Published on: 21/02/2020

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Reaching out to Madrid’s addicts

Elim member Beth Jacobs explains to Kelly Cassidy how she found herself spreading hope in Spain’s capital city.

It might not have the same ranking as Paris or Rome, but when it comes to top cities in the world, Madrid is a close contender. With its grandiose architecture, world-class art, beautiful beaches, tasty tapas and friendly culture, what’s not to love?

But while most tourists take time out to enjoy the beauty of the Spanish capital, one British woman is there on a different mission.

Last year, 21-year-old Beth Jacobs, who is currently studying Spanish and Psychology at Lancaster University, decided to move to Madrid as part of her course requirement to become more fluent in the language. It would have been easier to go and earn money and live with a nice Spanish family, like most students, but that’s when she discovered Betel.

The Christian rehab organisation’s goal is to help people not only escape addiction but become productive, trustworthy men and women of character when they leave. After making a few enquiries, Beth went to work as a volunteer in one of their women’s recovery houses in Madrid for eight months.

“I really liked the sound of Betel,” recalls Beth. “I think it’s so important for Christians to reach out to the broken and marginalised, and I’m not sure we do this enough.

“I’ve worked with homeless people before at the Brick Project in Wigan, and those addicted to drugs always struck me as the most heartbreaking cases. They feel so chained and trapped by their addiction.

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They can’t live a normal life and just keep going round in circles.” Betel runs ten recovery houses in the capital with about 10 to 20 men or women in each.

“To be self sustaining, Betel runs around 15 second-hand shops, which sell clothes and trinkets as well as second-hand furniture that the men fix and up-cycle,” says Beth.

“Second-hand shops are a lot more popular in Spain than in the UK so they provide enough to keep everything running.

“It’s encouraging to see how being part of a Christian community can have such a positive impact on the lives of people who initially came in broken and dependent on drugs. They’re so joyful as they worship and it’s great to see them afterwards staying on in the church to serve and help others who come in with the same problems they once had.”

Betel has come a long way since it first began 30 years ago in the inner city barrio of San Blas, Madrid. Their programme can be found in over 100 urban areas in 23 countries, including the UK.

Becoming part of a community has been a great and at times challenging experience for Beth.

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Betel Madrid women pose for a photo after having lunch at Aguas Vivas, one of Betel’s properties north of Madrid

“The culture is very typically Spanish… everyone is very loud and friendly. They hug and cry a lot more than English people,” she explains. “When there are arguments between women in the house, there tends to be a lot of shouting, bitterness and gossiping, and it’s hard to know how to deal with that and still be really loving towards those on both sides. I think I’m slowly learning how to be an encouragement in these situations.

Thankfully I don’t have to know everything, but I can show them what it’s like to live as a Christian, and not a perfect one.

“I can be patient with them when they’re difficult to deal with and walk with them through their dark times.

“I don’t have a lot of free time, which has been a big adjustment, but the women have welcomed me with open arms and are hardworking and kind despite all being in the process of recovery. I’ve also learned to depend on God for my joy as leaving behind all the people I relied on and familiarity of England has been difficult. I’m really grateful that God is consistent even when my whole world has changed.”

When at home Beth attends Elim’s Purposed Life Church in Wigan. She loves to sing and play the piano and from a young age has been part of the worship team there. Although raised as a Christian, her faith in God became more personal when she was about 15. Since then she’s developed a closer relationship with God.

She adds, “I’m really happy that I can continue my daily devotions in my siesta time which was something I worried about before I came as I love to study the Bible each day. Being able to do that consistently helps me keep the right perspective of my purpose in being here – not to be a superhero or to speak amazing Spanish, but to serve God and bring him glory.”

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