You may remember that I mentioned in my last blog that I would be staying with a Spanish couple for a little over a week. Well, I had a wonderful time with Mari and Salvador. My Spanish absolutely grew by leaps and bounds during that time. I received daily lectures from Mari for speaking in English and then she would look at me and say, "talk." I would ask her what she wanted me to say and she would tell me it did not matter, I just needed to talk. So I did. I learned a lot and grew close to them.
As I came up on the last six weeks of my time in Spain, my mom asked me some really good questions. Since then, I have been thinking and praying about them. Here are her questions and my thoughts as I close the door on this short but very impactful season in my life:
1.) If I felt I had accomplished/was accomplishing what I had set out to do.
2.) Whether my expectations for this time had been on track or not.
Her question really stuck with me. Have I accomplished my goals? Have my expectations changed? Have I made a lasting difference?
Some of my goals in coming here were to be a blessing, to make a difference, to draw closer to God, and to learn more about the plans He has for my life. I believe that every day I accomplish each of these a little more. I have definitely gotten a small taste of the price I would have to pay to live the life of a missionary. I have counted the cost of God's call. Though I am still far from knowing or understanding the true price, I have seen a glimpse of it and realize that only with God's strength and with Him by my side can I accomplish His purpose for my life. After this time in Spain, I now feel God's call on my heart into full time missions more clearly than ever. I do not know the "how's", the "when's", or even really the "where's", but I am excited for the road ahead, twists, turns, bumps, and all.
My main expectations of my time here really were just to work hard and to form lasting relationships, and of course to learn the language. I can say very definitely that I have indeed fulfilled those expectations and continue to fulfill them each day I am here. While I am good friends with most of the youth in the ministry here, I have grown especially close with one girl in particular. This friendship began mainly because she speaks such clear Spanish that I could understand her easier than most Spaniards. So we started hanging out and doing things together, which quickly became a thing where just about every free moment we had, we spent together. I now count her as one of my very dearest friends.
As to whether I have been a blessing and made a lasting difference, I believe I am and have. One lady came to me in April and said she was not sure if I remembered, but I had prayed for her one night after church and it had just blessed her so much. I have to admit I was stunned. I did remember. It had been in my first weeks here, when I knew so little Spanish it was laughable and I was so homesick. When I prayed for this lady I was able to say a little bit in Spanish, but then the rest I prayed in English. This lady speaks no English at all and I still have no idea why she wanted prayer that night. However, to hear that even through all that, she had been blessed by my paltry efforts was amazing and eye opening. It really is the little things that count, and when you allow God to work through you, those little things make the big difference.
This church has equally (and probably more) been a blessing to me. One by one, all at different times and for different reasons, they have come to me and encouraged me. One girl told me, "Oh Grace, your Spanish is so much better now. I noticed because now when we tell jokes, you laugh too." She then went on to let me know how much my friendship meant to her. This church really is a family and they just enfold everyone who comes in the doors in arms full of love. When they see me, many of the ladies of the church come to me, saying, "Mi niña, mi niña!" (Which means both "my girl" and "my daughter.") An "Abuelita" (a grandmother) who literally has calluses on her knees because she prays so much, grabs me in a bear hug each time she sees me, she then blesses and prays over me.
Mark 10:28-30 says, "Peter said to [Jesus], 'We have left everything to follow you!' 'I tell you the truth,' Jesus replied, 'no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age.' "
I left my home, my family, and everything familiar to me to follow where Jesus was leading me. I will not lie, it was hard. However, just like Jesus tells us in this verse and just like Job who gained a double portion in the end, God has blessed me with not just one wonderful family, but two. God has given me sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, (and even in a way children) here in Spain. Do not hesitate: leave everything and follow Jesus. It is the best thing you could ever do. In the end, the blessings far outweigh all the sacrifices.
I leave Spain tomorrow, June 8, and will be back home with my American family. I said my goodbyes to my Spanish family yesterday at church. Afterward I was overwhelmed by how many wanted to come and speak to me, to bless me, and to give me a little something to remember them by. (As if I could possibly forget them!)
This time in Spain has made a lasting difference on my life. The way I see things and people have changed, I have learned more about myself and grown closer to God, and I am doing what I was created to do. Thank you so much to everyone who made this trip possible. To those who supported me in finances and prayer, to my church and the pastors in the U.S. for sending me out, to the church and the pastors here in Benalmádena, Spain for receiving me, to those who encouraged me and told me to never give up. Thank you all.
Yes, this is the end of my time here in Spain, but it is no where near the end of my time serving God. I have just begun to scratch the surface of the amazing things God has for my life, I have just begun my walk in this adventure we call 'life' and you can be sure that you will hear from me again soon; for this is only the beginning.
Que Dios os bendiga y os guarde (May God Bless you and keep you)