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.

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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.

Kilometros and P. Requests

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One of the most famous psalms of David begins with these words: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” (23:1). David, the King of Israel, the great warrior, the psalmist, was also a shepherd (1 Sa. 16:1 and forward) of animals and the people of God.

None the less, in this psalm we see him as a follower (a sheep) of God. David recognizes that God is his Lord and his Shepherd. He shows that God is equally sovereign and powerful as He is personal and close. Because of this relationship of confidence and trust, he hopes in God to provide him with all that he needs. These words from David are very adequate to describe how we have felt in the last few weeks.

Speaking of needs, we need a Green Card… As we mentioned in our last update, we continue to wait for Edu’s Green Card. The latest news is not the most encouraging, but our confidence and hope is in Him who gives us exactly what we need, when we need it. Because of unusual circumstances for the federal government, it looks like it will take longer than we anticipated, which is interesting since we have purchased plane tickets to return to the U.S. on December 8. This “unknown” for us is an opportunity to trust in our God who is equally powerful and sovereign as He is intimate and personal.

In other news, we have been traveling… A lot. We have slept in our own beds six times in the last two and half weeks and have travelled by car (19 hours), train (6 hours), and plane (3 hours). For pics of our recent travels, click here. Where/why did we go?

  • Cazorla, province of Jaén: We enjoyed our missionary team’s yearly retreat at a country house in the Sierra de Cazorla mountains. We enjoyed three days of intentional time in prayer, sharing, and connecting with our teammates.IMG_4403IMG_4405
  • Cuéllar, province of Segovia: We were invited to investigate future ministry opportunitieswith the church there. We met Conchi, a beautiful, red-haired, high-spirited grandmother who didn’t look 81 years old. She met us upon arriving, helped us get settled and made us dinner. We also met a couple serving in the church, Pedro Pablo and his wife Arceli. We spent an afternoon with them in their home (an hour away from Cuéllar) and enjoyed good food, a long walk, and heartfelt conversations. We are thankful to have had lengthy conversations all together and also separately (husbands/wives). Castilla y León is also a very historic area (founded ca. 1000 A.D.) of Spain and we were intrigued by all the castles, history, and culture of this area.
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  • Rivas, province of Madrid: What can we say about Rivas? In many ways it is the opposite of Cuéllar. During the Spanish Civil War, the city was razed to the ground and was later re-built under the Franco regime. We were surprised to learn that the majority of the 75,000 residents happen to be young families. We were received by one of the church elders, Amable (whose name means “kind”) and his wife Ester. It is difficult to get to know someone in a little more than 24 hours, but we left their home with a fondness as though we were good friends. We’re thankful for their hospitality and their openness to us.

We are are encouraged and we are thankful… for several things that help us refine our perspective as we seek His will in calling us to a new ministry location: 1) Counsel from our church leadership and teammates, 2) Honest evaluation, 3) Prayer, and 4) Our conviction of what He has called us to. As we look to end our time in Barcelona and start packing our things to journey to the U.S., we are filled with conviction, humility, and hope. Our identity in Christ moves us to our mission. In the gospel, we see that He has not only called us out and redeemed us but he has called us to something as well. We are convinced that Spain is where we are meant to be long-term and humbly ask, “How would you use us for the glory of Your name and the extension of Your kingdom?”

Praises & Petitions:

  • Praise Him for keeping us safe in all of our travels. On one of our trips, we came across a fatal accident that had happened just moments before. There were many curves in the road and a car lost control and collided with a large truck. We saw a person who had passed away and were solemnly reminded of how short our time is here.
  • Praise God for His great mercy and love to us. Our faith isn’t dependent on us–His Son is our reference for our trust in Him.
  • Please pray for our trust in God as we wait for Edu’s Green Card. Edu cannot enter the U.S. without it. Fortunately, our tickets are changeable. Unfortunately, it comes at a high cost.
  •  Please pray for the Lord to direct us and make His plans for us clear.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. We are thankful for your partnerships and encouragement which make it possible to not just “go” but to stay and invest long-term.

Gran Can

We’ve just arrived from visiting family in Gran Canaria.

islascanWhen we visit, it feels almost as if we’ve turned back time a little bit to a different generation. People still make cheese, milk their animals, bake homemade bread, and trade eggs and other garden vegetables with their neighbors. Tastes, sounds and expressions are just a few of the distinctive things I note upon arriving.

Some things I recently heard while on the trip were just too good not to share.

In the context of a family member transitioning from breastfeeding to formula: “The goat dried up.”

“We have food for tomorrow.”: Brother-in-law #2 placing three freshly killed rabbits on the counter next to the microwave.

“Do you want milk?”: You always have to follow-up this question with a question. Is it goat’s milk? Is it raw cow’s milk? Is it from a bottle and been pasteurized? The last option is the only option for me. I call all the other milks “leche salvaje” or “wild or savage milk”.

“If we can do without it, we don’t buy it.”: This is the generational mentality of my in-laws that I was talking about earlier, like fifty or sixty years ago. My jaw just about dropped when I heard this statement. That means you wash clothes by hand –by choice. Or you only eat it if it comes out of the garden, off the farm, or out of the sea. I do understand that they think this way for a reason. Most elderly people in Spain today grew up hungry during a civil war and endured shortages of food.

Brother-in-law #1: “Baifilllllla!!!” Means little goat, referring to my daughter.

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“ChaCha!!” or “ChaCho!!”: They usually say it really loud and it is short for “muchacha” or “muchacho“. An endearing term used for everyone from toddlers to adults.

Brother-in-law #3: “Hola María!”

Krista: “My name isn’t María.”

Brother-in-law #3: “I know.” 

Krista: [Puzzled look] “Then why…”

Brother-in-law #3: “Because I call all women María.”

Krista: “Makes perfect sense.”

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From the street…

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Last Sunday as we were walking home from church, we were accompanied by a lady named Paquita. Paquita came to know the Lord through an interesting series of events. When her son was in his twenties, he dated a girl whose family attended an evangelical church. She thought this was very strange as she had never heard of a protestant church before. Intrigued, she decided to visit the church in Barcelona and see what this was all about firsthand. It was an eye-opening event for her. She attended every Sunday and came to understand that she was a sinner, and needed God’s forgiveness by believing that Jesus died in her place and rose from the dead. She decided to find a church closer to her home in Vilassar de Mar where she had lived for nearly 50 years. She got connected with the local church, and her faith was tested soon after when she saw that the people of the church were not perfect. Instead of throwing in the towel on her new faith, she chose to believe that love is a commitment. And she had committed to love her church. As we walked along the quiet streets last Sunday, she asked us to keep praying for her family. She is a living testimony to her husband, son, and daughter, who aren’t Christians. We thanked her for helping us serve here in Vilassar and she responded that she is overjoyed to give what she can to partner with us. As we expressed out gratitude for the eggs and potatoes she had just given us, she paused in the street and said, “Before, I would spend 100€ on shoes. Now, I can’t do that. I would rather serve with you and enable you to serve others.” 
 
This week has been especially challenging as we struggle to remember God’s faithfulness. Looking back, our conversation with Paquita was so timely as the theme of it was God’s faithfulness. Our team leader reminded us that, “Grace can only be learned in adverse conditions.” We have had to choose time and again this week to find our identity and peace in Christ. Not our activity, not our service, not the good things we do, but in Him alone. We’re encouraged to remember what we’re called to (to know God and make Him known), who called us (the perfect triune God) and to be faithful right where we’re at. We’d like to share a few words from a hymn that has been an encouragement to us this week. 
Haste, then, on from grace to glory,
Armed by faith and winged by prayer;
Heaven’s eternal day’s before thee,
God’s own hand shall guide us there.
Soon shall close thy earthly mission,
Soon shall pass thy pilgrim days,
Hope soon change to glad fruition,

Faith to sight, and prayer to praise.
Excerpt from, “Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken”
We hope these words encourage you as they have encouraged us. We pray that you are being faithful where He has called you and that you would remember how sovereign and perfect our great God is. Please let us know how we can be praying for you. Thank you for your prayers and your commitment to serve with us.  

Moving at high speeds…

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Parenting Conference in Vilassar

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Riding on the Ave to Madrid

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La Familia García in Toledo

Over this past month we have been through a knee operation and hospital stay, a quick trip to Madrid for our general assembly meeting of Camino Global in Spain, Olivia’s baby dedication, a mini parenting conference, and much more. We are excited to share some recent stories, happenings, and prayer requests. Thank you for letting us share a window into ministry and our life in Spain.
Recovery from surgery…My knee operation went quite well and we are encouraged by my progress in the last few weeks. I was awake for the surgery but numb from the waist down. Because the surgery was done orthoscopically, right before starting, a nurse asked me if I would like to see the T.V. screen. I said yes, and he angled it toward me enough so that I could see what they were doing. Because of the drill and screws, I am now convinced that orthopedics and carpenters have very similar jobs. I have started physical therapy and have a long road ahead of me before getting back to running. Recovery has been slow but I can now walk without crutches and walk while holding Olivia. That’s progress!
Weekend trip to Madrid… We recently traveled to Madrid to visit with our CG colleagues before having our General Assembly meeting in Toldeo on Monday morning. Five years ago there were 10 Camino missionaries in Spain, today there are 20! How encouarging! We enjoyed connecting with other missionaries and hearing about their ministry. Because the airlines now charge for babies to fly, we traveled on the high speed train and covered nearly 400 miles in 2 1/2 hours. We are beginning to talk with our team leaders about what’s next for us after our time in Vilassar is up.
Olivia’s baby dedication… We invited several of our neighbors we have been witnessing to and were delighted that they came! Five of our neighbors accompanied us to church on a Sunday in October. Our pastor preached on “How Children Grow Us” and gave very practical wisdom on our need for the Gospel in parenting. We have been able to follow up with our neighbors and are hoping to have more conversations with them. We have also just learned that the couple that lives above us, are expecting a baby in May.
Praises & Petitions: 
  • Please pray for our preparations and time in the U.S. That we would receive Olivia’s U.S. passport in the next week, and that we would be able to establish new relationships with people to partner together in Spain while we are in Texas.
  • Prasie Him for providing for us! Not only was a substitute provided for my teaching job, but I have been asked to teach a few more English classes. We feel that we have been lavished with grace through generous people (in the U.S. and in Spain) over this last month.
Thank you for your encouragement and your prayers. We are looking forward to seeing you and catching up in person in less than a month!

What’s {Up}

The word on the street…Last week we spoke to our neighbor, the carpenter, that told us, “I’m trying to make it as best I can.” Yesterday, we spoke with our friend, a gardener that asked the question, “Today, we have money to buy food, but when the time comes that we don’t…what will we do?” Tonight, we ran into another neighbor, a glassmaker, who said that, “We aren’t making it to the end of the month…” Spain is in the newspapers a lot these days for all the wrong reasons (strikes, politics, unemployment, etc.). For us, it makes us very thankful for the support we have and for the small jobs the Lord has provided for us. We try to serve others tangibly by taking them food, letting people stay with us for a few nights, or helping make ends meet.

We consider it a privilege to serve here in Spain during such a critical time and be part of the work the Lord is doing in his church and through his church. Edu is working alongside our pastor helping the church with spiritual formation, small groups, and teaching. He is also assisting other churches with spiritual formation and teaching. We made sugar cookies and jam to give as Christmas gifts to our neighbors and each one was very surprised that we thought of them. Even though we aren’t Catalan, our neighbors have been very open to talking with us. I (Krista) continue to work in the local school and have also started a one on one Business English class. It is very strange to our new friend that we are Christians and that Edu serves in our church as a pastor in training. It is even stranger to her that he is married! I would like to share a short dialogue that we recently had:

Student: Do you have peace?

Krista: Peace as in the absence of conflict?

Student: What I mean is, because of what you believe, do you have fewer problems and not fight as a couple?

Krista: (Laughing at first) What I know and understand to be true about God through His word and His gift of Jesus is what gives us purpose and helps us understand grace, forgiveness, and hope. BUT by no means are we free of sin and struggle.

Student: Then your commitment to God is what makes you a good person and gives you faith.

Krista: Actually, it is completely the opposite. We believe that it is us, as sinners who have disobeyed God. It is God’s commitment to us, in the person of Jesus, who sacrificed Himself for us and died in our place so that we might be reconciled to God and have a relationship with Him. God is faithful in spite of our unfaithfulness.

Praises & Petitions:

  • Please pray for our new intern who will be coming to serve with us for six weeks in February. We are looking forward to hosting him and serving together.
  • Please pray for our friends and neighbors who do not know the Lord, that these people would understand something of Jesus by what we share with them and how we live.
  • Please praise Him for new life! Baby García is doing well and growing every day. We go back to the doctor on Thursday and we might be able to find out if this little one is a boy or girl!
  • Praise Him for providing for us each month! With so much need around us, it reminds us to be generous with others and be thankful for the small things.

Thank you for your partnership to share the Gospel in Spain. Thank you even more for loving the Lord and letting the overflow be a blessing to others.