Submitted by Charlotte Swafford on the 2018 World Scholars fall semester program in Spain…
WHOOSH! I leaned back into my seat as the airplane bounced down the runway. Throat tight and fists clenched, I held tight to the armrests beside me as the wheels left the ground. What on earth was I doing? I, Charlotte Swafford, was on my way to spend my entire first semester of college in Spain. There in a crowded airplane full of hundreds of unfamiliar faces, I could feel the panic begin to rise — Great, I thought to myself. Just two hours in and I’m already contemplating if I could jump out and still make it safely to the ground. Knowing that wasn’t a productive train of thought, I forced myself to take deep breaths, and began to pray. Lord, I believe this is where I am supposed to be, and I know that I can trust you to take care of me. Help me on this new adventure.
Fast forward to our first weekend in Madrid, and I am full of conflicting emotions: elated but anxious, thrilled but terrified, happy and a little bit homesick. Through these confusing emotions, though, I know one thing for sure: I need to find a church. My faith has been an integral part of my life for as long as I can remember, and the new independence of traveling abroad has me holding tighter to it.
So there I stood, alone and more than a little bit nervous, trying to muster the courage to enter Libre Acesso. But the moment I walked through those doors I felt connected. The church, whose name means Free Access in English, gave me a sense of familiarity and comfort that I had taken for granted at home. Even though this church body represented at least 4 countries different from my own—Spain, Peru, Brazil, and Iran — I always felt welcomed and accepted into their family. Homesickness faded in the community I found there, a conglomeration of personalities, cultures, and languages connected by a common faith. In just four short months, Libre Acesso taught me just how tightly faith can bind us together, across cultures, across languages, and even across oceans.