Tuesday, November 6, 2007

As the olive season approaches harvest, we’re seeing new activities: as the olives turn black, the farmers are spraying their orchards with some kind of insecticide. The big fan-thing blows away the fine mist coming out of the tubes around the perimeter of the fan. They tell us that harvest should start around mid-December here. It’s interesting to see big tractors circulating about town, bouncing over speed bumps, and pulling up in front of the pedestrian crosswalks.

If it doesn’t rain these days, harvest will be on time. The tractors have a big set of jaws on the front, that grabs the tree and shakes it. Everything falls off onto a sheet under the tree, and that’s it. Doesn’t sound all that romantic: you know, Mediterranean, olive groves, harvest festivals, etc. oh well…

I’ve got a few photos of the September campaign. We were waiting for someone to send us a CD of photos he took, but it didn’t happen. We took advantage of market day to set up on a street corner with a sound system and a board with an interesting presentation of the gospel. Unfortunately, the police ran us off before we could get to the end of the presentation – left a lot of people lost! Turns out, we were wrong to use the sound system, but DID have the right to preach on the corner. I imagine the officer’s mother-in-law or mom called him up on the phone, and said to “Git down here, and get rid of these heretics!”

I had a chance to preach in the park – felt a little like Paul in Athens, except the Greeks here made no comments – not sure if they were even listening! But three of us talked a little bit each. I’ll confess, I didn’t feel all that comfortable standing out there, and talking to the wind. I wonder what guys like Jeremiah and Isaiah thought when they were out there preaching, and their countrymen didn’t pay any attention.

We handed out about 4000 pieces of literature – booklets, tracts, Bible portions, video tapes, and even bibles in some cases. Every single thing got a sticker that gave our phone number and names, in case of questions. Everyone joined in the work of sticking them in.

One thing that really drew crowds was the “evangelistic bike.” Felisa, a lady from church, was a fearless bike rider, stopping to talk to crowds, offering them the gospel in plain language. Lots of kids were drawn by the bike, and wanted a try. The answer? Turn in your cell phone, and you can take a spin around the park! A lot got a ride, everyone got his phone back, and we had quite a bit of exposure.

We had a church outing before the weather turned cold, and went to a national park for a day of fun. Climbing rocky crags and mountains took me back to the “good old days” in Nigeria as a kid! We will definitely have to do that again!!! We played games (John and Jan being the official game preparers), shared lunch, and sat around and told stories for hours. Got home about 10:30 at night – as usual!

Just yesterday we had a visit from a church in Milwaukee, looking for opportunities to partner with a local church. We shared the church’s vision for ministry and expansion, ate good food, and walked around Baeza, to give them a feel for the town. For a Euro, we got to climb the bell tower of the cathedral. Sorry –no bells – no bats, either - just lots of pigeon poop! We had a great panoramic view of town and the surrounding countryside. They headed off to the Czech Republic to check out a work there, before flying on home to the USA.

I'll add a shot of our church in Ubeda. The church (the people part) is about 100 years old - although the building itself was bought in 1963 0r so. We'd like to expand into a newer attractive facility that would give us room both in the sanctuary and classrooms for Sunday school, etc.

Next issue should have a photo of my driver’s license. I take my written test the 8th of November, then the driving part. I can’t believe I’ve been driving for thirty years, and am finally taking drivers education. No comments, please!

Monday, September 3, 2007

August 2007 long week!

We attended our first CAM missionary conference in Barcelona last week. Of the 32 attendees, a little over half were CAMers from Spain. We invited some Latin missionaries who were by themselves, some CAMers from Albania, and some other expatriate missionaries who were by themselves, too. With Jan are Miriam Ramirez from Santander, and Karen Jaworski from Toledo (Spain, of course!) Check out the Mediterranean in the background.

As the newcomers to this field, we were drafted to plan some games (call them activities, they’ll be more acceptable). We played reindeer cootie with a bull instead of a reindeer – and don’t even ask! One team kept losing on purpose so they wouldn’t have to move, until we discovered they were sitting right under the air conditioner! Barcelona weather was a little overpowering at times – humidity and higher temperatures than here in Andalusia. We also played a take-off on what’s my line. We learned a lot of well-kept secrets about our colleagues! Blackmail anyone?

Bill Lawrence came from Dallas to work with us during the conference, and we were really challenged in our Christian lives and walk. Even after being here for just a few months, we enjoyed hearing a sermon in English again. Speaking of English, we went into downtown Barcelona to look for an English-speaking bookstore. Well, we found it, but the cheapest thin paperback was about $10.00! We’re going to have to get something in motion to keep us in books. We planned on taking the train to Barcelona – a nine-hour ride – but when we went to buy our tickets, they were all out! Apparently, everyone in Spain goes on vacation in August, and everyone returns home the last week of the month. Well, the road was pretty long going, so we decided to change routes going home – it was longer still! But we sure saw some pretty country: rolling hills, orange orchards by the mile, wheat fields from horizon to horizon, more rolling hills, grapevines loaded with grapes, pine-tree forests, winding river beds and canyon, lots and lots of traffic – tractors pulling trailer loads of grapes home from the vineyards, and finally the olive groves of home. We pulled in about 10:30 or so Friday night.

We had lunch Sunday with a lady from church, and heard a lot of the history of the area. The church itself has grown and shrunk over the years, depending on who was persecuting them at the time, and how the local economy and agricultural fortunes were doing. We are about 50 right now. Things are a lot simpler here in the church. Very few people attend who aren’t serious about their faith. As little as 20 years ago believers were being persecuted right here in Ubeda! Prayer meeting on Thursday evenings is well attended, and we have a special prayer meeting at our place the second and last Tuesday of the month, to pray for Baeza specifically. Lucia plays the guitar for our services, and different members take turns leading the service. Communion is celebrated every Sunday, and the preaching is rotated between the two elders, a couple others, and myself. Imagine my surprise when I found that neck ties and suit coats were persona non grata here! Sounded fine with me.

A couple weeks ago we went for a Sunday afternoon ride in the country, a picnic, and a long afternoon out. We took a picnic and went with a family from church – Jose and Encarne, with daughters Eunice and María José. When they talk picnic, they really talk food! We had shrimp, a “pressed meat/ham” thingy, chicken salad, bread, watermelon, other fruit, and a lot of other stuff. We were stuffed by the end of the day!

The ride up into the hills reminded us of Guatemala – pine trees, winding roads, hairpins: just take a look.

We also went by a dam and hydro-electric plant built in the 1940’s, on the Guadalquivir river – a large drainage basin in southern Spain. Lack of water in the last few years has left a lower water level. If you want to find it on Google earth, look for “El Tranco.” Up on the highway there’s a town called Villanueva del Arzobispo. They told me there are three untruths in that name: No villa, nothing new, and there never was an archbishop in these parts. I guess it was a real estate scam to get settlers in here. Lots of strange names around, giving witness to the different ethnic groups that have controlled southern Spain over the years. The Arabic impact is seen in the music, architecture, language, and agriculture.

Here in Baeza there’s a heritage of long history. We saw a building with a stone in it that said, “1412, site of old municipal butcher shop.” There are a lot of old buildings, including several cathedrals. We were also shown where the grand inquisitor used to stand on his balcony and watch the “heretics” walk off to the stakes to burn. Makes you stop and think, doesn’t it?

Saturday afternoon there was an interesting parade. We really couldn’t figure it out until we asked one of the many observers. They told us it was a “romería.” Turns out, that’s a Roman Catholic tradition – hence the name “romería.” In this case, they were returning the statue of the local “virgin” to its normal resting place until next year’s fair.

There was a lot of dancing and drinking – not all of it alcoholic, but it sure looked like the folks were have a merry time! I imagine there were blessings for those who participated.

Everyone got dressed up, from little kids to adults. And when the different “wagons” slowed down to wait for traffic, everyone would get down and begin the typical dance of this region.

The parade took hours to pass, we finally got tired and went on home
We have a couple of routes we take for our evening walks. One goes north and west around the edge of town – out into the olive groves. Beautiful sunsets out that way! And we can see the olive trees beginning to show their loads of olives. Apparently December is harvest month.
The other route is the eastern and southern edge of town. We end up going home through the central park, and often stop for a coke or a lemonade icee, sit, and watch the folks go by. I guess it’ll be getting too cool soon to do that, so we’d better take advantage while we can!
You'll have to take the olives on faith - small picture, smaller chance of seeing them.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

This week the town fair started in Baeza. Main street turned into the fair grounds, and everyone is out promenading all night long. Since our apartment is only one block off main street, we celebrated the fair all night long. The last stragglers to give up are the young people who stay out all night drinking, and head home around 7:00 a.m. We went to see the horse and buggy exhibition this last week. Everyone seems to be going somewhere - some in style and some not. Sure was interesting to see a bit of history replayed before our eyes.

You can tell our apartment s not all that big. After the house in San Cristobal, it is taking some getting used to. Jan says, "At least I don't get tired wandering all over the kitchen!" Hold your breath, dear, and suck it in, I need to pass, to get out to the balcony/laundry room! Our windows look out directly at an intersection, down which blows the wind all day long. Makes for a cooler place! We did buy a portable air conditioner - looks like R2D2 from star Wars. Turns out, we've only used it once all summer. Much cooler weather than normal. Someone said not to pack it away, things could warm up. It was down to 72 degrees this morning again.

Everywhere in the country, we see olive trees, olive trees, olive trees! That is one of Andalusia's biggest sources of income. We see a lot of four-wheel drive vehicles in the streets - olive farmers. One of the most popular is the Suzuki - just like ours! sure makes us homesick for "Suzy!"

We drove over to Jaen yesterday - state capital. There we picked up our residence cards - not a hitch! So, we're legal until June of next year, when we apply again for a one-year residence visa. Eventually, if we live long enough, we can get permanent residence!

We also got a home phone installed! 953-74-83-81. We signed up for a plan that allows us 1000 free international minutes of phone calls per month. Of course, that depends on the definition of "international, minutes, and free." We'll see what happens on our first phone bill, and then start calling around.

Till then, just check here weekly.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Back home in Baeza

Well, we’re back in Baeza – after the funeral we returned the 20th of July, and, as always, we said, “When things slow down, we’ll be able to do ….” How many times have we said that? And how many times has it not happened? So, we’re back, and not a minute too soon! A group from Evangelism in Depth is helping us with a campaign here in September (14-24), and two of the team came to check out the town. They are fairly well experienced in these activities, so as we drove all over town, they checks their maps, stopped at every park or square, took photos, and discussed which places were best for what activities. They even checked out places where young people gather at midnight with their “botellón” of wine, to drink and talk and drink.

We’ve started a prayer time in our apartment to pray specifically for the campaign – second and last Tuesday of the month. We had 11 adults and two children here for the first meeting! WOW!

We wanted to get this blog page up and running, with photos and all. SO – here the start. We’ll try to update weekly – fine plan, eh?

One of the key things about Baeza is the olive production – in every direction, all the way to the horizon are olive groves! Olives for snacks, in food, olive oil everywhere and in everything! It’s a good thing we like it! We take long walks during the week for exercise, and along the edge of town we get to see the tree up close. A lot are old and gnarly – maybe 500 years old , or more. Who knows?

Of course, home is where your hat is, but we are thankful the Lord gave us a great apartment. It’s not that big – 15 people really fills it up! But the location is great, the landlord is reasonable, so is the rent! And the kitchen is livable. Of course, the house in Guatemala was a foretaste of heaven, and we’ve lived in worse. The street ain’t too shabby either. We live on the 3rd floor above ground, and from the photo below, you can see our view.

The summer sun hasn’t hit the wall directly, so we have escaped the majority of the heat so far – It’s around 90 degree all the time in the place, but fans tend to move the air around. I suppose after a cold winter, this will be very welcome!

OK, María, pass the address around!