« Previous   |   Main   |   Next »

Searching for Peace

A compilation of updates from Phil and Maretta, RMM workers in Spain

It’s not too long ago, in the Franco era (1939-1975), that the evangelical church in Spain was an underground movement. One brother tells us of how his grandfather was sentenced to death for publically attacking the idolatry and Mariolatry in the Catholic Church. Fortunately, his grandfather’s future wife had some relational connections to the local authorities and so the death sentenced was commuted to imprisonment in an internment camp. His father, then, was born in the internment camp, in the company of other evangelical believers who Franco had locked up along with communists, socialists, and others he deemed as enemies of Catholic Spain. Another brother recounts how even up to the early 1970s the Civil Guard would come in and break up meetings of believers that got bigger than the size of a family gathering.

So, it was a great turn around for these believers when recently the church’s children’s and adult choirs were asked by the municipal authorities in Rincón de La Victoria to perform in the central Constitution Square as part of a cultural event put on by the town hall. Different individuals and groups performed throughout the evening and then there were cameo presentations at the end by each participant for the closure. The children’s and adult church choirs had the opportunity to sing out their faith publically and then during the closure to sing “Amazing Grace,” in Spanish to a crowd of about a thousand people who had gathered by then.

“Freedom to associate as believers, to publically witness to the gospel, and to have ready access to the Bible in Spanish have been scarce commodities in Spain for hundreds and hundreds of years.”In church, the following day, the associate pastor, a man in his early seventies, who has seen these changes in the fortunes of evangelical believers in Spain firsthand, pointed out to the congregation the historical significance of what they were witnessing. Freedom to associate as believers, to publically witness to the gospel, and to have ready access to the Bible in Spanish have been scarce commodities in Spain for hundreds and hundreds of years.

Amazingly, in our small fellowship here in Rincón de La Victoria, there are believers from all sorts of different backgrounds, social situations, educational levels, countries, and belief systems. There is a lady who was a school principal in communist Cuba before coming to Christ here in Spain, a local man who was a drug dealer in a shadowy underworld, a Muslim-background believer from north Africa, a brother from Catalunya (which is intent on separating from the rest of Spain), people who work in the medical profession, those who work as street vendors in kiosks, shop assistants, procurers, teachers, house-cleaners, painters, believers from France, Germany, Belgium, and Sweden, former atheists, agnostics, secularists, Buddhists, etc.

While there is a good core of local Spanish believers, everybody is so different from everybody else that the only overriding commonality is a commitment to Christ and the gospel. The key to church growth is supposed to be outreach along family networks and to people who are very like ourselves but this has not been the case with this congregation. It seems to defy the sociological norms that are thought to control such things. But that is also the charm of the congregation where human barriers and distinctions, and even past hostilities, are being overcome through the strong, reconciliatory and redemptive peace of Christ.

This peace is constantly affecting regular church attendees, as well as newcomers. One day Isabela unexpectedly joined us for an early-morning prayer meeting. She came along with a friend of hers who was herself a regular at the meeting but it still seemed like jumping in at the deep end. When asked to introduce herself to the group, she let us know she was a Christian, that she believed in God, and Christ, but especially, she wanted us to know, she believed in the Virgin Mary. A pastor in the meeting explained in response that we were studying the Bible and praying together and that she would be welcome to comment on what we read if she wished.

Her first challenge was finding the book of Acts in the Bible she was handed. Then the group helped her distinguish chapter numbers from verse numbers in order to navigate to the passage in Acts 15 that we were considering that morning. She managed to get through the verse that fell to her as we read around. It seemed like a new experience for her but she seemed to go along with it okay and even joined in part of the discussion that, at one point, ensued. When the time for prayer requests came around, she shared her burden for her oldest son who was in a country in Latin America but was not living a good life. The group tried to help her think in terms of being willing to trust the Lord with her son’s situation, as well as praying with her for his welfare.

That was the beginning of Isabela’s journey to faith and an understanding of the gospel. The following Sunday she was in church with her friend and she continued to attend the weekday prayer meeting and the Sunday service from then on. She has since publically put her faith in Christ as her Lord and Savior during one of the prayer meetings. She has also told us that it was the search for peace that brought her to the church fellowship and the love and support she experienced there that kept her coming back. A couple of weeks ago she brought her young daughter to a special Saturday Christmas children’s fun and Bible study day that was held by the church. She liked it, got to know the other children at the church, and then her brother wanted to come to church the next day. Isabela’s husband reluctantly agreed. He’s not a believer yet but he’s more open now as he sees how the gospel has helped his family. The son in Latin America is doing better too. Hopefully, the whole family will soon enjoy God’s peace in Christ.

Response to the gospel brings about a new creational bond of peace between God and His people as well as among his people. This is a reality we have been privileged to experience at the small fellowship we collaborate with here in Rincón de La Victoria.

Please pray for a continued redemptive peace for both the country of Spain and the individuals within it. Pray that Phil and Maretta would be filled with wisdom and hope to continue encouraging this church and sharing God’s light with those around them.