One day at the beginning of the semester I was at Encuentro (a small program after school on Wednesdays where the students of my program get together to worship) when I noticed two people at the back of the room I didn’t recognize. I like meeting new people and making people feel welcomed, so I went back and introduced myself. One of the girl’s names was Esther, and she ended up inviting me to her church. I got her contact but wasn’t planning on going anytime soon after because it wasn’t within walkable distance.
A little bit later my friend Stephanie and I were trying to go to a new church one Sunday but couldn’t figure out the bus system, so I ended up texting Esther for help to get to her church. She met us at the metro station and walked us to her church, introducing us to the people our age. She actually ended up moving to Madrid that very same week, so we said goodbye to her that same day.
This group of people she introduced us to ended up being one of my biggest blessings this semester. Since the day Esther introduced me to this group of people, I have gone on a youth retreat with them, gone to their hangouts on Saturday nights, taught them some of my favorite card games, watched Netflix shows with them, played the weirdest game of kickball I’ve ever witnessed, and hung out with some of them during the weeks.
They also wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving with us, which was super sweet. Instead of trying to organize all the thanksgiving food, we decided to make four different types of pie. We split into four different teams – the Spaniards (pumpkin pie), the South Americans (chocolate peanut butter pie), the Midwesterners (peanut butter pie), and the non-Midwesterners (apple pie).
While the pies baked, I taught them how to play ERS, which is an intense card game where you have to all slap the deck of cards in the middle on certain conditions. They loved this game, and we all enjoyed sassing each other. It’s so fun to be able to sass in a different language!
All the pies came out great… except the chocolate peanut butter pie. The recipe calls for peanut butter chips, which don’t exist in Sevilla, so they crushed up chocolate covered peanuts instead. It just wasn’t the same. While they were eating, I gave an impromptu speech about why we celebrate Thanksgiving… I’m pretty sure I did a poor job of explaining it. Anyway, I think the general consensus was that the peanut butter pie was the best – go Midwesterners!
The Sunday after we celebrated Thanksgiving together was my birthday. I wasn’t really planning on celebrating that much on that day other than go see a movie with some friends. However, right as I walked into church that morning my friend Nelly came up to me and said, “¡Felicidades! ¿Es tu cumple, verdad?” I confirmed that it was my birthday and took a few more steps into the church when I saw the big group of jóvenes who starting singing “Cumpleaños Feliz” really loudly. Then at the end they all lined up and gave me a hug and wished me well – literally every single one. It was so sweet – truly one of the sweetest moments of this semester for me. Then we got to eat lunch together after the service and played some more ERS.
Another sweet moment was when the church celebrated everyone’s birthdays for the month together during one of the first services of November. All the people with birthdays stood at the front of the church, and everyone sang. However, afterwards they said that family could come up and pray for the people with birthdays. I felt kind of strange because my family obviously wasn’t with me – but then two sisters I’ve gotten to know came up and embraced me from either side, praying for me. That was another one of the sweetest moments of this semester.
This past Sunday was my last day at my church because I have trips planned for my final two weekends in Europe. I know that church and my friends there will be one of the tops things I miss about Spain. Attending there has been a big blessing and has provided me with Spanish friends who have taught me Spanish slang, helped me experience Spanish culture, and given me a family away from home. This semester has been much better with them, and if I come back to Spain one day I know going back and seeing them will be high on my list.
In conclusion, my agradecimiento especial (special thanks) this thanksgiving is my international church family – in the US, in Ecuador, in Peru, and now in Spain. I’m so thankful to be loved and to love people who share the same faith from around the world. I have truly been blessed by the faith, testimonies, hearts, and encouragement of the Christians in each of these countries, and I’m looking forward to all being together again one day with our Heavenly Father.