Ignite are heading to Spain. During the week I hope to update these pages with our latest (brief!) news and experiences. (technology, time and energy permitting!)
Monday 11th May
Tomorrow sees the start of a new adventure. I have been part of a 10 month discipleship course called Ignite Loughborough to get to know God, myself and the bible better. It’s been an intense journey shared with 10 others from all different backgrounds and walks of life and has already been packed with adventure and discovery. I have no doubt that the coming week will be nothing less.
As I pack my bags emotions of excitement, anticipation and nervousness are all intertwined. This is not a holiday but an opportunity to serve in a different country. We’ve had hints and suggestions of what we might be doing but watch this space to see what transpires! It will certainly stretch me into doing things I wouldn’t normally dream of doing. My faith is ready for the challenge and to be pushed outside my comfort zone but my biggest concern is whether my health is up to it (recovering from a ME relapse Sept 2013) However, As I start a clean page in my paper journal it is printed with the words: “You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are certain to be disappointment if you try…”
So, any pray-ers out there – I (and we) would definitely value them!
This will be my personal blog but you can also keep up with what the group are up to via:
Facebook: Ignite Loughborough
Hasta la vista!
TUESDAY 12TH MAY
We’ve arrived! Quick update :
All of us made it to the airport & then waited whilst one of us had to return home for a missing bag and passport!! As we were waiting I saw an old friend at the airport. It turned out that we were on the same flight. She was thinking about future life plans which we were able to briefly discuss. She said she had goose pimples as we were talking and she believed God meant for me to meet her today. What a cracking start!
We met our hosts, Chris & Liz and shared a meal together and got a glimpse into what we might expect over the coming days…
Then off to help a man with his garden. Unemployment and poverty is high in Naquera so it was an opportunity to help provide him with a supply of seasons supply of nutritious food and also to keep him occupied rather than spending his time drinking. They’ve not had rain for a long time and several spades were broken in the process! I decided my skills were best used encouraging others on this task! The Ignite team pulled out an impressive result.BeBefore
The church was very different to anything I’ve experienced before! It started with games: table tennis, darts and table football etc, a time to share food and drink and then a service which included a talk from Dave on the Prodigal Son and Simons testimony (both translated!) There was then a long time praying for the church members – praying for strangers is not something I’m used to doing even in English but a real privilege none the less.
Even without common language, there was a sense of great warmth and community.
Thursday 14th May
We went back to finish the gardening today. I went with Chris to get the plants from the garden centre whilst the others finished off preparing the ground. Only mad Dogs and Englishmen would go out in the midday sun and only mad igniters would be working in the midday sun! It was 42 degrees today so progress was slow but very satisfying. His garden is now filled with tomatoes, peppers, courgettes, onions, beans, cucumbers, watermelons and aubergines.
I went back for a rest whilst the others went to a new church set up in the red light district to help reach out to drug addicts and prostitutes.
There are also rumours of a midnight swim tonight but my bed it’s definitely calling me!
Friday 15th May
No gardening today! It was more of a planning day today to prepare for family & youth services over the coming day. We rewarded ourselves with a Spanish meal after using our creative juices and then the team did some basketball and volleyball with the young people.
That was the end of my day but the rest of the team took the streets to do some pastoring.
Saturday 16th May
Well, I’m pleased that I took my rest when I did. The others didn’t get back from street pastoring until 2am! That made it a 17 hour day for the rest of the team!
So today we all got a bit of down time and we headed for the beach.
Then it was off to family church which I loved
We organised games, an interactive bible story of Peter walking on the water ( Matthew 14: 22-33) and a bit of foot painting to boot!. It took me back to the good old days of doing holiday clubs as there was lots of fun and laughter – mostly at our expense!
Sunday 17th May
It was good to meet up with a wife of one of the church leaders out here who had suffered from CFS/ ME in the past and to compare notes and frustrations.
We then went to church where Helen & I helped out with the children in the Sunday school. It was good to see some familiar faces from yesterdays family service and I had even remembered a few names!
Our hosts have really worked hard since we’ve been out here looking after us and their church and community, so it was great to give them both a bit of down time whilst we took their children out for a bit.
It was also a good opportunity to have an informal team time and catch up with each other.
Monday 18th May
We certainly saw a town of two sides in Valencia today. We started downtown on the edge of the red light district at the church. You could easily pass this church by. It doesn’t look much from the outside but what comes out of this humble church is incredible.
After praying together for the town, and people we were trying to meet we split into a boys & girls team. The boys went to pray for the homeless and those with addictions on the streets whilst us girls went to the red light district.
It was a very surreal experience to see prostitutes and groups of typically old men hanging around streets in broad day light. It was like walking into a film set. The streets were teaming with police. Although prostitution isn’t illegal in Spain there are lots of trafficked women there. We were spotted by one of the gang masters/ pimps and we were told to be careful so unfortunately I didn’t feel safe taking photos.
The women varied in age from young girls to a woman in her 60’s. We also had a mixed response. We went to give them food, hand out literature, talk & pray with them and bless them in whatever way we could. It was an experience I’ll never forget; it was both depressing but exciting that we could offer real hope and love. These women really were like prisoners on the streets, having to work day & night.
The team also had a long chat with a transexual prostitute who the church had got to know well. We tried to join in the best we could which was a challenge she seemed to find entertaining!
There are big plans for the church to expand & grow its work. There is certainly a huge need with unemployment at 35% but the workers are few.
It felt quite uncomfortable going uptown to the tourist track afterwards and particularly seeing the opulence of the cathedral contrasting with a disabled beggar sitting outside. It was only a 5 minute walk from what we had just witnessed in the red light district. I couldn’t help but wonder what Jesus must think of what we’ve turned church into.
Picture of the town hall in Valencia.
Our final group event was a youth event. There were only about a dozen people there but they were a great bunch and got stuck into our games, food, drink and Davids birthday cake!
Rachel & Claud gave a great talk to challenge & inspire them and it was really encouraging how many wanted us to pray for them afterwards. It meant it was a late finish but well worth it.
Tuesday 19th May
We made the most of final morning by encouraging a businessman who works near to Pucol church. He had an incredible story of how God changed around his life of violence and showed us the scars to prove it! He has now restored his marriage and runs a computer company and is a blessing to many.
So much happened in this week. We’ve met many incredible people, heard many more stories which will continue to inspire me for many years to come. I could never have imagined doing a lot of the stuff I did before starting our Ignite course. We’ve all come a long way on our Ignite journey but in some ways I think I have learnt just as much on this mission week as I’ve done on the whole year so far.
And finally, don’t forget that we still need to fundraise to pay for this trip! ( Ignite requirement!) So by treating yourself to a night of top class comedy, not only will you get a belly full of laughs but you will also be supporting this mission trip and all those we’ve been able to serve. Keep Saturday 13th June free and book your tickets at http://www.picatic.com/paulk
Paul Kerensa is a highly acclaimed comedian. He writes for BBC commedies such as Not Going Out and Miranda. He is also a regular on Chris Evans Radio 2 show. Trust me, he’s good! The final incentive is that myself and the Ignite team will also be there if you would like to know more about the course and our mission trip…!?!