125th Anniversary Trip: The Iberian Peninsula

“Please tell people, ‘We don’t want your money. We don’t want your buildings. We just want you here, embracing Spain and helping us.’” 

Written by Ronne Rock / Photos by Ronne Rock and TEAM

The cross rises from granite boulders on a protected ridge

of the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range in central Spain. The largest Latin cross in Europe grasps for the heavens, and on clear days, it can be seen in parts of Madrid — more than an hour’s drive away.

Both the cross and the basilica underneath it were built with brawn and blood. Commissioned by Francis- co Franco to honor the Spanish Civil War, which took 2 million lives in the 1930s, the Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen) is his self-proclaimed “act of atonement” to reconcile the nation his regime divided.

It took 19 years for nearly 2,500 people to chip away at the mountain that became church and crypt and cross. Some volunteered their time out of loyalty to party and cause, but some were Franco’s enemies. He made a deal with those imprisoned for opposing him: They would build his masterpiece in trade for steps toward liberty — a liberty they would never taste.

To many, the memorial is a reminder of religious and political oppression. To many, the cross represents anything but liberty. The good news travels slowly here, with years passing before conversations about Christ are welcomed.

But in a small neighborhood outside Sevilla, on October 16, a celebration took place in the sanctuary of a church. National pastors and TEAM ministry leaders told of the power of collaborative partnerships. They gathered to savor the 125th anniversary of TEAM over family recipes and testimonies of God’s faithfulness.

  • Church at Tire Warehouse

    The Porto church's long journey has meant meeting in makeshift sanctuaries, including a tire warehouse.

  • New Permanent Church Home

    In Porto, a permanent church home was finally built, and the church can now worship without fear of being cast out.

  • Valle de los Caídos

    The cross rises from granite boulders on a protected ridge of the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range in central Spain. The largest Latin cross in Europe grasps for the heavens, and on clear days, it can be seen in parts of Madrid — more than an hour’s drive away.

“When I was searching for meaning, it was a TEAM missionary who spoke to me.”

“When I was searching for meaning, it was a TEAM missionary who spoke to me,” said one local pastor. “When I was ready to be baptized, it was a TEAM missionary who stepped in the water with me. When I believed God was asking me to be a pastor, it was a TEAM missionary who walked with me. And now we are here. We pray and we laugh and we eat. I believe Jesus prayed and laughed and ate with His friends. Because He is the life.”

A few hours south, in a working class village outside of Porto, Portugal, another celebration took place two days later.

“God is making history. And we are part of that history,” shared the pastor of an evangelical church 20 years in the making.

The room shook with the sound of singing, and tears filled the eyes of the TEAM missionaries who remembered when the thriving church was a simple Bible study in the living room of an apartment. Until the apartment owners shut it down.

Undaunted, the group found a public space next to a pub and started worshiping again. The church was again shut down after the pub said the singing was disruptive to its patrons. A nearby restaurant welcomed the group, and the church remained there until there was no space left for people to enter. A local businessman then shared his tire warehouse, and the church continued to grow. Now, led by nationals, the church has its own building — and the pastor says it is time for the congregation of 200 to plant new churches.

“Our country needs us to share the gospel,” he said as hands were lifted in worship around him. “We have received. And it is our turn to give.”

At the celebration in Sevilla, a woman asked to sing. She had recently been baptized, and this was her first time to sing a song that has become her anthem. She walked to the microphone, and her voice filled the room: “With his blood, he has saved me. With his power, he has raised me.”

A prayer followed for the 7,000 towns in Spain still awaiting someone willing to share the good news in this region where years may pass before someone welcomes a conversation about Christ.

Another pastor rose from his seat, and his words echoed in the room: “Please tell people, ‘We don’t want your money. We don’t want your buildings. We just want you here, embracing Spain and helping us.’”

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