Jim Leach and I were immersed in Spanish culture from the moment we landed in Madrid and passed through customs into literally another world. We struggled to find the previously-arranged meeting place with Steve Rodemann, our host, as no one spoke English.
We waited a couple hours in an airport café for Steve and when he came we were very happy to see him. He took us to our hotel and we slept for a couple hours. Steve had made reservations at a very inexpensive hostel which I thought would mean group quarters, possibly bed-bugs, unsafe atmosphere, etc. Yet I felt the Lord saying, " Christopher, you will put up with whatever it is." Well, it turned out to be safe, clean and simple accommodations. But, nevertheless, I had to let go.
Our first night, we ventured forth with directions to Steve's apartment, over in another part of Madrid, negotiating transfers on the subway and strange names with success, purchasing tickets with no knowledge of the language.
Upon arrival we met two of Steve's daughters and then proceeded to his church for a prayer meeting. The Vaguada Church is a store-front setup not unlike some urban churches in the US. The inside is small, well-lit, and very attractive. I greeted the dozen or so members with Steve translating. I told them that Steve was a child of St. Paul's and that his parents had been strong leaders at an early period of our church life with Carl being Senior Warden and Marge the founder of the bookstore, and together being responsible for originating the phrase which would become the banner of our mission "To know Christ and make Him known".
Then Jim Leach spoke from the Scriptures about entering into the prayer that Jesus prays as "He always lives to make intercession for us" (Hebrews 7:25). This talk was very well-received by Steve and the others and prompted a one hour period of prayer (in Spanish). We prayed especially for the work of evangelism the church has planned for the months ahead, for the outreach ministry of the 60 member gospel choir, Coro Gospel de Madrid, led by Nancy Rodemann, Steve's wife. This music team is able to get into secular venues and to share the gospel with unbelievers, simply because of the interest of Spanish people in the history of gospel music and fine quality of the work of the team. We also prayed for the four candidates to be baptized on the upcoming parish retreat. One specific answer was given by God as the husband of one of the candidates asked that God would move his co-workers to cover for him so that he could witness the baptism. Sure enough, he was there for the whole parish weekend.
Jim and I returned to our room late that night and were protected from serious harm as two women accosted me on the way home. They tried to steal my money, but only ended up with a pocket full of receipts (worthless to them). A second event occurred on the subway later in the week and all the pickpockets got was a few dollars in Jim's wallet and his ATM card (worthless to them). God literally kept their hands off us, as it seems the national sport of Spain is picking pockets.
We went prayer-walking throughout the city the next day and also went to the Prado Museum with Steve and a young man named Rafael who is a Mexican-American exploring mission work in Spain. We believe Rafael's coincidental arrival with ours in Spain was intended by God (more later). In this great museum, Steve showed us the artistic work of the masters from Medieval and Renaissance times. The scenes often depicted revealed the power of the Spanish Roman Catholic Church which was merciless in stamping out the renewal of the Protestant Reformation. "Maryolatry", an excessive worship of Mary – to the detriment of Jesus – has led many astray. This intolerance led to the Inquisition and to totalitarian governments which persecuted many people over the years. Steve told us of how new the constitutional monarchy is, having replaced the dictatorship after Franco's death in 1975. So many Spaniards are turned off by Christianity because all they have seen is the corrupted version of it. There is still a lot of "uphill work" to get the true Gospel out.
Our week with the Rodemann's showed us how committed they are as a family to the Lord's work. They are ceaseless in their work, devoted day and night. I placed gentle hints about the need for rest, reflection, and even a furlough or sabbatical. I offered them help, including coming to the US, perhaps next year, with help from St. Paul's, for spiritual refreshment.
Jim and I were there to visit one-on-one with the people. We got to know many, largely through the help of Rafael who interpreted for us. In particular, we were used by God to intercede for the church. We prayed for expanded buildings, for a tired group of leaders who sought us out, for a deepening prayer life of all the members, for healing of any hurt in the congregation over recent church discipline of members, for the bodily health of members, and for evangelism.
At the conclusion of our visit, Steve and I talked about real possibilities for mutual ministry. The first thing to explore is an exchange involving our youth. The Vaguado church has been successful in leading youth into the Spanish mountains for discipling modeled after an “Outward Bound” training experience. Dano and I are investigating sending a youth team for next year. Perhaps the youth of the Madrid church could come here afterward. Please pray about this possibility.
Jim Leach and I certainly connected with the people of the church and with the Rodemann family. We believe there is a future for our relationship that will be stronger and deeper. We also believe, as a result of our visit, we are ready to join MEC and others from St. Paul's for short-term mission in general.