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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One month in Texas

Originally written January 14, 2015. 

Greetings from Texas!

Reverse culture shock is quite a doozy and something I’m (Krista) getting used to. I had forgotten about the small details that characterize the Texas culture. Things like driving down a country road and losing count after seeing no less than four Bar-B-Q’s in one front yard, or a gas station with the name “Joe Bob’s” over it. Other things, like incredible water pressure (and large hot water heaters for that matter), sweet tea, and chips and salsa, come more easily to get used to again. candsalsa

New things to go with a New Year…
To help us manage our updates, we will be trying out a free E-mail service. If you would like to continue receiving our monthly news and prayer requests, please click here to sign-up. We are also starting a new Bible reading plan, called The Discipleship Journal Reading Plan, totally free, courtesy of the Navigators. If you haven’t chosen a plan already, or if you’re looking for something different, we wanted to share this with you

So when is Edu going to get here?
The short answer is…we still don’t know. What we do know is that God is working good things in us and we are finding joy in this opportunity to trust Him. We will hopefully hear something from the National Visa Center (NVC) in the next two weeks. We received an (unofficial) E-mail telling us that our case is being passed on to the embassy in Madrid. This is good news but we need to hear the official word from the NVC so that he can be given an appointment time. After his interview and medical review, Edu could be on a plane to the USA shortly after.

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Isaiah 25:1 serves as a great reminder of God’s faithfulness in the midst of difficult times, “I will extoll You, I will give thanks to Your name; For You have worked wonders, plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness.”

God has called us to be faithful where we’re at, not just wanting to get out of this situation, or wanting to get to the end of it. He means for us to be right where we are and has given us everything we need to glorify Him and have joy.

Praises & Petitions:

  • As we start a new season, pray that He would be the center of all our dreams, passions, and goals. Because if He isn’t, there really isn’t anything we do that will be of eternal impact.
  • Please pray for direction and encouragement from the Lord as we begin getting connected locally, specifically leading us in where to serve and be committed.
  • Please pray for relationships with people that are interested in knowing about Spain and how God is working there.
  • Praise Him for giving us daily encouragement in the forms of His word, people asking us how we are doing, and little provisions like a new car seat for Olivia or a good meal.

Thank you for your sacrifices. We are so grateful for your prayers and gifts that help sustain us. The glory is His, but the blessing is ours to be able to partner with you in ministry.

6 Year Anniversary & Expat FAQ’s

A few days ago I celebrated my six-year anniversary in Spain and I’ve been reflecting on how I’ve adapted to living here. Third culture adaptation can be explained as the mindset and will to love, learn, and serve, even in the midst of pain and discomfort. There have been many uncomfortable moments but in all things, God is good. He’s also been teaching me things that I don’t think I could have learned without living cross-culturally. For instance, He has taught me more about my identity in Him, and not how well I speak a foreign language, or how well I blend in and don’t “look” American. Yes, even when people have poor customer service skills look at me like I’m crazy by how I pronounced something, I’ve learned to love. He has also helped me learn that it’s not about me : ) It is about Him; His glory, His fame, and His kingdom. Consequently, I don’t have to worry about my weaknesses and shortcomings since that gives me an opportunity to trust Him and grow in my identity in Christ.

To help people connect a little more with what life looks like in Spain, I thought I’d answer a few questions regarding ex-pat living and cross-cultural ministry. c5d3e0998b78123eea53bc11783af592

  1. How do you define “home”? Home is increasingly becoming the place where we have our things. While driving back to Catalunya on a recent trip, I commented to Edu that we were going back to the place where all our things are. But, in another sense, the place where we have our things is also the place where we do life and can just be ourselves. Its where I wake up and feel comfortable. It is where we can play with Olivia on the floor. It is where we crowd people around our table and enjoy laughing and good food. If I could recommend something to other people who are considering cross-cultural ministry, I would encourage them to find out what home is for them. For me, home is smells and food. With some essentials, I can re-create this feeling of home just about anywhere.
  2. Is punctuality important to people in Spain? It depends. I would say it depends on the place and the occasion. If it is a time to be at school to leave on a class field trip in Catalunya, you’d better be on time. If it is meeting up with friends in Andalucía, expect them to be an hour late.
  3. What is the most important meal of the day? Without a doubt the most important meal of the day is comida, or lunch. Usually around 2:00PM. This is the heaviest meal of the day usually with two courses, bread, and dessert.
  4. In your family, do you eat foods that are Spanish? Since we are a Spanish-American family, we do both. Not one or the other. Some days we have tortilla de patatas with pan con tomate, or other days we have pulled pork sandwiches with homemade coleslaw.
  5. What is the most important (or most celebrated) holiday in Spain? Again, it depends. If you’re in Catalunya, I would say September 11, also called the Diada. Also Sant Joan, or Sant Jordi, the celebration of the patron saint of Catalunya. In other places, maybe El Día de los Reyes, January 6, or nochevieja, New Year’s Eve.
  6. What language do you speak at home? At home we speak both English and Spanish.
  7. What is communication like in Spain? Again, this depends. But in general, people can be yelling at one another and it isn’t a fight. I would also say that people are very blunt and frank. Things that you wouldn’t normally say to a person in the English culture are often said here. I’ve learned that it isn’t personal and it is normally not an attack.
  8. What is considered most disrespectful in Spain? I had to think a while on this one. There is actually a word for people who do the most disrespectful things. They’re called “sinverguenzas“. It means a person who has no shame. Lately, the most disrespected people and acts are the corrupt authority figures and the injustice they have done without receiving punishment. You can read about that here, here, and here.
  9. What is considered most respectful in Spain? Because Spain is such a nation bound by tradition, not like other EU countries, I think the answer lies therein. Respecting tradition and the past. Giving proper authority to cultural rituals like baptism and first communion or homage paid to saints are considered highly respectful.
  10. What is one of the most commonly held misconceptions about people in Spain? That everyone eats spicy food and loves bullfighting and flamenco. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Spanish food is not a burrito, or chips and salsa. Spanish food is delicious rice dishes with lots of flavor, cured hams, manchego cheeses, fresh seafood, and seasonal fruits and veggies. Regarding the people, where do I even begin? To give you an idea, Spain is a little smaller than Texas, BUT with vastly different people groups in many areas. I guess that is what you get after so much history (former inhabitants included Iberians, Celts, Greeks, Phoenicians, Romans, Visigoths, and Arabs). The variety in languages spoken here alone testifies to this (Castilian Spanish, Valenciano, Catalan, Mallorquín, Basque, and Gallego).
  11. What is the best thing about living in Spain? I love the history. I love seeing buildings and structures that were made in the first few centuries and still standing today. I love seeing how this history has shaped the people and their worldview to who and where they are today. I also consider it a privilege to be among a relatively small group of people here who have a personal relationship with God through his Son Jesus and get to share that with others.
  12. What is the worst thing about living in Spain? Apart from poor customer service, a 33-35% higher cost of living, and the $ to € exchange rate taking up so much of our support, I hate the goodbyes with my parents in the U.S. It was hard when it was just me, but getting married and having a daughter have upped the ante.

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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Summer Interns

I wanted to share a little about summer internships and why we love hosting interns for two months. This year, our interns arrived on June 6 and departed on July 31. Some of the focal points of their time were: orientation week, English Camp, hiking trip on the Camino de Santiago, Sunday School re-design project, and debrief week.

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What is an internship? An internship is a two month experience to get a bigger picture of what God is doing around the globe under the guidance of a missionary team. Interns have the opportunity to get their feet wet in cross-cultural ministry and to have a discipleship relationship characteristic of our ministry, vision, and heart for Gospel-centered, grace-filled living.

What does an intern do? 

  • Apply the gospel cross-culturally
  • Live in community with other interns and missionaries
  • Interact with and engage different cultures
  • Explore your gifts and the way God has gifted you to serve others
  • Builds financial partnerships and creates a network of prayer support before going
  • Improves language skills by taking classes or participating in weekly conversation classes
  • Helps the missionary team in projects, support, and encouragement

What do former interns say about it? 

Two Things I Learned in Spain:

1. How to kiss strangers…or how to start a conversation with them about Jesus (take your pick)

Typically, both Spaniards and Catalan people greet and say goodbye to friends and strangers by giving them two kisses, one on each cheek. Every Sunday, I got (and gave) a lot of kisses before and after the service! It took a while to get used to it. (How are you supposed to time the words “How are you?” in between puckering your lips without spitting on the other person’s face??) But by the time the short-term team came, I had to remind myself a few times not to scare the other Americans by giving them all goodbye kisses.

For me, it was much harder to strike up spiritual conversations with strangers than to kiss them. Ironic for a missionary intern, I know, but the embarrassing truth is that it makes me uncomfortable to bring Jesus into casual conversation. (What if I say something stupid, or offensive?) On the Camino, I was able to take some of my first baby steps in sharing my faith—with complete strangers. During each conversation, my heart beat faster than it did walking uphill wearing my backpack. But each time, I had a supernatural sense that Jesus was there, too, helping me with my wobbly attempts. I realized that if the Gospel is true—that if the God of the ENTIRE UNIVERSE actually did come to earth in REAL HISTORY to save us from death and evil—and if it is part of my identity, then it makes no sense to never mention it in conversation. The question in my mind has started to change from, “Why mention Jesus?” to “Why not mention him?”

2. God’s grace is everywhere (or, SLOW DOWN and enjoy!)

I am not a patient person.

This lesson was a good one to learn in Spain, where mealtimes with friends are leisurely, and where I usually had no idea what I would be doing the next week, day, or afternoon. I was constantly reminded to slow down, to focus on loving people in the present moment and to enjoy the experience I was having rather than worry about what I was going to do next. Sometimes, the reminder to slow down came in the delicious form of a chocolate croissant and a cup of coffee. Other times, the reminder of my impatience and my inability to slow down was more literal. Once, while we were making a peach cobbler for dessert, Hannah watched me pace around the kitchen while the cobbler was in the oven. She asked, “You don’t like to wait for things, do you?”

It must have been pretty obvious. Hannah was right: I hate to wait. I hate to slow down. I need to learn patience.

“Yes, yes, God, I knew that already. Now can we please hurry up and move on to something more interesting?”

The answer, thankfully, is always “No.” Because I had to slow down, I built better relationships with my brothers and sisters in Christ during this summer. Because I had to slow down, I noticed more of God’s small, everyday gifts to me and I’m learning to trust him more with bigger things, like the GRE I’m taking in two weeks and my future after college. I can’t wait to see what he has for me next!

-Audrey, Vilassar de Mar Intern

EC 2014

Originally written Saturday, June 28, the day after English Camp ended.

I (Krista) breathed a huge sigh of relief from the sound booth at church yesterday when we dismissed the kids at 1:30P.M.. A whole week with 40 kids, 20 volunteers, and no major accidents is a lot to be thankful for. Our maiden voyage with English Camp had gone better than any of us could have ever imagined. My role for English Camp varied from moment to moment, but mainly consisted of Volunteer Coordinator/Camp Director.

Yesterday evening, Friday the 27th, we had the closing ceremony for the kids and their parents. We served brownies and chocolate chip cookies to give them a real taste of the USA. Each child was given a certificate from their teachers for the Best Listener, Most Improved, Best Helper, Best Swimmer, etc. As we ended the evening, I noticed a woman crying. It was the mother of two girls who really love English but couldn’t pay to attend. Due to the generosity of many, we were able to go back to her and say that there are people who would like to cover the cost of the camp for her two girls. She couldn’t believe people who don’t know her would be willing to be so generous to her family. When I saw her yesterday evening, I navigated through the crowd to touch her arm and say that we had a wonderful time with her sweet girls. She was weeping and couldn’t do more than touch my hand and say, “Thank you”.

As I stood by the door, saying goodbye to the parents last night, I couldn’t help but think it was all worth it. To see our church building filled with families who had previously had no contact with our church, and some even a little skeptical sending their kids to EC, to seeing them not wanting to leave and saying what a shame that EC only lasts a week. A mother commented to me how these few days with us had encouraged her children like never before to learn English. Several moms commented on how well-done the camp was and confessed they had been a little wary of sending their kids to a summer camp organized by Christians. The mother of two boys said after getting to know us that all her doubts had been resolved.

Last Monday, we started with a little over 30 kids. By Friday, we had 40. The numbers climbed steadily throughout the week as word got out in our area and more friends and neighbors of campers started signing up. Many people told us that nobody would come, and that it would be a big financial loss. Not to our credit, we reached our maximum number of kids and will end without a loss.

We had over 15 volunteers come from California, Colorado, Texas, and North Carolina to serve as teachers for EC. A large group left on Monday, and others have been leaving throughout the week. We are so thankful for their flexibility and all they sacrificed to make EC possible. They were the key to building relationships with new families.

Thank you for your prayers and support! In spite of the many challenges, we are encouraged to by God’s faithfulness. Time and again, He asked us to believe Him and take risks in faith. We were able to serve our city in a tangible way and connect with new people to build Gospel relationships. Thank you for standing with us and making it possible to serve our local church, our city, and others in Spain!

Mercat de Sant Joan

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We often miss home, even though Edu’s idea of home and my idea of home is completely different (Remember, we come from two different cultures.), we still miss mom’s cooking, certain smells, special days, and of course, people. No matter how far you may go, you can’t ever make up for the people you miss. However, my two cents for any ex-pat would be 1) Visit when you can, 2) Keep in touch, and 3) Get involved where you’re at.

I always loved the Arts & Jazz Festival held in the springtime in my city every year. I would go with a friend or two, look at the art, listen to some good jazz music, and split a funnel cake. I miss going and it takes a while to find out the annual happenings when you live overseas. It can even be quite frustrating to go to the grocery store in the middle of the week, and find it closed (again) for a town holiday. What holiday? Who knows. The point is everyone else knew and I didn’t. Once again, I feel like a foreigner.

So, what do you do? Find a way to get a local calendar of events, buy groceries ahead of time, and join in what’s happening around you. Sure it’s not the same as the Arts & Jazz Fest back home. But I’m a part of the town and I’m out and about greeting neighbors, seeing kids from school, etc. Not the foreigner, at home, inside, without groceries (just kidding).

It’s fun to be a part of local life and it really does help to make a place feel like home when you have a connection to where you live. I will always regret missing weddings, birthdays, and other important events, (like my dad being inducted to the SWATA Hall of Fame) but it does make things easier when you know what’s going on and take part. With all that said, we went out for a walk on Saturday night and enjoyed the inauguration of the new Mercat de Sant Joan. Many streets were decorated, shops stayed open till midnight, and there were lots of free samples from local restaurants. Yum! Here are a few pics from the evening!

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