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.