Serve the Eurasia area based from Alhaurin de la Torre, Spain.
Ellie is the Orientation Coordinator for the Mediterranean region. This includes assisting new members in: language school, housing, cultural learning, and other parts of the “moving overseas” process. She will be a mentor and provide care for the new members for the first year of their assignment. She also partners with Sentwell.org an organization dedicated to caring for workers throughout this region. Through Sentwell she provides Spiritual Direction, leads retreats and offers logistical support for short term intensive care.
James serves as a Counselor for members and their families in the Eurasia region. He provides therapeutic counseling care to individuals, couples and families. This is through having people visit their location, video calls, and traveling to conferences, retreats or people in need. He also is the Staff Care coordinator leading a team of 9 in providing services, developing strategy and caring for those serving in Eurasia. He continues being involved in the Healing the Wounds of Trauma trainings for adults and children, and will continue working with the teenage curriculum which he helped author. He also partners with Sentwell in Spain providing counseling for those with any organization whom are living in high risk places with low access to resources.
We want to take a moment to offer thanks to all of you for your love, support and prayer for us throughout the year. What a year it has been…and there is still more to go! Hosting, caring for, and equipping dear ones that need a little help to continue on the journey has been the focus of our year. You all have enabled so many to continue to journey toward wholeness and to serve the Lord!
We find ourselves over $300 short of monthly giving for the budget Wycliffe has set for us. Would you prayerfully consider being a part of our monthly financial partnership team? It could be as simple as making a commitment of $25 or $50 in monthly giving. In partnering with this ministry financially, you are helping many global workers receive holistic care and mental health services. So many of you already are a part of our financial partnership team, we are so grateful for your continued prayer and commitment.
This has been a season of being apart as Ellie and I have served global workers and their families in different places and different ways. I spent nearly three weeks in Papua New Guinea in October providing intensive counseling (47 sessions in 10 out of 11 days) after a number of crises impacted our colleagues there. After 4 days back in Spain, I went in the USA to attend and present at the Mental Health in Missions Conference. In-between our travels we have been hosting and caring for colleagues in our home. We look forward to La Morada being operational to meet the hosting needs better.
Just last week I finished the 2 year Spiritual Direction course, Deepen! So grateful for the years of growth this has brought me. I’m so thankful for each of the guests I’ve hosted this year in our home! I wish I could count them all. From counseling, to debriefs, to lunches and spiritual direction, our home has been a place to know and care for people. I’ll finish the work year with going to Poland to care for a team of Ukrainians that are providing ongoing support to refugees in their country. This feels like a significant and weighty way to end the year.
Here is a story from one of the people we help support in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) Region….
By Coralie Z.
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. Ps 42:1-2 (NIV)
In awe. That’s how I often feel when our team is working on the translation of God’s Word in the Kisun* language, in the Caucasus region. It’s special to see how close the Word is to the Kisun culture. Honor and shame, the position of women, the country life… so similar to the world in Jesus’ time. The challenge is now to let the old Word come to life again; in true Kisun and true to the source.
I work with the translation team a few times a week by Skype. I’m in the capital city, the translators are 400 kilometers away. I ask questions; we are looking for the right phrases and write and rewrite the text. Translation is like weaving a carpet; thread after thread until the beautiful patterns show. This time we are working on a passage about the crucifixion. We read a passage in Russian, then in the language of the country and then the draft in the Kisun language, to be able to discuss it.
Suddenly it goes quiet on the other side of the line. That’s normal: power cuts regularly cause break ups in the internet connection. After a while I hear something again: “I was here all the time,” says the translator, “but I can only read this aloud in other languages. If I read in Kisun about the cross, I weep. To think He really did this!” Now it’s my turn to go quiet. Caucasian men don’t cry. Still, it seems the proximity of the cross does make them cry.
A few weeks later I’m in a Kisun village, having tea with Anna* and Alijah*, people who test the translation drafts. They read drafts and ask questions to people outside the translation team to check if people understand the text well and if the chosen terms and style are correct.
I see God’s Word in Russian lying on the table, obviously well used. I notice a high pile of papers next to it. “What’s that?”, I ask. Anna smiles sheepishly: “That’s your translation.” I ask surprised: “But you always give the drafts back to me, with your comments. How can you still have them?” Alijah says: “We always go to the city specially to make copies of the papers. We keep the copies and read from them every day, because we cannot wait to have the Kisun translation finished.”
Summer time Updates:
This summer was spent spending times with our colleague’s at their regional team meetings. This was a great opportunity to provide in-person counseling and lead a variety of workshops and seminars. Traveling to Germany on two occasions, Turkey, Denver, Colorado, and Cyprus often had challenges with post-pandemic travel but it was so worth being together with people who hadn’t seen each other in person for 2-3 years. The “Unstuck” material I helped create for helping Teens through COVID was revamped for refugees and is now translated into Ukrainian. I am now preparing to go to Papua New Guinea for a few weeks to respond to a series of crises for our colleagues there.
During summer we enjoyed hosting a few people in our home who were taking a break from time in the region. That’s the reason we’re here and it was enriching to provide space for them! I continued to coordinate care for Third Culture Kids (children growing up on the field). I traveled to 3 different locations to help facilitate different events and provided the spiritual formation services. Finally, things are REALLY taking off with the property SentWell is purchasing!! Check out the video below to meet our SentWell colleagues and the new property, La Morada.
I can sometimes lose track of the reason we are here in the daily; counseling, debriefing, meeting, emailing and leading my team. Here is a SNAPSHOT of current Bible Translation work.
April Showers bring… mud
James; For me the last few months have been shaped by certain events. Notably we had a dust storm from the Sahara that mixed with a thunderstorm raining mud throughout March and April. In February we had 5 in events in 3 weeks. Ellie helped run a spiritual retreat, I had 3 colleagues in town co-leading a virtual conflict training, Ellie and I hosted 22 colleagues for a combination HR/Staff Care event, Sentwell had a weekend team retreat and finally I attended a virtual global staff care Summit with Wycliffe Colleagues from around the world.During those events the war in Ukraine broke out. In response to the impact of the war, I have helped our people who had to be immediately relocated get debriefings, gave a series or trainings for Ukrainian staff of a partner organization on caring for children amidst crisis and re-wrote some of the trauma healing material to better serve Ukrainian refugees. In March we went to Budapest Hungary to attend the European Member Care Conference.In April I had two different weeks of people in town for intensive care and debriefings (What we moved here for!). Also, I just returned from a week in Northern Cyprus to provide counseling and seminars at one of our branch retreats. If you want to see some of the seminar topics I lead click this link
- As James mentioned above, I started off the year organizing and facilitating a spiritual retreat called Storehouse. It was an incredible way to start 2022. This retreat offers creative space for people to meet with God and it was meaningful to see cross-cultural workers walk away refreshed!
- Much of my time right now is planning and logistics for a Sentwell’s resiliency training, Adelante. It’s one of our biggest events of the year and is aimed at building resiliency in people in their first 5 years on the field. The retreat helps folks engage their own story, and the modules, in experiential ways by using hikes, kayaking, art and games! You can imagine how excited I am for people to experience this event. It kicks off on May 22!
- In addition to the retreat work I do with Sentwell, I also coordinate the clients who come to Spain for care. This involves, hospitality, logistics, being sensitive to the needs that arise and connecting them to the different types of care we have available. I really enjoy creating this experience for people!
- Let’s not forget the MENA region I care so much about! At present I’m coaching and orienting 4 different families and individuals who are on their way to serve in the Mediterranean region. We discuss cross-cultural transitions, spiritual vitality where there is no support, cultural acquisition and much more. I’m praying they will make their moves overseas in 2022!
James and Ellie serve with Wycliffe and live in Malaga Spain.
Spanish Winter (update from out newsletter)
Our ‘normal’ holiday season is often one of newness and transition. This was our 4th Christmas being married and we celebrated it living in our 4th country. In fact for James, he has only been in Texas for the Holiday’s once since 2012. So even though COVID made Christmas really different, different is what we are most accustomed to. Thank you all who sent Christmas cards. It was so enjoyable to see many of you on our mantle.
As with many places in the world Spain has had ebbs and flows with restrictions and COVID response. For the second time in a few months we are confined to our small town, have curfews from 10p-8a, are only allowed 4 people in a house and most non-essential businesses are closed. This certainly impacts our social and fun side of life but we have learned to enjoy our quiet evenings. Since much of our work was already virtual it seems to be the most consistent part of our lives.
Next Month James celebrates 10 Years with Wycliffe. It has been a joy and privilege to represent you, our partners, in this global ministry through counseling, teaching, leading and caring for people from around the globe. He has been able to counsel people from over 32 different countries and lead workshops and trainings all over the world. Thank you for your love, prayers and support over the last decade. May God bless you as you have us.
James Update (Feb 2021)
Since work has been the most consistent part of my life, much is the same. I do virtual counseling, lead a team of staff care providers, consult leaders on staff issues, develop strategy and look for new ways to support our staff. I started a podcast called “Shop Talk with Brandi and James” in which a colleague and I discuss issues related to Mental Health and cross cultural workers.
I continue to create ways to build community among our staff and publish new material regularly. Here is a blog post I wrote for the organization on the ongoing Mental Health Effects of COVID.
One of my tasks has been around conversations of team health and I have invited my Father-in-law’s company Group Dynamix to lead a leadership team I am on through some virtual team building. It is so fun to partner with family and a great company. Feel free to check out Group Dynamix for your own virtual teams.
I did not grow up playing football but have enjoyed getting to be a part of a team here and am now the starting middle linebacker. It is a great opportunity to work on my Spanish and get in shape. Hopefully I will end the season in one piece.
Ellie (Feb 2021)
As the new year began, several projects and opportunities have come my way. It’s so exciting to dig in! I am currently in the first year of my Spiritual Direction course, Deepen. It has been an exciting way to grow, experience God more deeply, and learn how to companion others. This week I am helping facilitate a virtual “spiritual refreshment” retreat. What an honor it is to care for weary cross-cultural workers during this challenging season.
I have been leading community connecting times for single women who are isolated during, and because of, the Pandemic. I am also delighted to share that I’m helping SentWell publish a workbook for cross-cultural workers who are moving back to their country of origin.
Of course…still studying Spanish, going on bike rides, and doing puzzles;)
Working Virtually – 6 Steps for success
I normally work from home so the rest of the world is joining my normal reality. The nice part is you get to dress like a mullet business half and fun half. Here are some tips for working from home, especially during the current crisis
- Create an office space. If you work from home or even a shared space, developing some physical boundaries for work will help you maintain life boundaries from work. That way when it’s time to ‘work’ you do it from the ‘work’ space and when work is over you leave it in the physical office space. It will help prioritize work staying at ‘work’ and home life not being interrupted. It will require practice in not allowing work things to infiltrate other parts of your house and life. An example will be if it’s an work email, only answer it from the ‘office’ location.
- Find opportunities for “virtual” connecting. Working so far apart means its worthwhile to try and find unique opportunities to connect in-person with teammates or like-minded workers whenever possible. Because of social distancing it means using things like: facetime, whastapp, zoom, skype, Marco polo. Use these virtual means to connect with work and non-work people. You may have to initiate but its worth it.
- Maintaining Margin or Work/Life Balance. Even the most structured among us may have difficulty keeping all of our daily tasks in the right category. Margin means having extra time in the week that isn’t planned but open. That way when things do come up they can take ‘work’ time in the ‘office’ and not disrupt the rest of one’s life. It may be worth recording how many actual hours are worked in a week (remember anytime answering emails is work time). Schedule in breaks from work – espcially if your families are all at home too. Play a game, do family exercise time, read a book or follow #2 and call someone.
- Time on Computers. This is more of a warning. Since computers are intrinsically linked to working remotely it important to be careful about the overall time spent on one. It would be a worthwhile activity to measure the time on a computer/tablet/phone over the course of a week. This would include any non-work activities on these devices. Then figure out a healthy amount of time in a day or week and limit your usage to those times.
- Fast/Retreat. Take time away technology and work. This means a break from all technology for certain amounts of time. This could be connected to quiet time, personal retreat or silent retreat. Regardless, replace that time with something that is good for you mentally, physically, spiritually or emotionally. As a community, lets hold each other accountable to being healthy individuals.
- Take Care of your health. One of the best ways to avoid illness or be prepared if you get sick is to be as healthy as possible. Increase immune boosting nutrient dense foods. Use time at home to try new recipes or swap ideas. Exercise either going outside or in your home. Get plenty of sleep and drink lots of water. Other things like vitamins or supplements can be helpful.