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.

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!

A Catastrophic and Comical Mix-Up

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These two flags are not the same. Obviously.

It all started out like a normal day for us. Drop Edu off at school and then run some errands, go home, eat lunch with Patita, put Patita down for a nap, Patita wakes up, and we go pick up Edu.

This story really begins when I picked Edu up from school. I put the car in park, turn the flashers on, and surrender the drivers seat. Edu gets in and we take off towards our next destination. As always, I ask, “How was class?” Half interested and half wanting to know that we’re getting our tuition’s worth. Edu starts by saying that class was short—“Why short?” I ask immediately. After all, time is $ and I want to make sure that we’re getting what we pay (handsomely) for. Through broken laughter, Edu explains that they had class for about 45 minutes and the rest of the time he walked in the “Native Dress and Flag Parade”. What the what?

“I didn’t know you were going to be in a parade!” I blared. I said that, “Had we known, Patita and I would have come to watch.” That’s when Edu begins to explain that it wasn’t a normal experience but very peculiar indeed.

First, he deliberately hadn’t volunteered to carry the Spanish flag around campus but when the day came and there he was, the only Spaniard in the program, and with no flag in hand, well, they asked him more directly and he caved. That’s how nice he is. My good friend Sally would’ve said, “Hmm… sounds to me like a personal problem.” But alas, that’s not Edu. And that’s how he found himself walking around a university campus of 35,000 students with the Spanish Civil War (Read Dictator’s) Flag.

Totally serious.

For reasons yet to be uncovered, he was not given the actual or current Spanish flag, but the one from the National Party from the 1936-1939 Spanish Civil War and the subsequent dictatorship until 1975. He tried to hide it as best he could and even rolled it up when he was standing still so it couldn’t be seen.

Edu was worried about someone taking pictures and then posting them on Facebook and people in Spain seeing that he was representing Spain with this flag. The flag that he carried is a symbol of oppression and not one you would think you would be given for the “Native Dress and Flag Parade”. It does make for a good story though ; )

Together at last!

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Almost two months to the day after we said goodbye, Edu landed in the USA (Feb. 6). The Lord is good indeed! We could have continued had He showed us that was what He had for us…

“For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Psalm 84:11

However, we are so glad he brought us together again! We’re in full swing with ministry meetings, planning, finding ways to serve locally, and we would love to tell you about it! The majority of our time over the next several months will be invested in three areas…

Training
» Language » Edu is taking advantage of the Adult Ed. English classes made available through our city to help prepare him for the Intensive English Language Institute placement exam on March 10. The IELI program is one of the best in the nation and is available through the University of North Texas. Edu will begin the IELI course on March 23.

» Church resources » There is a wealth of information (books, bible studies, trainings, conferences, etc.) that we are looking to tap into and become better equipped to serve more effectively in Spain.

Serving
» Bible study for Spanish speakers » We recently had coffee with a young couple who have a desire to begin a bible study, through a local church, for Spanish speakers later this month. This has been a desire of theirs for a long time and we are excited about supporting them as they get underway. The cities around us report a Hispanic population between 20-30% which leads us to believe we can definitely put our Spanish to good use.

» Translating and serving with local ministries » In the past, we have volunteered to serve with local ministries that work with community resources and aid. We have offered ourselves as volunteers and translators to several ministries and are looking forward to meeting needs in this way.

Connecting
» Ministry partners » It has been refreshing and encouraging to start meeting with many of you. Some highlights from our recent weeks have been the conversations where we’ve gotten to hear how the Lord is working in your lives, your community of believers, and your church. We’ve found that many of you have a commute of up to two hours to get to/from work! We consider it no small thing that so many of you sacrifice a portion of what you receive to partner with us in sharing Christ with others. We remember you always and would love to know any specific requests that we can be praying for.

» New relationships » It is a joy for us to share about the ways the Lord is working in Spain and the whys/hows we get to be part of that. Many of you have invited us to visit your small group, bible study, and/or Sunday School class, or connect us with someone from the missions committee of your local church–thank you! In order to continue serving in Spain, we must be fully funded. However, our prayer is that the Lord, not us, would lead those that He desires into a relationship to partner with us in sharing the Good News in Spain. We’re looking forward to connecting more with our current partners, and would also love to connect with anyone you think might be interested in knowing more about partnerships and ministry in Spain. Please send us an E-mail, or give us a call.

Praises & Petitions:

  • Praise for the Lord bringing us together again and for all the details that the Lord worked out for Edu to receive his visa.
  • Thanks for the families and individuals that loved us, prayed for us, and encouraged us during our time apart.
  • Please ask the Lord to open doors for new relationships with churches and ministry partners.
  • Please ask that we would continue to grow in the image of Christ, not being conformed to this world, but being transformed by the renewing of our minds, that we may test and discern what is the will of God, what is good, acceptable, and perfect. (Romans 12:2-3)

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.

Ready for take off?

Originally written December 7, 2014. 

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Many of you have been praying for a resolution to our Green Card application for Edu. Wednesday was the last possible day for us to be notified from the embassy to be able to travel to the U.S. as a family tomorrow.

After processing what makes sense vs. our emotions, prayer, and counsel from others, we’ve decided that Olivia and I will travel to Texas tomorrow. Edu will stay in Spain and wait to be notified by the embassy in Madrid. We don’t know how long he will have to wait. It could be a few days, it could be a few weeks. A great group of brothers and sisters in Madrid have offered to take him in and their generosity and love have made this much easierfor us.article-2519774-19F213AB00000578-42_634x443

The last few days (weeks?) have been filled with so many unknowns. We’ve had moments where we believe, and moments where we doubt, tears and laughs, and moments where we can be honest and say it has just been hard. Up until Wednesday, we had Plan A and Plan B prepared, but this plan never even entered our minds. To explain a little more, we realized that if we changed or cancelled all three of our tickets, we would likely suffer substantial penalties per ticket, plus playing with the unknowns of flight availability and increase in fares as we got closer and closer to Christmas.

It makes the most sense for us to take advantage of two of the three tickets, and rebook Edu’s ticket when we know for sure that his visa is ready. This unexpected Plan C is off-set by the Lord providing us with an even more surprising peace. As the clock ticked by on Wednesday and we realized there wouldn’t be any visa, we prayed, asking God to show up. We asked Him to supply us with the necessary faith to meet this challenge with faith and believe. And you know what? He did it. As hard as it is to think of our family being split on two different continents, He has given us a peace that allows us to rest in Him. We had a sweet time of prayer with our local church and a send-off party this afternoon. It is hard to sum up our time in Vilassar in a few words. Edu has served with this church for four years and I’ve served here for three. We’ve received an immeasurable amount of love and hospitality while at the same time being challenged to grow in the grace and knowledge of God.flight connections

Praises & Petitions:

  • Praise God for giving us the faith to trust Him when we feel like we live with a steady stream of unknowns.
  • Praise God for giving us tangible examples of his love to us and taking care of us.
  • Please pray for travel mercies on Monday, Edu will go to Madrid by train and Olivia and I fly to London, then on to Dallas. We should land in Dallas around 3:00PM (local time).
  • Please pray that we would keep this momentary separation in perspective and be reminded of our eternal hope in Christ. Our desire is that this experience would serve for us to tell of the goodness and faithfulness of God to others in spite of momentary circumstances.

Thank you so much for your words of encouragement and for persevering with us in prayer.