Manresa is an old city in Cataluña, the north of Spain. This is where Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits had a transforming religious experience. A very Catholic place where many pilgrims from around the world come. Jordi Tomas is a Baptist entrepreneur that wants to use his business skills to make the Gospel heard in his city. His enthusiasm and insistence has brought me here for a weekend. I have been asked to give a four-hour course for Christian leaders about "The mission of the Church in Spain today." In the afternoon I have to present an evangelistic message around the theme of "The Bible and Culture." This is the first time that a public auditorium down town is being used for that purpose. Quite a challenge! The organizers are enthusiastic but they do not have experience in sponsoring this type of event. I am especially thankful for the young people that have come. When we evaluate the event I share with them some of the lessons we have learned in Latin America to reach the non-Christians.Actually what I share is a very brief summary of the course on "Holistic Church Growth" that I am teaching at the Baptists Seminary in Madrid. They have invited me back for March 2003. I pray that we all will have learned the lessons of the first attempt.
Between November 2001 and August 2002 I have been invited to preach in twenty-five Baptist and evangelical churches in different regions of Spain. Twenty-three of them face a new and incredible challenge. There is a massive flow of immigrants from Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe. They are now 1 million and 300 thousand, a third of them from Latin America, especially from Ecuador, Colombia and Peru. Those who are believers come to church and all these churches in Spain are experiencing now the presence of these immigrant believers. With them, attendance on Sundays has doubled or trebled in a few months. They bring their enthusiasm and lively forms of worship to which Baptists in Spain are not used to. Many of them are also a challenge to brotherly compassion as they face problems of documents, housing, health, work and family re-uniting.So I have found myself speaking in churches and writing about "Migration and Mission," and reading again attentively the New Testament because the story of those early days of the Church has many parallels with the story today.
In July my colleague Dr. Fernando Méndez, professor of New Testament in the Baptist Seminary in Madrid, and myself were invited to make a presentation at the Baptist World Alliance that met in the city of Seville, about Racism, Immigration and Christian testimony.Given the urgency of the questions posed by migration to the churches, Fernando and I will organize a consultation for the spring of 2003 at our Seminary. Several pastors and leaders will share their experience and we will share the insights gained from God's Word and mission history. Our goal is that a book will be published as a result that may be a useful tool for churches to face this new challenge. As you pray and give during this World Mission Offering month, please pray for Fernando's ministry and my own, both of which are possible through the Board of International Ministries (BIM).
Writing is an important part of my ministry, but it is not easy to have the discipline of setting times apart to complete projects.During April 2002 I made the final corrections in the proofs of my book Changing Tides, translated from Spanish. The package was sent from Maryknoll in New York by Orbis Books, the publisher, and I had to return it with the corrections so that the book may appear in June. It did, praise the Lord!Then as the end of my spring term in Spain was approaching,besides preparing classes and reading papers I had to complete the revision of the manuscript of the book A Time for Mission that Inter-Varsity Press will publish in England. By mid-August I was able to send the final revisions to the text. They hope the book will be used as an introductory text for mission students especially in Africa and Asia. I will need time now to work on a Spanish version of it. And in my classes this fall at Eastern Baptist Seminary I am using Changing Tides as one of my textbooks.
Tuesdays and Thursdays Lili volunteers at Mision Urbana (Urban Mission) a holistic mission project of all Evangelical churches in the city of Valencia. Intensive and demanding work with hundreds of poor persons, most of them immigrants for whom clothing, food, barbershop, and showers are provided. Some of them are homeless. Lili finds especially challenging the situation of women some of who have come to Spain leaving their families in Latin America. Many of these women could become victims of the Spanish, Colombian or Russian prostitution mafias that are operating in Spain. The Director of Mision Urbana asked us if BIM could help sending some experts to deal with the challenge of prostitution. It is a great blessing that Lauran Bethell will be able to come from Prague. Pray for her ministry in Valencia, Nov. 9-11, and remember these challenges during this month of prayer and giving through the World Mission Offering.
One of the best ways of training leaders is spending quality time with them. In May and in August we had opportunities to minister to young university graduates and seasoned professionals in retreats near the city of Madrid.Spain's entrance in Europe has brought rapid change in social mores and ethics as well as in technology and business. Pastors and teachers in our churches find difficult to spend time with the pastoral questions of the new generations. Due to our long experience in university work we accept invitations to this kind of ministry. Also during the past spring a group of up to fifteen students from universities in Valencia met weekly in our apartment. Thanks the Lord with us that it is possible to offer this kind of hospitality.
Samuel and Lili Escobar