Sunday, July 10

First Sunday

Church in Tarragona is only on Sunday night, so we got dressed and were picked up about 6:30, still very sunny. Drove to an industrial park where one of the warehouses has been converted into the Iglesia...I've forgotten the other words in the church name. I'll be back so I will learn it. They sang several songs that I recognized - Holy is the Lord God Almighty, the whole earth is filled with his glory...another: I want to see you Lord, and maybe one other I knew. It's weird even though I knew them I couldn't think of the English words; I guess because my brain was trying so hard on the Spanish overhead. Santo, Santo, Santo was the Holy, Holy, Holy part of one song I figured out. It was contemporary, loud, not dressed up though no shorts.

Mostly young people only maybe 5 or 6 older people - 2 were a pastor's parents visiting from Argentina and the other 2 were the senior pastor and his wife (he's Spanish, she's from Sweden). I liked the idea that the young people here are hungry for a new taste of God, not settling for what was in the past, but I'm so used to the mix of generations at our home church that I missed it.

The people were friendly - you haven't been to church if you leave after service the missionary told us. It's expected that you stay and visit. It's always cool to be with a new body of believers somewhere, but here we couldn't understand the words much. The heart was evident and ernest. I did feel like I'd been to church though the sermon went completely over my head. Don't even know the topic. At the end, everyone stood in prayer and cried out for the city and for more people to come to know Christ (I know this because a missionary friend translated the instructions for me). It was a powerful moment - loud prayer I couldn't understand with my brain, but that I could join in wholeheartedly. Cool.

Our current hosting missionaries have asked us to participate in an English speaking outreach two weeks from now. We'll see what happens.


Friday, July 8

Descriptive Update

The sun is already high here in Spain. This morning I spent ironing a green T-shirt in a marble-floored kitchen. We will be in this ground-floor apartment until Sept. 6. There are huge sliding doors in each room that walk out onto the patio. The patio is about 20 feet from the pool. A little further out from the pool is a set of double-train tracks. All manner of freaky-lookin trains rumble through at all hours - including a high-speed passenger train that travels about 160mph and looks like a bullet.

The Spanish people are very friendly and not intimidating. Even the "big tough" guys are all about my size with dark short hair and maybe a beard. I am anxious to make friends. This apartment is a blessing. I don't want to brag too much about it - because entering a new culture for a long stay with jet-lag is actually pretty terrifying - even if it is Spain. If it was just a 3-month term I would be more relaxed. A 3-year term after saying goodbye to everyone can be very claustrophobic. I even have to relearn how to find a light-switch - nevermind making a simple left-hand turn. This is a long ways from being confident in any situation anywhere in the USA. But I can cope, and am looking forward to normalization.

As for the London bombings. We get about 8 channels here on TV. There are about 4 Spanish channels including Dubbed over American Sitcoms (Everybody Loves Raymonde! and Full Casa!) The other English channel is British CNN. As you can imagine - we are watching non-stop coverage. Interesting that the Spanish News channel had a special on Global Terrorism that included many shots of the Twin Towers, their own Madrid train bombings, and the latest British catastrophe. They feel a common bond, and have very strong reactive emotions.

Although it sounds like we're living the high-life right now, my impression of Spain is a combination of things. Think: New Mexico meets Italy meets Legoland meets Wyandotte Co. and you have a basic foundation. Funny - I feel very at home here, although the uniforms of the police are a bit intimidating. I believe that the law is less about function and more about a show of strength. This maybe left over from the dictatorship of General Franco which only ended about the same time the very first StarWars movie came out in the USA in 1977.

Most of my impressions will change as I learn more. It hasn't even been 24 hours yet. In a few months we will move to the interior of the country near Madrid - where the temperature was 104F today. Yes - things will change.

As for our schedule. We will be the first of 4 couples to go start this rotation of language school. We will drive a few kliks over the hill to a small compound of sorts that overlooks a large (beautiful!) chicken farm. Our first vehicle is a van. Around Sept. we will driving a bigger white van nicknamed the "bus" because it is so huge. Should be fun driving it on the extremely twisty roads. It is probably a stick-shift.

We will be "driven" hard in language school by an older lady from Argentina who we must call Professora. Her nickname is "Franca" after the previously mentioned Dictator Franco. Fair warning! The reason I call the ministry center a compound is because it has an iron gate and low walls and sits on a slope. It is not very big and has about three connected buildings all in various states of repair. It was bought from a bankrupt business man for a song. The goal is to create a "Celtic model" monastary for Christians there. The hope is to draw mature Christians as well as desperate "pagans" to the place for a monastic time of quiet, work, study, and reflection. This model worked well in Ireland with St. Patrick. Instead of planting churches, you also bring in the oppressed who are looking for peace and let them see the benfits of Christian living. This type of model is an experiment by A/G missionaries who hope to spread the paradigm into the rest of Europe. Interesting that here in Tarragona, the locals strongly believe that Paul was the first Christian to land here.


Thursday, July 7

First Impressions

Today I first saw Spain from an airplane. A bird's eye view of the Pyranees mountains with snow bits still on the top dividing France from Spain. The valleys were filled with tan and green patches of rural agriculture. As we neared the city tile roofs came into view and the Mediterranean sea.

Barcelona was only an airport and a freeway. It was good to get here finally. We were delayed three hours in Atlanta by Tropical Storm Cindy.

We came right back to Tarragona where the Language school and ministry center are located. It's wonderful coming to an already established missionary community. The veterans pick you up and hand carry you every where. It gives the attled, jet lagged brain a break.

We've been in two homes - impressions - marble floors, metal slide down shutters, more contemporary furnishings, small rooms but more rooms than I expected. Square toilets, a variety of flushing methods.

A trip to the grocery store - a big super Walmart type of place called Carrefour. People dress up more here and seem friendly. We bumped into someone from church that the lady taking us knew and they all introduced themselves and their kids. (in Spanish of course). There was a whole isle for yogurt and one whole side of an aisle for varieties of sausage including big legs of hams (including the hoof). We didn't study this because we were just too tired. I couldn't make a decision about how many paper towel rolls to buy, fortunately the woman with us made it for me.

All the traffic signs and brands of groceries remind me a lot of the things we dealt with in Belgium, so it is bringing back lots of memories.

So far a good thing. Looking forward to sleeping in a real bed tonight.