June 23_ First month reflections

NOTE: the following posts are, shall we say, post posts. I wrote the posts or recorded them in the past month, and now I’m posting them post post. Follow me? Good 🙂

June 23

Here I am, in the London-Stansted airport, and for the first time on this trip pretty much by myself with many long hours ahead of me to wait for the flight to Verona, and from there to Venice. So time to catch up on that blogging!

A couple descriptors of the past month:

The people: kind, welcoming, encouraging, restored, passionate

The church: humble, driven, Cross-centered, loving

The scenery: stunning, age-old, historic, enchanting, diverse

The weather: warm and perfect (Spain), chilly and moody (England)

The schedule: intense, busy, structured, unpredictable

That last point about the schedule is the reason I really haven’t been constantly blogging or updating other social media. I rarely have internet access, and the few times that I do, I’m usually with people or I’m kinda flying through and don’t have time to really think through anything or say it the way I’d like to. So forgive me for delayed or abrupt messages!

Now I must say, I have had a very unique experience with Betel in so many ways. Because of the nature of Betel and their daily jobs, I have seen parts of Madrid, Birmingham, and Nottingham that tourists would never see.

I’ll upload a few video journals where I’ll talk through my experience and perspectives from the time of recording, and then separate videos for the pictures where I’ll walk you through places I’ve been and people I’ve met and any other random experience in-between!

And just so that you have a quick overview of where in the world I’ve been for the past month, I’ll give you the run down:

May 22: Washington, DC- met up with Jonathan and Christy Matias (church planters of Grace Church of Alexandria) and stayed with them until the next morning. So good to see them again and catch up, hear about their adoption process, share our common affinity for Nacho Libre quotes, you know…

May 24: Fort Washington, PA- USA WEC headquarters, which is in a castle. Like a real castle built a long time ago (I forget how long, but if I remember, I’ll let you know). Our team Loretta, Mike, Chris and I went through preparation training.

May 25: my birthday. Just had to throw it in here. Celebrated with a Starbucks Peppermint Mocha frap. The real deal.

May 26: flew out of Phili on the red eye, arrived in London Heathrow, and then proceeded to Madrid. We arrived at Betel around noon and really didn’t have any sleep the night before. Despite our exhaustion, we drank some intense Spanish espresso and took a tour of the international facilities, went to their evening service at 8:30, and once we got home (10:30ish) we ate dinner. Let me repeat. We. Ate. Dinner. At. 10:30pm. Hello Spanish culture!!

June 1: I went with a small team from Betel to the drug camp of Madrid, known as the drug trafficking center of Europe. If people want drugs, namely heroin, they come to Madrid. It was surreal. Something that you only see in movies or documentaries. Yet so sad. The rich businessman and the poverty-stricken HIV-infected buyer alike come here. We set up the van and offered food, drink and a word of hope to those that are ensnared. I came to learn that most drug addicts hate their lives; they would actually prefer to die; they do want freedom. But until they love Jesus more than the drug they will never have victory. Betel goes there almost every day to love them and point them to Jesus. Some of the leaders actually used to live there before they came to Christ.

June 4: our team took a day trip to downtown Madrid and saw all the major Plazas, streets, shopping, centers, historic buildings… there really was just so much to see! The busyness of it all reminded me of New York City, yet Madrid is pretty hilly and everything in general is much older than cities in the US. All the windows, doors and porches had black wrought iron and the architecture was very intricate and ornate. If you want a big city feel coupled with rich history, go to Madrid.

June 8: Toledo. Oh you can just not beat Toledo. I could go back and spend weeks there! It’s like you stepped back into time 400 years.  Not commercialized like Madrid, and though there were still tourists, it felt so open and free for me to enjoy the stone roads, narrow buildings stacked next to each other, ancient structures, fortresses, art, cathedrals, towers, bridges, rolling hillsides… I could not get enough. I loved it! And there’s a path that circles Toledo (which is basically a fortress on a hill) and you could walk or bike around. Next time.

June 10: Flew to London where we were picked up and taken to the Betel Britain headquarters in Birmingham. This headquarters was actually practically given to them by Cadbury, like the real Cadbury! He is a Christian, and when he saw what Betel was doing and how they are making a difference in society, he gave them several buildings. And you know what this means—Cadbury Chocolate World was 5 minutes from our house!

June 14: Our team went to Nottingham to see the Betel there. No, I did not see Robin Hood, Friar Tuck, or any men in tights. Nottingham is lovely, though. While Birmingham is full of varying shades of green, rolling hills, Nottingham literally is a thick, dark green forest.

June 16: We went back to Birmingham and resumed working with the Betelitos. The system of Betel is so intriguing and the businesses are amazing. In Britain they have a furniture restoration shop, a gardening (landscaping) business and multiple consignment shops. Betel overall is 98% self-supported. Pretty good for a charity.

June 19: We left Birmingham and went to London where the UK WEC headquarters resides. And you guessed it—it’s in a castle. A massive castle. I don’t know what’s up with this organization and castles (Betel was just given a castle near Scotland), but I’m loving it! The next day our team toured London and it was simply enchanting. Buckingham Palace was exquisite and every historic building in general was massive and detailed. Trafalgar Square, Parliament, Westminster Chapel—it was all overwhelming with its texture and royalty.

June 21: I took a train down to Southampton right on the coastline and stayed with a mutual friend Demelza. It was lovely being right on the coast and I got to explore a bit and just take some time to reflect on the past month. Must say, I’m still processing.

So now I’m here, still at the airport, and wondering if it’s worth the money to buy a few hours to use the wireless. It may become necessary to make it through the night.

And thank you all so much for the prayers! It has been so encouraging to hear from many of you that you have prayed for this trip and me. There have been many highs and there have been many lows. Some things have solidified my faith, some things have thrown me into emotional turmoil, and yet many things have changed my life forever. And that’s a God thing for sure.

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