Saturday, October 31, 2009

What We Like About Our New Home

A couple of months ago we listed several things that we miss about our life in the States. Of course, that's only half of the story. While we definitely miss the States, we're discovering aspects of our new life in Spain that we really do appreciate and even enjoy. So here are 7 things that we really like here:
  1. La Alegría: Translated into English, this word means happiness or gladness, and it really describes the attitude of Andaluces very well: they love to enjoy life and are naturally loud people (as I write this I can hear the men at the corner bar yelling 'Gol!!!' as their team scores). On top of that, Andaluces seem to enjoy being very helpful: if you ask an older couple for directions here, be prepared for both of them to lean into your car window shouting directions at the same time, at a rate that's probably faster than you can understand.
  2. Our ECM Spain Team: We just came back from our annual ECM Spain Team retreat, and we really enjoyed being together with our teammates (here is a photo of everyone). Some, like our team leader Francis Arjona, have deep, old connections with Rachel's family (he changed her diapers), and others are quickly becoming new friends.
  3. The Late Culture: Breakfast tends to be optional or around 11 a.m. (during the morning work break), lunch is around 2 or 3 p.m., and dinner can be as late as midnight in the summer. Also, it's very normal and very safe to be on the streets until midnight or later, which is a bit different from living in Amish country: it was safe, but it sure wasn't normal to see people out and about at midnight.
  4. The Rich History: I (B.J.) have still not gotten over the fact that every morning on the bus I ride by Roman ruins from about 2000 years ago. Being a fan of history, particularly of Greco-Roman history, and being from a country whose history only reaches back a few hundred years, this is a paradise for me.
  5. Our Neighbors: Our two most immediate neighbor ladies in our apartment building have really taken to Rachel and treat her just like one of them, including giving us samples of the food they're cooking for lunch and sending their daughters to our apartment for trick-or-treating (Halloween, for better or worse, is becoming more popular here). This has been a source of great blessing for us and for them, we think.
  6. Reconnecting with Old Friends: Rachel has 18 years of history here, 15 of which were here in the province of Córdoba. We've found that her parents, Ron and Brenda Anderson, had a great impact on the lives of so many people, and because of that, Rachel has been able to reestablish old relationships. Here's a photo of Rachel with her favorite elementary school teacher, Don Valeriano, who we happened to run into as we were walking through Montilla, the town where she used to live.
  7. Language School: This may sound nerdy, but I enjoy learning, and going to language school has been enjoyable most of the time (frustrating at times, too!). I'm finding that there are varying levels of fluency, and I'm coming to a place where I'm not quite as scared to pick up the telephone as I was before. What's more is that Jesus seems to provide opportunities on a weekly and sometimes daily basis for me to share about my relationship with Him, and it's challenging me to express my faith not only in Spanish, but in a way that is relevant to generally postmodern non-believers.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Layers of Baggage

In this photo, you can see the layers of history that have made Córdoba what it is today. In the background is the famous Mezquita, the mosque founded on the site of Visigothic cathedral shortly after the Muslims invaded and conquered the land in the 8th century A.D.. Actually, only the lower part of the Mezquita was used as a mosque; the higher, taller portion is the cathedral that was built on top of the ancient Mezquita after the Catholic kings overthrew the reign of the Arabs around 1236 AD. So the current cathedral is built on top of an ancient mosque which was built on top of an even more ancient Visigothic cathedral.

And off to the left you see the famous 'Puente Romano,' the Roman bridge, which was originally built during the first century A.D. Actually, for Cordobeses, the bridge is more infamous than famous now, because, if you can tell from the photo, just a few years ago it was restored in a way that greatly modernized it and covered its very Roman, historical look.

There are layers of history here in Spain, and with that there is beauty but also layers of baggage that I'm just now beginning to uncover. This baggage has become especially evident to me in recent weeks as I've had several conversations with a gal on the bus I ride regularly to language school in the morning. She knows that I'm an evangelical pastor, and she's been surprisingly open to talking with me about spiritual things (albeit completely in Spanish, which is still challenging for me). But what I've discovered is that words and concepts I take for granted carry a lot of cultural and religious baggage for her that they don't for me. For example, her concept of 'Church' is characterized by the power-seeking, money hungry, male-driven institutional force of the Catholic Church that has allowed priests to abuse children for centuries. When I mention the word 'Bible,' she tends to think of it as a book of stories primarily about men, put together by men, ultimately to oppress or neglect the place of women (kind of Conspiracy Theory meets Feminism meets Dan Brown).

There's a lot of spiritual, religious and cultural baggage here in Spain, and we're just beginning to understand it. The question we're wrestling with is this: How do we relevantly and intelligently engage these Spaniards with the Good News that can peel back the layers and cut to their hearts, meeting their most basic need? Surely this is just the beginning of this discussion.