This is my first time in Mallorca. I had never holidayed here before, but after 18 months I wouldn't mind staying quite a long time.
It's a gorgeous island, so bright and light filled even on a winter's day. It was my wife's language skills that tipped the scales for us, as, although her parents are British Salvation Army ministers, she grew up in South America and her first language is Spanish. It's a huge advantage, as we have a unique
appointment in Mallorca with both an English church and a Spanish church, plus the charity shops.
I was brought up in the Salvation Army, as was my wife.
I really love the fact that we preach it on a Sunday and then practise it from Monday to Saturday. From its beginnings in the East End of London in 1865, the organisation has made it its mission to help the poor and needy. We roll up our sleeves, get out in the community and help believers and non-believers equally. As founder William Booth put it, we offer “soup, soap and salvation”.
The Mallorca Salvation Army Church calendar is a hectic one
Aside from Sunday services, we have a senior citizens group on Tuesdays, parent toddler on Wednesdays, and Spanish and English-language bible study and a knit, natter and pray on Thursdays, where each person has someone in mind as they knit their prayer shawl and then present it to them once finished. One of our main priorities is to build up church attendance.
Surprising as it may seem for one of Spain's richest regions, Mallorca has a bad poverty situation which is well hidden
There is a stark juxtaposition between the wealthy expats who live very comfortably in their lavish villas and the man who struggles to make ends meet as the cost of living rises and work becomes more seasonal and harder to come by. Twice weekly, we do a soup run around the capital, Palma, and see anything between 40 and 70 people in an evening. The homeless are mainly Spanish, but also British and German.
Our three (soon to be four) charity shops have a dual purpose
First, they offer the opportunity for families who have been floored by the recession to buy bargain clothes, toys, furniture and household goods on a tight budget. Second, the excess goes to those who really are cent-less: the homeless and the destitute – we make sure that they're clothed and cared for. And, of course, donating unwanted items to charity is the ultimate in recycling and saves on ugly landfill.
There's nothing like a success story to spur you on to greater things
We supported a homeless alcoholic on the streets of Palma for years, providing him with soup, soap and salvation, and one day he decided to turn his life around. He's stopped drinking, has found accommodation and work through Palma's Casa de Familia social programme and is now looking for a home of his own. What's more, he appears ten years younger, has lost his beer belly and has a beautiful girlfriend.
“Free time” is a bit of a taboo subject
We're both full-time, work seven days a week and most evenings. I'm more hands-on, getting out and about in the community, while Elizabeth takes on the mountains of admin. However, sometimes we try and steal an hour to ourselves for lunch, without interruptions and distractions, at a local coffee shop. This year, it is very much our intention to see more of Mallorca.
We sold our home in the UK 13 or 14 years ago
The Salvation Army moves its people around so much that it didn't make sense to keep it. Home in Mallorca is a three-bedroom top floor apartment in the buzzing beach resort of Santa Ponsa, which the Salvation Army rents on our behalf. The four of us share with Princess, the dalmatian, and Jack and Jill, two cats.
Our eldest has flown the nest, but our youngest two, Catherine, 13, and Nathanael, 10, are in Mallorca enjoying the Balearic adventure
They both started off in Spanish state education, but while Catherine flourished and is now fluent in Spanish and Catalan, putting her parents to shame, Nathanael is now more comfortable and confident in a private international school where he can communicate in his own language. They love the Mediterranean lifestyle.