Things That Cannot Be Moved // Madrid, Spain, and the Gospel

There is no doubt that Catholicism has played a huge role throughout the lives of the Spanish people for centuries. The current state of spirituality and distaste for religiosity, in general, and the Christian message, in particular, among Madrileños has been irrevocably wedded to the dictatorship of Francisco Franco and the power of the Catholic Church. Indeed, the abuse of power throughout Spanish history has been the chief force that has kept spiritual concerns out of the hearts and minds of Spanish people for decades, if not centuries. Will this current, restless era of rising unemployment rates, sexual and social freedom, political liberty coupled with financial decay be the turning point for many Madrileños to find a solution to the hunger that haunts spiritually – even amidst seeming freedom and luxury? This mini-documentary features interviews with Spaniards, Christian and non-Christian, as they offer different perspectives on their take on religion and the need for a new gospel-centered movement of churches throughout Spain that follow in the humble steps of Jesus and his message of grace.

Video and text produced and published by Jake Gee in partnership with Mission to the World.

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Transform 2015

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Transform is an event The Village Church hosts every year to serve the local community that surrounds their Dallas campus by providing health screenings and more to those in need. It’s specifically a way to serve the two schools located next to the church, Cary Middle School right behind the campus, and Thomas Jefferson High School right beside the campus on Walnut Hill.

Many people showed up to volunteer including, 90 Project Leaders, 50 Registration Team volunteers/Spanish translators, hairstylists, and photographers. Many others donated hard hats, school supplies, backpacks and landscaping supplies.

We have been jumping at the bit to be involved with ministries for Spanish speakers here in the D/FW area and this service opportunity filled up our love tank. Afterwards it also left us dreaming abut how impactful it would be to do something like this in Spain…

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We showed up at 9:30AM last Saturday to have a volunteer orientation for the translation/registration team before getting started. 99% of the people that receive benefits and services through Transform are native Spanish speakers so the need to connect with people in their heart language is great. There were about 10-15 of us that spoke Spanish well enough to be able to guide people through the process from the moment they arrived, to provide directions to haircuts, family pictures, community resources, and lunch.

Over 2,000 people from the community were served in less than three hours. We helped with everything from answering questions, distributing school supplies, guiding people to their next station, giving directions, explaining the liability waiver, to connecting people with other community resources like medical clinics.

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As soon as we arrived, we jumped right in. It was said amongst the volunteers that a mother arrived at 2:30AM with her children to stand in line outside. The first volunteers began arriving between 5-6:00AM to set up and many families were already in line. By the time we arrived at 9:30AM, the line wrapped around the building with hundreds of families waiting to receive a back pack and school supplies. As people entered the building they were organized into groups by letters and numbers. Each group was ushered into the main sanctuary where they waited in the air conditioning to get to the registration table. We worked our way through the entire crowd, family by family, to talk about what resources were available and help them fill out a waiver.

As I approached the first few people in line, their eyes automatically shifted emotionlessly from me to the clipboard and paper I was holding. I held out my hand, introduced myself, and asked their names. The change in the person’s demeanor was unmistakable. They looked up at me, smiled, and we enjoyed a short exchange before going on. In some cases, we had a laugh and connected over something. For example, when I asked a woman’s name, she replied, “Juana”. I smiled and said, “My mother-in-law is named Juana!”

As we were approaching the end of the line, Edu came to me and said, “I think you should come and talk to a boy.” I asked why, and he explained that he had just met a young boy named José* and that he was all alone. I was surprised because we had talked to many people that day, and no one had come alone, let alone a young teen. When I came up to José he had his head down between his hands and was looking at the floor. I introduced myself, and we began chatting. I asked him if he played basketball, and he said, “No, not really.” “Soccer?” I tried again. His face lit up. I asked what position he played and who his favorite team was. We laughed for a while, and talked about the best player in the world (Messi), and the best team in the world (FC Barcelona). After a while I asked José, “Well, how is your day going? What can we help you with?” He said that he came because he needed a backpack. “And you came all alone?” “Yes”, he replied. It was hard to keep it together. I don’t know many charming 14 year olds who have the responsibility to go to an event, and stand in line in order to get what they need to go to school. I said I would go downstairs and see what we could do. I found our two gifted registration leaders and pulled them aside, shedding some tears in the process and told them about our new friend. They told us to pull him out of line, bring him down, they would let him pick out a backpack, connect with him and help him get what he needed. We saw him walking around a couple of hours later with his younger sister and a big smile on his face.

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*Name changed.

Excursions in Spain

Greetings from Spain

Mini-Trip to Spain (Partially written while traveling)
I’m (Krista) waiting for some new acquaintances (cross-cultural workers) to arrive at the restaurant and am enjoying a moment to sit and watch the lull of the city go by in front of me through large metal-framed windows.
The only thing atypical about this is that I’m sitting here off of the Plaza Universitat in downtown Barcelona.

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I flew into Madrid about a week ago, and I’ve got just under 24 hours until I return to the U.S. You might be thinking, “I didn’t know you were going to Spain…” Let me explain. The reason for the trip is threefold:

1) Edu and I have been appointed “Intern Coordinators” by our team in Spain and we love getting to serve in this area. I met our Summer intern at the airport in Madrid, traveled with her to her ministry location (Jaén), and helped her get off on the right foot with a few days of orientation. We’ve had a great time together to say the least. We spent a relatively short amount of time together but had some belly-cramping laughs, honest conversations, and got to enjoy the Lord’s goodness together. She recently told me that she will find it hard to say goodbye. I also got to enjoy my teammate’s hospitality and loved getting to stay with them. Thanks Joel and Vivian!

2) Enter Spain for residency purposes. I have permanent residency in the E.U. but I’m not really supposed to be out of Spain for longer than six months max. So, this was a good chance to come in and comply with that requirement.

3) Ministry visits… I was able to take advantage of my proximity to Granada and had a great ministry meeting regarding a discipleship program. It was one of those meetings that gets you so excited your heart beats faster and you leave knowing you’re on the right ministry path. Rest assured, you’ll hear us talk more about this discipleship program in the future.

The day after visiting Granada, I picked up a rental car and drove three hours south to the coastal city of Málaga. I met an amazing family from a local church (Iglesia Cristiana Evangélica Añoreta) to hear about ministry and church planting in the area.

As I was leaving our meeting, I asked for directions to the mall to get something to eat for lunch. They told me how to get there and then asked why I was going. I explained that I had a few hours to kill before I needed to be at the airport (see next story) and they invited me to eat with them. Considering I had only met them a few hours before, I thought this was incredibly generous. We picked up their kiddos from school and instead of going to their house, they invited me to eat fresh fish at a small well-known local seafood place on the beach. It was an unexpected blessing to get to sit next to the ocean and enjoy a meal together.

I flew to Barcelona from Málaga (1.5 hours) that evening and cried when I came through the arrival doors at the airport and saw friends from our church in Vilassar de Mar. It has been six months since we left, and it felt like I was immediately surrounded by family when I saw them. The Catalan came back surprisingly well but I wouldn’t say I’m a pro. People appreciate the effort, so I am glad to try and make one ; ) I attended a small group/prayer meeting on the Wednesday evening I was there and was able to visit with many brothers and sisters from the church.
In nine days I have stayed in four different homes, saw three airports, and travelled by bus, train, plane, and rental car. It has been an intense trip that has served to connect with missionaries, teammates, and other ministry leaders in Spain.

As I traveled about the country, seeing different ministries and connecting with people along the way, it was very reassuring to see that Spain is where we need to be. We hope to return around the beginning of 2016.

Praises & Petitions:

  • Please be praying for our finances here in the U.S. Pray that we would be wise and good stewards of what the Lord has given us. While living in Spain, certain expenses were quite small compared to the U.S. (insurance and car costs for example).
  • Along with this, please praise the Lord for small jobs here and there where we can work in our spare time to make ends meet.
  • Please continue to pray about our decision as to where we will be serving in Spain when we return. We have had many encouraging conversations recently and hope we are close to a decision.
  • Please pray for opportunities to share about why we’re compelled to serve in Spain and invite others to be a part of what the Lord is doing there.

T + C + K = Third culture kid

I ran across this video as I was taking a moment to go through some news and updates.

A third culture kid, or TCK, is defined by authors Pollock and Van Reken as someone who was raised in a culture outside of their parents’ culture for a significant part of their developmental years. Most missionary kids are TCKs and this video piqued my interest for several reasons.

First, I enjoy stories and to see how these kids have grown up all over the globe is indeed their own unique story. Second, their lives and childhoods are so different than mine. Being married to someone from another culture is a constant reminder of this. Our paradigms for a happy childhood, a good education, justice, etc. are all marked by the different cultures we live in and have experienced. Thirdly, I will most likely raise TCKs. Which is a little unnerving to think about. But then I’m reminded of how the Lord has sovereignly woven my story and can trust that He will be faithful to do the same in the future, but in His own creative way.

I hope you enjoy the video and you get a glimpse into what it looks like to be a TCK.

From {Texas} with Love: Culture Shock

from Texas with Love...

Culture Shock: n. the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.

When I (Edu) think about culture shock, one of the first things that comes to mind is the church culture here. From what I have observed, there are various pastors, meetings, committees, and other layers of organization. One example that I remember is when we went to the “Connections” area of a church, were given an E-mail address to contact the Director of Connections, who put us in touch with the Director of Operations, who we had coffee with, and are now waiting to be contacted via E-mail by another church staff member. In Spain, these layers of organization simply don’t exist. If a church in Spain has one seminary-trained pastor, they would be doing better than most.

Do’s and Don’ts of American Culture
(Taken from the Cultural Orientation Guidelines of the UNT IELI Program)
Don’t get drunk.
Don’t run from the police.
Put on deodorant.
Take a shower every day.                                                                                                                                  Don’t speak loudly to the teacher, this could be interpreted as anger or being aggressive.

Being in a different country highlights the (sometimes silly) differences when you compare one culture to another. Something I appreciate very much here is the general respect that professors/teachers are given. In my English program at the University of North Texas (IELI) they prepare us to respect our teachers as authority figures. In my culture, the people have a general loss of respect for the teachers and professors.

Of course, language is the most difficult part of culture shock for me. This struggle follows me in most areas of daily life; banking, driving/transportation, giving a food order, etc. I always take a moment to gear up before I know I will need to speak and think about what I want to say and try to put the words together in my head. Much to my frustration, I sometimes have the words in my head, but they don’t come out like I planned.

Something that has been a great encouragement to me in my time here is that people don’t mind repeating themselves (as many times as it takes) so that I can understand. It is an example of kindness to me and it helps me learn.

Through this transition and season of change I’m learning to be patient and how to manage my emotions and my frustration. This season sometimes feels like a dry time in the dessert with the hope of arriving at an oasis to find fresh waters. This fresh water is of course the live-giving truth of the gospel. But it is also practically seen when I am able to understand and be understood. I don’t think progress or success is not struggling, but instead learning to struggle well. I also think progress would mean not feeling as embarrassed when I make a mistake ; )

The truth is, anyone who has ever lived in another culture or found themselves the odd one out in a situation has felt these things. When I (Krista) first moved to Spain and realized I had grossly overestimated my language level, I found myself feeling the same way as Edu.

When American ex-pats arrive in Spain without knowing the language, a question I’m (Krista) often asked is “How long did it take you to learn Spanish?” The question behind that question is, “How long do I have to suffer?”or “How long will it be difficult for me?” To give an answer with an amount of time really isn’t fair and I prefer to say something like, “How are you doing with it? It is a process (aren’t most things?), and isn’t it encouraging that our worth and value aren’t caught up in how well we do (or don’t) speak a language? It is caught up in the righteousness of Christ and our identity being found in Him.

Thank you for being the hands and feet of all of this. Part of being back is “learning”, but it is a privilege to represent you in the ministry activities we do on a weekly basis, like using a skill we already have—speaking Spanish! Through spontaneous acts of service, planned interpreting, conversations with church leaders about how to serve the Spanish speaking community, or just a casual conversation with a native Spanish speaker, we have enjoyed serving others and helping point them to Jesus and his wonderful story of redemption.

Thank you!