It was 6:25pm. The sign on the gate said that visitors could enter the cathedral until 6:30. At 6:30, mass would begin for those who wished to worship. As we stood at the gate discussing whether or not we would enter this massive cathedral for a visit, a woman sprinted by us and threw open the gate. She hurried in to the building and we joked, “Wow! She must really want to see this cathedral!”
We followed her in through the enormous doors. The interior was amazing, as most cathedrals are. There were three other visitors milling about, obviously sightseers due to the tell-tale marks of a tourist… the big camera hanging around the neck, t-shirt, shorts and chunky hiking sandals, and a ball cap to top it all off like a cherry on a sundae. Very obviously not locals. And in the pews sat one woman, praying. The woman who had dashed past us at the gate.
I looked at the time. Six thirty. Time for mass. I happened to be standing to the side and two men were talking beside me. The priest and a lay-person from the church. The man said, “What do you want me to do? Should I ask them to leave? It’s 6:30.” And the priest said, “No. Let them stay. There’s only one for mass (pointing to the woman in the pew). No reason to even have it.”
No reason. All I could see was this woman sprinting past us and throwing open the gate so she could be at mass on time. And now the priest says, “no reason”.
Spain has thousands and thousands of amazing churches and cathedrals. Yet this is the case in so many of them. Very few, if any, come to worship anymore. Catholicism has been steadily falling over the past decade. And protestant churches are not growing, only holding steady at the same numbers they have had for the past 10+ years.
The scene I witnessed in the cathedral brought another story back to me. Years ago, when we first started working cross-culturally, we worked in Mexico. We built a relationship with a lovely family. The father, Aaron Berman, was one of the most humble men I have ever known. Quiet, peaceful, full of courage and overflowing with God.
He loved to tell us the story of how he one time visited Tyler, Texas. He was invited to speak at a church’s mission conference. He was invited to speak about his vision and work in Mexico in a breakout workshop session.
When the time came for the workshops, Aaron went to his assigned room to speak. Before him was a room full of chairs, set up theatre-style, and one woman. He thought that maybe he should wait for a few minutes until others came. But no one did. So he closed his eyes and he said, “God, I came all the way to Tyler, Texas to share about you and our vision for Mexico. I spent money I don’t have to come here. What am I doing? What do you want me to do with this one woman?” But God’s only answer was, “Speak.”
So he did. Aaron shared his heart and his vision with that one woman. He said he felt so small in that big room full of empty chairs, but he shared anyway.
In the end, that one woman (who happened to be from College Station) ended up being responsible for starting a movement of people who would eventually come to Mexico and work alongside Aaron and his family, helping to plant several churches and build a church camp for Mexican pastors and churches along the border to use as a retreat and leadership development center. Aaron spoke to one woman, and God used her to start a movement. He always used to end the story by holding up his finger and smiling and winking his eye and saying, “You only need one.”
He loved to share that story with us. And that story has encouraged us on so many occasions. So many times when we feel like, “God, what are we doing? Why are we here and only a handful of people seem to care? What are we supposed to be doing? Only four people are coming to the class. Only a few show up for bible study…” Etc. It’s usually Billy who remembers Aaron in those moments and he just looks at me and holds up his finger and says, “You only need one.”
Our everyday lives in Spain are truly based on a one-on-one relationship principle. Yes, we have a few small groups that we work with and we serve a church here. But mostly, our work is one-on-one. Coffee and coaching with a pastor. Time spent with a young adult. Tutoring a student. Helping a resettled refugee to find his way in a new and confusing place. For us, the Kingdom is built one block at a time. It’s slow, but it’s beautiful and deep and meaningful.
Aaron died 10 years ago, but he still influences our life today. It’s easy to get discouraged when it feels like no one seems to care, when no one shows up, or when it feels like no one is listening. It’s easy to be down when church attendance drops to only a handful of faithful folks in July and August because it’s summer and it’s hot and there’s no air conditioning at church and the beach seems like a better option. It’s easy to feel like we’re spinning our wheels and getting nowhere. But then Aaron seems to find his way back in to our memories, smiling and winking and saying, “You only need one.”
We thank you for your faithfulness to us in prayers and support of the work we do! Please continue to pray for and with us in the following ways:
Please pray for our newest teammates (Kat & Ryan) as they settle in and find their feet in Spain. And pray for our team as we learn to work together and find new rhythms and strive to build strong bonds.
Prayers for *Ahmed* - a refugee friend who is here with us after gaining religious asylum from his country of origin. *Ahmed* has been placed in Antequera for 6 months-1 year while he awaits residency and fulfills the requirements of his asylum obligations. Pray that he feels loved and cared for in this new life.
Pray for us to be great neighbors and to live out the Great Commandment each and every day. "We are called to love people - period... We are called to love our neighbors unconditionally, without expecting anything in return. The Great Commandment says 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' the commandment ends there, with no other expectations given. Thus good neighboring is an end in itself." (The Art of Neighboring by Pathak and Runyon)
Please pray with us as the school year starts up in September. This is a time full of excitement and expectation, but also stress for our youth and young adult groups.
Prayers for the local church that we help serve, and for Kingdom transformation in our community. Help us pray for Centro Cristiano and for our town of Antequera.
PRAISES! The La Posada apartment is now enjoying a bathroom thanks to our amazing partners (YOU!). Before, guests had to go up one flight of stairs to a shared bathroom in the main house. Thank you to all who have given funds and shared prayers for this specific need and the La Posada ministry!!! We also hosted a CCW for the entire month of July as she took a much needed break after 7 years of faithful service in the Middle East. She went back to work rested and refreshed. Thanks to our superheroes (YOU!) for helping provide that time of rest and renewal for her!!! We had enough funds available that we were able to completely cover her lodging and care services, and she was able to help cover her food costs for the month.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” —African proverb
For the past couple of years, we have been in team collaboration with another cross-cultural worker family living in our town of Antequera. Axel and Delilah have been amazing teammates for us. They moved from Puerto Rico to Spain in the summer of 2013 (the same time we did) and we lived just a block away from each other, so it didn’t take long for us to meet and begin sharing and working together. Over the years, we have shared not only work and strategy, but we have also shared family and friends, good times and bad, laughter and tears. Honestly, without Axel and Delilah, I don’t know how we could have made it. They have been integral to our lives here. So we were so excited when they transitioned mission agencies to work fully with TMS Global!
In July, we added another family to our little team. Ryan and Kat Marcum moved their family from Texas to Antequera and are now transitioning to life in Spain. This year will be spent learning culture and language and being in mentoring relationship with the rest of the team. Little by little they will transition in to the vision and roles and goals of our team.
On any given day, you can hear our team encouraging one another by restating the vision. “The vision is not ______ (fill in the blank with whichever frustrating thing we are encountering at the moment). The vision is Kingdom in Antequera. Love your neighbor and open up the Kingdom for Antequera.” On so many occasions, when we have been discouraged and frustrated and needed to vent to our teammates, someone on the team reminds us of the vision. It has a way of always changing the mood, always grounding us and bringing us back from the edge of the proverbial cliff. We all have different and various roles and goals within that vision, and we all work in various ways. But we are all committed to that vision. The Kingdom of God in Antequera.
"Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much." --Helen Keller
Please keep our team in your prayers as we work together to love and serve our neighbors, the church, and the community in Antequera, Spain.
The following is a thank you note from a cross-cultural worker (CCW) to YOU, our partners who invest in the mission and in the care of others. *Joy* (name protected due to the location she serves) spent a month of rest in La Posada with us after 7 years of service and she wanted to share these words with you:
Jesus said to the disciples, ‘Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest awhile.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure to eat. Mark 6:31
You know life is too busy if you can’t even take a moment to enjoy your food. Maybe that’s why Spain is a great place to practice the spiritual rhythm of rest. Spaniards live and eat well with rest, relationships and community at the heart of their day to day routines.
As believers we know that God created Sabbath as a space in time to celebrate our place in His creation and our freedom in Him. But we often have to fight to create space in the framework of our busy lives to make the time to hear from God so we can reorder and reprioritize.
That’s why La Posada is the perfect place to withdraw for awhile. Real rest took place in great community! With the Drums, there was safety to process, space to consider future possibilities and to share new ideas. And there was laughter-lots of laughter.
There was space for internal processing. And outside La Posada, there were lots of great places to explore. Spain is a beautiful country and for those of us who live in hard places, it’s a wonderful place to feel physically safe while soaking in all the historic sites, engaging with great community and eating really good food!
Thank you! My heart is full and incredibly grateful. ~*Joy*
I wish I could show you a photo of *Joy* enjoying her time here at La Posada, but we need to protect her identity due to her work situation. So we'll show you her favorite spot instead! She spent countless hours on this patio, drinking coffee and reading and reflecting and journaling, with several deep coaching conversations thrown in over the course of the month she was here.
Who am I? In my USA life, I was a teacher in Texas for 15 years. I was also a professional photographer, a Southern Living / Martha Stewart wannabe, a soccer mom, and a short term mission team coordinator / intern director for missions in Mexico... you name it, I probably tried it!
In 2006, my husband Billy and I became cross-cultural workers (CCWs) with TMS Global. For five years, we served in three rural Quechua Wanca villages in the Andes of Peru. And when I say rural, I mean RURAL - like no potty! We have three incredible children... two adult boys who live in Texas, and the Sarah (14) lives with us in whatever country we are serving. I'm still teaching, still taking photos, still leading teams and mentoring, I just do it all in full-time service now! And I'm working hard at giving Southern Living and Martha Stewart a run for their money! I spent my days in Peru learning to live a Quechua lifestyle in a rustic adobe house - cooking Peruvian foods, sewing with Quechua women, raising my chickens and goats and pigs, and planting my gardens. Now I live my life in small town Spain, serving other cross-cultural workers and immigrant peoples, writing, and trying to figure out what life looks like for a Texas girl serving Christ in Southern Europe. Life in His service is AWESOME! I'm happy to share it with you here... Enjoy!