Mission work in a post-modern, post-Christendom setting like Barcelona takes on many forms. Several hours each week I find myself across a table from a local person or neighbor desiring to learn English. As I'm not a formal teacher, we focus on "street English," incorporating idioms, slang, phrasal verbs and conversation practice.
One of my conversation partners, a charming 71 year old, well-traveled woman — and self-proclaimed fierce feminist atheist — is a highlight of my week. When we started meeting, last fall, I was astonished to hear her stories of growing up during the [Francisco] Franco regime, how young girls were treated and how the education system failed them in many ways. In time, she opened up about her realized ignorance regarding "worldly ideas," especially race and human sexuality from a "Western, non-Franco perspective."
One class highlighted the slang term "The hood," as referenced in pop culture. To my surprise, she casually used the N-word, inquiring about residents of "the hood." Clearly, my face expressed that this word was a slur, not slang. In the following months, we've taken a deep dive into USA race relations, the stories of Harriet Tubman and the Show Way quilts, Juneteenth, Tuskegee Airman (the first Black aviators in the armed forces), Ruby Bridges, John Lewis, critical race theory, and redline districts. We shared tears when Kamala Harris was sworn in as the first female Vice President, as well as the first Black American and first Asian American Vice President.
As the weeks pass, her curiosity and passion for learning more about the world outside the boundaries of Catalonia deepen, and she's even seeking out literature from the perspective of people who were enslaved in the American South, desiring to learn more. Her transformation and desire to broaden her horizons, at the age of 71, is inspiring, and I'm blessed to witness it.