loud, exuberant, expressive. What a character! She was so mischievous. You could see it in her eyes constantly. Very much her own person and quite frankly always laughing and joking. Loved being the center of attention.
That description, seemingly light-hearted and cheerful, was actually just the outside-Carli. Inside she was empty, just nothing but ashes. I could see it. Turmoil like that cannot be hidden. Even in her jovial demeanor there was something fearful, perhaps even bitter hiding behind that mask.
We connected immediately. She liked being loud. I liked being loud. Naturally, we became friends. But I sensed immediately that there was something more underneath that show. As much as I needed to be careful with the questions I asked, especially concerning the sensitive nature of the people we were living with, at the same time I didn’t want to shy away from questions that may lead to God-opportunities that transcend language barriers.
One of the first few evenings in Madrid we were chilling in the living room and talking. I told her about my family, general info about myself and life (“first semester Spanish, come to me!” … by the way, I think when you know a word in another language, when it suddenly comes to mind, you feel you must immediately talk about it or miss a prime opportunity to converse, no matter how random the topic. Problem is, words like gato, pantalones and baño don’t deceptively slip into any natural conversation by a long shot.)
… Anyway. I told her information about my life, and I then asked about her life. I tried to listen carefully as she started telling me her story, eventually sharing how she came to Betel. I saw her painful discomfort yet willingness to open up. She had been sent to prison for a 4 year sentence, yet after being there 2 years, the prison said she could finish up her last 2 years in Betel if she agreed to stay there. It’s very common for one’s drug addiction to become worse once living in prison, and Betel has a wonderful reputation with the prisons. Her boyfriend lives in Madrid, I believe. She has 2 daughters, both of whose names were tattooed on her arm. In sudden excitement, she went and grabbed a picture frame (one of her few possessions) that had the pictures of her boyfriend and 2 daughters. Her eyes were shining at this time. As I came to find out throughout my stay, she is pretty much cut-off from her daughters and the life she truly wanted, yet had thrown away. One choice at a time, she entered a life of whole-hearted idolatry that stole her family, happiness, and true freedom.
Carli liked me and I found she wanted my attention and approval, though I’m not exactly sure why. I normally sat by her for breakfast, across from a Bulgarian woman that had just arrived. I wanted to have a meaningful conversation, but that was pretty much impossible with the language barrier. I learned to pretty much rely on prayer and non-verbals, like smiling and kindness.
Carli got to see her daughters ages 4 and 6 at church that Sunday for the first time in 6 weeks. This was a huge moment for her and you could tell by her jittery actions. It her daughter’s birthday. Betel allowed her to spend the afternoon with her mother and daughters, but had to come back in the evening. When she arrived at the house, she looked so depressed and was moody, not interested in talking. Her outgoing spirit was completely deflated. At these times I felt she avoided me, along with everyone else, and was depressed and pessimistic. Yes, even angry.
Carli needs Jesus. She knows that. She participates in Betel activities and worship yet there is no true relationship and commitment to Christ. It’s been 6 months since I’ve seen her last. I fear that if she does not soon love Jesus more than her idols that she will forever turn away. Pray for her to turn to Jesus. Carli is 21.