by Shaina Lusienski
I always thought I needed church to really have a relationship with God, that if I stopped going to church on Sundays, I would be hurting that relationship and my faith. I mean, that’s why I grew up going to church every Sunday and still do now at The Lutheran Center, right?
In the spring of 2018, I spent the entire semester studying and doing an internship in Barcelona, Spain. Before I left, I had spent time looking at churches I could go to that I thought would be a good fit for me. With Spain being a mostly Roman Catholic country, this became very difficult. Not that going to a Catholic church would have been a bad thing, just that I wanted something that felt somewhat familiar as I was in a country where nothing was familiar. I went week after week without going to church. There was one Sunday where I decided to try and go find a Lutheran Church I found online that was nestled somewhere in Mount Tibidabo. A metro ride, funicular ride (cable metro that takes you up the mountain), and a long hike later, Google maps and my broken Spanish had failed me and I was yet again, churchless on a Sunday morning.
Also while I was in Spain, I began an internship at Fundacio Ficat, a nonprofit that helps refugees coming into Spain find jobs, housing, and really just get accustomed to a new place. My very first day at my internship I met Shama. Shama was from Pakistan and had a daughter, Jarusha, and a husband, Wilson. I was immediately tasked with helping Shama look for pisos (apartments) on Barcelona’s various realty websites. Shama spoke both broken English and even more broken Spanish, so communicating what kind of apartment she needed became very difficult, and I felt bad that I was unable to help her that first day.
Over the next three months, Shama and I figured out our communication through a mix of English, Spanish, Catalan (the language of Barcelona), and Urdu (the language she spoke from Pakistan). I spent every day with Shama and most days also with her daughter Jarusha after we would pick her up from school. We would spend the days buying groceries for her and her family, trying to find an apartment that fit their one-income family and also trying to find her a job for when she finished seamstress school.
What I wish I would have realized earlier is that through the relationship I built with Shama and her family, I was also keeping a relationship with God. My lack of church every week was okay because I felt called to this internship and called to help Shama and her family. I believe now that when I made the decision to go to Spain, God placed this internship in my life because I needed it. I saw God in Shama’s commitment to helping and taking care of her family. I saw God in Ficat’s mission to help refugees coming into a new country. I saw God every week, even without a church building.