A short-term cross-cultural experience with WEC not only provides help to key ministries, but can also be an opportunity to grow in your faith. Beth Jacobs recently visited Madrid, Spain, to work with WEC’s rehabilitation community, Betel International. She shares her story …
I was brought up in a christian home and accepted Christ at a young age. When I was 18, I went away on a mission trip to South America and then started university the year after, which meant I had to stop being dependent on my family's faith. I had to make my faith my own. At the start of university, I had lots of non-Christian friends who made fun of my faith, and my doubts nearly overwhelmed me, but my faith became stronger through this experience. Looking back, I can see that God used that time to help me know him better.
South America or Spain?
Since my first mission trip to South America, I have always wanted to go on mission again. I chose to study Spanish at university, partly because I enjoyed it, but partly because I could use the mandatory year abroad for mission! All the doors to go back to South America were shutting for various reasons, so I decided to look into visiting Spain. Mandy (who serves with the WEC UK Short Term team) told me about Betel. I had worked in a crisis intervention centre before, helping people with similar situations to those in Betel, and I also had a close friend who was struggling with drug addiction, so I realised how just how hard and cyclic that can be.
Knowing that Betel was dedicated to helping people stuck in that seemingly hopeless cycle and telling them about Jesus’ transforming power made me fall in love with the ministry before I even arrived.
‘Unconditional love’ is tough
I have been living in the Betel women’s house on the outskirts of Madrid. We welcome women in recovery from alcohol- or drug-addiction or struggling with homelessness or mental health issues, and provide them with a safe and supportive community. We cook, we clean and we work in the second-hand shop which helps to keep Betel running. My real purpose here, though, is to live 24/7 alongside the women, to be a supportive friend in their recovery process. I get many opportunities to share my faith with them, which is exciting, as most of them have never heard the gospel, and I try to just show them the love of Jesus.
On this visit, God has taught me what the glib phrase ‘unconditional love’ really means, and how hard it is. Truly loving someone, regardless of whether they love you or even respect you, is something I’ve spent a lot of time pondering and practising. I have concluded that the way I treat others should be based on my identity in God – my identity as a broken, unworthy sinner, loved and forgiven by the Lord of the universe. This kind of love is steadfast and unchanging and doesn’t dependent on how other people respond.
Truly loving someone, regardless of whether they love you ... is something I’ve spent a lot of time pondering ...
A time to grow
Doing this as my short-term mission has forced me to rely on God, which has been both challenging and the best thing about it. Being completely removed from my comfortable life and having to very quickly adapt to another culture and language has allowed God to work in me.
I have come to understand that God’s grace covers my failures. I am a bit of a perfectionist, which meant that in the first months here I never took time to relax or to be alone with God, because I didn’t want to lose a single opportunity to be with the women! But I just ended up constantly drained and stressed that I wasn’t doing enough. I had a moment when it hit me that I will always be like this! I will never reach the image in my head of what a perfect missionary is. But God already knows exactly who I am and I have to trust that he really does cover all those shortcomings with his grace. I can spend time resting in him, and then joyfully serve him without stress and striving, because I know I can trust him to carry out his plan in this house, with or without my contributions!
I will never reach the image in my head of what a perfect missionary is. But God already knows exactly who I am. I can spend time resting in him, and then joyfully serve him, because I know I can trust him to carry out his plan, with or without my contributions!
It is so valuable to commit full-time to mission for a while – you see what happens when you leave everything behind to follow God into a new situation. There are enjoyable experiences, and yet you learn so much from the tougher times. I also think that mission is really important in linking christian communities in different countries. It brings us closer to being a unified global Church – Christ’s body – with him as the head.
Is there an area of injustice that you feel strongly about? Could you use your language skills abroad? Perhaps God is calling you to short-term mission? You can read more about Short Term Mission with WEC here. And email us if you want to talk about the opportunities we have.
Find out more about our Short Term / Gap Year ministry
WEC’s Short Term programme is geared to fuel your passion for God through a hands-on experience.
For a Solo Trek, we aim to match your gifts and time-frame for a short-term cross-cultural faith-filled adventure with God. We will place you alongside an experienced missionary in any one of over 80 countries, where you can serve God, share the good news and grow in your faith.
Alongside Solo Trek, we encourage Church Teams to organise and run your own short term cross-cultural trip. Feel free to get in touch if you would welcome some tips to get you started.
Read more about Short Term / Gap Year here.
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Take your first step with WEC. Go on a Short Term placement with us.