Katie

Reacquainting our knees with the carpet (Issue 32)

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By Katie (Serving in Spain with NZCMS)

“I pray but I could always pray more.” I hear myself say that time and time again. But why should I? Why are we ‘all called to pray’? Living in Spain in the midst of a different culture and language has taught me a lot about the importance of prayer for my relationship with God and for mission. As we pray we express our dependency on God – not only for own lives but also if we’re to see any change happen in the lives of others.

Learning to be dependent

They say people respond in various ways during the process of cultural transition. When I started off here in Spain, with only about five words of Spanish under my belt, my initial response was plenty of frustration. I battled away with trying to express myself and simply understand what was going on around me, and for a while I became pretty dependent on other people. I felt more like a pre-schooler than a ‘sorted-out’ mature adult.

This is how God wants us before him. He wants us to be dependent like children so that we cry out and, like the writers of the psalms, pour out our hearts to him. In those first few months I spent a lot of time talking to God as I knelt next to my bed, went for long walks around the city and wrote words to him in my prayer journal.

The process of cultural transition called me to pray and helped me see how much I depend on God – in my weakness but also when I might feel strong. As Christians we’re called to pray because we’re dependent on God, and because of his love for us in Christ he desires to listen to us.

I’m loving working alongside a Spanish church that has a heart to see people discover who God is in the Bible. However, the non-believers I meet are on the whole reluctant to ask questions or engage in any conversation about God. I think it’s about the same in New Zealand as well. Wherever we are in the world, a lack of spiritual curiosity makes mission at times feel discouraging. As a response, prayer has been where my team has been turning because as Christians we depend on God to be at work in the lives of others.

Learning to be intentional

Intentionality and sometimes a bit of planning can be helpful to motivate us to pray. I’ll share a few of the ways we’ve been learning to pray for the city and its people.

Having fellow Christians to push you on in prayer is really helpful and incredibly encouraging. Every Thursday morning I meet with a couple of other women and together we walk around a specific suburb praying for the people, businesses, schools, community centres. Pretty much anything we see can be prayed for! We also pray for churches and church leaders, for local and national governments, as well as for some of the common obstacles to the Gospel.

I enjoy praying through passages of the Bible as well. I find that using God’s word to form my prayers helps me pray specifically. Once a month as we walk we use various Scripture verses printed onto sticky notes to shape our prayers. After we pray we stick that particular Scripture to a park bench, a lamppost or some other item of street furniture with the hope that someone may read about Jesus.

It doesn’t have to always be praying out and about. You can stick verses around the house and use them in your prayers as you lay eyes on them during the day. A dear friend of mine, a busy mum, uses the laundry as her place to pray. She has Scripture and prayer points on the walls and uses that space to pray fervently for God to be at work in our city and province. You can be as creative as you want!

God’s been teaching me that prayer is front-line work in mission and essential for seeing people become curious and want to discover more about him. My desire is to see people in Spain know true and lasting joy in Christ and so I’m called to pray to the one who alone can gift people this joy. Day to day we depend on God to change lives as well as to continue working in our own lives. And so, as Brooke Fraser sings, we’re all called to keep “reacquainting our knees with the carpet.”

For discussion

Have you felt that you are not measuring up to the standard of ‘praying enough’? Why do we often feel this ‘pressure to perform’?

What could you, as a group, do to spur each other on in prayer WITHOUT this pressure?

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of the Intermission magazine will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. To signup to receive the Intermission in the post, email office@nzcms.org.nz. Intermission articles can also be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission.

Tests and Oxygen

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Thanks for all your prayers for my recent Spanish test. I’m very happy to report that I passed! Language learning has been a big part of my first term in Spain and I can see that to love and respect the people and culture well here it is essential to be able to share life in their heart language. I’ll always be a Spanish language learner and I’m incredibly thankful that this term of full-time learning has given me a really good base in the language.

Oxygen Groups

The church Oxygen group I’m part of continues to challenge and encourage me to keep prayerfully and intentionally being alert for people who want to discover more about God. Please keep praying for people in the church that are living out this method of church planting. 

Leave & Home Service You may already know that I’m due to go on Leave and Home Service very soon. During some of this time I’ll be visiting supporting Churches to share about this term and also what I will be doing when I return to Spain. I’m also looking forward to spending time with people over coffee or food (very Spanish!) and of course being with my family.

For prayer

Please pray for preparations for Leave & Home Service. I’m very thankful for NZCMS for their help with this and giving me time to debrief well when I’m back. Pray for the different Oxygen groups within the church. Pray that we are persistent in prayer and available to how God wants to use in his work in our area. Please pray too that we may find people who want to invite us into their lives and are curious to read the Bible. And give thanks for the Women’s Retreat and also the Church Retreat that happened recently. They were both precious times to get to know people deeper, enjoy God’s word and experience a slice of the countryside.

Celebrations and Retreats

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To celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in Europe the Evangelical churches in my area have organised a series of events throughout this year. It was a joy to be at the first of these events and to see churches around the region coming together to celebrate.

Our church had a women’s retreat early February. I was asked to share a small refection from the Bible. It’ll was my first time sharing in Spanish with the Church Women – exciting but a little nerve wracking too!

Fervent Prayer It’s clear here that prayer is key in seeing any church planting work spring up and community transformation take place. Recently a group of us have begun investigating how we can pray in a more informed way for our region through prayer and historical research. I’m part of a group which meets weekly to prayer walk around a particular suburb of the city. It’s one of the highlights of my week to be learning with these women and to encourage one another to be persistent pray-ers.

Please be praying for more people to catch this vision for prayer and for others to join our small prayer and research group. Also pray for God to be working in the hearts of my non believing friends, making them curious and soft towards him. And give thanks for the Reformation celebrations the year and for the churches in this region who are meeting together during the year.

I keep being thankful to God for your prayer and support in other ways. Thank you!

Walking the Camino

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Thanks for your prayers for the week on the Camino. It was such a blessings to spend time with people from all over the world, hear their stories, share some of mine and work with such a diverse team. God was gloried in lots of ways and we keep praying that people will search and find the Good Shepherd.

Every day we had 7 different pilgrims stay the night with us. Together we reflected on the Camino & spiritual things, watched a film about Jesus life and ate dinner. There were many sunny days to chat with the pilgrims walking past, give away free drinks and fruit. I even got to walk one leg of the Camino on the first day. Such a beautiful experience to do solo.

I am the way and the truth and the life. John 14 Yo soy el camino, la verdad y la vida Juan 14

El Camino

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I just found out that I’ve been accepted to join an Evangelical Christian team from May 22 to 29 that is serving travellers that walk El Camino de Santiago (“The way of Saint James”). There is a different team that serves every week at a Christian hostel run by a mission organisation here. My jobs will include cooking, cleaning, sharing and spending time with the travellers and my team mates. Pray that travellers (especially spiritual seekers) would have soft hearts to hear about Jesus. Pray for energy for me too. There are long days of work at the hostel.

The video is of a documentary trailer that gives you a taste for the kinds of people we might meet.

Prayer and Praise in Spain

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It’s been so good to think more about prayer over the last wee while. Lindsey (my new flatmate!) and I have begun to walk and pray together; the Women of the church are praying more together; and recently my team met with a man in another part of the country to learn about a type of cultural, spiritual and historical research that would aid us in praying more intentionally and specifically for people and places here. Prayer is still something I’m learning how to live out here, but I keep being reminded and seeing that God works incredibly powerfully through the prayers of his people.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

 

I’m really thankful to be settled into a new flat. It’s in a central part of the city so there are plenty of tourists walking around with cameras and lots of noise from live music in the Plaza (the town square) and people drinking Cider outside the restaurants. This region is famous for its apple cider.

Praise God that university has been really good this semester. I’m still learning a lot of new things in Spanish and being refreshed on lots. There are so many tenses to learn! My classes are a really nice mix of nationalities and it’s been fun hanging out with people after class.

Prayer & Praise! New Flat: I’m really thankful for the new flat and for Lindsey. There’s been a lot of changes for me here the last few months but God has been faithful and provided in many ways. Church Women: The Women of the church continue to be a big encouragement to me. I’m thankful for my church family here and for their thirst to know God deeply. Uni: I’m thankful for this semester and the bunch of students I study with. Pray for them that they would seek for more out of life than just their studies. Summer plans: Pray for planning for Summer. I finish Uni in May and would like to have some plans in place for June-August. Pray for wisdom in planning and to be able to rest and find peace in the unknown. Church training: Give thanks for the eight weeks of training I’ve just finished doing with a group from church. We’ve looked at God’s part and out part in Discipleship Making and encouraging each other as we live transparent lives as Christians in our communities. Pray that we will live out what we have learnt.

A day in the countryside

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The door opened and I was greeted by a sauna like kitchen as the pulpo (octopus) boiled away on the old cooker. I had been invited for lunch at the family home of my friend. Her Mum greeted me and gave me a tour of their small, modest home. She proudly showed me photos of her children and grandchildren and in her bedroom I saw her collection of saints that she prays to. I barely understood her as she spoke a mix of Portuguese, Spanish and the local language. Help!

We ate the pulpo with potato and toasted with our drinks to life, according to her Mum a short life for her but long lives for us. It was a real honour and answer to prayer to be invited into a family home here and have a small taste of what life is like in a very small rural village.

Please pray for this family, that their hearts would be softened so that they too can know the incomprehensible love of God.

Future thoughts

I’ve just started what I’m hoping is my final semester of full time Spanish study. I am by no means fluent but I have a lot more words, grammar and understanding than when I first stepped off the plane. Praise God! So now my mind has turned even more to what will happen next! I’m hoping in July to complete a small Intensive Course and use it to prepare for an official exam to assess all areas of my Spanish ability.

Each Region of Spain is very distinct in its culture, traditions, foods etc. and so as I’ve learnt Spanish I’ve been learning the local culture as well. This region of Spain has many towns of over 5000 people where there is no known Evangelical Christian presence, so I have begun to think and pray about whether God wants to send a team into one of these towns and whether I should be a part of this team.

Pray with us and for us that we can have lots of God’s wisdom & guidance  and that we can know how to be sensitive to the people, culture & history of this Region.

(Photo by Dani Vázquez on Flickr.)

Myths about Language Learning

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Katie is currently in Spain, learning the language and culture to get ready to be part of a church-planting team. Here’s some reflections she’s put together about the process of learning a new language.

My myths about Language learning that got squashed quickly.

1. You learn by listening and absorbing. It’s true that you learn a lot by listening but also there has to be some hours at the desk too. Spanish seems to have a huge number of tenses and lots of irregular verbs to try and get your head around and remember.

2. Translating what I want to say directly from English to Spanish always works. My mind is a translating factory right now. The sentence goes in in English and attempts to come out my mouth in Spanish. One day I wanted to pay for a Coke in a Café and so I told the Waitress “I had had a Coke”. The literal translation of this into Spanish sounded like I was announcing to the Waitress that I had just given birth to a glass of Coke. She looked at me in an amused way.

3. Language learning is a 9-5 job. Not true most of my life now involves reading, speaking or listening to Spanish.

4. I’ll be fluent in a year. It’s amazing that your brain adapts and changes and I know I understand and can say so much more now than the few words I had when I first arrived. I still have a way to go but I am so often thankful I can focus just on this work of Language and Culture learning in order to better equipped for being here for the long term.

 

For a list of seven common language-learning myths (and how to fix them) click here.

Even sorbet gets lost in translation

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Feeling like an ice cream I went to see what flavours a local shop was selling. I decided on a zesty looking lemon sorbet and so when a lady came over I asked for a scoop in Spanish and pointed to my choice. She said something back and I replied “si, si” ( “yes, yes”) and so she took a cone, scooped out a berry flavour and gave it to me.

My thoughts of walking away enjoying a zesty lemon sorbet had to change quickly to a sweet berry scoop.

It wasn’t a big deal and it made me chuckle a bit inside but it does give a little taste of what it’s like living life in a new language and culture. Most days I’m trying to understand and be understood, sometimes I have to readjust my expectations (lemon to berry) and often I feel more like a child than an adult. In two months there has been many highs and lows but I am so grateful that God is not like me and that he is always a strong rock and a secure fortress who doesn’t change. We can find true rest in God alone.

My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I shall never be shaken (Psalm 62).

 

A few weeks ago I signed up for crochet classes as a creative way to learn Spanish and to spend time with people from the community. I go twice a week and join a table of nattering Spanish Women who are all working on their own knitting or crochet. My teacher is a very friendly and patient lady who seems to be the ‘go to’ person in the neighborhood if you need craft advice. She teaches me how to crochet in Spanish with drawings and small demonstrations thrown in, we laugh a lot. I am very thankful that it has been such a joy to sit and listen and to try using my Spanish with these women.

 

To learn more about Katie and the work she is involved with in Spain click here.

 

Katie Settles into Life in Spain

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On the 16th September I arrived in Gijon, Spain and to my new home. I got to settle into my first week of getting to know the team leaders and the family, Gijon and eating a ‘welcome to your new home’ cake. I have loved eating foods like breads, cheeses and chorizo; soaking up new sights like the many Spanish people that stroll in the evenings and finding local places to relax and to exercise.

I am learning language with a Christian lady living in Madrid who I Skype with three days a week. The course is focused on building conversation fast so from the very first lesson I was able to speak simply.

Language and culture learning has been the hardest thing – at times as I want to say so much more than I am able to. Pray for patience in learning and in waiting to speak and pray that I would trust God with the pace of learning he gives to me. I’d also appreciate prayers for continued unity in relationships particularly with my team and host family. Pray that we would continue to love each other as Jesus loves us.