Thursday, December 29, 2011

Movie Night in Alcora

A few weeks ago our ministry team hosted a free movie night open to the town of Alcora.  We originally had intended to show The Nativity Story (being December and all), but since the movie distributor wanted 300€ ($400!) to do a public screening, we settled on a much more economical movie called The Climb that was put out by the Billy Graham Association some years back.  About 30 people showed up, between the support of our church in the neighboring town and people from our town, and the experience was quite informative for us.  Here are a few observations I have about the night:

  • Relationships matter:  The people who came from Alcora were nearly all people we knew and had personally invited.  One random Alcorino saw one of the signs we had put out and came, and then when he asked who we were and why we were putting on a free movie night, thus finding out that we were an evangelical church group, he left and said he'd come back in a few minutes...we're still waiting for him to return.
  • The "evangelical" stigma:  We just posted about this with one of our recent conversations, so I won't go into detail.  But people (especially people from a small, predominately Catholic community) still view the evangelical church as a cult...or at least as something very strange and foreign.  At times it even causes us to question how we should refer to ourselves, call our church group, and publicize events.
  • People are busy with their own lives:  Thirty years ago, when Rachel's parents first arrived in Spain, doing big outdoor campaigns and showing the Jesus Film really worked because people weren't all that busy and a lot of them didn't have their own TV's.  But now everyone has their own LED TV sets to watch movies, and they're busier than ever, taxiing their kids to soccer, dance, piano and tae-kwon-do lessons after school.  Just finding an ideal day and time to put on a movie was challenging enough.
  • We're still learning:  It could be easy to get discouraged with the fact that only 30 people showed up for a free movie, and, in fact, a few of our group did seem a bit down about it.  But a big part of what we're doing at this stage in ministry is testing the waters, experimenting with events and ministries, and seeing what kind of response we have.  This is an extremely important step in the process of evangelism and church planting, but it can be frustrating, as well, because having big numbers would be really nice...they make us feel good and look impressive in prayer letters.  So we could look at it from a very Eeyore-ish point of view and be disappointed about the numbers, or we can take it all in stride, learn from it, and actually have fun with the ministry and events that we do, even if no one outside of our small group shows up.
  • God's at work:  Several of the non-Christians who did show up for the movie were quite moved by the plot and the themes presented, true love and sacrifice (especially God's love for us) being central.  Some even cried at the end.  Our neighbors who went continued to mention it (unsolicitedly) in conversations for days after, and we had the opportunity to share the Gospel with them at a deeper level than we ever have been as a result.  They remain interested and even accompanied us to our church's annual Christmas program.  They may not know it yet, but the Holy Spirit is softening their hearts, and the Lover of their souls is wooing them softly towards Himself.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Conversations With Spaniards: Normal?

Not so long ago, I was chatting with my language exchange partner...she helps me with Spanish, and I help her with her English.  We'll call her Inma.  Inma and I have been meeting together for this mutual help for 2 or 3 months, and in the midst of our conversation (now in Spanish), she said something to me that, well, kind of caught me off-guard:

Inma:  "But, you're really...normal."
Me:  "What exactly do you mean by that...normal?"
Inma:  "Well, when our mutual friend, Juan, told me about you and that you were an evangelical preacher, that made me kind of nervous.  I wanted to work on my English, so I called you anyway."
Me:  "So what made you nervous about meeting an evangelical preacher?"  (which, by the way, is never how I refer to myself)
Inma:  "The only exposure I have to evangelicals was at Juan's wedding years ago, and, to tell you the truth, all them were pretty strange or obviously people with certain special needs."
Me:  "Really?  That's interesting...They probably found a place that accepts them, and that's a good thing, right?"
Inma:  "Well, yeah, but you, and your wife, well, you guys are normal.  You're married, you have a daughter, you're a pretty happy, educated, normal guy.  I wasn't sure what to expect when I met you, but you're definitely different than what I expected an evangelical preacher to be like."
Me:  "Well, I'm glad to have changed your view of evangelicals a bit."

This brief 10 minute conversation I had with Inma showed me a lot about how "normal" Spaniards tend to see evangelicals, and perhaps in some ways they're right.  Many evangelicals here in Spain come from the lower economic classes and are not always very well-educated.  Many of them do have social, behavioral and/or psychological problems, and they end up in the evangelical church because their needs, most basically the need for love and acceptance, are met there because we try to take the greatest two commandments seriously (sometimes more successfully than others).  Also, a lot of evangelicals are Hispanic or Romanian immigrants, making "evangelical" synonymous with "foreign."  Add to this the fact that when the media covers the evangelical church here, it almost always shows either a Gypsy church (think wildly charismatic--the Gypsies are their own culture here) or a Latin American church (often times the prosperity gospel type).  This is the impression that the typical Spaniard has of the evangelical church or what it means to be an evangelical as opposed to a "normal" Catholic (practicing, barely practicing, proudly non-practicing or atheistic, they come in all classes).

So what does this mean for us?  I'm not entirely sure, but I'm certain it doesn't mean closing our doors to the people who live the Beatitudes.  At the same time, it means that we need to be mindful of this perception and also be open to changing people's stereotypes of us, and this probably only happens slowly, one conversation at a time.  However, to appear "NORMAL" is never the goal.  Pray with us that God would help us to live in such a way, with an eternal mindset, values and purpose, that others would be attracted to Him, and that what they see would be so much better than "normal."

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Conversations with Spaniards

Not so long ago I stopped in at the local music shop to check out some guitar gear, and after a bit of chit-chat about the gear I was looking at, and finding out that I'm an American (darned accent!), the owner started a conversation that turned, well, almost typical.  

O:  "So what is an American like you doing in Alcora?!  Do you work in a factory here?"
BJ:  "No, actually, I'm an evangelical pastor..."
O:  "Huh...well, don't try to convert me--I can't be converted to anything by anyone."
BJ:  "No, don't worry about's not my job to convert you anyhow."
O:  "Well, I don't believe in anything, just in humans."
BJ:  "Really...that's interesting."
O:  "And in this world, there's just so much evil, people take advantage of you and cause so much destruction.  It's terrible!"
BJ:  "Yeah, I know.  But didn't you say you only believed in people and their goodness?  With all the evil we cause, it doesn't seem like a hopeful belief."
O:  "I mean that there are good people who do good things, and bad people who do bad things.  And we need to try to do the good...and the bad people need to be judged and dealt with."
BJ:  "I see what you're saying.  That's actually one of the reassuring things for me about what the Bible teaches.  God is just, and He'll deal with the people who do evil, so I don't have to worry to much about them...God will take care of that."
O:  "Huh..." (Silence...)
BJ:  "And the beauty I see in the Christian faith is that none of us is perfect, we all make mistakes, we sin, and we all deserve to be judged.  But Jesus loved me enough that He took the punishment in my place so that I wouldn't have to face God's judgment."
O:  "Huh...I certainly don't believe in the Church.  I mean, they do some good things, but the Church is all corrupt, throughout the whole hierarchy, and the people who go out to participate in the processions, well, they do it just for show.  I know those people and what they're really like!"
BJ:  "Yeah, I can imagine.  I've found that it's hard for people to separate their ideas of who God is from what the Church has done."
O:  "I haven't gone out to the processions since I was 14 because I didn't want to be a hypocrite, but I did get married in the Church and I certainly never go to mass.  But once in a while I climb up the hill to the hermitage chapel and go off by myself, and I talk alone by myself.  So I might end up being more of a believer than the people who go out for the processions and are hypocrites afterwards."
BJ:  "That's interesting.  So maybe you believe in something after all?"
O:  "Well, maybe..."
BJ:  "I need to get going, but it's been good chatting and I appreciate you sharing your perspective on life with me.  We'll have to talk again."

I'm certainly not a great evangelist, but it's been interesting to listen to people, to hear their perspectives, complaints, and beliefs, and to sow a few seeds of the Gospel into the conversation.  Pray that these seeds would be watered, cared for, and would grow to fruition, whether through me or someone else God has in mind.  Most of all pray for fertile soil here in Alcora and throughout Spain.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Prayer for Alcora: ¡No a la incineradora!

The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. (Genesis 2:15)

In July (or perhaps before) the town of Alcora was informed that the Community of Valencia (basically the state we form a part of) had plans to construct or, at least, is approving the construction of a large trash incinerator 2 or 3 kilometers from Alcora.  Since then the town has united against this proposal, which apparently has been years in the making (who knows why the townspeople weren’t informed of this before July…).  In any case, one could say that the trash (industrial strength stuff—not just left over chicken bones) has to go somewhere, so why not here in Alcora?  We’ve also heard the humorous logic that, given the pollution caused by the dozens of factories here, what’s a little more?  All joking aside, the only positive aspect of this incinerator would be the work it brings with it, but even that would be less than would bring a recycling center.

We still don’t know all the details of this plan, but what we do know is the following:
  •  If the incinerator is built here, some 135,000 tons of industrial waste will be burned here each year.
  •  The resulting pollution from such an incinerator can cause various diseases and health problems, from cancer to congenital defects in babies.
  •  The pollution would not just effect the community of Alcora (its people, its land and its water) but also the surrounding towns and even the nearby city of Castellón, which happens to be downstream.
So please pray for our town:
  •  That the Lord somehow blocks the plan to construct this incinerator.
  •  That the Lord gives the local and provincial leadership another solution for waste disposal.
  •  That the Lord will give us wisdom in our meeting the new Mayoress next week, Tuesday the 11th, so that we might be able to encourage her in her fight against this plan, as well as discuss various other issues with her.
If you'd like to see a little tour of how an incinerator works, CLICK HERE.

Not an advertisement for Chick-fil-a, just an honest opinion.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Postcards in Alcora!

This week and next week have the "Fiestas del Cristo" (the town festival in honor of the Christ) here in Alcora.  Some time ago our ministry team decided to take advantage of this time when people are a bit more open and even sensitive to spiritual things.  So this week  we've distributed some 3300 postcards to all the homes here to wish them a great time of fiestas, to make them think a bit more about Christ (and not just the parties), and to direct them to our webpage ( where they can come to know Christ for the first time or know Him better.  Please pray for the following:
  • That the Lord will use these postcards for His glory and awaken the hearts of Alcorinos to His great love for them.
  • That those who are seeking the Lord (or just something to fill the emptiness in their lives) will find the living Christ who loves them.
  • That if people contact us personally we'll know how to take them closer to Christ and grow in their relationship with Him.
Above you have a little video we made to thank you for your encouragement and support of the ministry here in Alcora, and in particular of our distribution of the postcards.  Thanks for praying with us!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Warrnambool Concert!

We just had our first public event as an evangelical presence here in Alcora, a rock concert with the Swiss band Warrnambool, and we were pretty pleased and excited by the outcome.  The purpose was not to do fast-track evangelism and try to convert people on the spot with an altar call, which doesn't work very well here in Spain, according to people who have lived and worked here a lot longer than we have.  Rather, the goal was to let the community of Alcora know that there is an evangelical presence here in their town, that we want to offer positive influence in the community, and, yes, to provide a testimony to Christ and the way He's changed our lives.  So here were some of the highlights:
  • It was a cool, breezy Monday evening, and people came to the show.  We were a bit concerned beforehand because it was a Monday night and a lot of people knew that it was sponsored by the and evangelical group, which often doesn't get the most positive rap here.  But at one point we counted about 75 people, and a lot more neighbors and passers-by surely heard the music.  Several sister churches brought groups, which was greatly encouraging to us, and probably about 25 people who have no connection to any evangelical church came either to check out the band or because they know us and wanted to be supportive.
  • The band rocked!  No, the lead singer didn't dive into the crowd, but there were several of us who made a mini-mosh pit during some of the heavier songs (yes, I'm speaking in the first-person).  A few of the comments we heard were, "How did you manage to get this great group to come to our little town?"  "I wish this would've been on a Friday so that more people could have come out to enjoy the show" (which we wish we could've done but the band's tour schedule wouldn't allow it).  One young lady enjoyed the band so much that she had them sign her pink leather jacket.  The band sold out of CDs, and people were impressed by the quality of the show they put on, even if they only understood the brief translations in between songs.
  • People didn't leave during the brief testimony that was shared.  We were also nervous about this because people don't want to be preached at at a rock concert...and though the good news of Jesus was clearly presented, we don't think they felt preached at.  Juan, an elder in our mother church and who happens to be from Alcora, shared about 4 minutes worth of how his encounter with Christ has filled and transformed him, and people stayed and fact, no one left during that part of the show.  Pray thatseeds, small as they may have been, were planted and that the Lord will do His work in His time, bringing them to fruition.
Below are a few photos from the evening.  Praise God with us that He is at work here in Alcora!
The pink jacket that got signed.
Juan sharing how Jesus filled his life.

A good representation of folks from our mother church in Onda.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Praying for the Nations in Alcora

One of Jesus’ final commands before ascending to heaven was to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.”  Earlier this year I went by the town hall here in Alcora to request some demographic information on the makeup of the town, and it turns out that many of the nations have come to us here!  There are some 37 distinct nationalities represented in Alcora, which makes it more diverse than we anticipated (though it’s not nearly as diverse as other towns nearer to the coast).  Here is a basic summary of the nationalities represented in Alcora:

Spaniards:                90% (9,852)
Romanians:              4.75% (519)
Moroccans:               3% (335) (some 379 total from Muslim African countries)
Hispanics:                0.8% (89)
Other Europeans:    0.7% (78)
Chinese:                   0.16% (17)
Israelis:                     0.04% (4)

With these statistics in mind, here is a suggestion for how you can pray for the nations in Alcora:

That their minds and hearts will awaken to their need for God.
  • Joel 3:12:  “Let the nations be roused; let them advance into the Valley of Jehoshaphat, for there I will sit to judge all the nations on every side.

That they will be blessed with the Good News through us (the spiritual children of Abraham):
  • Galatians 3:8:  Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”

That they will find the true, full healing that is found only in Jesus:
  • Revelation 22:1-2:  Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

Thanks for continuing to pray for Alcora with us!!!

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Visit to the JW's

A little over a week ago I paid a visit to the Jehovah's Witnesses.  A week or so before, a couple of JW's came to our door, inviting us to their annual celebration of Christ's death, which is essentially their version of the Lord's Supper.  So I went to their Kingdom Hall here in town...with certain concerns in my mind.  First, I'd never been to a meeting of a group commonly known as a cult.  Second, there is always confusion here in Spain of anything or anyone that considers itself Christian but not Roman Catholic (we've already been asked a number of times if we're JW's and then have had to begin to explain the differences), so I didn't want people who know me (as an evangelical) thinking that I belonged to their group.  And third, if put on the spot, I wasn't sure if I could defend myself in Spanish biblically and theologically.  As it turned out, none of my preoccupations were worthy of losing sleep over (thanks be to God).  Here are a few reflections or thoughts based on the experience:

  • The people were quite nice.  Perhaps it was because it was a most special occasion for them and they had worked hard inviting all the town...or perhaps that's part of their training...or perhaps they're just genuinely nice.  But I felt welcomed by the people, and they seemed interested in me.  It probably helped being the only American in the service (and in town).
  • Their meetings look an awful lot like (Spanish) evangelical worship services, especially from a Catholic perspective.  In fact, as I sat there observing and listening, I began to understand why a Spaniard whose only concept of church or a worship service is a mass happening in an ornate Catholic sanctuary would confuse the JW's and the evangelicals.  Both of our meeting places are normally storefronts, we sing a couple songs, a preacher preaches and prays up front, there are no kneelers, no images or statues, little written or memorized get the picture.  I imagine that they would have a hard time getting past the appearances to even begin to contemplate the differences in doctrine and teaching.
  • They use the Bible poorly, at least in explaining their core beliefs.  On this occasion, the preacher explained these core beliefs, taking verse after verse out of context and then saying, "So we see that this is what the Bible teaches about eternal life, heaven, the way of salvation, Jesus, etc.."  We have to be careful to use the Bible well in our services and teaching, training people to know and study the Word in its entirety.
  • Not everyone, not even the majority, took communion.  In fact, the preacher mentioned that last year some 18 million people attended this same celebration of Jesus' death worldwide, but only 11,000 actually took communion.  I'm not sure why this is, if it requires a certain number of converts or a certain amount of time in the club or what, but it struck me as interesting.
  • I need to learn a bit more about how to talk with, reason with and, perhaps, sow some seeds of doubt with JW's.  The people who invited me were quite interested in visiting me again, even knowing that I'm an evangelical pastor, so hopefully I'll have the opportunity to share Christ's love and good news with them.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Prayer for Alcora: Spiritual Warfare

In Ephesians 6:10-12, Paul affirms the reality of spiritual warfare, that we live in the midst of “enemy-occupied territory,” as C.S. Lewis put it, and that Satan has certain schemes and methods of attacking us.  But the truth is that we haven’t been thinking so much about demon possession and some of the more sensational displays of this reality (though we know this is real); rather, we’re continually reminded of the more subtle footholds and influences the enemy has in our world and culture.

One foothold we see here in Spain, and surely around the world (and even in our own lives) is the blatant materialism and the desire for more and more stuff.  We don’t have time to go into a deep discussion of it, but we’re convinced that this is a clear foothold and distraction that the enemy is quite pleased with…and that we’re unaware of much of the time.

Another subtle scheme of the enemy that we see, especially at this time of the year, Semana Santa, here in Spain, is the participation in the grand processions and other religious activities of this season.  Don’t get me wrong:  we're not necessarily against the Catholic Church nor religious processions, in and of themselves.  But this week many will go out to see the processions out of pure tradition, or habit, or boredom, without really thinking about why Jesus’ death makes a difference.  Others will participate to uphold a promise they made to God or the Virgin, thinking that this is really all that God expects of them, all the while missing the profound, eternity-shaking significance of what Christ has done in His death and resurrection (even as they watch the processions which represent Jesus’ sufferings).  From our point of view, this is a very subtle and, therefore, powerful hold that the enemy has on many Spaniards, keeping them from knowing God in a real way.

So please pray with us this month:
  • That God will cause Spaniards to question why they are going out to see the processions and what the death and resurrection of Jesus truly means for them.
  •  That God will give us opportunities to be good observers of the people and culture here in Alcora during the processions.
  • That God will give us opportunities to have good conversations with people here about the meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
  • That God will protect us from the schemes and attacks of the enemy as we continue to serve Him here.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Our 2nd Anniversary!!!

Two years ago this morning we arrived in Madrid as new missionaries in Spain.  I still hardly knew the language and Rachel had a roller coaster of emotions about coming back to the land of her birth and childhood.  Since that day, a lot has changed for us.  We've lived in Córdoba and then moved to Alcora, here in eastern Spain.  I've learned the language...or, rather, I'm still learning the language.  We've gone from being the newest missionaries on the field to being somewhat new missionaries whom the more seasoned ones consult when they have questions about the newest arrivals.  We've gone from being missionaries purely in language acquisition and cultural adaptation to being church planters, even though I'm still perfecting the language and we're still observing and learning about the local culture here in Alcora.  Oh yeah, and we've gone from being a couple to being a family, with the addition of our precious Miriam Joy.

Thinking about this, I have two reflections.  First, God has been incredibly faithful to us in countless ways.  From finding apartments to rent to the details of moves and Miriam's birth and paperwork and ministry and faithful supporters who make it possible for us to do what we do, it is clear that our Lord has walked ahead of us, with us, and behind us with each step of our journey.   We are profoundly grateful for this.

Second, as we've talked about our journey lately, we feel like we've reached the end of the honeymoon stage of our transition from missionary candidates to missionaries.  The first year and a half here was chocked full of firsts and novelties:  new language and culture to learn, completing language school, the grand accomplishment of getting our drivers licenses, my first sermon in Spanish, new trips and places to see, moving to Alcora to begin a new ministry, becoming part of a new team, and becoming new parents.  Now there aren't quite so many "BIG" things to look forward to, and we are settling into a certain mundane, routine life living here in Alcora and discerning how we can best serve as Jesus' witnesses to the people of this pueblo.  And, quite honestly, there is something new and bewildering about this stage of the "mundane," so please pray that we will walk with the Lord closely as we continue our journey with Him during this third year of our life in Spain.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Miriam's 9 Months Old!!!

So we're celebrating that our little Miriam has now been living outside the womb longer than she lived inside it!  She's doing all sorts of new things like saying "Mama" and "Dada," crawling (still figuring out how to crawl on her knees instead of doing the army crawl), and trying to grab Daddy's cell phone to play with it whenever she can.  So here are a few of our favorite photos from the past few months, and you can see more HERE.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Alcora Prayer Update: the Economy

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor...(Luke 4:18)

As we mentioned in last month’s prayer update, the economy of Alcora is built on the ceramic tile industry, which has been hit hard by the economic crisis the Spain is still in.  Let me give you a clearer picture of what this looks like. 
The ceramic tile factories extend for miles around Alcora.
There are about 150 ceramic tile factories in and around Alcora, and about 5 years ago during the economic boom with all of the construction going on in Spain and around the world, there would be as many as 50,000 people working in Alcora (a town of 11,000) during the day.  Not only this, but the factories were working around the clock producing tiles and shipping them to all parts of the world.  People were moving here from all over Spain and even Europe to find work because there was plenty of it.  One of our acquaintances explained to us that there were so many jobs in the factories that if you didn’t like working in one, you simply went to another one without any trouble, and you would almost never think about working for lower wages in the supermarket.

Now almost anyone would love to work in the supermarket.  A neighbor upstairs who has been a director in one of the factories around here for quite some time told me that many factories that before had 1,000 or more employees are now down to 40 or 50, simply because there is little demand for the tiles right now.  There are literally thousands of palettes of tiles sitting in storage waiting for a buyer.  Our downstairs neighbor who’s been laid off for more than half a year told me that he’s put his resume in at about 60 factories in the area and has yet to hear anything back.  The latest statistics that I’ve found show that over 25% of the workforce in Alcora is unemployed, and 42% of those under 35 are unemployed.  The outlook is pessimistic as the economic forecasters say they don’t expect to see Spain begin to recover until 2012 or 2013.  Most people around here agree that the ceramic tile industry will never return to what it was just a few years ago.
One of the many factories with tiles stockpiled, waiting for a buyer.
In the midst of this gloomy economic situation, here are some points for prayer:
  • That God will use this time of financial crisis for His glory, causing people here to look beyond themselves and materialism for provision, significance and true life. 
  • That God will provide for the needs of Alcorinos. 
  • That God will guide us in discerning how we can be a part of the previous point:  whether it’s delivering groceries for families in need, opening up a food pantry or a secondhand clothing center.
Thanks for praying with us for Alcora!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Christmas Cookies...

"Wise men still seek Him..."
Well, this post is a bit late, now that we're past the Christmas season, but we thought it was worth mentioning.  Given that we had been living in our apartment in Alcora for about 7 months around Christmas time and had yet to meet all of our neighbors, and since Christmas is a great time to mention Christ (though this is getting less and less common all over the Western world), we decided to make Christmas cookies and cards for our neighbors.  The responses were quite positive:

  • Many neighbors were very surprised and appreciative:  surprised because it's not common to do thing in Spain (in fact, it never happens) and appreciative because, hey, who doesn't like cookies?
  • A couple neighbors went from skeptical (who are you and why are you at my door?) to confused (you want to give me cookies?) to appreciative (I guess this is all right and, by the way, thanks for the cookies).
  • One neighbor was clearly high from smoking marijuana...He was quite happy and appreciative (wreaking of pot).  We figured he and his buddies would be appreciative for something to cure the munchies.
  • The neighbor directly below us said, "(Expletive!!!) I can't believe that you're doing this.  I mean, I've seen that Americans do this sort of thing in the movies, but I never expected that someone would actually come to my doors to give me cookies and a card!  Thanks so much...Wow, I just can't believe someone would think of others like this!"  Then he and his wife invited us in for coffee, and we spent half an hour or so getting to know them while the wife played with little Miriam.
So apart from giving the Christmas card with a brief but clearly Christ-centered message on it, we didn't "share the Gospel" directly with anyone.  But our neighbors now know who we are, we've formally met, and we can talk with them a little more comfortably when we pass in the hallways or on the elevator.  And this is the foundation for building deeper relationships with them in the future so that we can talk about the deeper things of life and faith.  And, by the way, they probably already know we're the strange evangelical Christian foreigners.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Alcora Prayer Update

Chapel 'El Calvario' that overlooks Alcora
As we start the Alcora Prayer Campaign, we want to give you a basic sketch of the pueblo and why we’re here.  Located just northwest of Castellón de la Plana, the capital city of the province of Castellón, Alcora has a population of about 11,000 (click here for a map).  The driving force of the economy here is the ceramic tile industry, but the industry is going nowhere at the moment due to the economic crisis that Spain continues to face.  We’ll hopefully give you a more detailed look at the economic problems of the area in a future update.

Religious Influences 
Spiritually, Alcora is known as a very traditional Catholic pueblo.  There are three main Catholic churches here, with some smaller chapels and hermitage sites scattered around the nearby countryside.  Even though there seems to be a deep-rooted Catholicism here, the vast majority of Alcorinos are very nominally Catholic, participating in the religious festivals once a year and going to church only to marry and to bury.  We have yet to meet the three priests here, so we can’t say if they know the Lord personally or not.  I went to mass once in December, and the priest’s homily was actually quite Christ-centered.

Aside from the Catholic Church, there is a Kingdom Hall of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and a Pentecostal Romanian church, whose obvious mission is to reach the 500 or so Romanians who live around here (and Spaniards, if they’re interested in learning Romanian).  The Assemblies of God in Castellón city had Alcora as a mission point until the end of 2010 but decided not to continue here for various reasons.  And, of course, we are here as an extension of Església Bona Nova (the Good News Church) in the neighboring town of Onda.  They’ve had Alcora on their hearts since 2008 or so, and we are working together with them to share Christ with Alcorinos, hopefully resulting in some sort of church plant.  What does that mean?  What will this church plant look like? 

That’s exactly what we’re asking you to pray with us about.  We don’t have it all figured out when it comes to sharing the Good News with Alcorinos or planting a church in this context.  We want God’s direction as we begin ministry here.  We know that only God can touch and change people’s hearts and that He has invited us to be a part of that here in Alcora.

A Few Brief Prayer Points:
  • That God will give us guidance as we seek to expand His Kingdom here in Alcora.
  • That God will protect us from the enemy as we live and minister here.
  • That Alcorinos’ hearts will be softened to Jesus’ Good News.
  • That we will have ears to hear and eyes to see the people He’s already working in.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Prayer Campaign for Alcora

As new missionaries working in a new town, the biggest question is, "Where do we start?"  Yes, we have a regular Bible study in Alcora, and we are slowly developing relationships with people here, but how do we move forward?  Time and time again there Lord has laid on our hearts the need to begin with prayer, seeking Him and His guidance for this new ministry, asking Him to move in the hearts of Alcorinos, and being sensitive to His leading.  So beginning in this month we're beginning a focused, intentional campaign of prayer for Alcora to do just this.  You can be a part of this movement in a few different ways:

  1. Facebook:  if you're on Facebook, click HERE to join the group "Prayer for Alcora."  You'll receive a regular email to know how to pray specifically for Alcora.
  2. Email:  if you're not on Facebook, email us at to receive the same prayer updates we'll send out on Facebook.
  3. Skype:  if you're on Skype, let us know via email or Skype message (to bjwhit14) if you'd like to set up a time to pray with us personally for Alcora (or just to chat!).
In addition to having friends around the globe praying for Alcora, the church we're working with in this church plant vision, Església Bona Nova in Onda (a neighboring town), will be sending groups here twice a month to walk the streets and pray with us for the pueblo, one of the groups being the youth group, which is exciting for us.  So this is really a glocal effort to see lives changed by the Good News of Jesus.