We came to Spain in 1998 and, as we were travelling around, it struck us that there were very few evangelical churches. When we go on holiday we like to go to a church but we couldn’t find any. We came back to Spain when the children were five and seven and again we were struck by how there were no churches.
In 2015, we were on sabbatical and we drove through Spain. I remember sitting in the passenger seat and seeing all these Catholic churches in every village and town and city. The Spanish Catholic system is very legalistic and people go just because it’s part of the culture. I said to Julian, ‘It’s amazing how many churches there are but what are they hearing? I wonder how many are actually learning that Jesus is The Way?’ On that trip we talked a little bit about how it would be quite nice to come and do some sort of mission but, after that, we didn’t think about it at all.
At the end of 2016 Julian came on a trip to Spain to support some missionaries here. One of the guys that he came to see said that he needed to step down from his role as minister of the church and he was looking for someone to take over. Julian phoned home and said, ‘I’ve found us a job!’ I had had a really hard time at home with the children while he was in Spain and so I replied, ‘There’s no way we’re going!’
After that, we talked about it a lot and we came to visit and it just became really clear that there was no reason to say no to the job. There was no reason at all. I hadn’t had any formal ministry training, just everyday ministry life in the churches that we’ve been at, so it’s been an interesting process for us to go through. God had this incredible plan and here we are now!
I had been a teacher for 12 years and I remember coming out of one really tough teaching job thinking, ‘What was THAT all about?!’ But I now know that some of the things that I experienced there were preparing me for going and doing something that I wouldn’t have ever expected to do. That said, I don’t think you necessarily need ‘crazy’ experiences like that! You can just live your life and look back and think, ‘God was leading me to do that.’
It would have been so much easier to stay in Hove where Julian was already a minister. I didn’t speak a word of Spanish and Julian just had an A level in Spanish, but he hadn’t used it much since. When we were deliberating if this was the right thing to do there were a few considerations. Firstly, I was thinking, ‘How on earth can I do this? How am I going to learn Spanish at MY age?’ I like to chat and I thought, ‘How am I going to be able to chat with people when I don’t know how to speak Spanish very well?’
Secondly, a huge consideration was for our daughter, Jemima, who has Complex Learning Disabilities. In Hove, we had access to local support services and I had a small Home Educator’s support network. Removing her from that sounds almost irresponsible. But it wasn’t as we realised we were still able to give her everything she was accessing and, because I’m her teacher, I was able to confidently move her and provide for her needs.
And finally, Julian could have very easily carried on with his job at Holy Cross Church in Hove. They were our family and we loved them to bits. I was also really involved with the children’s and youth work (and with the music) and I knew I wouldn’t be able to do that in Spain in the same way for quite a long time. There was a sort of mourning knowing I’d have to leave all that behind and it was a really stark reality for me. It was really tough. But it was what God was clearly calling us to do – ministry in a different way, in a different place. There was nobody else to take on the role of minister in the church in Valencia and there was no real reason to stop Julian taking it on.
And so, I was waiting for Julian to say, ‘Let’s do it’ and he was waiting for me to say ‘OK, let’s just go for it’. We were at an impasse. Then a friend basically said to us, ‘Why don’t you just make a decision? You clearly both want to do it.’ There wasn’t some sort of special mysterious moment that led us to be here. The job came up and we said we’d do the job.
The children were excited about us moving to Spain and we marketed it as an adventure. I do think they initially thought we were going to have a swimming pool and drink cocktails! When we had settled down, the reality of the move hit a little bit, but they have been happy so far. Theo was really excited about learning Spanish and he definitely has the kind of personality that you need in a child who’s going to be moving abroad. He was sad that he had to leave his friends but I did a lot of prep with both of the children quite a long time before we left, finding out about where we were going to live and coming on a recce. We documented everything with photos and diaries.
There is a joy in knowing that this is where God wants us to be and it’s opened up new opportunities for me in my everyday Christian ministry.
It’s so good to know that people are praying for us and supporting us financially because we wouldn’t be able to be here without that. Some churches also send cards or parcels to us and we really appreciate it. We will also sometimes receive an email saying, ‘We prayed for you this morning,’ and that means a huge amount. To know that we, and this little church in Spain, is being remembered by so many people in the UK is amazing. The partnerships we have with churches and individuals are incredibly important and vital for our ministry here.
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First shared on the Ordinary Podcast.
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