Shalom min Sefarad
Well my life this year has seemed to be written out of the Prophets. I’ve had the constant stress about the condition of my sister, Lisa. God walked me through the “Wilderness” of getting all my documents accepted at the Spanish Consulate, and carried me to the “Promised Land”, in my case, Spain. In fact I was on a plane for Spain within a week of my documents being accepted! God also, in the midst of all this, brought an outstanding young woman into my life, her name is Sara, she came to Shuvah a few times. In Jeremiah 33 we see great contrasts in times of uncertainty. Judah has the threat of being surrounded by the Chaldeans, but God speaks hope to them, even when Jeremiah is in prison and Israel is in captivity. In Jeremiah 33:3 God tells us: “Call unto me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things.” Then in verse 6 we read: “Behold I will bring it health and cure, and I will cure them, and will reveal to them the abundance of peace and truth.” As God promised a cure for Judah, I know He also wishes to cure His children. More than ever, we need your prayers for Lisa’s healing! Some of you may have already heard that Lisa had results come back, showing that her cancer has begun to grow back in her colon, where her tumor was removed, and it has been discovered in her hip. This means that the chemo-therapy so far has not been effective. Please ask your family, your chavurah, your friends, to pray for a miraculous healing of Lisa, that the cancer will die in her body.
In the picture below, Lisa (bottom right) is visiting with our congregants at our Tafalla Congregation that Lisa & I co-founded in 2005. I had a very special time visiting with all our dear congregants in Tafalla and Pamplona. I had the sweet chance to lead music with Lisa and her daughters like old times!
Later that week, I got to take my mom, for her birthday, to two great cities from our Sephardic family history: Alcala and Toledo. We visited both Jewish Quarters and had a great time and did Lots of walking on cobble-stone streets! After taking my mom to the airport, I returned 900 km back down to my mission assignment in Puebla del Rio, in Andalucia. I got back to the preaching, presiding rotation of our leadership team and am coordinating the music. Our congregation seems to have lost attendees while I was in America. Please pray for unity and reconciliation of some families, and that the Lord would draw new faces to our congregation too! I’ll be doing a new information campaign soon, to try to let people in surrounding communities, like Isla Mayor & Almensilla, know our congregation exists. I’m very grateful to have returned to my place on the mission field! Part of my ministry is planning OUT OF THIS WORLD SUMMER CAMPS IN SPAIN!
The camps this summer here in Spain were out of this world!! The theme of the second camp was: “To Infinity and Beyond”. That is a good summary of the progress we made in evangelizing. God allowed me to pull off being at two of the major weeks of Evangelical camping, at two opposite ends of Spain, on back to back weeks! Both camps were very successful, with great spiritual decisions made! What memories were made, and mountains climbed, and tangible ways I saw God coming into the lives of Spanish, Basque, even African children! I am so blessed that I got to be part of leading Spaniards to saving faith in Yeshua the Messiah! It makes me break into song, to the Old Kirk Franklin tune: “Send the Rain Down”. I’ve spent months trying to get “back in the game” in Spain, and once here I still had all the details to deal with, which weren’t telling people about Yeshua. Well the last 2 weeks, God sent the Rain! I got to give testimony so many times about what God has done in my life, and it feels so good to tell Spaniards about how God has come into your life. Very few Spaniards ever hear somebody’s born-again experience. Even when I was sharing with other counselors who are Spanish Evangelicals, it was still special to them and to me, to tell them about how God has captured my life and brought me to serve Him in Spain. And as counselors we got to lead children to a point where they understood that they needed to repent of their sins and believe Messiah paid it all. God sent His rain down this July! In a time of scorching heat in Andalucia, he sent 60 some campers, from mostly Sevilla County, to the high mountains between Malaga and Antequera, and there by a little creek, I got to do devotions each morning, sharing with the boys about what God is like, with my co-counselor, Alejandro. One by one we got to take them through the story of the Star that leads to Messiah, since “Outer-Space” was the theme of the camp, some were from a church background and wanted to be sure they were going to Heaven, and others prayed for the first time to put their faith in Messiah. Boys from non-believing homes were asking excellent questions God and about Heaven and Hell. It was so great to have these kinds of conversations and spiritual moments placed on my lap! Thank you God for sending the rain in your timing!
From June 25-July 4th I was up in Galdeano, Navarra, at Siete Robles, the camp at the foot of Urbasa Mountain, where my family has been helping since 2002. Our Cowboy Camp has continued to be successful, with children coming from different provinces, not just from Navarra’s towns of Artajona and Tafalla as in the early years. Now we have kids coming from Burgos and Vitoria and Pamplona. The good reputation of our English-Learning Cowboy Camps at Siete Robles Camp, now has friends of friends referring new families to come sign their kids up for camp!
What cave adventures we had deep in the Urbasa Cave! On the first excursion, I went with my brother-in-law Dan Leatherwood and a man named Mike from Houston, who I had just met. We took six campers with us, so that we could control the groups better in the perilous cave. It had rained the night before, so the over-grown river-bed path had puddles and wet, low braches that meant I had to hunch low and even crawl on my knees, and some of the dry waterfall rocks were very slippery. At one point I had a close call, I had lunged up and forward to get myself up the smooth high rock, but my hands were slipping too much for me to swing my legs up after I put my weight up on the rock, So I had to cry out for a hand before I fell backwards! Dan quickly came and gave me a hand up! That was a good life lesson for me, since I had reacted harshly when I heard some kids couldn’t climb one of the baby Urbasa peaks, the Mirador de Lazkua, with the rest of the campers; then I smirked when hearing some 8 -year-olds might not be able to hike into the cave. Well I did have my fall, but that comes later in the story! The cave was fascinating to the kids who had never been there. I’ve now been in it maybe 8 times, and it is always good fun. On the second excursion into the cave, later in the week, my friend Andrew Evans and I had fun singing the Pirates of the Caribbean theme song in the echoing caverns under the Urbasa! Being in the cathedral like Urbasa Cavern got us talking J.R.R. Tolkien lore; About the dwarves who mined too deep in “Lord of the Rings” and of the Dwarf Thorin Oakenshield who took back his cavernous mountain with the help of Bilbo Baggins in “The Hobbit”. Then we got talking about the good work-ethic of those dwarves. Did the good work-ethic of the dwarves of Middle Earth out-weigh their tremendous greed? What’s better during the course of a lifetime “working hard/being greedy” or being “happily content/too lazy”? Then we got back to singing pirate songs to keep the kids entertained. Cowboy Camp saw children understanding the Biblical principles that we were teaching them in English. My valiant sister, who we were afraid would be too weak to do camp, after months of Chemotherapy and Radiation for her Colon Cancer, was at the top of her game, explaining the gospel through translating the songs into Spanish, and she was putting more of the Gospel into her talks than ever before. I was moved to tears by Lisa’s determination to participate in her role as song and lesson leader. One entire cabin prayed to put their faith in the blood of Messiah with their counselor, short-term missionary Elsie Gamble, who speaks fluent Spanish. Elsie is one of the Bridge Point Bible Church mission team leaders who came again to Siete Robles from Houston, TX. Praise God for the excellent teams sent each year from Houston to help my family do Cowboy Camp!
Sunday July 4th, I was loading up my car for the long drive to Antequera, when I slipped on the marble stairs wearing my flip-flops and fell down the stairwell! I was still in a hurry after my fall, so I just woke up the missionaries staying in that hospitality apartment with me at the YWAM base, and asked if they had a pain reliever. Vicky gave me some medicine which, luckily, didn’t make me too drowsy on the drive across Madrid, LaMancha, and Andalucia. I still had puss coming down my leg when I got into Castilla- La Mancha, since there wasn’t any first aid in the bathroom where I stayed! Once I made it through Jaen, Cordoba, and Antequera, I came to the exit from Highway 45. I got out and asked the gas station attendant which road he thought I should take, since there were dirt roads near the gas station, and my directions said take the dirt road behind the gas station for 5 kilometers, I didn’t want to take the wrong dirt road for 5 km! Luckily the attendant was used to telling people how to go and I was able to arrive quickly and jump right into the program of APEEN quickly. I had duties right when I arrived, though camp had only been going 3 hours. Within 12 hours of arriving they had me not only as captain of one of the 4 teams, but also song & motion leading with the praise band during chapel, and life-guarding, besides teaching the older campers and being a counselor. Yes it was tiring and rewarding! I’m so glad I got to participate with APEEN’s Camp! APEEN is one of the longest running annual Christian youth camps in Spain. It was even running during the Dictatorship, which is something! It takes place once a summer at Manantiales de Vida Camp near Antequera, Andalucia. How did I find out about this? My co-worker Dan Ashcraft was the director of APEEN decades ago, and his brother, Glen Ashcraft, is still director of Manantiales de Vida, as he was in 1997 when I first visited, so Dan asked if I could put in a week there, as they needed male counselors. Dan had been working with me and our other co-worker Frank, to figure how I could swing preaching at Puebla Evangelical Church the day after Cowboy camp ended on the other side of the country. We all knew that I would be exhausted and spending hundreds of Euros flying, just to drag in to church and give a half-focused sermon. Dan pitched the idea that he preach in my stead on Sunday, if I could put in that week at the camp. It was a good deal. We were both happy with the results!
JD Alcala Bennett
TBM, Sevilla, Andalucia