A team of Stonebriar folks spent three weeks in Spain to conduct an English camp in partnership with a local church and Stonebriar missionaries in the area. Pastor Owen shares this update from his notebook.
A woman in glasses and a black dress stands at her table and begins to chant in Spanish “Otra…Otra!” “Another…Another!”
Everyone seated around her at the open air concert agrees and joins her call for an encore from the musical duo who had been serenading us, accompanied by piano and a lively violin.
The night is perfect. The lawn of Castelldefels Evangelical Church has been dressed up for the occasion. Wooden crates and pallets hang creativity on the fence to form a stage strung with lights. The heat of the Spanish summer has relented to a cool breeze off the ocean. Church members serve food and drinks to a packed crowd of mostly strangers who chat noisily as the music plays. Food, music, people, laughter. Perfect.
As I look out on the crowd, I can’t help but smile and blink back tears—because of who is packed into the backyard of this church on the outskirts of Barcelona and because of what this crowd means for the church, the city, and the Gospel.
Sprinkled among the fashionable crowd float a dozen sweaty Stonebriar folks dressed in bright, safety green t-shirts. This is the grand finale of our two weeks of English Camp. We had been loving on 70 kids at this church building for the past two weeks—and planning and preparing for months longer. Early mornings. Late nights. Hours in the hot sun. Hours of wrestling with how to explain the deep things of God through language and cultural barriers, in terms kids can understand. It has been an incredibly difficult season of ministry in an incredibly beautiful place.
And it all comes down to this night. Tonight, the church prayerfully opens its doors and hopes that parents and people in the community will venture inside to meet us.
At the start of the night, I urged the Stonebriar team to dig deep for their last bit of energy and leave it all here with these people tonight. That’s exactly what they’re doing. They’re slapping shoulders, shaking hands, and swapping stories in the middle of the crowd. It’s fun to finally meet the parents of the children we’ve been loving on and praying for.
Over the past two weeks, I formed a special connection with one of the kids in my small group. This English Camp is the first time she’s ever stepped inside a church or talked to a believer in Jesus. She’s practiced her English with me (she’s pretty good!), and we’ve talked about questions like “who is God?” and “ why do you always see pictures of Jesus on a cross?” I was praying her mother would come to the parent party. Tonight, she is here.
We have a deep language barrier, but with help from her daughter and Google Translate, our conversation stumbles forward. Just as I’m running out of things to say, I ask the mother where she’s from. She says, “Argentina.” Quite literally at that very moment, one of the Stonebriar folks who happens to be from Argentina walks by. I grab her arm and introduce the two women. The conversation switches to high-speed Spanish, and I slip away.
Danny, the pastor of the church, stands and watches the scene from nearby. “What do you think?” I ask. Danny is a guy with boundless energy, whom I’ve learned is almost never rattled or shows surprise. Tonight, he’s almost speechless. “Two thirds of these people…I’ve never seen before. I can promise you they’ve never even had a conversation with a believer. They’ve never heard that Jesus is the only way. Amazing. Completely amazing.”
Danny steps back into the buzzing crowd. I step back for one more look from this perspective before I press back in, too.
It really is amazing. Here in Spain, evangelical churches are viewed like a cult. People are suspicious and wary. Rumors are spread about strange and dark things that happen in worship services. Most would never take the risk to step inside a church.
Yet, here we are. With music, light, and laughter floating on the breeze and spilling out into the darkness.
So, when the lady in glasses and a black dress begins to chant “OTRA…OTRA…OTRA,” I join in. Another song, another conversation, another season of unity with our brothers and sisters in Spain. Another hour in this place as the joy of the Savior extends through the smiles and hugs of believers from two sides of the Atlantic to people who have never heard the Good News.
It’s the kind of night you want to last forever.
I pray God works his age-old miracle of redemption in these hearts so that the celebration with these people never has to end.
Written by Owen Wildman, Pastor of Missional Living at Stonebriar Community Church