Wednesday, June 29, 2011

For Leigh, With Love.

For our new friend and sister, Leigh. We miss you already! 
         We were so blessed to have this incredible roommate for our first two and a half weeks here in Barcelona. She arrived the same day as we did, and we pretty much bonded from that very first airport meeting.  Leigh has been to this city and has worked with this ministry two times before, and knows the ropes very well.  What a Godsend to be immediately connected with someone who already had so much knowledge of this place and how to serve Jesus here. 
Leigh, thank you so much for being so awesome all the time.  Thank you for all of your direction giving, grocery advice, English to Spanish translations, food sharing and all of the great memories made. 
Leigh's love for the people here is beautiful, and they ALL love her so much!
We will miss having dinners together at 11:00 pm every night... come back!!!
Some people just get "ok" roommates. We certainly did not.  Can't wait to be with you again in Barcelona soon!
Anna and Maddi 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Barcelona, Day Seventeen: Fireworks

Every second of every day, very loud, very explosive fireworks go off all around us.  This is how we feel about them...
 Whoever you are, we will find you. 
But, seriously. 

That's all. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Day in Heaven: Montserrat

Our ministry takes the day off every Monday, and we are planning to make the most of these awesome days!  --Praise the Lord for Spanish siestas!!-- 

This past Monday, we were talked into going to see Montserrat, although it didn't take too much for us to be persuaded. Let's be honest: a 600-year-old monastery on the top of a mountain? Yes, please. 

Our day started off in true European style. We stopped by our local panaderia to pick up a freshly baked baguette for our picnic....and maybe a xocolata croissant. 

Then on to the train station. Ipods, we've learned, are a must have while traveling through this city.  
(No, Maddi's arm is not deformed or double jointed. Just a funny angle)
Our Destinacion
Our transportation

The monastery was incredible. It held so much history and beauty inside. 

We also took a funicular to the very top of the mountain, where we had our picnic and hiked to several different ancient hermitages hidden in the mountains.
Anna soaking it all in. We were simply speechless.
 Our DELICIOUS picnic lunch: fresh baguette, homemade pesto, swiss cheese, baby peaches, and oranges.
Pretty perfect place for a picnic, eh?
The monastery was beautiful, but clearly a well-visited tourist attraction. These tiny hermitages on the other hand seemed suspended in the clouds, miles away from the busy world below.
We were literally walking in the clouds
We had a sweet time of worship together at the very top of the mountain. What an incredible place to praise our savior as we sat in awe of His creation.
We cannot fully describe in words the awesome beauty of this place, and the incredible joy it gave us just to explore the mountains for a few hours.
Our ride down the mountain back to the monastery
By far the coolest place we have eaten Gelato so far. Takes the cake...or gelato if you will
We hope these pictures can do this awe-inspiring, ancient place of worship justice where our words fail. Everything about this summer seems to be a gift from our Lord. We feel His presence everywhere, in the difficult places and in the places, like Montserrat, that seem to give us a little glimpse of heaven.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Barcelona, Day Ten: Jesus. The Name Above All Names

Statistics show that, for a Muslim to begin seeking after the name of Isa (Jesus), he or she needs to have experienced at least twelve positive encounters with Christianity.
      There is no way to know the validity of this data, but one thing, especially after today, I know for certain: that Jesus commanded us to go to the ends of the earth and bring the nations to Him. He told us that this is the cry of His heart. He also told us that we would never be alone.
       This morning, our team fully grasped this mandate and this promise, and we went. What a beautiful thing it was to witness God upholding His word to us, as He always does.
       Several times a year, the center that Anna and I are ministering with makes its way into some of the busiest commercial areas of the city to distribute ‘free gifts’ to the many Muslim shoppers in the markets, most of them women. The leaders of our group reach out to these people in the most gentle and loving way, and in Arabic and Spanish they relate to these precious ladies what is included in this little gift.  In perfect tongues, they tell them that the gift includes the story of Jesus (a New Testament written/recorded in Arabic), as well as a way to learn more if they so desire. What these beautiful women do not know, and what we hope some of them will soon discover, is that in this little gift that they were handed at the market, amidst their shoe and purse shopping, is the Free Gift of Everlasting Grace, Hope, Joy, and Peace. They were handed the Gift of Life. 
       I had the privilege of walking through the market with one of the workers from the center, an Egyptian woman, fluent in Arabic, Spanish, and English.  It was an amazing experience to watch her move through the market; stopping every Muslim woman she came across, with such grace, wisdom and strength.  It was as if the devil, even if he had dared to attempt, could not have slowed her down in any way.  She spoke to about forty women this morning, and was given only one, “no, thank you”.  

I want to recount for you one of my favorite conversations from the morning.  My friend told me that this is what took place:
“Good Afternoon” (In Moroccan Arabic)
“If you have a moment, I have a gift for you. Can you read Arabic?”
“This book is a gift for you. It has more of the story of Isa. Would you like to have it?”
“I am sorry. I know who you are, and I am a Muslim.”
“Yes, I know and I understand. But wait, please take it.  I want you to know, that this book changed my life. Please have it. It’s for you.”

As I sit here now, my heart is in a constant state of prayer for the many families who now have The Living Word in their homes. Whether it is now sitting on their kitchen table, still in their shopping bag, or maybe in their trash can, I pray that the Spirit would move, and that these people would be given the courage to read, learn, ask questions, and be changed in some way by this encounter.
This day reminded me of a song that sweet Anna always hums to herself. The words go: Jesus, Name above all Names, Beautiful Savior, Glorious Lord. Emmanuel, God is with us. Blessed Redeemer, Living Word.
(One of my favorite pictures ever. Borrowed from an online source)
Jesus, draw them to You. Help them to seek after Your name, the name above all names. 
(For safety reasons, and out of respect, none of our real pictures of the women we are working with will be posted on our blog.)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Barcelona, Day Nine: They Will Know You are [true] Christians by Your Love

Another week has begun. It is still unreal to us that we not only get to see this ministry in action, but also we get to participate in every part of it, partnered with some of the coolest people we have ever met.  We were sad to say goodbye to our amazing Indiana team. You guys were so wonderful, and we loved working alongside each of you. Your sweet spirits left a mark here, and your names, faces, and selfless love will be remembered always. Thank you for letting the two of us be a part of your team while you were here. We so enjoyed each of you and miss you greatly!  We will eat double servings of all the gelato we can get in your honor. Love you!
(From left: Philana, Susan, Mary and Judy)
We have been and continue to be so blessed by the long-term team of servants working in the ministry here. They have such incredible love for the people they are serving, and they have been so willing to let us learn and minister at their sides. They have accepted us into their homes, allowed us to share our hearts, and shared their own with us. The humility with which this team serves, and the love they have for one another is a daily testimony to us of what the ministry of Jesus should look like. Although only a week has gone by, they have become dear, dear friends, and we are so excited to spend four more weeks learning, serving, and being blessed by these amazing people.
Today, we started working with a new team from the Midwest, U.S. We can't wait to hang out with them these next couple weeks! 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Barcelona, Day Seven: City of Many Colors

Picture perfectly sunny and 65-70 degrees. Top that with a delightful breeze and there you have it: Our seventh beautiful day in Barcelona. 

      The first week here has been far better than either Anna or I could have hoped for.  On our way back from our Arabic church tonight, we were talking about how apparent it is that the Lord knows us so much better than we know ourselves. 
Only He could have known how much we would love this place. Only He could have known how we would fit here in every respect.  Already, we feel an undeniable attachment to this city, this ministry, and its unique, beautiful people.  
     Our busyness, combined with the magnitude of our experiences so far, has made it difficult to summarize our time here the way we wish we could. But know you all are included in this with us, because we think of you ALL THE TIME.  Everything we see reminds us of someone we love. So know that you are with us every day :) 
      The great thing about this city, or just Europe, or just traveling in general, is that the thing we have the most fun doing is free! Walking. Anna and I walk everywhere, and even amidst the very sore feet, we have declared it our favorite part of daily life here. If you know me, you know my love for taking pictures. So here are a few shots of the ciudad de muchas colores!
Bill Ury and Michael Mozley, we especially miss you today. It is mostly because of you two that Anna and I both have a love for other cultures and new experiences.  Thank you for teaching us the importance of this in life. We thank Jesus for your constant love and support and prayers.  Miss you and love you! Happy Fathers Day!!