When I told people that I was going to Spain to study abroad while doing a missions component with Veritas, I received more than a few skeptical and confused looks. I myself had a few hesitations about doing a missions program in Spain. It is not a country you think of when you think of where Missionaries usually go. It is a developed nation in Western Europe without unreached peoples groups. So what is there to do in Spain?
A whole lot more than you would think.
Yes, everyone in Spain, in theory, has access to a Bible in their language and have churches in their community. However, it doesn’t take being here very long to see how desperately people need the Lord and how many of them do not truly know Him. Catholicism and its traditions are soaked in and spread to every corner of Spanish society. Most people here identify as Catholic, but this conflicts with the fact that there are so few people here who are actively pursuing the Lord. The crisis in Spain seems to be that religion has become objectified to the point where it no longer is even something with a spiritual connotation. It equals to traditions and holidays. What’s more is that those traditions, like going to mass, are things that the younger generation in Spain consider to be for their grandparents. Other Spanish people even have a terrible connotation with Catholicism due to its former association with Franco. To the majority of the people in Spain, Christianity is Catholicism- there are no other forms or denominations.
One of the professors this past term asked how many people were Catholic. I didn’t raise my hand because I assumed this question would be followed by asking how many people were Protestant, etc- but it wasn’t. When no one raised their hand, he assumed we were all non-religious. To him, if you were Christian you were Catholic. Learning all of these views that are so different than the United States has opened my eyes to different ways of doing ministry, and it changed my mental image of missionaries completely. Being a missionary does not automatically equate to a life of projects in physically and monetarily needy countries; being a missionary means serving the spiritually needy, wherever they may be.
My mission mentors were a couple who lived right outside of Sevilla named Carey and Sharron (or Miguel and Sara if you were speaking to them in Spanish). Carey and Sharron’s approach to missions is doing “life on life”. They live life with their neighbors, and through that hope to show them Christ. While we were with Carey and Sharron they were experiencing a very trying time due to the serious illnesses of both their daughter and granddaughter. How they handled the situation though was such a blessing and truly illustrated to me how they live out their motto of “life on life”. They were able to share their struggles with their neighbors and share with them how they are able to still have hope and peace through it all. They were also able to discuss that they were praying, and what they were praying for, and through this they revealed the Lord’s faithfulness.
Being in Sevilla for a month has been wonderful, but I ache for more time. The thing that I learned most from this trip is the importance and complete necessity of long-term missions. Quick week-long, month-long, even year-long trips are nowhere near the impact of longer missions in countries like Spain. This is not me saying that short-term missions serve no purpose. They can plant seeds, and if the time is right, even sow the harvest of leading someone to Christ! But for a more lasting effect with a wider reach, long-term missions with relationships founded in respect and trust are so crucial. People need consistency, and to have the worth of the faith proven to them through meaningful and repetitive interactions. I have also learned how vital culture-specific ministry is. Ministry is not something that comes in one-size-fits-all. Every culture comes with its own unique obstacles and challenges when sharing the gospel. In Spain, these happen to be ingrained prejudices or traditions that exclude evangelicalism from daily life.
This is a sentence I am sure you will have read many times, but coming away from this trip I am just overwhelmed by how much the world needs Jesus.
Living in the United States and going to a school where many students are Christians, it is easy to become comfortable and falsely believe that everyone else lives in similar circumstances where saying that you believe in Jesus Christ is normal. In Spain, for a person my age to pursue Christ, to have conversations about Him with their friends or family, and to make Biblical decisions, is not normal- and this is a country where people have access to the Bible. In many ways, this saddens my heart even more than if they did not have access to His Word! But the Lord is doing work here! He does not forget His people and He wants all to know Him. While I long to still remain here in Sevilla, I know the Lord is taking me elsewhere for a reason, and that I can trust He will call all the people he needs to do His work to carry out His plan here.
Written by Allie Lammers at Texas A&M.