or parking tickets...not the Betel office.

Anyway, we walked into the Renault dealership. I was with C, my roommate R, and E, who is the youngest girl in the house (17) and doesn't come from a background of addiction, but from an abusive family situation. We sat down in the waiting area because there was no one at the reception desk. I assumed we were starting there to do our campaña. The other 3 ladies got a cup of coffee, I got a glass of water, and we sat around waiting for about 15 minutes. Finally, R got up and went to the bathroom. When she got back, we waited some more.
Here we are waiting around.

A little later, 4 or 5 guys arrived in the reception office, and R went to talk to them with a calendar in her hand. She came back, still with the calendar, and I thought we would be moving on to the next office. But she said something like, "It's not done because the tracks aren't working." From this rather cryptic message, I finally gathered that we were there to get the van we were supposed to drive to our campaña site. More than an hour later, the guy came up to us and said the van was ready. We got up and went outside to wait for it.

It seemed like we stood there for about 20 minutes while we waited for them to bring the van out. All that time, C and R were discussing something in rapid-fire Spanish that I could only follow insofar as they were figuring out what to do and had some sort of logistical considerations that I didn't know about, so I just kept my mouth shut. Finally, the van came and we drove off. If they had come to a conclusion during the discussion, I don't know when, but as we drove off, they both knew what they were doing. (Maybe they knew all along and were just arguing about it to pass the time. It's very Spanish to argue just for the sake of arguing.)

We dropped off R and E on a certain street, and C and I drove a few streets over, where we found a parking place. By then, it was 12:00, and we only bought a parking pass for one hour, because we figured we had to leave by 1:00.

I followed C from shop to shop, listening as she said, "Hi, we're from Betel, and we're doing our calendar campaign like we do every year. Would you like to collaborate a bit to help people from the street, abused women, and drug addicts?" Everyone said no, and we would go to the next shop. Finally, C turned and looked at me and said, "Ahora--tu." (Now--you.) So in the next shop, I  greeted the guy, said basically what C had said, only in worse Spanish, and--he gave us a euro! I was pleasantly surprised, as I didn't expect a success on my first try.

So we went from store to store, and every now and then, C would turn suddenly to me and say, tu (you). And I would talk there. but mostly, she did the talking. We got 10 euros all together (about $12) in this way.

By the time we got back to the van, it was 1:15, and we had already gotten a ticket for parking there past the time our pass expired. C went to pay the ticket, which was 3 euros. Then we got in the van and drove off, but C almost immediately exclaimed, "Oh! I forgot! We were supposed to stop at the pharmacy!" There was no chance to park again, but at the next intersection we saw a pharmacy at the corner. Carmen stopped at the red light, put on her flashers, hopped out of the van, held up her index finger at the driver behind her, and scooted over to the pharmacy. Of course the light turned green while she was in there. It was only a 2-lane road, and our vehicle and a hill impeded the view of the drivers behind us from taking the opposite lane, so no one moved. Then I saw flashing police lights behind us. "Aaaah!" I thought. "Three times in one day! What am I going to say to the guy?"

The police car was about 3 cars behind us, waiting at the red light, and he had merely turned on his lights in order to make a Y-turn and go back down the street in the opposite direction. What a relief! How curious, too, that the policeman just took our little Stop In The Middle Of The Road as a matter of course, not worth bothering about. As soon as he left, a great honking of horns commenced, and little by little, the traffic trickled around us, braving the unknown in the oncoming traffic's lane. C came out and had to wait a minute before she could get back in the car, because there happened to be quite a flow of cars going by just then. I wouldn't have liked to have to face them.

We drove into another confusing maze of streets, and C stopped to ask two people where a certain street was. When we got pretty close, she parked in a handicap spot and left the engine running while I waited. Of course, by now, the whole time, I was looking for someone giving out tickets, but no one came. She went down the street and came back and said, "They don't have it."

"They don't have what?" I asked. "La colonia," she said. I thought colonia meant "colony," but that must have just been a false cognate.

"What's colonia?" I asked.

"Un perfume," she said.

"Ohhh... colonia = cologne. Makes sense," I thought.

C continued, "But they have it at Mercadona."

"Okay," I said.

"We might be late for lunch because we have to pick up the cake, too," C said.

"That's okay," I said. I didn't know what cake, but I was already lost a long time ago and just decided to go along for the ride.

We went to Mercadona and looked at the cologne. I guess it was more expensive than C wanted it to be (16 euros), and she called A to check if it was okay. It must have been, because we bought it and two cakes.

"What is this for?" I asked.

"For J's birthday," she said.

"Today?" I asked.

"Yes," C said.

Oh. Shows how much I knew.

We got back to the house at 3, and I ate a quick lunch. It was lentil soup, curry chicken, and bread. Yummy!
At about 3:15, we both lay down for a short nap, and C came to wake me at 4:00, because we were supposed to go together to clean an elementary school at 4:30.

C told me that there was a pretty landscape on the way to the school, and when she got there, she stopped the van so I could take a picture.

I love the Spanish village with all the red tile roofs. (Click on the picture to see it better.)
Then we got to the school, just a little village school with one classroom for each grade. We went first to the utility closet, where C showed me how to fill the mop bucket and spray bottles with the right stuff. It was all the same pink soap, just with more or less water added, that we used for everything from mopping floors to wiping tables to cleaning chalkboards.

There were no whiteboards or smartboards in this school--but the other educational materials they had and the kids' projects on display made me think the kids were more advanced than our kids at the school where I worked.

C said we would work together on the first classroom, and then each do our own once I knew the routine. We sprayed and wiped down all the tables and chairs, putting the chairs upside down on the tables. Then we swept, and there was quite a lot of sand everywhere.

"Do they clean here every day?" I asked.

"Yes, but thee play area is sandy," she said. (Later I saw it. There was no grass, just some sandy ground and a concrete patio that could be used for basketball or soccer.)

Well, to make a long story short, I ended up crying because I couldn't do it exactly how C said, and she kept correcting me even though I thought I was following her instructions precisely, and that frustrated me.

Then we went to the Wednesday night service at church, and the girls asked me how I was, and I started crying again.

I felt stupid for crying over such a stupid thing. Stupid and weak and ridiculous. But oh well, it happened...

So we showered and went to bed.

Oh, but I do have to tell this little detail. When I went to clean a classroom by myself, C said, "Oh, by the way, I noticed that there's a rug in that room. Just make sure the mop is kind of dry when you mop over the rug."

So... I mopped a RUG. :-)

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Next Post: My Third Day

Betel: My First Day

Note: Names are abbreviated or changed to protect privacy.

Monday, after arriving at the Betel headquarters, eating lunch, checking my email, sending out an update, and receiving a brief tour and orientation, we returned back to our house.

A, our house leader, is diminutive in stature, but quite a firecracker. She showed me to my room and I met my roommates, R and Y. R is about 50 and is from Madrid. She goes around singing through the house and has great skill with crafts. Y is from Bulgaria and has been in Betel about a year.

I had gotten mostly unpacked when it was time for dinner. Dinner was a sort of noodle soup, salad, potatoes, and little fried breaded things that had sandwich meat and cheese inside of them.

I gave out the flower pens after dinner and everyone liked them. Y took one and put it behind her ear. Then she got another one and put it behind her other ear. "I'm taking two," she announced.

"But everyone just gets one," I said.

"Well, then how can I have one for each of my two ears?" she asked.

"Well, you can only write with one at a time," I said.

"Oh, no, I can write with both hands simultaneously," she assured me with mock seriousness.

"If you take two, there might not be enough for everyone."

"Yes, there will," she said.

I hesitated between making her give it back and yielding to the generous impulse to let her keep it. "Okay, if there's enough for everyone, then you can have it," I said. After all, it's just a pen, I thought. But then she danced around triumphantly, flourishing the pen and singing, "Na, na, na, na, I have two! I have two!"

I sighed. I didn't think of that. Now everyone is going to be jealous. Generosity to one provokes jealousy in the rest. I should have said "no" on the grounds that there weren't enough for everyone to have two. Live and learn. But after all, it is only a pen. And she's my roommate, so better not to get off on a bad foot.

Actually, I think I already got off on a bad foot with her. In the van on the way home from the Betel center, I asked her, "How did you come to Spain?"

"By plane," she answered.

"No, but--why?" I asked.

"For drugs," she answered.

"Really? the drugs are that much better in Spain than in Bulgaria?"

"But I don't want them anymore!" she protested.

"I know. I believe you."

We weren't understanding each other very well. English was my native tongue and Bulgarian was hers, and we were both speaking rather bad Spanish. I should have dropped it right there, but I didn't.

"So, is it that drugs are legal in Spain and not in Bulgaria?" I asked.

"I told you, I don't want them anymore!" she exclaimed. And we fell silent the rest of the trip.

Oh, Lord, please help me to show love to her!

I took a shower, unpacked, and went to bed right after dinner. I guess I went to bed at 11:00. I set my alarm for 6:30 and didn't get up with it. then we had to get up at 7. Alas! Another day in which I said no to God.

(Interesting. I can't find it in me to say no to a girl I've never met, who is expertly preying on my generosity, but I so easily prey on god's generosity and forgiveness, and say no to Him without a thought.)

My Bible reading happened to fall in the book of Jonah, and I felt very strongly God's call to repent, mourn before him, and turn back to His ways. I had a vision of myself three months from now, cold, dry, and spiritually drained, all because I didn't seek God for His help, direction, and power daily. So I determined to fast and pray today.

It seemed so ironic to me that the one on whom the judgment of God fell was Jonah. He accepted God's merciful withholding of judgment happily enough when it was his own case--God rescued him from the fish's belly, and he was grateful. What a contrast between two: Jonah, the individual, apparently righteous (he was God's prophet, after all), callously disobeys god and falls into judgment. Nineveh, that great city, terribly wicked, tenderly responds to God's warning and is spared. I determined not to be like Jonah--obedient only after compelling circumstances convince him to follow God's plan--and to be like Nineveh--terrible track record, yes, but still not beyond God's mercy.

In the morning, I helped my roommate R to fix a mirror and hang it up in our room. the women who stayed in the house were mopping and cleaning and I was trying to stay out of the way. I went back to my room to finish my Bible reading and fell asleep at about 10:00 am, not waking up until 4.

"Whoa!" I thought. "I didn't know I was that tired!"

Just about when I was getting up, U came in and said a new girl had arrived. She would stay in my room, which had 4 beds, only 3 of which were occupied. U had me move to the top bunk, giving the bottom bunk to the new girl, so I moved all my sheets and blankets up top.

Shortly after that, U came in, the new girl right behind her. She was tall, with short, curly, brown hair and glasses. I welcomed her in the Spanish way with a kiss on both cheeks, smiled, and introduced myself. When they were about to leave the room, I called after her, "What is your name?" She had already turned towards the door, and she just kept walking without responding. U leaned over to me and said, "She's deaf-mute." My eyes widened in comprehension and I felt a rush of emotion wash over me. For the last two years I've been working with special-needs kids! It all felt so random then--but here I could begin to see that there was a purpose for all that training. I instantly felt a bond with her, a determination to communicate, a resolve to make her feel loved.

U set up some sheets and a blanket on a couch in the salón grande (living room), and I went with Lucy to sit with the new girl, who I learned was named Q. As soon as she got snuggled into her covers, she fell asleep, and Lucy and I talked. We talked about lots of things in our Christian experience, family background, and so forth. It is good to have an English-speaking friend here.

Q woke up and noticed that I was writing in my journal. She asked to see--I quickly found that she was deaf, but not mute, and actually had a pretty impressive ability to pronounce words and make herself understood. As soon as she saw the page, she exclaimed, "¡Que letra mas bonita!" (What beautiful handwriting!")

"Well, thank you, I responded. Then she noticed that the flower in my hand was actually the pen I was writing with. A look of wonder spread over her face. I said, "I have one for you. Would you like one?" She nodded "yes" and I went to get my bag. She picked an orange one and gave me a big kiss on the cheek.

Things started off well with her, at least.

One thing I did in the morning that I forgot to mention was take a photo tour of the house. Here a few photos.

The outside of the house - front entrance

My bedroom

Dining room

Living room or salon grande. We have our devotions here.

This is the first post in the series. 
Next post: My Second Day

Update time!

Let's see how many journal entries I can get posted before I have to go back to work!

Today I ate rabbit and quail for lunch. Haha... fun foreign food all the time! :-)

But let's back up and go to the beginning...Pictures to come!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Some of my travels

First leg of the journey: Fly to Chicago. My flight left at 6:00 am and I slept like a baby the whole entire way. I don't have any pictures of that.

Once in Chicago, I had about 9 hours to kill. I enjoyed visiting the Urban Garden they had there in the airport.

They use these herbs and plants in the restaurants in the airport. What a great concept. 

Second leg of the journey: fly to London. I had to laugh when I saw this sign on the airport wall:
Third leg of the journey: Fly to Madrid. I was greeted by two girls from the house where I will be living, and they brought me back to the Betel headquarters in a big white van similar to this one. 
Now I'm in the dining room of the Betel center, where I have eaten lunch and now I'm just sitting around doing my emailing and blogging for the week. 

I don't know when I'll have my next internet access, but I'll keep track of what I'm doing in a written journal, and then perhaps do several days' worth of blog posts in one chunk. 

There will be more photos forthcoming! 

The Journey Begins

I'm sitting here in the middle of the bustling London airport. It's 8:30 am local time, but my body tells me it's 3:30 am. I just ordered a bowl of British porridge for breakfast and consumed it slowly, blissfully. My standard for oatmeal will forevermore have a new definition.

The sounds of muffled polite conversation, squeaking escalators, and final boarding calls surround me. People of every nationality and costume and accent walk by me. A British mum with two little girls was ahead of me in line at "Pret" (where I got my porridge) and I just had to smile at how darling the girls' accent was.

People watching is better than usual here. What are women wearing? How do they cut their hair? How do they do their makeup? No more of the heavy Southern eye shadow in vivid hues, that's certain. Can I tell if this or that person is a foreigner? The minute they open their mouth it removes all doubt, but I've lost my touch at judging it just by sight. Except for the tennis shoes. That's still a dead giveaway. And the shorts.

Soon my gate will be announced for my flight to Madrid, and I will be able to walk down to wherever it is. My foot aches from where I broke my toe a couple of weeks ago. All this walking on hard tile floors has been hard on it. How grateful I am for my comfortable tennis shoes. Let them give me away as an American. I would not be able to bear the agony of a pair of cute boots right now.

On the flight to London, I sat next to a delightful elderly couple on their way to a cruise in Athens. They were Christians and had been on several mission trips themselves, mostly with Josh McDowell (whom they happened to know personally) and with Campus Crusade.

After we had exchanged initial pleasantries, I asked Gail a question (something like "Are you going to see the Parthenon when you go to Athens?"), which she referred to her husband, saying, "I'm not really good at listening and following a conversation." Hmmm...I hadn't noticed, I thought, but all I said was, "I'm sorry."

We continued talking, and the rest of the flight was a curious mixture of lucid conversation and random, surreal statements. For instance, we talked about the 5 Love Languages book, which she had at home, and neither of us could remember the author's name. Much later, after I had fallen asleep and awoken, she said, "I asked my husband. Gary Smalley is the name of the guy who...does the cursive writing." I knew what she meant. Another time, upon seeing the bright white light at the end of the wing, she said, "Look at that lone car out there, driving."

Ah, life. How it spices up our existence with unexpected, unpredictable things.