A Catastrophic and Comical Mix-Up

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These two flags are not the same. Obviously.

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

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

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

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

Totally serious.

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

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

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Nonsense

In learning a new language, we often compare everything to the one we already know. For example, cow in English. Vaca in Spanish. You take the word you know and assign a new word to it. However, as most people who live in a second culture find, hardly anything ever translates literally. It is more the idea that translates and not so much word for word.

Enjoy a good laugh and check out this slideshow from The Huffington Post about signs no muy buenos.

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Together at last!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Praises & Petitions:

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

One month in Texas

Originally written January 14, 2015. 

Greetings from Texas!

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

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

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

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

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

Praises & Petitions:

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

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

Ready for take off?

Originally written December 7, 2014. 

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

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

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

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

Praises & Petitions:

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

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

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.

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.