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.
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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!

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.

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.

GC Update

On December 23, 2013, we began the process to acquire a Green Card (first step to citizenship and permanent residency permit) for Edu. We were told the average wait was about six months, but definitely no longer than nine. It is November, and still no GC. All this waiting, sounds strangely familiar and reminds me of my ten month wait to receive my Religious Worker visa to enter Spain.

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We are in the next to the last step, providing financial support information. The last step is an interview at the American Embassy in Madrid, where they will put a stamp in Edu’s passport that will allow him entry into the U.S.A. But unfortunately, the National Visa Center recently sent us this message:

We are currently receiving an increased number of approved petitions from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. As a result, we are experiencing increased review times for documents received.

We expect it will be at least 60 days from the date we received your mail before we complete the review of your documents. We will notify you when we review your documents.

We are working with an immigration attorney to make sure we file things correctly and received this message last week:

It is unlikely that you will be able to make your December 8 flight. The NVC is going very slowly. Even if we were to get the documents in this week, they will probably not even look at them for two – three weeks, and then, they might kick them back for some other reason, or they may approve them, but it will probably be at least another month before you get your interview.

It is not impossible that you will be able to fly on December 8, but it is increasingly unlikely.

So, the last time we checked, we didn’t make the stars or craft the sun or hang the moon in the sky. Someone else did : ) And we’re so thankful we can take comfort in His words. Words like, “…what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! (Matt. 7:9-11)

So, would you ask Him with us that we would be granted a GC in His perfect timing and that He would sustain us and give us hope?

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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