On Saturday, December 3rd, we headed south to Spain. We were excited that we had met someone in Germany who was on our same flight to Malaga. She helped us navigate the airport and sat with us on our trip over.
Once in Malaga, we were picked up and brought to the guest apartment. It’s been nice to be able to settle into our own apartment this week. Please forgive any missing details in our description of our time here, as the sensitive nature of some of the mission work here means there are many things we can’t say.
Sunday morning we attended a Spanish church with one of the couples who work here. It was a unique experience as we rode there by bus, the church itself having no parking. It was located right in the middle of a city block, sandwiched between shops. Not at all the type of church I am used to. We were welcomed enthusiastically by the congregation and were very thoroughly hugged and kissed when all was said and done. In Spain you greet people with a kiss on each cheek. I was thankful for my experience with Latin American friends so that this practice was not too completely foreign to me. Our measly amount of Spanish was not enough to help us follow along with the service, but one of the congregation offered to sit by us and translate, which was wonderful. I found the worship of this small city church to be authentic and open, and enjoyed the time we spent there.
After a wonderful meal served by our hosts for the day, we headed back downtown where we explored the castle ruins, saw the spectacular Chrismas lights of Malaga, viewed an elaborately detailed nativity scene (quite popular here) at City Hall, and ate paella at a street cafe.
The next morning we joined the mission staff at their daily prayer time. We have been encouraged to see the emphasis on regular prayer together, and the family atmosphere makes this a very comfortable place. We were given a tour of the mission grounds after prayer time, and were able to talk with several people about their projects and work. It is wonderful to see how God is working through these people. Monday afternoon I was invited to go along with a couple of ladies on a shopping trip downtown. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing what a city this size has to offer.
The culture of Spain is quite different than what we are used to. For one thing the schedule is shifted later. The work day tends to start late here. Lunch is usually about 2 pm and is the largest meal of the day. Many people have off 2-3 hours in the afternoon and many shops are closed for siesta. Tapas (small snacks) are popular after the work day (around 7 pm). The last meal of the day is often not eaten until about 9 pm. It has taken some getting used to, and for the first few days we found ourselves eating quite often to get through the day.
Tuesday we met with the director and his wife. We heard a short history on the mission and the ministry here. It was a great conversation. In the afternoon and evening John and I enjoyed a date night complete with a walk on the mediterranean beach, sunset views of Malaga from the top of the castle, and pizza at a street cafe.
On Wednesday morning I tagged along to a street market with some of the ladies, while John spent some time working on a computer project. In the afternoon, while John continued to work, I joined the ladies and kids at their weekly kids club. This is for all the missionary kids at the mission here to have a time to spend together. Some of them are homeschooled and some are in the Spanish education system, but they all get along quite well. I had some very encouraging talks with some of the ladies. I have met several women on this trip that will always stand out to me as examples of godly women embracing their call in life. I was also able to help in putting up some Christmas decorations, which was nice, as I don’t have the skills to contribute in the same way John is able to.
Thursday we spent most of the day with the director and his wife in Mijas, a town on top of a mountain near here. The views were spectacular and John enjoyed returning to a restaurant he remembered from his time here 10 years ago. As we were doing some Christmas shopping in the town we enjoyed watching the town put up their Christmas tree. It was completely made of recycled plastic bottles. They had cut and painted them to look like flowers and spirals and then fastened them to a net structure. It was bright pink and blue and green, so quite a different look than you’d expect, but really fun and cheerful.
We had planned on taking a day trip Friday, but we were both feeling tired, so we didn’t do much most of the day. In the evening we went back out to wander around town and do a little more shopping. Today, we’ve also spent our time resting, knowing that the travel day tomorrow will be long and that Monday morning, bright and early, our usual life will start up again. This week has been harder for me as I have been missing the kids. I’m really looking forward to giving them great big hugs and kisses tomorrow evening.
Thanks for all your prayers during this time, and as we continue to reflect, consider, and pray about the future.