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.
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From the street…

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

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

Wouldn’t you like to know…

Wouldn’t you like to know…this is a (brief?) list of interesting tid-bits from living in Spanish culture. The list may include, but is not limited to: food, people, expressions, daily living, language blunders, etc.

  • Here, it is typical to put a baby into a moisés, a kind of bassinet, for the first few months instead of a crib. This way baby sleeps next to mom for the first few months to make feeding easier. Most parents wouldn’t put baby into a crib in the nursery until he/she is older. Image
  • In Spain, it is a compliment to be compared to an animal of the bovine species in the masculine sense, a bull (toro). However, to be compared in the feminine sense, a cow (vaca) is most definitely not a compliment.
  • Many Spaniards turn off the water during shower time. What does this mean? When one is showering, after getting wet, one turns off the faucet (to save water) and then turns it back on when they are ready to rinse off.
  • The unemployment rate in Spain is almost 30%, among young people it is 50%. This is causing a mass exodus of younger people to look for work in other European countries.
  • Almost all banks and government offices close at 2:00PM Monday-Friday. They do not re-open in the afternoons.
  • The American tradition of writing “Thank You’s” is quite a foreign concept to Spaniards. Culturally, this is not expected (ever) and is taken as a very polite gesture.
  • Every time we use our crock pot when we have guests over, we have to explain what a crock pot is, and how it works. It seems like it is a difficult concept to understand that all it does is cook things slowly. It is commonly mistaken for a kitchen robot like a Thermomix. What is a Thermomix? Thermomix
  • A Thermomix is a very popular kitchen machine that costs about €1,000.00. If you’re curious, click on this link for more info about what they do:  http://www.ukthermomix.com/
  • In (some) Spanish primary schools the Pre-K and Kindergarden bathrooms are not separated by boys and girls. The bathroom is one room, with several open toilets, and the boys and girls all go in together. First and second grades have separate washrooms for boys and girls, but they aren’t allowed to close the door of the stall.

What’s {Up}

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

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

Student: Do you have peace?

Krista: Peace as in the absence of conflict?

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

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

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

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

Praises & Petitions:

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

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

The next few years in Catalunya…

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We recently mentioned the elections here and how the winning party would likely shape the future towards national independence or towards collaboration with the federal government.

Without going into much detail, the winning president (Artur Mas) has clearly stated that one of the party’s fundamental goals in the next four years will be to hold a referendum to form a new European country. Will it actually happen? We don’t know. But we do know that in the meantime, there are many opportunities to listen to people and point them to an eternal citizenship full of hope. Jesus’ word’s to his disciples are very encouraging to us during this time. Our freedoms and food are not the essence of life.

 

“Do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying…your Father knows that you need these things. But seek His kingdom and these things will be added to you…For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Luke 12:29-34

Texas –> España

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This was written last Friday, the day we departed for Spain.

Camino Global has given us the green light...¡Eureka! We have been officially appointed as long-term missionaries with Camino Global. After three days of interviews, meetings, and a mutual time of sharing, on September 19th, we were formally accepted. We took personality tests and a comprehensive marriage inventory that we talked through while we were on campus. On our last day, we enjoyed a “Welcome” luncheon with the entire Camino home office staff. We feel that we have a great “family” pulling for us at home and that is very encouraging.

 Travel to California…this past week, we made one last trip to the west coast. We were able to visit friends for several days in the Redwood Forrest and then travelled south to visit a church. Through a series of cancelled flights and re-routing to another airport in Oregon, we were finally able to arrive Sunday afternoon for Edu to preach and have an opportunity to share about ministry in Spain. Our heart was to be a blessing and encourage the church to pray for the needs overseas.

 ¡Qué maravilla! What we saw in California left us amazed: 1)We saw the Redwood Forrest, where the tallest trees in the world grow. 2) We ate breakfast one morning looking out on a group of seals. 3) On a hike, Edu saw two black bears! These days in California were especially meaningful to us. We enjoyed friendship, sweet fellowship, and the beauty of God’s creation.

 Hasta luego…We are returning after three months of some much needed encouragement, hugs, prayers, and rest. We also desired to connect with our support team. We have been able to thank many of our supporters face to face as well as visit many churches, ministries, and even serve here in Denton with Vision ministries when we were able. Several prayer requests are being answered regarding support and we are encouraged that many people are considering being a part of ministry in Spain. En fin, we leave better than when we arrived, emotionally, spiritually, and economically. We believe this has nothing to do with us and our efforts, but God’s grace to us!

Con cariño,

Edu & Krista

San Fernando, Cádiz

We were invited to Cádiz a few weekends ago for Edu to preach (twice) and teach a bible study. The church graciously invited me to come too and we enjoyed our time with our hosts Martha, Albert, and Josefa. We flew into Jerez de la Frontera Friday afternoon and flew out of Sevilla Sunday night.

Neither of us had ever been to Cádiz so amfter dropping off our little suitcases (we flew with RyanAir) Martha and Albert took us on a drive through the historic part of the city of Cádiz. Very interesting, Cádiz is actually an island, and there is one road in and one road out. There is also a certain prestige that goes with saying that you’re from “old Cádiz”, which means inside the original city walls (that are still standing). New Cádiz is everything outside of the original walls. We’re talking Roman age here, just so you get the picture.

Friday evening we were invited to a family dinner and ate amazing fried fish that the area is famous for. We were still sitting at the dinner table at half past midnight and I (was fading quickly when one of the family finally suggested we get some sleep. We were able to sleep in a little on Saturday but we were at the church by noon to have a kind of a meet and greet/ Q&A with the members of the church. Things got real honest real quick when the members were sincere enough to say that they needed a pastor and asking what our current commitments look like. We returned the favor of honesty and said that we are not looking to candidate for a church right now, instead, we are committed to two years (October 2012-September 2014) with the local church in Vilassar de Mar, working with evangelism, discipleship, and developing other ministries.

The church had prepared a potluck that day and I think everybody ate a little too much. Later, Edu had a time to teach in the church and we went for a walk around San Fernando with our hosts afterwards.

On Sunday, we were at the church by 11:00AM, Edu taught a bible study that morning and later we had lunch with Josefa and her family. In the afternoon we returned to church for the evening service and Edu taught one last time. We said our goodbyes and headed to the airport in Sevilla to catch our plane home. Both nights we stayed up pretty late talking and learning about the church. When it was time for us to go, we prayed for one another and promised to keep in touch (and we have!).

Here are a few pics from the trip…

Leaving Bcn…

Paseo marítimo

Flower stand

Puesto del sol…

Cádiz City Hall

Talking with church members…

It’s snail season! Mmmm!