Hola! It's been a while since I've had the chance to write this blog, things have been mega-busy and with so much going on I didn't even know where to start! As I couldn't possibly fit in my entire month of activities into this little update, I'll do a quick shortlist of the top few highlights, then I'll go on to describe my typical day in Betel. Hopefully, it'll be an interesting illustration of what I get up to over here, and may answer some of the questions you may have about Betel and how it all works. I'll just add that, having been through that tough time at the beginning, I now love it here, and am really beginning to enjoy the work God's given me. There are still challenges (which I'm sure I'll mention later), but in general, things are going well.
Firstly, a quick shortlist of my recent activities:
1. Weekend visit to Germany for a friend's birthday and to meet up with my old assistant friends from North rhine westphalia (NRW). Oh, how we laughed!
2. Wedding bells! One of the girls from the house got married to a Betelito in our church and all the girls went along. It was a lovely event, and really heart-warming to see how someone's life can be so fully reconstructed, even to the extent of getting married.
3. The arrival of new girls in the house, and building relationships with the girls that are already here - it's great to chat, hear their stories and share in their lives.
And so onto...
A Day in the Life (of a Betel volunteer):
07:00 Woken up by the sounds of a 'Buenos Dias' (or Good Morning for all you non Spanish-speakers out there), as someone pokes their head round the door to signal that it's time to start the day. Rise and shine!
07:10 After 10 minutes of failed attempts to get up (otherwise know as falling asleep again and thinking that the 'Buenos Dias' was all a dream), someone turns on the light in the dorm and we all groan and cover our eyes. People gradually start emerging from their beds, sleepy-eyed and yawning.
07:15 Up and out! Having managed to (very gracefully) manoeuvre myself down from my top bunk with no ladder, I am in the process of preparing myself for the day. Clothes: check. Backpack: check. Makeup: optional...
07:25 Sitting in the dining room, waiting for everyone to arrive for breakfast so that we can say grace and make a start. A standard Spanish breakfast: coffee with cakes/croissant to dip into it. They do sometimes have cereal, but this they also decide to put into their coffee. Bleurgh.
07:45 A quick brush of the teeth and straight to the living room, where we have our morning devotional. We usually start with a time of prayer and praise, with one of the girls and I playing the guitar and the others singing along. Then comes the Bible study/thought for the day - this morning, it was from Roseane, who told us about her life before she became a Christian, and how God has been changing her heart towards forgiveness.
08:30 End of the devotional, and everyone runs to their rooms to grab their bags and those who went for the more glamorous look give their makeup a final quick touch, heading quickly out to the vans before the leader of the house comes along and tells you off for being late...
09:20 Arrival in the city, and things start getting busy. The madrileños are are up and ready to let out their angry sides, with honking galore, non-indicating drivers, sudden road-side stops and impatient speed demons who get annoyed if you take more than half a second to move once the light has turned green. Oh, Spaniards. The girls are encouraging me to 'Saca lo español', or 'Let your Spanish side out', otherwise known as driving very quickly and honking at every opportunity. It's quite fun! Although not something I'm going to take back to the UK. Probably...
09:30 After having dropped off a couple of girls to work at our charity shop, Blueberry (Calle Marcelo Usera, if anyone's interested), we arrive at church, unload the van and set to work. Some girls to to the kitchen, to prepare the food for lunch, and we head off to get on with some cleaning - oh, the joys!
12:00 Time for a break. It's at least two hours until lunch, so we grab ourselves a snack (pincho) and sit down in the dining room for 10 minutes or so, resting our tired arms from all that sweeping/ mopping/ cleaning windows (my speciality). If someone's feeling generous, we might even get chips from the Betel chippy round the corner. Then we continue with the good deed until...
14:00 Lunchtime! Lunch is a big affair, with all the pastors of the church, all the office staff, all the chicos working in the charity shop next door and various sites in the area come to have their share. It usually amounts to about 70 people, so you can imagine the preparation involved, and the tidying up afterwards!
14:30 After we've eaten, the girls head over to the sofas in the corner of the dining room, where we can enjoy an hour or so of rest in our siesta time - much appreciated, after a long morning's work. Time for a call with the family, or just a long nap - lovely!
16:00 End of the siesta, and everyone rubs their eyes and rolls back into working mode. Today, my colleague has a driving lesson (Betel has a serious lack of drivers), so I go to help tidy up the kitchen and dining area. This is usually done fairly quickly, so by...
18:00 We have a bit of time to read/relax/study. There is also time to have a shower, and get changed for later on, as, being Wednesday, we have a church meeting in the evening and everyone likes to look their best. Some may have slightly more interest in this than others, having boyfriends or other significant males in the men's houses, who they are only allowed to see during church time. A pretty important moment for many of them - church services are the social highlights of the week, for sure!
20:00/20:30 The meeting begins - always a bit late; we are in Spain, after all. There's worship (singing), prayer, and then a short talk from one of the Betelitos (male or female). A lot of them talk about their testimony, which is always an inspiration to see how much God's been changing them - there are some very complicated back-stories here in Betel, as you can imagine!
22:00 End of the meeting, and we say our last goodbyes, go out to the vans again and head home. There, dinner will be being prepared by the girls who stayed at home today (there's always 3 or 4), which we can enjoy eating round about...
23:00! By this point, most of us are knackered, so we head off towards our welcome-looking beds, although not before doing our night-time jobs/having a shower. I often stay up a little longer to write my diary and chat to the girls I haven't seen during the day time. This means that by the time I actually get into my PJs and snuggling down under the duvet, it's often...
24:00 when I collapse into my blankets and hope that the girls' snoring doesn't disturb my night's sleep. A quick prayer to dedicate the next day and the girls to the Lord, then it's eyes closed and night night until the next day, where it starts all over again!
So there you have it - a typical day in the life of a Betelita in the Casa de chicas, Madrid. Some days are different - it can be quite exciting to check the rota and find that you're going off to collect donations in the mountains! I hope this has given you an insight into my life at the moment - if you have any questions, feel free to comment/contact me :)
Much love - until next time!