Friday, November 18, 2011

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 sal√≥n 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

1 comment:

  1. Oh my! Y is quite a character! Good look in dealing with her. I'll be praying for you!

    Love,

    Anna N.

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