By Caleb Mynatt
For nearly two decades, CBF field personnel Eddie and Macarena Aldape have made a career of showing hospitality and love to the people who need it most. Just ask Isabel Garcia.
As a refugee from Latin America, Garcia and her children fled to Spain in search of a better life. Between political unrest and violence in Venezuela and the trauma caused by an abusive husband, Garcia was hoping Spain could become a fresh start for her and her family, at least for a while.
But, like so many other refugees, Garcia found that starting over is hard.
Given Spain’s unemployment rate of more than 15 percent, the second-highest unemployment rate in Europe, finding a job for most anyone can be very difficult. For refugees, it’s nearly impossible. Still, Garcia had no other option. With her children and a small suitcase in tow, as well as an acquaintance with whom to stay, Garcia tried to make the most of a bad situation.
Then, one cold day in March, she found her way to the church which the Aldapes attend. That event turned into a shared meal, where the relationship between Garcia and the Aldapes began.
“She is very calm and very quiet,” Macarena said. “She is never in a rush or a hurry and her kids are the same way.”
As Garcia was forming a close friendship with the Aldapes, they became aware of her worsening living situation. Eventually, after a mix of discomfort and fear with the person she was staying with, Garcia moved her family to a small hotel designated for refugee families. Although she felt safer, she still needed a means to live. Luckily, after becoming more comfortable with the Aldapes, they discovered she had a secret gift.
“It turns out she is a gifted hairdresser,” Macarena said. “We had no idea she could do this. She cut Eddie’s hair and did a great job; so we paid her and started spreading the word.”
With the pandemic in full force, it was nearly impossible to find an open barbershop or salon. That made Garcia’s gift even more valuable. She was able, thanks to the help of her church community and the Aldapes, to get enough clientele to make some money. Then, one day, Macarena found some spare manicure and pedicure kits that had been left behind by a group of volunteers that had come to visit them.
“I asked her if she had ever considered doing manicures and pedicures, and she said she hadn’t really considered it,” Macarena noted. “So, I gave her the kits and told her to give it a try.”
Fast forward over a year, and Isabel has a full-service spa business that she can conduct in the comfort of people’s homes. Along with that, she has been able to move temporarily into a new house provided by the Red Cross as she waits for her asylum status to be approved. Once she does, thanks to Eddie, she’ll have more than enough furniture to furnish her new apartment and officially begin her permanent new life in Spain.
“We have a table, a bed and a brand-new sofa for her,” Eddie said. “Our neighbors may think we’re hoarders because we have so much stored furniture; but it’s worth it.”
Garcia’s story is just one of many about faith, friendship and perseverance that the Aldapes have to tell. From the United States, to India, to Spain, the Aldapes have served people from all over the world.
Now, in Albacete, Spain, the Aldapes focus on serving immigrants and refugees. By volunteering with organizations like their church and the Red Cross and with the support of CBF, the Aldapes are able to meet people who most need their help. Whether it’s people who are refugees fleeing for their lives, like Garcia, or a qualified worker from another country looking to relocate to Spain, the Aldapes help them all find housing and, to the best of their ability, places to work.
“That’s definitely the hardest part for immigrants coming to Spain,” Macarena said. “Especially the ones who are very well-educated, they come expecting to be embraced and find work quickly; but there are really no jobs available. Housing is expensive and, without work, all of them could use help.”
Along with helping these newcomers meet their basic needs, the Aldapes also help them learn Spanish and English, knowing that that will not only help refugees and immigrants adjust to life in Spain but also help them get jobs. Although that has become more difficult because of COVID-19, they are still finding ways to continue their teaching ministry by computer and phone.
All-in-all, the Aldapes pride themselves on being there for the people who need help. While they don’t have one very specific ministry, they offer to people whatever help they can, no matter the form. It can make for a stressful life. But, according to Eddie, the ambiguity isn’t just rewarding. It’s also fun. “People always ask me what my typical day is like, and I tell them there is no typical day,” Eddie said. “Sometimes I’m a plumber, sometimes a mover. Sometimes I deliver furniture, and sometimes I fix bikes so people can start delivering food. Sometimes I pay people for a day to help me help others. There’s no telling what will happen each day, but it’s all worthwhile.”
This article first appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of fellowship! magazine. Read online and subscribe at www.cbf.net/fellowship.