From flying visits to deep friendships

Felipe and Sarah Yanez, mission partners working to bring encouragement and hope through Christ in Malaga, Spain, share with us the joys they have found in visiting their supporting churches.


I have spent nearly my entire life visiting link churches. As a child of missionaries, my first visits were at the age of only a few months and we would visit all their supporting churches every three or four years when on home leave.

I have fond memories of “typical” English food: Wagon Wheel biscuits and Quality Street chocolates among my favourites.

For the Yanez family (pictured top), visiting supporting churches involves careful planning – and a colour-coded map!

Late night drives back from various corners of the UK to rural Suffolk also come to mind, usually curled up on the back seat of an Ichthus Motors rented car, wrapped in a blanket, exhausted after the whistle-stop weekend visit.

Several years later, having married and as mission partners with SAMS and CMS in Birmingham, Felipe and I would travel to visit our supporting churches in various parts of the country.

Again, these were usually brief weekend trips. Even after our two boys were born, we continued having short weekend visits, returning home on Sunday afternoons.

Re-thinking “missionary journeys”

Once we moved to Spain in 2007, still with CMS, we decided to change the nature of our visits.

Different friends have very kindly loaned us their “spare” cars and, so as to not over-burden my parents by living in their small house for two months, we decided to plan our church visits geographically and spend more time visiting each area.

This has meant asking our churches to host us not just for the weekend, but for three to four nights at a time.

A typical “Yanez missionary journey” might be Ipswich to Uxbridge (three nights – Sunday visit) to Oxford (two nights for a visit to the CMS office) to Gloucester (three nights – Sunday visit) to Birmingham (five nights – midweek visits to two churches and friends) then return to Ipswich. The difference in mileage: 450 instead of 1,120 miles.

Although the reduced mileage has been a great blessing (to both the environment and our sanity), the greatest impact has been on our relationships with our supporting churches.

Shared stories

Those who have hosted us, who have been so generous and hospitable in opening their homes, have been such a blessing to us.

Conversations over meal preparation, while washing up together or sitting around in the evening have led to some amazing friendships.

We have so loved to hear our hosts’ stories; to get to know something of their families, to understand more about our link churches and the local community, the joys and the challenges.

And so as not to overwhelm our hosts, we always ask for invitations out for meals with other folk from the church as well, or sometimes take ourselves out to local sites of interest or shopping malls so as to have some family time.

And for our boys, having several days in each place has meant they, too, have got to know other children from the churches and there is also a sense of being on holiday as we look for fun activities to do with them.

From supporters to fellow workers

So now, after 12 years in Spain, when we visit the UK and go up to York or Meltham, it’s not just to visit the churches in order to tell them what we’re doing. Instead we look forward to a re-encounter with dear friends we have made, to hear how members of their families are doing, to meet the new vicars and to pop into the Sculpture Park as we drive down the M1.

In Nailsea, it would be a trip to Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm, where we’d remember our race through the maze with Jenny, and see the new skate park in town which was about to be inaugurated at our last visit.

And in Birmingham, we would see our extended “Sparkhill family” who we don’t have a lot of contact with but who will always feel like home. We’d go out for a good curry (or two) and catch up with Maddy and Zac, who would probably be thrilled to see the boys.

Then in Hemel Hempstead we’d see Joseph, “the one who plays tennis, whose house we stayed in,” and Joe, “with the trampoline, where we had a barbecue”.

And we mustn’t forget our church in Woking, catching up with babyhood friends from Birmingham days and visiting other friends who have since moved from the church but continue to support us.

And there are more supporting churches, all equally important to us.

Our 13 churches are not just financial supporters (although that is essential for us to remain in Spain), but they are also fellow mission workers striving, as we are, to carry out God’s mission in the families and communities where he has placed them.

Published 21 October 2019
Europe, Middle East and North Africa

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