This has been another incredible year of serving the long-term team and ministry in Spain. Four years in a row I’ve visited this amazing team, and every year has been a little bit different. Usually, we focus mainly on the outdoors club and doing some video or web projects for the team, but this year we got to spend an especially large amount of time in community with the long-term team and being a part of one of their yearly ministries to the community, the “Esplai.”
Our time here has been busy and fruitful. Every person on the team was able to bring special gifts and talents to serve this ministry in a unique way. We were able to be a part of the outdoor club, run a kid’s summer camp, lead times of emotional and spiritual formation, provide one on one counseling, produce a video for the community, share testimony at a local church, and (perhaps most importantly) grow our relationships with the long term team in Spain. We are exhausted, and full.
We often get questions about the ministry in Spain, and why our church would choose to be a part of ministering to such a relatively wealthy part of the world. Some people even think we come to Spain as some sort of a veiled vacation. I can tell you two things. First, Spain is a wonderful, beautiful country and I enjoy every minute of being here. Second, I’ve never been in such a spiritually dead place as modern Europe. On top of all that, the faith tradition of the African immigrants in Spain further isolates them from the surrounding community. Even the people who want Jesus are so scared of losing their families, friends, and traditions that they won’t make a commitment to Him. I can tell you, with certainty, it’s the hardest soil I’ve ever seen for the gospel. The work is hard, and frustrating, and never ending. I come in to Spain knowing it’s very unlikely for me to personally lead someone into a relationship with Christ. I can, however, serve, pour into, support, pray with, worship with, and be in community with the long term team, who will have much farther reaching and greater impact in this community than my one week a year ever will.
I had a lot of time on this trip to reflect on how ministry is done at our church versus this tiny little ministry in Spain. We have a large, beautiful building in an extremely wealthy and educated part of San Diego. We see a few hundred believers walk through our doors every week to worship God in peace. In Spain, they have a small association that cannot openly preach the name of Jesus. They serve in an impoverished, under-educated, under-equipped immigrant community in the suburbs. The difference is, if Existence Church disappeared tomorrow, I’m not sure many people outside of our community would take note or care. However, if the association in Spain disappeared, I can guarantee an entire population of immigrants would take note of their absence. Their association has become a place for education, commerce, and community; and all the while they are pointing people toward truth and salvation. I suppose a better question than, “why is it worth doing ministry in Spain?” would be, “why doesn’t our extremely privileged and open ministry make as many waves in our community back home?” I hope we can learn more from this tiny little ministry that will help us to serve better in San Diego.
It has been an honor to lead teams to this lovely little town for the last four years. The relationships that I’ve formed here will last me a lifetime, and I hope that’s true of every person who has joined me. I hope you consider joining us on a future trip to serve and love these beautiful people. Please continue to keep them in your prayers, and feel free to ask me any questions about our involvement in Spain.