Sunday, July 14, 2013

It Is Finished

The campaign is done.  Now the real work begins.  We have nearly 150 contacts from the campaign for follow-up.  We begin two weeks of English Club twice a day on Monday.  We begin church every week tomorrow.  We are tired but blessed.  Next week when I am sure which way is up I will tell you about the activities that are coming, but for now, here is a picture of the entire group that was here to help with campaign.  They were fabulous!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Final Day of Active Ministry and Marijuana

Yesterday was gratefully a little cooler (only 95 instead of 100+) and filled with great times.

It was our last morning of Festival de la Biblia and there were around 20 kids in attendance.  I was able to chat with several moms who were interested in their children attending English Club that starts on Monday.  The struggle is to make English our second priority and sharing Christ our first.  We could very easily become full time English teachers and have very little to do with church planting and sharing Christ.  Pray for that balance.

The afternoon involved a quick trip to Toledo to look for more chairs - we have more people who have indicated an interest in the church than we have chairs - a good problem.  Then at night was the final rounds of the basketball tournament.  It was great fun to see the families cheering on the teams.  Anyone interested in coming and doing a basketball camp in the future?  Great opportunities.  The tournament was ended with a teammate sharing about fears and the offer to anyone there that if they were struggling with something or fears that anyone in the blue t-shirts (yep, we have worn the same t-shirt every day for 10 days - thank goodness it is hot enough to dry them quickly!) would love to talk with them.  They were also given the gift of a new testament - in an easy to read Spanish version (Spain Spanish! very difficult to find) that had great pictures.  I loved it when one of the by standers asked if it would be possible to also get one, even though they did not participate in the tournament.

And, at 11 PM an illusionist shared in the park.

The formal activities are almost finished.  This morning we will personally deliver the photos from the Bible Festival.  One of the stations was a photo booth with a clown.  The children/parents left their address for the photo be delivered today.  We will be inviting them to church, English club, and Cine Forum with each visit.

The interesting point of the day (culturally speaking) was in the park and the constant aroma of marijuana.  This of course led me to research the laws of marijuana in Spain.  Quite interesting - it is illegal to grow for the purpose of sale, to sell, export, or use in public.  But this is only a misdemeanor and there is a small fine and it is confiscated.   It is not illegal to grow for personal use (if you are 18+ years old) nor to use it for personal purposes.  As I was reading about the laws I came across a news article about a town in Spain that has decided to use marijuana to help combat the unemployment crisis here.  In partnership with a private Marijuana Club (yep, those are legal too)  This club has invested $40,000 to have marijuana planted on a 17-acre plot of land next to city hall.  They will employ people to maintain the land and will use this land as their club's source (yep - private club equals private use) and will pay more $800,000 each year to the city hall for the land and other perks.  Guess that is one way to solve the problem?   Pray for Spain.  The economic, housing, and employment crisis is bad.  it is causing people to make desperate decisions.  Pray for our ministry as we reach out to these people and share the only true source of hope.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Concert in the Plaza

Yesterday was a good day, filled with lots of sunshine and a surprise thunderstorm.  The temperatures were definitely a tad bit better.

The morning was day 2 of Festival de la Biblia - clowns, puppets, dancing, singing, crafts, stories, water balloons, and children.  There were a few more children yesterday than day 1 and we pray that today there are even more.

The evening was the beginning of the basketball tournament.  Alex played 3 games and lost 3 games, but he said it was fun anyhow.  :)  Gotta love that kid!  The end of the tournament brought thunderstorms - unfortunately I had the car about an hour away and Scott and Alex and Sarai were left walking in the rain.

Dinner each night is in the plaza under tents.  Last night Alex Sampedro entertained the diners with his music.  What fun!

First stop this morning - churros.  Then we head to the Festival de la Biblia, lunch, quick siesta, basketball tournament, dinner, and at 11 tonight an illusionist in the park.  Praying for some great contacts today (and that the cooler temperatures we have this morning last all day).

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Copy Cat Days

Yesterday was the beginning of three days that have almost the exact same schedule.  Familiarity is nice, but of course we will mix it up with our own personal activities along the way.

Each morning we are hosting a Bible Festival in the plaza.  There are clowns and music to help attract people.  There are nine tables with different activities. Each table teaches a Bible story and has a craft or game or visual.  Each child who participates received a card that takes them through all the stations.  One station is a photo station with clowns.  If they leave their contact information on Thursday we will hand deliver their photos.  We had about 20 children show up yesterday.  We hope that today we have more.  The heat gave us a little break during the morning and hopefully that will repeat today and tomorrow.

For the evenings we began a 3 day 3 on 3 basketball tournament.  8 teams have registered, including

one team that is made up of the son of one of our new church members (who has never participated before) and Alex with two other team members.  I love to see Alex get involved and share his love for meeting new people.  Pray for cool temperatures tonight and tomorrow.

And not to call it an early evening, at 11 PM last night (and again on Wednesday) we have an illusionist who is sharing in the park.  We didn't make it out to this event last night, but will be there on Wednesday.

And in the midst of it, I am heading to Alcala de Henares tonight to work with another short termers who is coming out here on Saturday.  He will be helping teach two weeks (two sessions every day) of English Club.  Right now we have nearly 20 people registered.  Never bored in Spain!

All these activities make you wish you were here?  If so, let me know - lots of opportunities over the next year to join us in person!

One of my favorite parts of being here full time is working with those who come short term - one week to two years.  Makes me feel like I have a growing family!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Movie Night

Yesterday morning was a joint worship service with the team who is here to serve as well as with those
 who have already been attending our monthly church services.  It was exciting to see that one of the new believers had invited a friend.  I love to watch her face with how excited she is with her new relationship with Christ.  At times it makes me wonder if people look at my face and see the same.

The afternoon allowed for a siesta, thank goodness!  We are feeling the schedule and heat.  This morning I tried to make a pot of Spanish coffee without the coffee.  Wasn't terribly successful!

Last night we showed Grace Card (movie summary) at the outdoor theater.  Before the movie the team did the cardboard testimonies.  I enjoyed hearing the testimonies, but even more enjoyed watching Hannah struggle with what to put on hers. She reminded me she had always believed in Christ and her the before and after were very blurred.  But when she given permission to not just look at before and after salvation, but instead at before and after total surrender she came up with too many ideas.  She ended up with before she had her own plans and after she followed his plans.

We ended the night at our favorite bar with tapas for dinner - yep at midnight we sat down to order dinner.  We have found this little bar on the plaza that for 2.50€ you can have a large soda and a large tapa.  My favorite is Huevos Rotos con Jamon.  This is french fries (and they are homemade there) with a fried egg on top (soft yellow), and sprinkled with ham.  A perfect light dinner when it is 90 degrees and midnight.
On tap for today - we begin the Bible Festival for children this morning and this evening we start a 3 day basketball tournament.  Somewhere in between I must take Alex for shoes.  His tennis shoes fell to their fate at camp - of course, they were already in danger of dying - but apparently caving finished them off - you can see his feet all the way through them.

We also have a young lady Sarai (19 years old) staying with us this week.  She is part of the San
Fernando church (where we attend when not in Illescas) and wanted to participate in the campaign.  Due to financial circumstances the full boarding cost was more than she could afford, so she is living with us and eating with us and participating in the campaign.  Alex thinks he has another big sister and Hannah is enjoying having another girl in the house.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

No Fireworks, but ...

... an outdoor Gospel Choir concert served as a great replacement for Fourth of July Fireworks.  More often than not, it is the little things that we really miss, but occasionally those BIG things show up.  For as long as I can remember, my mother's side has celebrated Christmas in July.  I know - sounds crazy, but so many of us worked in churches or lived far away from the core of the family that December became impossible.  So, we moved it to July 4th.  For awhile we even decorated and exchanged presents, but as the youngest generation got older we forsake presents and began to all donate to a single cause/need each year.  And thus, for 3 or 4 days around July 4th, four generations of family gather for lots of food, games, laughter, story telling, and of course - 4th of July fireworks.

I miss this gathering and hope that one summer, we will be back in the states to celebrate with them. And of course in Spain July 4th is just any ordinary day and with the campaign there was no time to celebrate it anyhow.  But last night, as part of the campaign we hosted the Madrid Gospel Choir for an outdoor concert.  They were fabulous.  It was hosted at an outdoor ampitheater here in Illescas and went from 9:30 to 11:15 - longer than fireworks we have seen.  Many of the songs were sung in English, but the Spanish words of every song were projected for all to read.  Here is a video of the grand finale - better than any grand finale of fireworks!

When we finally got home around midnight I realized I had become a true Spaniard, because I started cooking dinner.  It was only grilled cheese sandwiches, but still... cooking dinner at midnight?

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Calm Before the "Storm"

Yesterday was a calmer day.  For me, I started the day by taking one of the team members to the doctors to get stitches out.  It hit me that I was serving as the cultural navigator and translator.  Boy have things changed over the last 20 months.  As we were waiting for his appointment I had a flashback to our first doctor's appointment with no idea what the process was and handing the doctor my electronic translator and asking her to type in what she was saying.  Yesterday I found myself laughing with the doctor (and hoping that I understood what we were laughing at).  Proof that God is still in the miracle business!  I ended the day with dinner with a friend/co-worker that was filled with laughter and then picking Alex up from the airport.  He had a fabulous time at camp and hopefully today I can pray out of him some of the details.

The team yesterday spent a lot of time prepping for the activities over the next six days.  They had a chance to take a breather and move at a slower pace.  And after lunch they began a 24 hour fast, filled with prayer for the coming activities.  Due to a communication issue (and it wasn't my Spanish that got in the way this time) they needed a new location for the 3 hour prayer vigil.  Guess where it ended up?  Yep, in our house. 40 people filled our house for prayer.  Unfortunately I was in Madrid getting Alex and missed it, but Scott cleaned house and then hosted.  At least with them fasting all he had to do was provide water.  :)

On the agenda today - the storm of activity begins.  This morning we are hosting an Expo for the Millennium 2015 - I have no idea what that means, so I'll post pictures and tell you tomorrow.  Tonight a 50 member Gospel Choir from Madrid will be doing a concert.  I have invited a friend to join me, but she hasn't responded yet.

It continues to be incredibly hot.  Yesterday we hit 39°C (yep, we use Celsius here) - which is 102°F.  Pray for gentle breezes, clouds, and protection from the heat.

Talk to you tomorrow -

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Same, Yet Different

Yesterday was another packed day.  Surprisingly my laundry is under control and we have only succumbed to a restaurant for one meal.  (we are not eating with the campaign team as it gets really expensive to pay to eat at a restaurant every meal (theirs was included with their hotel and fees) and we live right here in town.  But, on Wednesday night we did enjoy tapas for dinner at my favorite little bar on the plaza. (I wonder why I have no pictures of there.  Hmm, perhaps we need another visit).  For 2.50€ we can have a large bottle of soda and a large tapa.  And they have homemade french fries.

In the morning I cooked with Maria (my friend who is learning English) and our neighbor's daughter (Laura who is 8).  We had a blast and yes, we made something with chocolate.  Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins.  They were definitely a hit and we had lots of English practice!  Now I am looking to buy each of them a set of standardized measuring cups and spoons.  Wonder where I can find them in Spain?

Then off to a reception with the mayor and his assistant.  One of the major differences in Spain and America is that there is no separation of church and state here.  The Catholic Church and the Country are nearly one.  The mayor welcomed the team to Illescas, shared his gratitude and included in his speech "we are more alike than different and we know that God will help Illescas and its people be better."  (Or at least I think that is what he said).  He is right, we are more alike than different - but where there are differences they are big.  But I am always surprised when I hear government talking of the part that religion plays in government here.

After a quick lunch and siesta we returned to help host a Blood
Drive.  The purpose of the blood drive was of course to support the need for blood donations, but even more so - to separate ourselves from the Jehovah Witnesses.  There is a large Jehovah Witness population in Spain.  There are more than 1500 churches, had the 6th greatest number of believers participate in their "Mission Gathering"(a commemoration of the death of Christ) and the 5th largest percentage of believers from all of Europe.  They are known by Spaniards and many run from anything that resembles them.  They do a lot of street corner evangelism and door to door visits.  They do not, however, give or receive blood.  So, in an effort for the people of the town to realize we are not them, we sponsored a blood drive.  Wearing our blue shirts we gave out hundreds of invitations to a blood drive.  We even had a few who asked "but I didn't think you gave blood?"  We then helped at the blood drive by chatting, serving drinks and snacks, and just creating an atmosphere of relationship.

What's up for today?  I am out of commission for today.  Have to take a team member to get stitches removed (had an accident last week) and then tonight Alex comes home from summer camp.  He has been gone for a week and I am definitely ready to see him.  But as for the others, a morning of training for the Bible Festival next week, a fast at dinner, a prayer time, and more time inviting people to the coming activities.
No idea what they are doing - but looks like a fun camp game.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Sweating And Snacks

It is hot.  No other explanation - just plain hot.  We reached 97 yesterday and for the rest of the week we are to be at 100.  Good news for the participants in the campaign - they have air condition in their rooms.  Bad news for the Hunters - we do not.  But after a friend shared her trick for cheap screens, we are back in business (we have had to choose between being eaten alive by mosquitoes or keeping our windows closed all night).  I bought velcro and some mosquito netting and we have temporary, removable screens.  They aren't pretty, but it sure was nice to feel a breeze last night (we dropped to 70 last night).

The team here handles the heat much better than this American.  They kept on trucking - knew to walk in the shade, took a break at the public pool, and found nothing unusual about postponing one of our activities until 10:30 PM when it would be cooler and people would be out.

The morning was spent handing out invitations to the various activities and then a time of worship and
teaching.  Each day different team members aid the worship team.  I love when I hear songs we know in English being sung in Spanish.  Just makes the world feel a little smaller!

Last night in groups of 2 and 4 the team went out offering packages of KIKOS (a salt snack made up of nuts, corn nuts, sometimes dried fruit, ...) to people they passed in the street. Some would take the snacks just as a gift and keep on walking, others would ask why, and of course some would refuse.

The hope was that a generous gift would open the doors to a conversation about the generous gift of Christ.  The team was taught there was to be no pressure in the gift - offer and answer any questions they were asked.  If possible (and appropriate for where the conversation was going) offer to pray for the person.  We left before the reports were given (12 hour days plus laundry, cooking, heat, ....) but this morning have read that one young lady accepted Christ.  Excited to return this morning and hear all that God is doing.

Of course, before I head out - life as normal must happen.  Two loads of laundry to wash (at least with 100 degrees it dries REALLY fast), lunch to prepare, and English to teach.  My Thursday group is a young lady in her 30's who is expecting her first child and our 8 year old neighbor.  They are so cute together.  There is a breeze this morning, so taking advantage of cool temperatures and cooking for class - and yep, it has chocolate!  Chocolate, Chocolate Chip Muffins.  Will post pictures tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Training and Inviting

Day 2

Today was filled with training and inviting.  First thing this morning we met with a leader in the ayuntamiento (remember... city hall) who gave us fliers that outlined rules for cleaning up after your pets, loud music, where to put your trash, and other things like that.  We had volunteered to do any project that they needed and this was their request.

Part of the rationale behind these projects is that we all are wearing the same t-shirt (yep, laundry every
night) and the community begins to associate our willingness to help the community, our attitudes, our smiles, our laughter, etc with the evangelistic activities that will occur later in the week.  We are a little "weird" in the eyes of Spaniards and activities such as this morning help erase some of that image.

This afternoon (of course after a siesta) there was training on how to give your testimony in two minutes.

Then tonight everyone went back out and began inviting people in the streets, plazas, and parks to the activities later in the week.

To separate ourselves from Jehovah Witnesses,
part of the campaign is a blood drive.

Activities for the coming 10 days include a blood drive, Gospel Choir Concert,
Summer Movie (El Poder Del Perdón is the movie Grace Card in Spanish),
Basketball Tournament, Bible Festival, and an open aire expo.


After nearly a year of planning, the Illescas Campaign has finally begun.  39 Believers from 8 different countries joined together last night for the campaign, named "Illescas Amiga."  (Illescas Friend).  The evening was filled with logistics, getting to know each other, prayer, and worship.  Today our act of service is to walk the streets and parks and hand out pamphlets on what you are supposed to do while walking your dog (uh, pick up after it).  The ayuntamiento (city hall) has asked for us to do this as a way to help them out.  Our goal - to demonstrate our love for the people of Illescas.

We are blessed to have been able to contract with a small, local hotel in the center of Illescas.  Estella (the owner/manager) has been incredibly gracious and the entire staff has really worked to provide all that we could possibly need.  We of course, are staying in our home - but the team is being well cared for!  And yes, the meeting room has air condition - and since we are supposed to be 100 several days this week, that will be a nice break.  Hmm, maybe we should sleep in the meeting room - we don't have a/c.