Opon graduating from seminary in the United States, Martin became a missionary to Spain, where he served as a church planter and itinerant preacher. After returning to the States for some years, he and his family have once again returned as missionaries to Spain in order for Martin to help train church leaders in the congregation in Málaga. He also helps pastor the church and promote evangelistic efforts.
Dear Friends in Christ: We have just marked the completion of four months since we left the United States to begin a new life and ministry in Spain. Although our first months here have not been stress free – far from it! – we have every reason to give thanks for how the Lord has blessed us during this time of transtion. We are both amazed and grateful at how smoothly things have gone, generally speaking. The congregation here has received us warmly and has expressed repeatedly how happy they are to have us in their midst. Despite our differences in background and culture, there is a sense of bonding based on what we have in common spiritually. Things could have gone very differently, so I am thankful that the relationship between ourselves and the brethren here has worked out well and continues to deepen the more we get to know each other through spending time together in worship and fellowship.
Since my arrival, I have been preaching and teaching regularly in the church, both in the Sunday morning services and on Thursday evenings. Presently, I am sharing this ministry on a rotational basis with Juan Pablo and Rafael, both of whom are skilled to explain rightly the Word of truth with faithfulness and conviction. By God’s grace, I have enjoyed a greater measure of freedom in the pulpit with each message that I have preached, so that I now feel like I am “back in the saddle” in terms of preaching in Spanish. The last message I preached was on Micah´s prophecy concerning the birth of Christ in Bethlehem, and it was well received. On Thursdays, I have been teaching on some of Jesus´ parables, including the parable of the wise and foolish virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) and the parable of the creditor who pardoned two debtors (Luke 7:41-43). I have also received invitations to preach at other churches in town. I am thankful for this opportunity to get to know more brethren from the Málaga area.
In addition to preaching and teaching, I have been working on developing a strategy for evangelistic outreach in the neighborhood where the church is located – the “Virreina” barrio (neighborhood) of Málaga. The church is located on the edge of one of the most conflict-ridden neighborhoods in the city, notorious for drug trafficking, robberies, gang activity, and other problems. One thing I would like to do is set up a book table in a public place near the church with free gospel literature available. There are two open-air markets near the church that are open two different days of the week; a book table placed in one (or both) of these weekly markets could increase the visibility of the church and serve as a “point of contact” with people in the barrio.
This past week, I went with Paco, a fellow elder, to the government office in charge of such matters in order to ask for a permit to set up a book table in one of the markets. We were given paperwork to fill out, but no assurances were given that our request would be granted. One brother has suggested that, if our request is denied, I set up the book table on the stretch of sidewalk just outside our church building, an area that is well-trafficked by pedestrians.
Another goal for the coming year is to make regular trips at least twice a week to meet with different church leaders and members in order to study various subjects related to the ministry of elders. The ministry Nine Marks has several books available in Spanish that we could study together.
Another goal for 2016 is to start, by the grace of God, a home Bible study in the neighborhood where we will soon be living. The house that we are buying is located in a town called Mijas. José and Bea, another couple in our church, already live in Mijas. For this reason, Paola and I have discussed with them the possibility of having a weekly Bible study in our home to which both we and they could invite friends and acquaintances whom we meet in daily life. Most churches in Spain begin in this way – as home Bible studies that grow over time until a nucleus is formed to start a church. The church in Málaga could then oversee this work and regard it as a “point of mission,” so to speak – an extension of the work in Málaga.
There are a number of plans in progress for 2016, but we are keenly conscious of the fact that every plan that men make depends for its fruition on the sovereign will and grace of God. So we ask you to join us in praying that, if our plans are pleasing to the Lord, He will give us grace to pursue them and see them bear fruit for His glory and in His good time. As James so wisely reminds us, instead of boasting about tomorrow, we ought to say, “If it is the Lord´s will, we will live and do this or that” (James 4:15).
How keenly one feels the truth of this verse when working as a missionary in a country like Spain! Sometimes I look at the sea of people flowing past me on the streets, most of whom have never heard the biblical gospel clearly proclaimed, and I feel like a tiny tadpole swimming in a mighty roaring river or like a grain of sand on the beach – or even a dust speck on that grain of sand! Feeling overwhelmed, I think to myself, what possible difference can our presence in Spain make? Humanly speaking, I know that we can make no positive impact on anyone or do anything of enduring value out of the resources of our flesh; but the Lord is mighty, and He can accomplish whatever He pleases through us! I am convinced, moreover, that He will use us to bless others if we cling to Him in humility, in complete dependence on His sustaining grace. “Apart from me you can do nothing,” Jesus tells us in His Word (John 15:5). On the other hand, the Apostle Paul says that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). There is no reason to be despondent in the face of our own littleness, for we serve a God whose greatness is immeasurable – the one true and living God, the only Creator and Redeemer of men, whose plans cannot be thwarted!