In looking back over our first year in Spain, I am thankful for the advances that we have been able to make in establishing our home and initiating our work here. I am also excited about plans for the coming year. Here are a list of motives for thanksgiving and prayer:
In a space of less than a year, the Lord has sustained us through two major moves, each of which involved an incredible amount of mental and physical labor as well as countless hours of paperwork. The whole process of establishing a home base in Spain has been very stressful from the start, but the Lord has strengthened us through it, for which we are very thankful.
While we have been engaged in all the practical labor of moving, we have also been quite busy with the work of the church. Paola and I have gotten to know the various members of our local church well and have developed good relationships with them. As a result, I feel that I am in a better position now than at first to know what the needs of the various members are and to minister pastorally to the flock by the grace of God. I am thankful to have begun a regular preaching-and-teaching ministry after a relatively short time on the field. In addition to preaching on Sunday mornings and teaching a home Bible study on Sunday evenings, I have also had the opportunity to preach at other churches in the area, both in Málaga and in the town of Almuñecar. Recently, I was also asked to preach at a “family conference” held at a Christian campsite less than an hour away from Málaga. I preached a single message from Matthew 24:12 on the danger of “love growing cold” in the days leading up to Christ´s second coming, and I was later told that a teenage girl who was at the camp and who is not a Christian was impacted by the message. Praise God for that!
During the summer months, we have also further developed our plans for evangelistic outreach to the surrounding community. Recently, I went with a friend to an open-air market near our church building, and the two of us preached to a group of people who were gathered there. Most of the hearers were from a Gypsy background, but some were Muslim. (Some of you may know that a number of Gypsies in Spain are not Roman Catholic, but belong to a group of churches known as the Philadelphia churches, which are evangelical in character, although many of them are doctrinally weak). There was a very positive response from the Gypsy hearers, who afterwards approached us and urged us to come back in the near future to continue preaching at that very spot. “We need the Word of God in this neighborhood,” one man said to me. “We have too much of the devil´s work going on here—drugs, prostitution, violence. We need the Word of God!” It goes without saying that his earnest words greatly encouraged me, and I do hope to return in the near future, Lord willing, to continue open-air preaching in that neighborhood.
Another area of evangelistic interest is the town of Loja, about an hour from Málaga in the province of Granada. A couple from Loja has been attending services in Málaga with their three daughters for several months now. They are quite open to the possibility of beginning an evangelistic Bible study in their home, to which they could invite friends and neighbors. This is an exciting prospect, since (to my knowledge) there is no Evangelical church in Loja apart from the local Gypsy church—and it is a town of some 21,000 inhabitants. Pray for God´s guidance in undertaking this evangelistic initiative in the interior of Andalucia.
This summer, I was also able to take care of some pressing administrative issues, such as the renewal of my Spanish driver´s license and the renewal of my residence visa for another two years. Please pray that Paola will also be able to obtain a Spanish driver´s license soon. The international driving permit she has been using expired at the end of August, and the Spanish government will not simply exchange a Texan license for a Spanish one. It appears, therefore, that she will have to take a driving exam to get her Spanish driver´s license, and that will involve a sacrifice of time and a considerable amount of study to prepare for the exam. Pray that God will strengthen her to jump through the necessary hoops to get her license as soon as possible, so that she can drive once again in the near future.
Pray that the Lord will guide me and the other elders of the church as we meet together regularly to discuss the ministry of the church and to pray for various members, some of whom are going through an especially rough time in their lives. One young man who regularly attends our Thursday night Bible study is experiencing difficulty at work (he works as a waiter at a café) and is feeling pressure from his boss to resign from his job—something he is loathe to do, because of the present economic crisis and the need to support his family. Pray as well for a woman in our church who suffers with depression because of the many physical ailments she has to endure. Pray, too, that Rafa will be able to find a job—lately, he has been making frequent trips to the town of Almería to preach at a church that is currently without pastoral leadership. His aspiration is to serve one day in the pastoral ministry of a local church; pray that he will pursue that aspiration by preparing himself diligently in every way for an eventual call to a church.
Pray, as well, that God will give me grace and wisdom to find the proper balance between devotion to my missionary work and devotion to my family. Paola does a great job keeping our household up and running; I could not do the work I am doing in Spain without her faithful support; but I want to make sure that she herself feels well-supported by me. To that end, I want to make sure that I am devoting the time needed to lend a helping hand and to build good relationships both with Paola and with my daughter Melody, rather than becoming so absorbed in my work that I end up neglecting my family (which is always a danger on the mission field).