Transform 2015

11898513_10153496970746221_8635507892834072720_n

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…

11855659_10153496970761221_686808173674010752_n

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.

11896017_10153496971161221_5618455117829161393_n

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.

11875152_435458676637855_2663585160753768742_o

*Name changed.

Advertisements

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.

El Camino de Santiago: Travel stories

If you’ve never heard of the Camino de Santiago, here’s a link for the trailer of the movie, “The Way“. It tells a little about the Camino de Santiago and the meaning behind it.

Just a heads up, unfortunately this is a long post. Fortunately, it’s got some good stories.For more pictures of our adventures, click here.

The following is kind of a travel log of our daily adventures and happenings while on the Camino. We’ll start with my packing list…just in case you’re interested in doing the CdS someday.

Packing list:

  • 2 shirts for walking
  • 2 shorts for walking
  • 1 tank top
  • 1 pair of athletic shorts
  • 4 pairs of socks
  • 1 first aid kit (lots of band-aids, 2 syringes, and antiseptic)
  • 1 pair of hiking boots
  • 1 pair of flip flops
  • 1 lightweight sleeping bag
  • 1 inflatable pillow
  • shampoo and conditioner
  • hair ties
  • shower soap
  • hairbrush
  • soap to wash clothes
  • contacts and contact solution
  • microfiber towel
  • knee brace
  • sunscreen
  • 1 lightweight rain jacket
  • 1 rain cover for backpack
  • 1 roll of toilet paper
  • 50€
  • NIE (Spanish residency ID)
  • Pilgrim Credential 
  • iPhone and charger
  • Outlet converter

Tuesday, July 8 (Travel day): Barcelona to Ponferrada

I woke up early, around 6:00AM to have some time to look over my backpack, weigh it one last time (backpacks for trips like this should only weigh 10% of your total body weight, mine was well under being at only 7 kilos), have a last cup of good coffee for a few days, and look in on Olivia, who was still sleeping peacefully.

Our train for Ponferrada left at 9:30AM from Barcelona Sants so we had time to have a good breakfast, make our lunches, and talk with Mari (Edu’s oldest sister) and Teto (her husband) who had arrived the day before from the Canary Islands to stay with Olivia while we were gone. When Olivia started to wake up, I stayed in the doorway and let Mari go in and pick her up to see how Olivia would react. I didn’t think it would be this hard to leave her for a few days : ( We said our goodbyes and headed for the train station. Edu had an easier time than I did leaving.

We met up with Hannah and Audrey (our Summer Interns) in Sants and boarded our train for Ponferrada. We traveled most of the day on the train, over nine hours. We played cards, watched the movies they showed (Le Chef was my favorite), snacked, and talked. Both Audrey and Hannah are from North Carolina and they talked a lot about how some of the scenery (especially in País Vasco and Galicia) was similar to their home. Very green and lush with mountains, lakes, and rivers.

We arrived in Ponferrada at about 7:00PM. My favorite quote from the time on the train was when Hannah said, “It’s hard to sit here and not eat.” That about sums it up. It was nice to see so much of Spain but we were happy to be off the train. Originally we had planned on taking a taxi to the albergue (hostel for peregrinos or pilgrims on the Camino) but we wanted some exercise so we decided to walk.

We arrived and got settled in. We were assigned our bunk beds, shown where to put our boots, and were shown the kitchen, and bathrooms. We decided to go to a little café before heading to bed and find something to eat.

IMG_4040IMG_4043

Wednesday, July 9: Day 1, Ponferranda to Vilafranca de Bezeiro (22,35km)

We woke up around 6:00AM to the noise of alarms and people packing their backpacks. Most peregrinos wake up early to take advantage of the cool morning and walk several hours before it gets hot. We ate breakfast, some muffins and bananas, and other things we purchased the night before from a grocery store, filled up our water containers, and then started out. It was much colder than we thought so we put on our light jackets that we had brought for rain to keep us warm.

We stopped once or twice to rest for a few minutes throughout the walk and then started again. We started walking at 7:30AM and arrived at our hostel at about 1:00PM. The last few kilometers were hard. Our feet hurt, not so much shooting pain, but aching and sore. I saw a man in his forties with an older gentleman stopping to put on sunscreen at about the halfway point. I saw the younger man alone later and asked if his father was behind him. He said it wasn’t his father and introduced himself. He was from Ireland and we talked for a while about why each of us was doing the Camino. I introduced him to Edu and they talked for a while before Edu slowed down to wait for Audrey, Hannah, and me. James continued on to arrive in Vilafranca but we kept up with each other and saw each other along the Camino and got to know him other days that we saw each other.

After arriving in Vilafranca, the first thing we did was take off our boots. Such a feeling of relief. We checked in to our hostel, Ave Fenix, got assigned our beds, and set off to find lunch. A shower and siestas would have to come later.

We met up with a group of three American girls and a guy who had arrived at the same time as us. They had just graduated from uni and a guy from Holland was walking with them. We tried to get into a supermarket before it closed but we didn’t make it in time. So, we split up. Some people went to buy a kebab and others went to a restaurant for a bigger meal. Once we got back to our hostel, we cleaned up, showered, took some ibuprofen for soreness, hand washed our dirty clothes and hung them to dry, and then laid down to rest for a while. The hostels are big open rooms with bunk beds so as people arrive and get settled in or as they leave, it’s hard not to make noise. Many people were coming in and out so we didn’t sleep much, but enough to rest. We went to a grocery store later to purchase some yogurt, sandwich meat, bread, and fruit for dinner. We came back, ate, played cards, talked with some other peregrinos, and went to bed around 9:30PM to get up early the next morning.

Thursday, July 10: Day 2, Vilafranca de Bezeiro to Vega de Valcarce (17,43km)

We started out around 7:00AM and chose the route through a valley along the highway, a flatter route that went through green forests and had lots of shade. We didn’t see many other peregrinos until later but we did get our picture taken by Japanese tourists who were on a break from their tour bus and standing in the road. We saw James and his friend again and talked for a while. We stopped for a five minute break around 11:00AM and ate a few snacks before continuing. We considered going on to O Cebreiro (12,3km more) but decided against it. It would have been a challenge and I think we made a good choice to do such a hard stage with fresh legs and feet the next morning.

We stopped in Vega de Valcarce and met some girls in our hostel from Belgium who had gotten bed bugs in Madrid. I had never seen the bites and nasty sores they can cause. She didn’t know that she had been bitten by bed bugs and by the time she caught it, the sores were in the later stages.

We got some lunch, some of us did laundry, and then took naps. We woke up around 6:00PM to go to the grocery store and find some things to make for dinner. We decided that a vegetable soup would be good so we bought the necessary ingredients and headed back to the hostel to make dinner. The kitchen was packed so we waited for a while and then decided to cook. As we were sitting down to eat, we met a guy from Germany and got to hear why he was doing the Camino. After dinner, we played a few rounds of cards and then went to bed about the same time, 9 o’clockish. Unfortunately my water bottle was left open and I put it on my bed without knowing it. A little while later, one of the girls from Belgium mentioned that there was something wet on the floor. The water in my bottle had completely soaked the mattress and was dripping out. We changed out the bed with another mattress and went to sleep.

In the morning we made breakfast and packed up to start one of the most difficult stages in the Camino de Santiago.

Friday, July 11: Day 3, Vega de Valcarce to O Cebreiro (12,3km), Transport to Sarria

The hike this day wasn’t hard because of the length, it was a challenge because of the climb. We started at about sea level and ended at who knows how high.

Because there were parts that were so vertical, we ended up walking separately most of the time so everyone could go at their own pace. One of the great things about this stage were the views. The higher we went, the better views we had of the mountains and green landscape. I think we stopped once for a few minutes to have some water, get snacks out of our packs, and continue on. I really enjoyed the solitude going up with such beautiful scenery. IMG_3971IMG_3990

Edu arrived in O Cebreiro first and found someone who could taxi us to Sarria. When I arrived, he told me that the taxi would be there in about 15 minutes so we had a chance to go to the bathroom, take some pictures, get our credential stamped, and buy some water before leaving. It was about a 30-40 minute car ride to Sarria. IMG_3981

When we arrived, we got a little lost but finally found the albergue municipal (municipal hostel). Sometimes peregrinos arrive before the hostel opens so you have to wait outside. This causes an interesting situation, because hostels, especially municipal hostels are based on a first come first serve basis. Some have a lot of capacity, others don’t. This particular municipal hostel had about 40 beds. Obviously, there are other hostels in the city but this is the one that is provided by the city and is usually cheaper (5€/night). Private hostels can be 25€ or more but you also get a room with a bathroom and more privacy.

Anyway, when peregrinos arrive at the hostel and it isn’t open yet, you normally put your pack in the order which you arrive and sit in the shade while you wait. So your pack kind of holds your place in line even though you’re not right by it. When the doors opened to start letting people in there was a stampede and the line theory didn’t work at all. We got in line but there were people in front of us who had cut and there were people behind us who had arrived first. In particular was a young Spanish couple who had been the first ones of anyone to arrive but was now at the very back. Edu whispered to me that he thought the girl was crying and I asked why. He explained to me what had happened and I called out to them and asked if they wanted to come in front of us. They said no, it wasn’t our fault and that they were fine. There were two other Dutch people trying to cut in front of us and I remembered them arriving after us in the line earlier. I asked the couple again and said that they should come in front of us. It wasn’t fair that they had left at 5:00AM from their hostel so that they could arrive early and be sure to get a bed. We insisted once more, and they accepted. The girl wiped the tears from her eyes when she was in front of me and I told her not to worry. Unfortunately, there was a seventy-five year-old man named Paulino that arrived after us, had put his pack in the line with his walking stick but there were several people who had jumped in front of him and was also now at the back behind us. It frustrated me to see how fellow peregrinos seek their own good instead of the good of others. Isn’t this whole journey about service, and being thankful, not demanding and seeking your interests firsts?

In the end, everyone made it inside and had beds. We were with a group of French men who were traveling together and had no problem getting undressed and walking around in their underwear and napping in their underwear. I know it was hot, but no. Not necessary.

We had a doner kebab for lunch, and went back to wash our clothes out and let them dry. Some of us took naps, and I looked at pictures of Olivia. Later we went to the grocery store to get food for dinner and breakfast. We made baguette sandwiches and ate at the hostel and played cards for a while before going to bed. Edu and I had tuna baguette sandwiches with cheese, cold gazpacho soup, and Aquarius (kind of like Poweraid/Gatorade). If I remember correctly, we also bought some bananas for potassium.

Saturday, July 12: Day 4, Sarria to Portomarín (22,7km)

IMG_3991We woke up at 6:00AM, packed up our bags, ate breakfast, doctored our feet (a daily ritual), and started walking about 7:00AM. It was nice and cool on the way out of Sarria and the trail led us through fields most of the morning. My water bottle fell and broke so I had to get rid of it right as we were starting out. The trail led us through tiny little towns, bunches of houses cows really, and sometimes through forests. We went up and down, and up and down again. The road turned and curved and went through valleys and fields. Sometimes it was straight, but usually it felt like we were coming around a bend or coming out of a curve. With all the up and down being hard on mine and Audrey’s knees we figured out that by walking backwards down steep inclines it took a lot of pressure off our knees and actually gave us some foot relief too.

IMG_3993I don’t think the hard thing about the Camino is the tiredness you feel, I think all of us would say it is the pain in your feet. Your legs don’t get so much tired as your feet just start feeling a lot of pain after walking so far. With each step, your toes really start to hurt. The blister pain is different, this is just pain from walking so much. We finished most days walk-limping into the municipal hostel. And then I think about the seventy-five year-old Paulino, or the grandmother from Italy in her seventies who had been walking from St. Jean in France and try not to complain so much. Sometimes, you feel like stopping, but the bad thing about stopping is when you start up again, your whole body hurts, even if you stop and don’t sit, you’re feet hurt more when you start again so it’s better to take the step by step pain and keep going rather than stop.

There are steep descents into Portomarín that really do a number on your toes slamming against your boots and your knees trying to take the jolting impact so I started doing a little jog down the steep descents. If you fall, you’re dead, but if you can control yourself, it helps. I saw a man from Paris doing it and decided to copy him. It takes more energy to run, but it goes by faster. I caught up with him and got to talk a little with him before his mobile phone rang.

I basically ran the rest of the way down the hill and across the bridge into Portomarín. I was so glad to be finished. A girl from Chile started laughing at me saying I was crazy. She was really nice, we saw her later in Santiago. It just felt like I had come to the point of not being able to go any further at least 5 times and had to keep going. After arriving, I felt like I just needed to recover for a few minutes and not talk, not walk, just take off my shoes and put my head on my knees and be thankful we had arrived. No more until tomorrow. I felt like this most days after arriving at the hostel.

We sat down in a line outside the hostel to wait for it to open and unfortunately I got stung by a wasp in the face. There were nests in the stone wall that we were leaning up against while waiting. Fortunately, a guy named John from NY had a first-aid kit with wipes for wasp/bee stings and as soon as I put it on my cheek, it had a cooling effect and the swelling went away.

We had lunch, rested, and then went out later to find a grocery store for dinner and breakfast. Edu and I had our usual, baguette with tuna, gazpacho, fruit, and Aquarius again for dinner.

Sunday, July 14: Day 5, Portomarín to Palas de Rei (25,06km), Transport to Arzúa

We got up at 6:00AM, packed our things, rolled up our sleeping bags and went downstairs to eat some breakfast before heading out. Edu, Audrey, and Hannah left at 7:00AM and I stayed back with the other group to wait for transport. Instead of walking the whole 20km like Edu and the girls, I cheated (and still have mixed feelings about it) and went 10km by car and walked the other 10km.

There is a hostel called “La Fuente del Peregino” or “The Fountain of the Pilgrim” and its run by a non-profit organization. In the Summer of 2005, I worked at this house with a group of other university students on a mission trip. The two week experience is what opened my eyes to missions and to see that the Gospel is for all peoples, nations, and cultures. I hadn’t been back in nine years so I was excited to see it again. It was closed when we passed through but it was neat to stop in, say hello, and see how the place had changed so much. The top picture is from 2005 and the bottom picture is from 2014. 

IMG_4131When we arrived in Palas de Rei, we got our credential stamped and then went by car to Arzúa (about 20 minutes). When we got to the municipal hostel for peregrinos there was a small line outside. We got in line and waited for the rest of our group to arrive before checking in. There’s kind of a rule about not being able to reserve beds. It’s understandable but there were nine of us total and one person was held up in Palas de Rei waiting for transport. The lady who worked at the hostel, Celia, did us a huge favor and reserved a place for him and then helped his wife check him in later.

We went to go get lunch at a restaurant and unfortunately the cook, the waiter, and the person behind the counter were all having a bad day and not getting along. There weren’t a lot of lunch options, almost everyone got grilled chicken with salad. We ate, paid, and went back to our hostel to do laundry. Some of us splurged and after hand washing our clothes split the cost of a dryer. It looked like it might rain and we needed our clothes to be dry for tomorrow. Normally we walked in a set of clothes, and then when we arrived we showered and put on our clean set, hand washed the other, hanged it to dry, and packed it when it was dry to wear the next day after finishing.

We found a small mom and pop supermarket that was open (amazing since it was Sunday) but it was expensive. We only bought what we needed, something for breakfast, and some drinks.

There was a World Cup match that night so some people stayed out to watch it in a bar and others went back to the hostel to sleep or be there to open the door for the other people when they arrived. Most hostels close their doors around 10:00/10:30PM. Most people came back at halftime around 10:45PM.

Monday, July 15: Day 6, Arzúa to Pedrouzo (19,20km)

Today seemed like a long walk even though it wasn’t really longer than other days. I remember thinking how green and lush the landscape looked.

As we were going through a forrest with Eucalyptus trees, a man asked if we were American. We said, “Yes” and asked where he was from. He said, “Belgium” and I asked, “Which part?” He told me he was surprised by such an intelligent question from an American and that led into a conversation about Belgium history and politics. Similar to many countries, Belgium has a long history of conflict between the north and south. The north being stronger economically and industrially and the south being poorer and more agricultural. In this case, the northern part of the country is Dutch-speaking while the southern part is French-speaking (there is also a small part that speaks German). In any case, we started talking about our motives for doing the Camino and he shared that his father had recently passed away and he was doing the Camino in remembrance of him.

He asked what we did for a living and I shared that we work with a church, that Edu is a pastor in training, and that he enjoys teaching. “Teaching the gospel?”, he asked. It was my turn to be surprised. “Yes, the gospel. What’s that mean to you?” I asked. For the remainder of the walk, we went back and forth and talked about faith, Jesus, and church. He shared with me that he believes all people are good and they never really do bad things intentionally. His optimism took me by surprise and I asked about Hitler. “He wasn’t a bad person?” I pressed. He defended his stance saying that Hitler was trying to do a good thing in the wrong way. “His intentions were good” said my new flemish friend. I confessed saying “I’m not good, I’m sinful.” He didn’t believe me. We started talking about Genesis, sin, the biblical narrative, and the substitutionary atonement of Christ’s death for us. My friend said that he had once believed but he had seen so much corruption and hypocrisy that he couldn’t truly believe in Christianity anymore. I didn’t try to dodge his bullets of doubt, disbelief, and anger at the errors of “Holy Men” who had been church leaders and also pedophiles. I listened and did try to point him to faith. Even if all of his questions could be answered to his satisfaction, I reminded him that he would still have to believe in faith that Christ died and rose from the dead for us. It was a good conversation and we decided that if we saw each other in town later we would have a coffee or something together.

The hill walking into Pedrouzo wasn’t necessarily big as it was long.. At one point, Audrey and I looked up to see Hannah running up the hill and saying, “It never ends!”  Since we arrived so early, we put our backpacks down and went to get a coffee. It felt so good to put flip flops on and sit in a chair inside where there was A/C. After our coffee, we went back to the line and met a Brazilian man. We found that we understood each other better by me speaking Catalan and him speaking Portuguese instead of both of us trying to speak Spanish. It’s amazing how many romance languages can be understood by knowing 1 or 2 of them well, having a good sense of humor, and speaking slowly. We must have talked for half an hour about family, life, etc. He shared with us about his wife and how she wasn’t able to travel with him and showed us the pictures on his camera and his love for flowers.

We got some lunch, went grocery shopping, and then made dinner in the craziest kitchen ever.

IMG_4046

There must have been twenty people in there cooking everything from spaghetti and pasta, to french fries in a wok. A group of French people in the common area started singing (think Edith Piaf music) and Audrey started the pasta while I went to go investigate. We finished our pasta so we took it outside to eat.

As we were on our way in and about to head to bed, I noticed a guy from the kitchen sitting outside. From the way he cooked earlier, I thought he must be a chef, so I asked him. He said that he wasn’t and we started talking about the Camino and our motives for walking. He was from Italy, in his early twenties, and started walking in St. Jean (southern France). He shared with me how he had saved up, working as a server in London for eight months to be able to walk the Camino for 5 weeks or so. We started talking about spiritual things and he started asking me questions about commandments and rules. He thought it was unfair that God would put limits and restrictions on what we can do. I shared that its more like our trust in God leads us to obey Him, not just a set of rules that we do/don’t adhere to. Conforming to the rules, obeying the law, doesn’t save you. It’s realizing that we haven’t obeyed, haven’t measured up, and Jesus is our sacrifice for that. Our trust is what leads us into a relationship with God. I enjoyed listening to him, his honesty and hearing what he believes and how he lives. We talked for a long time on the bench outside the hostel and he said he would try anything once. I shared my story of how I started reading the bible on my own several years ago and had people to talk through it with me. I challenged him to read it for himself and know who Jesus is before rejecting it completely. He liked the idea of that and said he’d do that.

Before heading off to bed, I introduced him to Edu and they chatted for a little bit before turning in.

Tuesday, July 16: Day 7, Pedrouzo to Santiago de Compostela (19,98km)

Our last morning was like all of our other Camino mornings. Wake up, pack, eat breakfast, doctor our feet, and head out. Somewhere amidst the walking, the quietness, meeting new people, getting to know people you already knew even better, the tiredness, life became so simple. I think that’s one of my favorite things about the Camino. Questions like, “What will I wear today?”, “What have I got to do today?”, “What are we going to eat?” become very simple to answer. I will wear the clean shirt in my backpack later, because I’m already wearing the other one. The task before us is to arrive at our destination. We’ll probably eat a sandwich and other things that we’ll buy at the grocery store. We walk, we eat, we sleep, we make new friends, and we journey together.

photo 3

When we arrived in Santiago de Compostela it was a little anti-climactic for me. Partly for the reason that I had been there twice before, but also because the last week hadn’t been about arriving, it was about the journey we took together. We ran into my Italian friend from the evening before, and I introduced him to the other people in our group. He seemed quite lost and disappointed. It was apparent he thought that when he arrived he would find a part of himself, but he didn’t. He said he didn’t really know what to do now and was surprised by this feeling of arriving at the end, and being let down. I helped give him directions to the Oficina de Peregrinos (Pilgrim’s Office) and said goodbye. We walked around Santiago the rest of the day and enjoyed our accommodations with a bathroom in every room! From public showers with no doors to your own bathroom, that’s luxury my friends.

Wednesday, July 17: Day 8, Santiago de Compostela to Barcelona

In a little over an hour, we covered the same distance in a plane that many people took thirty days (or more) to walk. We met people from places like Belgium, Ireland, Spain, USA, Holland, Germany, Italy, France, and many others. To hear who they are, how they live, and what they believe about God. The Camino is a place where you can share your story and that was our heart, to connect with other peregrinos, and share our story of how He redeemed us and extends that invitation to others.

It was good fun, but I was ready for a long hot shower, my comfortable bed, and to see our sweet Patita. Who knows, maybe we’ll find our way back to the Camino next summer…

Introducing Mariano Rajoy…

Spain´s newly elected Prime Minister. He will officially come into office later this month and he has a lot of work to do…

By Paul Day

MADRID | Mon Dec 5, 2011 10:56am EST

(Reuters) – Incoming Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy will hammer home his commitment to austerity in Spain and is expected to back closer euro zone fiscal unity when he meets centre-right European counterparts this week in Marseille.

The meeting will mark Rajoy’s first major public appearance since winning election and is particularly important because he will not attend a summit in Brussels later this week, as he will not be sworn in until around December 20. Outgoing Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero will attend the Brussels gathering.

Rajoy, who won a solid parliamentary majority in Spain’s November 20 election, is due to meet one-on-one with France’s Nicolas Sarkozy, Germany’s Angela Merkel and U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner at the Wednesday-Thursday event.

He will also address the European People’s Party meeting, which ends just before the summit of 27 European Union leaders in Brussels that could be decisive in producing a definitive solution to the euro zone debt crisis.

With investor doubts focused on Spain and Italy and forcing up their borrowing costs, Rajoy must impress on fellow conservative leaders that he can control the public deficit even though economic output and tax income are declining.

“We have to transmit the clear message that we are the Prussians of southern Europe, that we will meet all our commitments,” said political consultant Narciso Michavila, president of GAD3 in Madrid.

Rajoy has a unique opportunity to impose harsh measures, even though unemployment is painfully high, because Spaniards are convinced of the need, Michavila said.

“Spaniards are conscious that we lived beyond our means. The crisis has made us, for the first time in history, aware that the welfare state comes from our pockets, not from the Three Kings.”

LINGERING UNCERTAINTY

Spain, the euro zone’s fourth largest economy, has avoided the need for external aid due to a slew of spending cuts and reforms by the Socialist government, but risk premiums remain volatile as leaders bicker over a cross-border solution.

While euro zone leaders hammer out an agreement which many hope will mean a significant step toward closer fiscal union by Friday, Spain, under a prolonged attack by nervous debt markets, is struggling to keep afloat.

Optimism that an accord is imminent has brought Spain’s bond yields back down from last month’s spike that approached the 7 percent threshold seen as unsustainable. But at a December 1 auction bonds due in April 2015 were sold with a yield of 5.187 percent, a 14-year high, showing that uncertainty lingers.

Unemployment is more than double the EU average at over 21 percent, the public deficit is one of the highest in the euro zone, expected to top 6 percent of gross domestic product this year, and the economy is on the cusp of a recession.

In some ways Spain has anticipated the drive toward a euro zone fiscal union: last year the Socialists and the PP passed constitutional debt limits in a rare joint Parliamentary vote.

And Rajoy has said one of the first things he will do is to make those even stricter, giving the central government more power to intervene in regions’ finances should they go astray.

“We must be more German than the Germans in terms of austerity, discipline and correcting economic imbalances. More French than Sarkozy in economic governance and more Europeanist than (Jacques) Delors in finding new ways to stimulate growth,” said Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, a Spanish People’s Party member of the European Parliament.

Rajoy will reaffirm his commitment to the monetary union, Margallo told Reuters.

“Spain must be within the euro zone core and whatever level of discipline they ask, we will be the first to comply.”

Rajoy is likely to drop calls made previously by Spanish leaders for more help from the European Central Bank. The bank says it will not be lender of last resort for fear that would discourage necessary economic reforms.

Instead, Rajoy will focus on strengthening the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) and the funding of credit lines available from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a source close to the party said.

“He understands that speaking to Germany about quantitative easing by the ECB is like asking them to light a fire in the first floor of their own homes. Better to concentrate on the funds already under consideration,” the source said.

(Additional reporting by Elisabeth O’Leary; Editing by Fiona Ortiz and Peter Graff)

Maybe we need a wake-up call.

“The current state of affairs here worries us,” prayed my much respected compañero and colleague during our staff meeting on a Tuesday afternoon. Every Tuesday afternoon at about 3:00PM, I sit at a table surrounded by seven other men who are much older and wiser than myself. I have asked myself from day one, “What am I doing here?” And the truth is, I’m still asking that question. Who are these men? These are the people whom I serve with, eat with, encourage, and meet together to pray with.

So what are the events for which we were praying and were (are) somewhat troubling? Politics. The religious freedom that we currently enjoy have is very loosely applied. It is also subject to change. It is cause for alarm when a city hall in a major city cancels the lease contract that an evangelical church has on a building and is up to date on their payments. How can a city hall, for no apparent reason, force any non-catholic church/organization/association to close it’s doors? But that is the reality. There is a new law here in Cataluña that says all religious entities must have a license/permit to perform any type of religious activity, be it a prayer meeting, church service, etc. The law is to be enforced as loosely or strictly as every city hall, specifically the mayor,  sees fit. At any time the city hall has the power to make a decision to close any religious establishment.
If you would like to read more on this, provided below are two articles (in Spanish).
As a response to these things, the evangelical churches and Christians here in Cataluña made a public gathering in Barcelona last Saturday at 17:00 hrs. Here are some photos of the event.
It is interesting that during the Franco regime, there was no law, hence there was no religious freedom. Churchgoers during the years of Franco’s dictatorship might have arrived to church on Sunday and have found chains on the doors barring their entry. What we have today, is actually worse than the Franco dictatorship. We’re not moving into a progressive bright future, we’re taking steps backward. During the dictatorship of Franco, there was no law. Now, there is law but it does not protect the religious people in this country. Have you heard about what’s happening in Egypt? It is a different case, in a different country, but it is an example that we are not guaranteed protection from the government.
We have upcoming elections in Spain and it is probable that the tide will shift from one majority party to another. Over the lasts several years we have had a very socialist, very liberal government that has openly helped and aided religious groups here in Spain. An example of this would be the granting of religious worker visas, of which I currently have. The party that is likely to come into power is very conservative, strictly Catholic, and protestants/evangelicals are unsure what this means as far as legislation, funding, freedom, etc.
There is a sixteen year project that is in the final step of being approved (by the current government). The project is the formal accreditation of five protestant seminaries here in Spain. These five seminaries have sacrificed and worked through every possible obstacle that the government has put in it’s way, dotting i’s and crossing t’s and prayerfully gone through each step (and they have been numerous) leading up to the last one. If this does not get pushed through in time before the elections, the slate will be wiped clean with the new government. Which means the accreditation project will also be nothing but a post-it in the trash from the old administration. The encouraging thing is that these seminaries have been forming men and women for ministry and service for decades and will continue to do so, with or without formal recognition.
Last Friday, 11/11/2011, the ministers of the government approved the bill and the five seminaries now stand as International Universities with full rights and privileges. To read some articles about this momentous decision:
Goverments change. The people that govern us change. The church has struggled since  it’s beginning with challenges and persecution, maybe we just need a wake up call.

What’s {up}

¡Saludos desde Castelldefels, España! We are Edu and Krista García and this is our first monthly update. Thank you for letting us share how we are (really), what we’re up to, and what’s on our heart’s.

It’s a little hard to believe, but we stepped off the plane from our whirlwind wedding adventure a little over a month ago. We have hit the ground running and are in the full swing of ministry, daily activities, and completely loving it! We consider it a tremendous blessing of the Lord to have been able to spend a month (two weeks in Texas and two weeks in Gran Canaria) with our friends and families. It was my first time in the Spanish Canary Islands and it was Edu’s first visit to the USA.

First Impressions: Krista’s Reflections on the Canary Islands
These people are different. They talk even faster than the people did in Andalucíá and they have a completely distinct accent. Canarios use a different way of addressing people in groups than other Spaniards. I suppose it would be comparable to how Texans use “y’all” but an even greater jump grammatically. The islands are beautiful and the terrain is incredibly diverse, ranging from deserts to a tropical paradise. In the distance that it takes to go from Denton to Dallas, you cover almost the entire island of Gran Canaria from North to South.

First Impressions: Edu’s Reflections on Texas
One of the biggest things that impressed me from my time in Texas, was the friendliness of the people. Everywhere we went, people were very kind and respectful (the only exception was passing through the immigration control in DFW). Also, the cars are huge! Even the elderly people drive big pick-ups. However, it wasn’t the car that surprised me the most it was the way that people drive. People actually stopped at the stop signs and stoplights. Also, the sheer size of the malls and public parks astounded me.



Married life…
Marriage is a gift from God! It is a living example of His grace and mercy to us. We are  learning a lot, taking things as they come, and discovering so much about this new person that you spend 24 hours of the day with (well, not quite that much!). We have a date night every week and look forward to it. Sometimes it’s as simple as taking a walk or drinking a café con leche, just time to enjoy being together.

From Eduardo…
Dear Brothers & Sisters,             
 Perhaps many of you don’t know me, therefore, I think it’s best to write and introduce myself. My name is Eduardo García and I am from the Spanish Canary Islands, Gran Canaria to be exact. I’m the youngest of seven and within a few days (this Saturday) I’ll turn thirty-four. But most importantly, I am a sinner. Before I had a relationship with Christ, I was full of wickedness and an enemy of God. But in Christ I have been redeemed, bought, and declared righteous before God. My greatest joy is to be called a “child of God” (John 1:12), this is my identity, a pardoned sinner with the purpose of serving a holy God. I am also a happily married man. A little over a month ago, Krista and I were married in Denton, Texas. God is truly good and amazing. His grace amazes me and fills me with joy. Now that you know me a little better, I’d like to explain a little about what we’re up to…

Theory & Practice
In June I (Edu) graduated from IBSTE (Instituto Biblico Seminario Teologico de España).  These last four years have been a great blessing in my life and God has continually confirmed His call in my life to serve in ministry. During this year (now to the end of next Summer) I will continue studying and be serving in our church (Vilassar de Mar) doing a pastoral internship. I will be preaching, helping with Sunday School, and Krista and I will be leading a small group together. Later on in October, we will return to the Canary Islands for a youth retreat. I have been asked to be the speaker and preach on the topic of service and discipleship. We believe that our greatest purpose as a couple is to serve Christ, being conformed to his image and character.

¡Muchas gracias! Moltes grácies!
Thank you for your prayers and gifts. We consider it a great privilege to minister together and represent you in the Spanish church. We pray for you daily, we ask specifically for protection and that the Lord would deepen your love for Him. Please also remember us in your prayers, specifically for our marriage, that we would be a testimony of Christ and the Church. Ask also for wisdom, a great application of truth in our lives, as we both dedicate many hours to people and full-time ministry. Our desire is to see men and women understand, believe, and be transformed by the Gospel (Christ crucified and Christ risen). Thank you for your gifts and prayers as we work together exalting Him among the nations. As the famous missionary William Carey said to his friends and supporters, “I will venture to go down into the well, but remember that you must hold the ropes.”

Your Servants in Christ,

Edu & Krista

luisa + texas = viaje misionero

Well, Luisa has come and gone, three weeks has flown by! I got back to Dallas, Sunday, August 1st, and Luisa arrived (flying by herself on a plane for the second time in her life, with a layover in London Heathrow (one of the biggest airports in the world and under construction) and navigated through terminals, security checks, baggage claims, and customs officials, to have me waiting for her to come through the International Arrival Doors of DFW airport!) on Wednesday, August 3rd. She left for Madrid on Wednesday, August 25th.

To make it simple, I’ll break up what we did, where we went, and how we served into a more organized fashion…

At the rodeo...

Dinner for supporters...

España + USA

Week 1: After adjusting to the 7-hour time change, we visited some churches in Denton and got to know some ministries here in the city. One evening, my dad took us to the Mesquite Championship Rodeo and she loved it! On Saturday, August 7th, we helped host a dinner to thank my team of supporters for their prayers and support. Luisa shared a brief powerpoint about the “state of Spain” and also shared her testimony. The next day, we visited Trinity UMC, went to Sunday School, and had a really encouraging time worshipping.

Week 2: We headed to San Antonio area (New Braunsfels/Canyon Lake) and spent some time with the Linskey family who hosted us and introduced us to churches and youth groups in the area. Becky Linskey met Luisa five years ago when she was serving in Úbeda as a missionary and now lives in the Canyon Lake area with her husband and baby. After leaving Canyon Lake, we went to Austin area and visited the Church of Horseshoe Bay where we attended two services and had the opportunity to talk with many members about Spain and what He is doing there.

Us with the Linskey Fam

Talking with members at the Church in Horseshoe Bay

Kids meeting

Week 3: We served with Hidalgo (a ministry that reaches out to Spanish speakers in inner city Dallas) and it was our joy and privilege to share the Gospel, with 60-75 kids daily, talking about the life of Jesus, our need, his death, his resurrection, and the free gift of salvation offered to us. We used some neat illustrations to meet the kids on their level. An interesting thing was that our time with the children was entirely in Spanish, this is significant due to the fact that many children in the apartment complexes speak Spanish as their first language.

The theme of the Backyard Bible Club

Worship time with the kids

Director of Hidalgo, Stephen, & Luisa

Some hard things for a Spaniard in the US (Tx) were…

  • seeing guns for sale in Wal-Mart.
  • not having a siesta every day.
  • getting used to new eating times, 8AM, 12PM, and 6PM versus, 10AM, 2PM, and 9PM.
  • seeing that men had to ask a woman to dance when we went country dancing.
  • riding in the car a lot and driving for long periods of time.
  • spicy (mexican) food.
  • understanding why we say “Please” and “Thank you” so much.

Some funny things for a Spaniard in the US (Tx) were…

  • how much she got into the Rangers game we went to, yelling “Corre! Corrrrrreee!” (Run! Ruuunnn!)
  • her laughing every time she saw somebody wearing a cowboy hat.
  • her thinking that we don’t throw toilet paper into the toilet.
  • her constant commenting on how hot it is in Texas.
  • her loving the word, “Yeeee–Hawwww!” I think she just loved yelling it more than the word.
  • her seeing the prices of clothes, groceries, books, and CD’s, and saying “Everything is so cheap!”
  • her going to Wal-Mart and Super Target and marveling at how you can buy everything under the sun in one store.
  • her turning the radio to a Mexican station and seeing it wasn’t the same AT ALL as music in Spain.
  • her laughing over the Mexican accent being so different from a Spanish accent.
  • her saying “FROSTY!” every time we drove by a Wendy’s.

All in all, it was a very fulfilling three weeks. Without a doubt, her faith has increased and she trusts Him more. The Lord did some miraculous things to bring her here, keep her safe, use her, show her more of Himself, and send her back safely. As we were driving to the airport, she said that she would miss the hospitality of the people, the one-stop shopping at Wal-Mart and Super Target, and the country music : )