Very soon it will be 5 months since my family and I returned to live in Spain. Many who read this will know it was a long and tiring journey with denied and revoked visas along the way. Now we can finally focus on our calling as missionaries in Andalucia. One high note has been having our rental home to return to, and putting it to use as a tool to lead Spaniards closer to a saving knowledge of Jesus the Messiah. This Last Friday we had the youth group meeting in our living room where we focused on “what is saving faith”, and the Friday before that it was the church home fellowship that caravaned over to our home when all of a sudden it got cancelled at the home we were going to meet at. So our home has been full of Spaniards, which is a good, very good thing as we try to become less “alien” to the locals. One nice thing, considering all the setbacks we’ve faced, is that I did begin here in Puebla in 2008. I believe some Spaniards value longevity more than in California for example. So me having been an acquaintance to people for 5 years works in my favor, even though I haven’t had the luxury of being around the whole 5 years, but not all the locals know that, so a mechanic might say: “Yea, the American missionary has been around since ’08.” And time aides our acceptance here as being part of everyday, Puebla life.
Another plus is that we not only celebrated my daughters birthday here on our street, we also got invited to the first birthday party of the baby next door. All these little interactions help our case for being accepted and listened to.
It’s dizzying the work that has gone into getting here, not just the visas headaches, yea, that was a big part and I’m still getting over all the setbacks they caused, but there’s also the thin-ice of fundraising, the uncertainty of monthly support, the expectations of results and anxiety about how to lead a very stubborn culture to believe in Jesus, and for all technical purposes you could say lead them to convert to my religion. That’s what I’m trying to do. And it’s not quick business if you know what I mean. This country is slow moving, especially these small towns, you don’t convert someone overnight. So you do all this work to get the visas, get a mission, get an endemic church, supporters, a house, and even a building, but it is just not that easy to get a Spaniard to go through the doors of your church.
Miraculously our church here is majority Spanish, and it has taken over 25 years of constant missionary work to get those 25 Spanish souls to believe on Him, to commit and to attend on Sundays. 25 out of 13, 452. That leaves 13, 427 people in Puebla to reach with the Gospel before they end up on the wrong side of eternity. It’s an uphill battle folks. We could even have a church that was well-funded, on a main street, with lights and and professional praise team and live-streaming video and color bulletins and well-thought out programs for all ages, and still the average person in this town will still laugh at those efforts, even on their way to hell, because people refuse to repent, they don’t want to be forgiven, because they don’t want to be accountable to God. They don’t know who their Creator is, even though they have elaborate “Christian” traditions that are popularly celebrated each year. But these traditions are superficial, because missionaries have been up and down this country without seeing revival, because people here just don’t feel like repenting from their sins and surrendering to Jesus. There is a serious lack of fear of judgement day. Many missionaries have done everything perfectly, except they haven’t had the joy of harvesting the fruit of their labor. They were faithful to their calling, and will be rewarded in the hereafter, but on the ground, way down here, they weren’t successful in human terms. No big churches raised or congregations planted. How many generations does it take two, three? Some of the best ministries I’ve seen operating in this country have both life-long believing seniors, and third generation believers. It seems to take a certain number of decades here for a church to hit their stride. I met a pastor my parents age who was happy how his church was participating more in the last year. How long has the church been there? 51 years. That may be the Spanish church plant formula. It can take five decades of consistent service to see a native effort take off. (I’m not trying to down the Spanish church or the work of the Holy Spirit, it just seems by the facts that church plants don’t take off on this peninsula until they’ve had decades to ripen.)
So we find ourselves digging in. We’re hanging up shelves, ceiling fans, fixing the cars for the long-haul, working on the patio, and trying to get this ministry into 5th gear. Though it may not get there till we’re grey.