Yep, that’s a lot of miles we’ve travelled over the course of this summer. Some 6,600 miles by car and another 10,900 by air, when we finally arrive home, Lord-willing, on September 2nd (that’s 28,163 km, which sounds even more impressive). It’s been a long but rich summer in many ways, with God giving us some visits, reconnections and experiences that, simply put, were gifts for us, our family and our hearts. We’re heading back to Spain with our hearts fuller than we arrived nearly three months ago, and as we look back on our time in the States, here are a few reflections. (If you’d like a few prayer requests, check out the video above).
BIG: As one of our British friends and coworkers told us after her first visit to the U.S., “Your country is SOOOO BIG!!!” We’ve been reminded of that geographically this summer as we’ve travelled all those miles, but that’s not all. Houses are bigger, cars are larger, highways and parking spots are wider, the drinks at Wendy’s and any other fast food place are larger (my medium was bigger than anything I could ever order in Spain). Americans are bigger in size and also in their thinking, which though it may have its negative side, also has a very important positive side to it. We need big thinkers, willing to think outside the box, willing to serve God in big and varied ways because He is, well, bigger than we can imagine.
Generous: We have continually been reminded of just how generous American Christians are. I’m sure that Barna or some ministry research group may say that the research points to a downward trend in giving among believers, but that simply has not been our experience this summer. We have incredibly faithful supporting churches and individuals who give generously on a regular basis so that we can serve Jesus in Spain, and this summer they have been generous with their homes, their food, their resources, and their encouragement. They have been a reminder and a reflection of the generous God we serve who Himself became poor that we might become spiritually rich (1 Cor. 8:9).
The Heart: God cares about our hearts. He has ministered to us in a variety of ways: through good, deep conversations with friends, through times of prayer with churches, friends and supporters, through the encouragement of believers (some of whom we’d never met), and even through the beauty of His creation (complete with mountains, starry nights and wild animal sightings). So often as missionaries, “professional Christians” (as some put it), we can fall into the trap of thinking that what’s most important is what we can do for God and His kingdom. And while God does call us to action and to service for His rescue mission in our world, He does not do so neglecting our hearts. He is a good God, a good Father, a good Friend, a good Savior and a good Lord who cares deeply about us, and He’s reminded us of this again this summer.
We’ve been praying for them for years, and we know other missionaries who have been praying for them for decades. Truth be told, it had always been a quiet dream of mine to get to know them personally and to share the Gospel with them in some way, shape or form. And in 2018, God began to open those doors.
It really began with a conversation in 2011, and then several small conversations since then. And finally, at the beginning of 2018, a crucial conversation where my friend, Pepe, the local Catholic priest said, “One of the challenges I know you must face as Evangelical Protestant Christians in a small town in Spain is prejudice based on ignorance; the average person here doesn’t know much about church history like we do, so would you be willing to give a talk about Evangelical Christianity in the parish hall sometime?” That sometime finally arrived on November 22nd, when I was able to share the Gospel message, my testimony, a bit of Church history and the invitation to know Jesus together with this group of about 30 people.
In December the priest in charge of extra-Catholic relations in the diocese (who was at the talk) invited me to breakfast and then invited our church community to organize a worship service in the Catholic Church in Alcora as a part of their annual week of prayer for Christian unity. So in January we had yet another opportunity to share Christ, worshiping Him and preaching the transforming power of His Word and presence inside the Catholic Church.
Friends, there’s more to tell, and more on the way, but this has reminded us that our God is truly surprising, a God who hears our prayers and responds in His time, and a God who deeply loves everyone. Would you join us in praying that God would continue opening doors for us to share Christ among Catholics and non-Catholics alike, and that the seeds we’ve planted would grow into the fruit of eternal life?
This weekend we held our third annual men’s camp for the churches in the province of Castellón, with about 35 men from various area churches, as well as some men who aren’t yet followers of Jesus. Here are some of the highlights:
- “I came feeling loaded down with burdens, but I left them at the foot of the cross with Jesus, and I’m going home with renewed strength” (from one of the pastors who participated).
- Lots of laughter at ourselves and one another, during the sessions and around the Spanish cured ham and cheese table (above right).
- “Jesus is telling me to take on responsibilities with the youth in my church, and though it’s intimidating, this weekend He met me and confirmed that He wants me to do it.” (a local believer)
- Our speaker challenged us to “Confess your sins to one another to find freedom and healing,” and many of us did and felt that freedom.
- A great discussion in our video forum after watching the movie Hacksaw Ridge.
- “I really felt something different here: I want to bring my whole family to an Evangelical event like this!” (One of the non-Christians for whom this camp was his first exposure to Evangelical Christians.)
- Intense competition at the fussball table from men ranging from 18 to 78 years old.
It is counter-cultural for men here (and probably anywhere, non-Christian or Christian) to share challenges, fears, broken relationships and difficult life situations, but this was a weekend where many men found the safety and freedom to do just that. Praise God with us that He was more than just present among us: He stirred us and moved us to be real and to keep growing through our imperfections into the image of our perfect Hero, Jesus. Please pray for us as we continue to point men to Him.
The far left, liberal party in Spain, that makes up 21% of Congress, is proposing a gag-order law essentially making it illegal for anyone to say anything that doesn’t agree with the ideology of the LGBTI movement. This proposal seeks to indoctrinate children through education, that essentially anything goes regarding sexuality, sexual preference, sexual orientation and the like. It would make it illegal to teach a Biblical perspective on sexuality (whether at home or at church), with the threat of fines and prison time. Moreover, the proposal would even prevent people struggling with their sexuality and sexual orientation from seeking help: it would be illegal to seek help and illegal for therapists to give help.
As you can see, this proposed law is a dangerous threat to the freedom of expression and freedom of speech, the freedom to disagree that has taken centuries to achieve in Spain.
So please pray that God would guide the Spanish Congress as they vote on this proposed law tomorrow, September 19th, that He would give Christians courage and wisdom in addressing such a hot-button topic, and that He would guide me as I’ve been in touch with a senator from Alcora that we know and hope to share my concern with her personally.
Here’s the video version of our prayer letter. Thanks for praying with us and for us!
I was on my way back home after picking up Laura from her gymnastics class when we bumped into an old neighbor. I casually asked him how he was doing when this casual, routine interaction went very deep very quickly. He began sharing with me about his sons, all nearly grown now, whom he hasn’t seen for years because of his painful mistakes in the past. Tears of regret, shame and pain began to well up in his eyes as he continued, and I sensed that God had a message for my atheist friend.
“You know, I don’t think this is what God has for you and your life. He doesn’t want you to live with this pain, regret and separation from your sons. Do you know how I know this? God is a Father, and He looks at us with the heart of good Father, and even though we were separated from Him because of our own fault, He took the first step towards reconciliation with us. And, as you know, God gave me the opportunity to see this reconciliation happen in my own life, with my biological father. So what would it mean for you to take one step towards forgiveness and reconciliation with your sons?”
Towards the end of this brief but intense conversation, I asked my friend, who, for as long as I’ve known him, has been a self-avowed atheist, if I could pray for him, and, in the sensitivity of the moment, he accepted. So there on the sidewalk I asked our Heavenly Father to help JP have the courage to take the first step towards reconciliation with his sons. Would you pray with me for this, and that JP would open his mind and heart to the even deeper reconciliation that God the Father offers to him in Jesus?