This past summer my family and I had the incredible opportunity to serve and be a part of missions teams in Xativa and Madrid, Spain. The purpose of these trips was to go to both Madrid and Xativa to meet the pastors that our church has worked with for many years. When I first heard about this trip to Spain, I could not stop asking my parents if I could go! I’ve always wanted to and I could not believe the possibility of actually going was just a few months away. When my sister and I found out that we would both be able to go, we were so stoked! As we packed and prepared for our 12 hour flight, I kept thinking about what its going to look like, how the people were going to be, etc. I was beyond elated that I would be in Europe for 10 days, especially knowing the objective of the trip was to build relationships with the Pastors and their families.
Xativa was our first stop. We spent a total of three days there and it was beautiful, quaint, and breathtaking all at the same time. It honestly reminded me of the warner brother’s studio lot because it looked like a movie set. You know the ones…where they have little restaurants, coffee shops and stores on small streets, with narrow roads and archaic parks. It was exactly like that. Yet, there were people walking everywhere!
What I found most interesting about Spain was their schedule throughout the day, including eating and time of leisure. In the morning they have a small piece of bread with coffee for “breakfast” then around 11 o’clock or noon they’ll have a big breakfast, then their lunch is around 2 or 3. Then, they’ll have a small dinner around 5 or 6, and finally, to finish it off, they have a big dinner “feast” at around 8pm. Definitely different than how we eat here in the states. Their food ranged from cocas (kind of compared to a pizza), to paella (a big rice dish mixed with all sorts of meats and yummy things), cured meats, and the occasional salad. Now, I say “occasional” salad but to be honest we struggled to have salad or find any greens to eat at all. So yes, for most of the trip we were feeling a little on the heavier side, but it was all worth it.
In Xativa we held a VBS (Vacation Bible School) at Iglesia Bautista Emanuel for all the little niños in the community. It was such a fun time of teaching songs, doing activities, acting out skits and dancing all day long. Quimi and I got to be the translators for all the main sessions, so you know we were doing all the dance moves and singing all the songs. I loved getting to hang and play with these little kids because they were so full of energy and laughter, they really enjoyed us being there.
Something else that was so unique about our time in Xativa was when we went to a nursing home that was owned by the church we worked with. Over the years they have noticed that Xativa had no place for the elderly to live and receive the care they need. So Pastor Miguel and his leaders decided to build a nursing home where they can provide specific care and needs for the elderly men and women from their congregation. We arrived at the nursing home and started to meet and talk to some of the men and women there. We learned their names, where they grew up, and the amazing stories they wanted to share about their past. After, Quimi and I began to sing a few songs of worship; it was a beautiful and sweet time of everyone singing in one accord and worshipping our Jesus. That precious moment impacted my heart so quickly and showed me that no matter how far these men and women have come in their lives, they still lift their voices to sing to the Lord. It was such a joy to be there and spend time getting to know them. All they wanted was to have conversations and see that people did care about them. I cannot be more thankful to be a part of these wonderful experiences.
Next up was Madrid! I was stoked to see the city and to get to meet the people from the church we were serving. They were all so amazing, welcoming and generous. We had an incredible time and we were able to see so many gorgeous sights. We also spent time having a basket camp for kids at Iglesia Bautista Madrid. Every morning we would wake up, have breakfast and then head out to the church to spend the morning with the kids. We taught English, had basketball training, taught music and even taught life values.
I was so excited to be placed in a group leading little kids and form relationships with them. However, when I arrived I was placed in the oldest group of kids which was 12 to 13 year olds and I was definitely feeling challenged. Everyone knows that when kids get to their teenage years they start to think they’re all that, and well, I was a little afraid they weren’t going to like me. Nevertheless, they ended up loosening up and started to actually talk to me about life and things they were interested in. It was nice to finally form some friendships and show them that I cared for them.
One of my favorite excursions that we had the chance to go on was to see this little historic town called, Toledo. It was so cute, very historic, with this super old cathedral that was just ahhhhh, amazing. I was in awe of the beauty of this town and how it still looked very clean and significant although it had been years and years since it was created. We also got to visit the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium where Real Madrid plays. Our family is all big soccer fans so that was fun to go to. There was another experience we had in Madrid that I will never forget. It was when we went out into the city (it basically looks like New York) and fed the homeless. Right before we left we made food bags with sandwiches, fruit, snacks, and a juice box that we were going to hand out to people we came across. We wanted to strike up conversation with them and not just give them food and walk away, but actually get to know them and the journey they have taken to get to where they are. It was great to meet new people, pray for them & show them someone cares through a bag of food.
Overall Spain was incredible. Just absolutely everything and more than I thought it would be. I am extremely thankful that I get these opportunities to travel but also do things I love, which is to serve people and get to know people. Can’t wait for my next adventure!