Thursday, April 30, 2009

Surprised by God

These are the faces of surprise and relief. But honestly, we were not expecting it, at least not so soon. We had grown so accustomed to disappointing calls to the Spanish Consulate that we expected nothing different from this call. And since we had tickets to return to the States on Tuesday, on Monday we figured we should make one more call to the Consulate just in case, by some slim chance, our visa applications had been approved. We especially were not expecting our visas to be approved since we had just spoken with a government official in Cordoba who did not think the visas would be approved for another week or so. Call us pessimists, doubting Thomases or faithless believers...maybe we had simply become content with the fact that our visas would not be approved on our timeline.

So we were shocked, almost breathlessly so, when our amigo Hector at the Consulate told us that, in fact, our visas were approved and we could pick them up ASAP! So at 3 p.m. on Monday afternoon, our plans for the week changed drastically: we had to get from Cordoba to Madrid to Newark and finally to New York to pick up our visas. So we hopped on a train Monday evening, stayed at Rachel's parents' house overnight to catch our 1 p.m. flight on Tuesday from Madrid to Newark. We stayed overnight in Newark and took the train into New York (where the above photo was taken) on Wednesday morning to pick up our visas. We're now in Myerstown, PA, waiting to ship our things and return to Spain next Saturday.

Put simply, we've seen God's hand at work, providing means of transportation, places to stay, people to help us, and a visa that opens the door for us to be a part of what He wants to do in Spain. It seems that when we finally become content with whatever outcome in certain situations, God loves to "surprise" us by showing up and providing what we need just when we need it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Semana Santa Processions

No, those aren't members of the Ku Klux Klan; they're Spanish penitents who, having asked God or Mary to do something on their behalf or seeking some sort of divine favor or forgiveness, are keeping their end of the bargain by serving in the grandiose Holy Week processions.
The processions we saw, both in Córdoba and the smaller town of Aguilar, seemed to follow a similar pattern. With horns and drums announcing the arrival of the procession, the penitents soon arrived carrying the statue of the suffering Christ. Some looked on out of tradition, others out of curiousity, and still others who appeared to feel so deep a connection to the ceremony that they dropped rose petals from their balconies to commemorate Christ's death. As evangelicals, we would see the arrival of the suffering Christ as the climax of this procession...
But the arrival of Christ did not receive the utmost attention. Rather, soon after the giant crucifix passed by our balcony, the music grew louder and crescendoed as the much larger, more ornate and by far heavier statue of the mourning Mary arrived in front of our balcony (so close that we could almost touch it with our fingertips). As one native Córdobes described to B.J., "The Bible says that Mary was the mother of Jesus, so she is obviously more important." At certain points, the penitents stop to rest (the statue of Mary is ginormously heavy), and after their breather we heard the lead penitent urging on his fellow penitents, "We are doing this for the glory of the most high queen of heaven!"
Our experience of the processions was priceless and eye-opening. During Semana Santa there is indeed an interest in Christ and spiritual things, but it appears to be short-lived and based on a certain ignorance of Biblical truth. There is a recognition of what Christ did on the cross but a lack of understanding as to why He did it or how it can transform our lives. Instead, Christ's sacrifice and resurrection appear to be overshadowed by how one can receive what he or she wants from Mary, his mother. This is the twisted shadow of Christendom that remains in our new home.

Monday, April 6, 2009


The best way to describe our first week in Spain is BIPOLAR. Emotionally, it's been a bit of a roller coaster for both of us. At one moment we are feeling excited and somewhat comfortable in our Spanish surroundings (especially for Rachel, and B.J. whenever he is actually understanding Spanish); the next moment we may feel the great discomfort and fear that comes with remembering (for Rachel) and trying to understand (for B.J.) all that's going on around us, not to mention all the unanswered questions we have right now. Up and down, down and up...we're told that this is normal, and it will continue for the next several days, weeks, months, and maybe years, in some ways.
On a high note, we had lunch today with a very cool couple, Jeremy & Jessica, who are from California but have lived here for about a year and a half. They're quite an encouraging pair, but the sad news for now is that they're heading back to California in a month.

Tomorrow we head to Córdoba to find a piso (apartment), see the processions of Semana Santa (Holy Week), and join evangelical believers for an Easter weekend retreat. Please pray for us as we head into pura España (pure Spain, as Rachel likes to call it) to scout out the next leg in our journey there.