Being "in the ministry" can be a lonely place sometimes. Especially when you work in a church. It's hard to know where you should vent, where it's safe or even appropriate to share your struggles. When do you stop being a church leader and just become a friend who needs to pour out the deepest things in your heart or have a laugh that makes your belly hurt? Sometimes friends come from the most unexpected places.
During our time in Barcelona, we met a couple not much older than us who were married but had no kids. In some ways we could not have been more different; we were missionaries, they were not even believers. We were fundamentally different in many, many way, but we accepted each other into our respective worlds with a rare dose of freedom and they became our best "hang-out" friends. Since they didn't have kids, they were happy to come over to our apartment and we would play cards until the wee hours of the morning. How we laughed! She and I got into the habit of exercising together at least once a week. I got used to her "colorful" vocabulary, something my missionary kid ears had never dealt with in real life. They would invite us to their house with other friends of theirs who thought that smoking a little pot after lunch was the perfect way to start a relaxing afternoon. Somehow our friends felt comfortable including us in this mix, knowing that we wouldn't partake yet somehow sensing we would not condemn either. We even got the chance to have some deep spiritual discussions with them. But mostly we just had a great time together.
When we knew that we would be moving to Madrid, I started praying that God would provide some friends for us that would meet the need that our unlikely friends in Barcelona had met. I prayed it deliberately and I prayed it for months. We arrived in Madrid late February of 2002. In August, our whole family was doing grocery shopping at Lidl. As we made our way up and down the aisles with our two loaded carts (we only go once a month) with a kid in each, Meaghan made a comment to Troy. The man passing us with his cart looked sideways at us, paused and then asked us (in English) where we were from. Within five minutes we found out that Jacob was also a church-planter, that he and his wife had two kids, lived in a suburb close to us and were really feeling the need for an outside source (other than their church-planting work) of fellowship. (As a bonus for me, they were also Canadian, eh?)
You guessed it! Jacob and Karen and their two girls are now our best friends in Madrid. We get together as often as we can, and boy do we laugh! You will often find us around somebody's table, usually eating Chinese food or rotisserie chicken and french fries. We watch movies, we play games and Jacob always makes the coffee no matter whose house we are at. But not only do we laugh and eat (lots!) we share our struggles with living in Spain, raising kids in another culture, measuring our successes with God's ruler instead of ours, and every other random thing that pops into our heads. We have cried together, prayed together, celebrated holidays together and started traditions together. We joke that we never invite anyone else to join us because they would think we were all nuts.
So here's to you, Jake & Karen. I raise my glass and say "Ears!" And pass the pan de gambas.