Dear family and friends in Christ,
Greetings again from Spain
After a lovely Christmas spent in rural Suffolk with Sarah’s dad, we travelled back to Malaga on New Year’s Day. It was good to be back in our own beds and to see friends again after six months away. The boys were particularly thrilled to re-connect with their friends, and happy to have a week free before starting back in their schools. We were grateful that both schools had reserved their places and set aside their text books (most of them).
The first weeks back we decided to ease our way back into work slowly. Having been away so long, we didn’t want to “take over” what our colleagues had been capably doing during that time. It was lovely to dip in and out and catch up with where people were at but, by the end of January, we were back in full swing.
Just before we returned to Spain at New Year, we received news that the Centro Luz in Malaga was experiencing some difficulties. The director was having to close the Centre due to lack of funding. A group from different international mission agencies met and decided to try and keep the Centre open, using the same name so as not to lose registration with the central food bank. Centro Luz now has a new management team involving a number of these agencies. In Spain, most ministries are quite independent and, often, heavily dependent on one person running them. By sharing responsibility, and with more capacity, we hope to grow stronger – with God’s help.
Please pray that God will allow us to keep Centro Luz open and to carry on this essential work of God’s provision for those in need. We are passionate about what the future holds for the Centre, and we give thanks to God for his faithfulness over the past nine years since it was founded. We are grateful for Ab, who had the vision to see this great project established for the glory of God, to see justice and restoration of many. Praise God for all those that have been through the Centre, those who have come to faith in the Lord Jesus through it.
“The living God is a God of justice and mercy and He will be satisfied with nothing less than a people in whom His justice and mercy are alive.” Lesslie Newbigin, British theologian.
At the moment, Centro Luz is open two days a week, Tuesday and Thursday, providing food and encouragement to around 200 families a month. The economic situation, following the 2008 crash, has not really improved with continued mass unemployment, low salaries and short-term contracts. For many people, their government benefits have run out. Spanish debt has rocketed and even pensions are running out of funds, leaving the elderly in a very precarious situation. Andalucía struggles particularly, being so reliant on the tourist industry. Many businesses only make a profit during the summer months which does provide extra work from April to October, but then it dries up again. For those of you planning a holiday this year, we highly recommend the Malaga area! Help us support the local economy!
Asociación Benéfica Cristiana
In our six months spent in the UK, the team of volunteers at the ABC very ably continued running the clothes bank/shop and developed quite a regular clientele. The shop is now making just enough to cover the basic rent of the premises. Unfortunately, attracting members of the public to the shop is an uphill struggle. Imagine that for most of your life you have struggled financially. Once you are able to afford new clothes (all-be-it from Primark or a supermarket), it seems like taking a step back into poverty to use secondhand clothes. That is the reality for many Spaniards. As a result, most of the people who browse our clothes sales section are our own food bank clients, for whom needs must. We are hoping to work on social media publicity in the coming months, and also need to update our website, in a bid to attract more regular clients and financial donors too. Pray that we find a competent and committed volunteer to help us do this and that we can further increase our clientele.
In our last link letter, we asked prayer for financial provision for Nancy, the ABC’s manager. In the past month she started working part-time for a local Christian mission group, helping with administration. Praise God for this provision.
The ABC has also struggled financially in the last year, frustrated by a delayed grant payment from the local council. In mid-March the town mayor finally promised to fast-track the payment but, until it’s in the bank, we don’t quite believe it. In April we apply for this year’s grant. Please pray for continued favour with the local council, that they will commit to supporting us with rental costs for the food bank premises in the longer term. Alhaurín’s other food bank, run by the Catholic charity Caritas, has also now closed, and its clients are transferring to the ABC. We are providing food to about 300 families (approx. 900 individuals) on a weekly and monthly basis, and that number will now increase with the new clients.
Meanwhile, we are grateful for deepening relationships with our volunteers. A few weeks after Easter, Sarah and a colleague will be starting a ladies’ breakfast and informal Bible study on Friday mornings at the ABC, for which we would appreciate prayer.
For those that know about personality typing and Myers Briggs, if you were to analyse Andalusian society it would tend to be Extrovert (processing information out-loud and thriving in group situations), Intuitive (taking in information based on intuition and focusing on the big picture rather than details), Feeling (making decisions based on emotions rather than logical rationale) and Perceptive (preferring spontaneity over routine).
How one interacts with any given society will depend on your own preferences as an individual. No one tendency is good or bad, but it does make certain interactions more taxing than others, depending on one’s personality.
Last summer, at a CMS conference, someone shared the importance of maintaining margins around activity, especially when working in a mission context. We have learned that, because of the spontaneous and flexible nature of society here, even more margin is needed when planning activities. One has to be prepared that things may start on time but, equally, may be half an hour late. Someone’s response to you or willingness to help with the endless bureaucracy will likely depend on how they feel at that particular moment. People’s preference is probably to do things in a group rather than one-to-one, which is often perceived as somewhat threatening. And attention to detail? Why bother, so long as it’s more-or-less okay.
For those that thrive in this type of environment, it is easy to be so surrounded by people and activity that there is no time for reflection, family or more intimate friendships. And for those whose personality makes interacting in this environment tiring, one can easily get run down and exhausted. For both, it is important to ensure that activities are cushioned with extra time to allow for the un-foreseen, and that each week provides time to re-charge one’s physical, emotional and spiritual batteries. For each of us it means different things: perhaps a solitary cycle ride, a trip to the gym, going for a beer with close friends, relaxing watching Netflix, having a coffee, reading a devotional book and journaling, or a good meal out (for the boys, read Burger King or McDonald’s... the jury is still out on which!).
For a long time, we have longed to be part of a fellowship group that would really be able to engage with some of our friends who, although not keen to commit to traditional church, are happy to talk about issues of faith. On our return, Felipe met a couple who have been involved in starting church fellowships in other parts of Spain and have now moved to our town. They also happen to be helping out in Centro Luz. Conversations led to plans, and in March we started to meet on a Sunday evening with one or two of our friends joining us. The aim is to spend plenty of time chatting over coffee, followed by reading a short Bible passage and allowing everyone to share what they think it says about God, humanity and how that might affect their day-to-day lives (or not). We hope that, with time, more friends will start to join in and that the Spirit will work in both them and us, as we let Scripture speak into our lives.
So, as you have just celebrated Easter and been reminded of Jesus’ final meal with his disciples, may you, too, be encouraged to keep enjoying food and fellowship with friends and with those you are striving to reach out to. May the justice and mercy shown on the cross be evident in your dealings with others. And may the hope of the resurrection bring you comfort and joy.
Felipe and Sarah