My friend Juan Carlos had a birthday the other day, not long after mine, actually, and remembering him on his special day brought back a flood of memories of my time in Spain.
I'll never forget my first meal with Juan Carlos (JC) and his wife Tere. They invited me to come after church to their flat along with a few other people. Not having a table large enough to seat everyone, they pulled out 2 saw horses and a large piece of plywood, threw a tablecloth over it, and we had room to spare. What I remember most about that particular day was the warmth shown towards me and the coffee that I spilled all over myself, leaving me to borrow a pair of Tere's pants.
My new-found friends quickly became some of my best friends. At the time they lived in the neighboring town but soon moved to the town where I lived which meant more time together. I spent many afternoons drinking coffee and hanging out. Tere made sure that I savored some very typical Spanish dishes. One that stands out in my mind is gazpacho, except it wasn't called gazpacho because of how it was served - with lots of choices of toppings to add to the base (which was gazpacho)with cafe gitano and probably some sort of cookie for dessert. Oh, and migas...I will always remember the migas
We took a trip together with a few other youths from the church. I don't recall much about the actual event we went to, except that it was in a tent and we had to sit near the back. What does stand out clearly in my mind is the spontaneous flamenco class that happened at the church once we returned, and Tere laughing at my attempts to move my shoulders and feet and hips and hands like her.
Then there is the retreat we went on and the afternoon spent on the lawn learning how to play guitar, flamenco style.
And the hours JC spent walking me through the complexities of writing an analytical essay in Spanish on some very philosophical, heady Spanish writings.
But dearest to my heart is the time that Tere and Juan Carlos called me in for a real heart-to-heart talk. See, I had started to date this Spanish guy and was totally enamored by him. They knew his character (he had recently come back to the church and supposedly cleaned up his act) and knew that I might be a little blind to some things they saw. But in contrast to a few other people around me at the time who were critical and condemning, JC and Tere with great love and respect shared with me their personal concerns out of great love for my heart.
It was a bit painful...not because of how they said it but because my eyes were opened to the truth through the loving way that they approached me. Along with sharing their hearts, they also sympathized with the way others were maligning me with their sharp tongues and shared Psalm 31:10 and prayed it over me:
"In the shelter of your presence you hide them from the intrigues of men; in your dwelling you keep them safe from accusing tongues."
"En lo secreto de tu presencia los esconderás de la conspiración del hombre;
Los pondrás en un tabernáculo a cubierto de contención de lenguas."
The rest of the story is that that boy ended up showing his true character not long after my meeting with Tere and JC. But because they had loved on me and prayed with me, I could go to them in my hurt and know that they weren't there with an "I told you so."
Now distance separates us. Time separates us. But for me, it's as if it were yesterday that I was last with them enjoying fellowship and un cortado. I feel like if I saw them again tomorrow, we would pick up right where we left off, a little older, a little wiser, but our hearts knit together through love and the unity of the Spirit.
I love you, Juan Carlos and Tere. Your friendship means more to me than I'll ever be able to adequately express to you. I hope your English is good enough to read this, JC, and to give Tere a good translation. My Spanish brain is off for the night :-). Muchos besos a los dos. ¡Os quiero un montón!