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 bj.whitaker@ecmi.org 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.