I spent six days in Spain this summer. Six days of beauty and history – rolling hills, olive trees, old buildings, vineyards, white houses, and cobblestone streets. It really is like how I imagined it would be.
It was a whirlwind tour – I met around fifty people, had long, intentional discussions with about twenty people, saw a good portion of six cities, had at least two history lessons, heard incredible stories, experienced sincere hospitality, studied the Bible with Spaniards, enjoyed eating snails and pan con tomate, made new friends, and ultimately realized that I really wish I’d studied harder during high school Spanish.
My mind is still spinning from all the information I took in, and I know it’s going to take a while to process all of the wonderful and challenging lessons I’ve learned. However, amidst the chaos in my mind, one thing stands out.
Ministry is difficult in Spain. And in some ways, I understand why. After all, the memory of the Inquisition still lingers, and Spaniards are understandably wary of anything that looks too much like organized religion. And honestly, it’d be hard to blame them for that. I would be skeptical too if my innocent friends and family were killed in the name of the church.
Faith, then, is an intensely private thing in Spain, which means that it rarely emerges in conversations among anything but the closest of friends. Add to that the thoroughly pluralistic worldview that permeates this culture, and the fact that many cities in Spain don’t even have one body of believers meeting together. In other word, these days, you can’t just invite a Spaniard to church and think that you’ve done your part to build the kingdom.
One thing that’s true of ministry in any context is that it’s easy to get discouraged if we judge our success by observable results alone. However, when we keep our eyes on Christ and realize that He is the One doing the work, there is freedom. We’re not bogged down by the results that we want, but are able to trust His timing and give Him glory for how He works in people’s hearts. At the same time, this freedom doesn’t give allowance for laziness and apathy. In fact, it gives us even more reason to faithfully live out the Gospel and take advantage of the opportunities that come our way.
Throughout my conversations with those ministering in Spain, faithfulness was a common theme. How do they approach ministry? By being faithful, exemplifying Christ each day, and trusting that it is God who does the work. And that’s really what we all should be doing. As we faithfully live as Christ did, people will see a difference; as the Lord works in their hearts, they will be drawn to Him. We may not see the fruit of our labor, but we are still called to be faithful, reflecting Christ’s own faithfulness to us. So, as Hebrews 10 states, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope, without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”
-Written by Kristin Dykstra, TEAM missions coach
-Photography by Kristin Dykstra