Friday, August 28, 2009

Learning Spain: Galicia

Since one of our primary objectives during this year of language and cultural acquisition is to get to know Spain as well as we can, we decided to spend our vacation with Rachel's parents covering a good chunk of northwestern and north central Spain.

Our first 10 days were in Galicia (NW Spain), so we'd like to give you a few discoveries we made there.
  1. The Climate: With the high temperatures of Córdoba ranging from the tolerable 35°C (95°F) to the downright uncomfortable 45°C (113°F), we were delighted to find that Galicia, especially in the Vigo area where we spent the majority of our time, was much more comfortable, with highs between 25° & 30°C (77° to 86°C), but with some humidity to thicken the air. As a result, Galicia is very green with lush vegetation and, to B.J.'s delight, lots and lots of corn (making us a bit homesick for Illinois and Pennsylvania).
  2. The Language: Galicia has two official languages: Spanish and Gallego. To us Gallego looks like a mixture of Spanish and Portuguese and can be somewhat understandable to some Spanish speakers. The Spanish accent of native Galicians (or Gallegos) is kind of sing-songy and melodic, making us wonder if it's the result of the Celtic tribes who originally settled in the region a couple thousand of years ago.
  3. Bagpipes: The Celtic influence in the region can be seen perhaps most obviously in the common site and sound of bagpipers throughout the area.
  4. Santiago de Compostela: It's the supposed site where the bones of St. James (the half brother of Jesus) are laid to rest. About 100,000 people make the pilgrimage to Santiago every year, and if they stop at all the appropriate checkpoints to get their pilgrim passports stamped and travel at least 100 km of the pilgrimage, they receive a certificate called the 'Compostela,' which entitles them to at least partial remission of purgatory. Click here to see a few of our photos from Santiago.
  5. Witchcraft: Galicia is known for witches and witchcraft. Knowing this, we entered one of the many shops in Santiago that has an assortment of witchcrafty decorations and asked the ladies working there where this interest came from. They told us, "In ancient Celtic tribes, women had a very important role, especially the older women who were known to have special knowledge or wisdom of magic. But when Christianity reached this region centuries ago, the Church was run by male priests and made no place for women to serve or to lead. Even so, the Church couldn't change the culture, and people continued to consult witches along with being a part of the Church, to cover all of their spiritual bases, which continues widely to this day." When we pressed them for their personal beliefs about witchcraft, one said that she believes there is real power in it, while the other thought that it's all hocus-pocus. This was eye-opening for us as we consider the role of women in the church and how that will be a part of our ministry in the future. For a couple other intriguing insights on the mixing of pagan Celtic spirituality and Christianity, click HERE or HERE and don't forget to read the captions.
This post has gotten long enough, so we'll leave it at this. Needless to say, it was a great vacation and highly insightful as we continue to learn about this new country God's led us to. If you'd like to see more photos of our vacation, click here.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Preaching and Vacation

Apologies for not having posted any news for nearly a month now--no major excuses to give, we just haven't gotten around to it. Anyhow, this morning I (B.J.) had the great opportunity to preach at the church of Rachel's parents in Camarma, Madrid. As you can probably ascertain from the photo, no, I didn't preach in Spanish--though I'm increasing in my language ability, I'm still not quite at the point of being able to preach a sermon. They invited me to preach on the theme of Serving Christ, as we find in the passage of Romans 12:3-8. It went well, and, on a personal level, it felt good to preach again, since I haven't preached since February or March. The congregation is a new church plant, and they have a fresh spirit about them, so they were very positive in their response to the passage and the sermon.

In other news, since my language school is closed in August, we are spending the next couple weeks in Galicia, which is in northwest Spain. One of our objectives for this year of transition is to get to know the various regions of Spain, so we're looking forward to spending some time in a new place. They say it's green and cool there, which is a significant contrast to the yellow and brown of Córdoba (and the 100+ heat).

If you'd like to check out some of our photos of Córdoba and Sevilla, click on the following words: Córdoba or Sevilla.