Editor’s note: Joel Barkman grew up as a missionary kid. Kara had never considered missions. After they married, they felt God calling them to reach Spaniards through art and music. They signed on with SEND, raised support, went through training — and now they’re gone. But they’re taking us with them. For the next year, Joel and Kara will share here about their experiences as first-term missionaries in Spain. Click here to read about how they felt before they said goodbye, here for their first dispatch from Spain and here for Joel’s reaction to the first time he felt entirely overwhelmed.
By Kara Barkman in Spain — Last week marked four months since we arrived in Spain. When I realized this, I felt a mixture of emotions. I struggled to know if I was okay with this or not. In some ways it was exciting and felt like it hadn’t been that long, but then another part of me thought, “It has been a long time. What have I done in these four months?”
Joel and I just finished our first trimester of the beginning level of Spanish class. I find myself struggling with the thought that I should be further along in my Spanish. But then I remember — not only did we began to learn the language, in the past four months we’ve also found a house, bought a car, applied for residency and settled into our new neighborhood.
Our class was full of many international students including several Chinese, one German, one Japanese, one Korean, and us two Americans. During these four months, we’ve been building relationships by taking regular trips on the city bus, and visiting with our classmates and the waitress at the coffee shop. It isn’t just about learning the language; it’s so much more than that.
I have had days when I’m flying high and I feel I have to pinch myself because my life feels like a dream. God has placed me in a country that has a culture full of famous artwork, music, dance, and incredible travel destinations that people all over the world only dream about visiting, and he has allowed me to live here!
But I would be lying if I said that I have not struggled at all. It’s hard to see my family, especially nieces, nephews, and grandparents, continue to move on with their lives “without me.” I struggle with thoughts like, “What will happen to my grandparents? What if I can’t be there for them? What if my nieces and nephews don’t remember me? Will they have bitterness toward me for never being around?”
My niece recently had a birthday party. I tried to call and FaceTime several times, but couldn’t get ahold of them. The disappointment came over me again, along with the thought that I had let my niece down by not being able to be at her party.
“Is being obedient to God (moving to the other side of the ocean) really the best thing I could do for my family?” Yes, I have thought this. I don’t like to admit it, but it’s the truth. This is when I choose to have faith in the things I can’t see and trust that God knows what is best.
Just the other day I received a letter. Oh, how it filled me with such joy to get a letter in the mail! But I was caught off guard when the closing statement said, “It was good to hear from you. Have a nice year.”
What? “A nice year?!” Will we not talk at all before then? The reality that I was not going to be back for a long time hit me like a ton of bricks. I wept to God bitterly saying, “So is this what it means to pick up your cross daily, because this hurts! They’re moving on without me. What if they forget about me? What if they don’t need me in their lives anymore?” I know the “correct” answers in my head, but believing them in my heart remains a struggle.
I know moving forward from here will mean choosing daily to believe his promises and that his plans are on a much grander scale that I cannot fathom. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8)
More from the First Year on the Field
- The long goodbye: Joel and Kara share how they felt just before making their move to Spain.
- At home — for now: The Barkmans find the perfect apartment in Spain, but after six moves in three years, it’s hard to feel settled.
- Of furniture and frustration: ‘It wasn’t a big deal, really — it was the buildup of small events leading up to the moment when I felt entirely overwhelmed.’
- 1 team, 8 cultures: A challenge worth overcoming: ‘I believe that being a part of an intercultural team is a huge testimony to nonbelievers, as long as we are working well together.’
- Slammed by The Slump: Kara Barkman knew culture stress was on its way, but a little surprise made it that much harder to handle.
- Explore how you can be involved in cross-cultural missions. SEND offers hundreds of opportunities — long term. mid term and short term — to engage the unreached.
- Contact a missions coach.