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Johnson Journal Newsletters
Monday, August 3, 2009
Busy and Blessed 7-09
Dear Friends,

What a great couple of weeks we've had.  Alejandro is a Venezuelan intern in our church living with us, and we had the privilege of hosting his family a couple of weeks ago.  The whole family would like to serve the Lord in Tenerife, an island off the coast of Spain, with our friends Dave and Lois Belch and Steve and Cheryl Albecht.   The exception is Alejandro, who would like to work with us in Madrid!  

This week we welcomed our friends and former co-workers Scott and Lorna Muha, who have been missionaries in Venezuela for about the same number of years as we were.  They have finished their part in establishing a church and now they are praying about coming to serve the Lord in Spain.  Does that sound familiar?  They had come a couple of months ago, this time they came with two pastors from their home church who would like to support them in a church planting project.  It was invigorating for us to think about what God is doing around Madrid and think about how they might be a part of it.  Pray with them and us as they consider several possibilities.

Yesterday we received a team from the denomination of our friends Lonny and Kathy Humes, members of our church in Camarma.  They are going to do an English camp as a way for our church to serve the community of Camarma.   Today we were blessed by a terrific celebration of our Lord in the Camarma church.  The praise team was large and very good.  I just called and told Jerry, who coordinated it, what a great job he did.  We had one of our larger meetings because it included the team.  It also included a family who has recently started attending from Meco.  They moved to Meco last month and when they opened their mail box found a card we had distributed during Easter week last year.  They called and have begun attending the church.  Their was also an Argentinean family that visited, they are actually plating a church in another part of Madrid and we've gotten to know each other in recent days.  

Of the 50 people that attend, there are 7 different nationalities, and we come from almost as many different denominations and backgrounds.  One lady told me today how much the church blesses her, and it does us, too!

Pray for the English camp this week, that God will bring the kids He wants there.  Also pray for the closing event Friday night.  The team will also be doing some street evangelism in Madrid and in Camarma.  

We appreciate you,
Mark and Kay

Posted by johnsonspain at 6:57 AM CDT
Permalink
Red Sea 7-09
Dear Friends,

The subject line got your attention, didn't it?  Actually, I'm not referring to the Red Sea, but to the Mar Rojo restaurant in Camarma.   We've eaten more than a few meals there and many more cups of coffee.  The Mar Rojo hasn't split exactly, it's about to close because of the economy.  I received the news the other day when Soraiya the waitress told my friend Jerry and me as we chatted over coffee.

WeI talked about our responsibility as a Christians, and more broadly as a church, in the face of the world wide economic crisis.  I was motivated to ask Soraiya, the waitress, how she was doing.  She always has a smile, always is positive, but she said frankly that she's doing badly.  Our Spanish evangelism often consists of trying to crack the door open with a question, then stepping through (or sticking out a foot!) when it opens.  I shared briefly that Jesus promises a peace that only he can give, very unlike the peace of the world.  I also said that we'd pray for her.  She responded that her husband Oscar had gotten a job, which she considered an answer to the prayers of some Christian women who told her they'd pray for him a couple of months ago.  The door has opened a bit further, pray for courage and wisdom as we follow up.

We've heard that one of the options for the Mar Rojo is that it would become a "couples hotel", one that charges by the hour.  This is just a rumor, but obviously is not what we'd like to see happen in the community.  The owner is Juan, and it would be great if he'd be both convicted and blessed by our Lord.

Tonight Amelia is coming over for dinner with a friend.  She is going trough a messy divorce and we hope to be salt and light.

Our church is hosting a team July 26 to August 2.  It looks like we will do an English camp in the school where the church meets.  We're trusting that this is what God wants for us after the first option closed.   

Thanks so much for praying.

In Christ,
Mark and Kay

Posted by johnsonspain at 6:56 AM CDT
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God Things 6-09

It's fun to watch God put things together.  I'm writing this from the annual conference of FIEIDE, the association TEAM works with in Spain.  It's been fun to connect with several old friends and meet some new ones.  Some of these are good contacts for the investigation: determining what God is doing in Spain.  Others are potential candidates for future church plants TEAM might do in Spain.  This in only a half day of meetings so far.  We are entering now in the business sessions, which gives me the opportunity to write to you!  Sorry, but I've never been a big fan of business meetings.  The best part of these conferences is connecting with the people over a meal or coffee, and I did connect with some very interesting people who God is using in Spain.

Now I'm back home and we are preparing to have some good friends over tonight, Marcus and Sofia.  I have a year end party for my tennis league tomorrow, a chance to get to know guys in the league better, which was the real objective for playing.  Unfortunately, it starts during the church service, so we'll have to leave as early as possible so I can get back for at least a bit of it.  

On another front, Jeremy and Jessica are a young couple that attended our church in Camarma for a few months, and now have returned to California.  They "happen to" live close to Greg in Orange and we think he'd like them.  They may be able to help him with job connections.  Regardless, it impresses me that J and J have moved close by even as we've been praying for Greg.  Greg is applying for a loan, by the way, as he has still been unable to find a job.

There is good and bad news about the summer camp.  The town does not want us to do a program for the 225 registered kids in the town camp.  That means we'll have to do something different with the team that is coming.  There are several alternatives that would be few kids but perhaps give a better opportunity to present the gospel.  The town camp would give a much better contact with non-Christian families in the town.  So please pray for wisdom, and that God will clearly open the door He wants us to enter.

From the beginning our church has been concerned about the teenaged children in our congregation, but we've been unable to maintain our own youth group after some ups and downs.  It's been proposed several times that we connect with a group in a nearby town, San Fernando de Henares, led by a dynamic couple, Giles and Debbie Davis.  This church is connected with another church in Madrid that is a big sister of ours.  It "just so happened" that youth group celebrated a weekend retreat in the school in which our church meets.  This allowed our teens to meet the kids in the group after our church service.  They were happy to receive our kids, and they will join the activity their next meeting.

So, God is on the throne.  You knew that, just wanted to remind you!

Thanks for praying for us,
Mark and Kay


Posted by johnsonspain at 6:55 AM CDT
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Summer 6-09
Dear Friends,

The summer is heating up in Spain (in the 90's all last week and forecast the rest of this week), and in our church.  We had a good leaders' meeting last week, setting a general calendar for the rest of the year.  In the next week or so we hope to do a tract distribution in Camarma, pray for open minds and hearts, and for a good response.

In July a team is arriving from the states to help with a program the town of Camarma sponsors for kids that are out of school with parents that work.  As we've done a couple of other times with teams from Northern Ireland, we would provide a one week "English camp"  as part of the town's activities.  At least we had planned to do so.  This week we found that our main contact person was fired.  I went in to speak with her replacement yesterday and she knew nothing about our group.  So we are not sure whether or not we'll be able to do the program.  If we do, it will be a challenge.  The first time we had about 90 kids, last time about 120.  This year they have 225 signed up so far!

If we can't work in the existing program, we will create our own at the school where Ian attends, ECA.  That may be better all around because we can talk more openly about our relationship with God than we otherwise could in a government sponsored program.  On the other hand, involvement in the town program will give us more exposure to non-Christian families.  So pray for God's direction and that we'll discern what He wants us to do.

We're hoping to take advantage of the nice weather to get to know our new neighbors better.  We've been touching base with several of our old neighbors and praying for opportunities to share the gospel.  My friend Luis still has not cracked the Bible I gave him last year, but is now out of work and told me Friday that he will.  Kay has spent a lot of time with Amelia as she goes through a messy divorce.

I'll be going to the Valencia area next week for a conference and to meet with pastors to see what God is doing in that part of the country.

A number of people in the home group in the states that prays for us  are in the hospital with serious medical problems.  Specifically we're concerned about Ceil, Jerry and Red.  Our former teammates in the Camarma church plant, Ned and Joanie Steffens, need wisdom as doctors consider treatment options for Joanie's cancer.

Greg still needs a job, badly!  Ian has been working half days at the school, even though he doesn't get paid for it.  We'll increase his allowance!

And we praise God that He loves us more than we know and that we can trust Him.

Thankful for your prayers,
Mark and Kay

Posted by johnsonspain at 6:54 AM CDT
Permalink
Opportunities 5-09
Dear Friends,

Last week was an incredibly fulfilling experience of seeing how God is working in smaller towns in the center of Spain, in Extremadura state and in the province of Cordoba.  I've always believed it's strategic to work in and near larger cities to try to develop church planting movements in a country.  But it's exciting to see people called by God to work in and through the smaller towns.  As a friend likes to say, Paul was called to the larger cities but Jesus went to the small towns of Judah.  A highlight was going to Miramontes Castle (actually the ruins of a castle) on a mountaintop overlooking many small towns and praying over them.

Yesterday I met with Mariano Blasquez, a key evangelical leader in Spain.  He shared his vision to reach an urbanization of Madrid called Puente de Vallecas, with a population of more than 100,000.  There is no shortage of need in Spain in the towns or the cities.  There are about 2700 evangelical churches for a population of 50 million.  If one figured an average of 100 per church, which is high, that works out to an evangelical population in Spain of about one half of one percent. There are 7000 towns and cities that have no church at all.  Cities like Madrid have huge sections with no church, like Puente de Vallecas, Sanchinarro and Las Tablas.  There are needs all over. As we investigate possibilities where TEAM Spain might next send church planting teams we all need God's perspective to determine where He is working and where He wants us to join Him.

At the same time our family is now under about as much financial stress as I can remember.   Of course many can say the same in this world economic crisis, including many of our Spanish friends.  In our case we are blessed by our faithful financial supporters.  We've just had a number of hits in one month that usually are more spread out: both cars needing major repairs, medical expenses not covered by insurance, our son in college needing help, moving expenses and furniture needed in the new home.  There are more, but you get the idea.  Our savings are pretty much wiped out.  

We don't look for demons under every rock, but the way these mini-crises have accumulated, about one a day lately along with other frustrations, leads us to believe we may be under a form of spiritual attack.  You can imagine this saps emotional energy even at a time when we have had good evangelistic opportunities with neighbors, good discipleship meetings with leaders in our church and the tremendous opportunities mentioned  above.

If God leads you to help financially, let us know and we'll tell you how.  But our greatest need right now is for prayer.  Thank you for continuing to lift us up, we depend on your prayers.

In Christ,
Mark and Kay


Posted by johnsonspain at 6:53 AM CDT
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Sunday 5-09
Dear Friends,

It's a Sunday afternoon in Madrid and the Packers are on.  No, wait, the fans are making just as much noise as a Packer game, but it's a tennis match.  Rafael Nadal, the Spanish sports hero, is playing Roger Federer for the ATP Madrid tournament championship.  Kay and I are planning to go for a walk, but we won't see a lot of neighbors out until the match is over.  ....   It just ended and Nadal lost.  We'll have to console our friends.

Our church attendance has been consistent, but we're looking to grow.  We have a couple of good opportunities this month, one for our young people to go into the Meco prison and do a drama for the prisoners there.  Secondly, we'll be passing out cards with info about our church on it, and trying to get out the word that there is an evangelical church meeting regularly in the town.  And of course we'd like to reach some of our neighbors.  Several in fact visited the school where we meet as a church yesterday for a "rastrillo", a huge garage sale that functions as a fund raiser for the school.   Events like these are steps toward inviting the same friends to a church activity.

The investigation of possible locations for TEAM's next church plants continues.  Next week I'll be making a trip to "Extremadura" (literally "extremely hard") to see what God might have for us there.  TEAM's Ministry Area Leader, John Nicely, will accompany me.  It's fun to watch how God puts pieces together as a vague possibility becomes more and more viable.

Greg and Ian are finishing their school years and are doing fine with their grades.  Greg really needs a summer job.  

Thanks for praying with us,
Mark and Kay 

Posted by johnsonspain at 6:52 AM CDT
Permalink
Good News 5-09
Dear Friends,

A few Saturdays ago I had the opportunity to accompany my friend Tony to a church called Buenas Noticias (Good News).  Tony said that they have the best kept secret in Madrid, though I'm sure they have not kept it secret in their part of the city from the size of their congregation.  We were in a leadership meeting and shared some ideas with them, though from their growth they have a few things to teach us.  They have 27 congregations associated with their mother church and have received a good parcel of land on which they are building, all realized since 1990.  It's good to know that God is working in some parts of Spain and specifically in Madrid.

That's an important part of our job since returning from our time in the states: to determine where God is working in Spain and how our missions agency, TEAM, can partner with others to participate in what God is doing.  The information we've gathered has been exciting and challenging, and we've just begun!  This week I'll speak to leaders at a retreat about the importance of intimacy with God, one of my favorite themes.  But the main reason for going is to learn from the pastors and leaders there.  Then later this month I'll visit Francis Arjona in the Cordoba province, with some other TEAM missionaries, to discuss how we might partner with him in his vision for that part of Spain.

In the church that we've helped to start in Camarma, Javier Alvarez shared a really creative message a couple of weeks ago on what it means to be born again.  He devided us into groups of 5 or 6 people and we acted out verbs related to the theme.  Our leadership team met this week to discuss how we can pursue Christian education in our church, among other themes.  We have lots of resources in our church, like Javier, and want to make sure we use them well.

Kay and I took the week off last week to celebrate our 25th anniversary.  Some friends lent us their seaside house in Ireland and we had a great time together renewing our marriage.  God is good!

Greg could use prayer as he looks for work in California this summer and continues to "wrestle with god" (his phrase).  Ian plays in the praise group at church.  Both boys want to finish their school year well. 

Thanks for praying with us,
Mark, Kay and Ian


Posted by johnsonspain at 6:51 AM CDT
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Black Hole 4-09
Dear Friends,

We were blessed this Palm Sunday by a message from Edgar, a Venezuelan businessman who is involved in our Camarma church.  Man, can that guy preach!  He related the book of Philemon to the reason Christ died for us.  I get to pray next week about the resurrection.

We related some information in our last update about the need for church planting in Spain.  In fact the percentage of believers in Spain is less than many countries commonly accepted as mission fields, such as China, India, Egypt and all of Latin America.

Madrid is considered by some to be "reached" because there are a couple of hundred churches in it.  The percentage of believers in Madrid is still under one percent.  But in the last couple of weeks we've discovered a huge section of the city that has no evangelical presence.  There is an urbanization called Las Tablas that is so new it doesn't appear on Google.  Hundreds of thousands of people live in Las Tablas and nearby Sanchinarro and there is no church there.  A Venezuelan family has moved there for business and would love to be part of a church plant.  Several families are considering joining them: please pray with the McMillans, Muhas, Yauns and Miramares about the possibility of forming a team.

A friend and co-worker, Lois Belch (wife of Dave), recently had a visa denied for work in Tenerife, and island belonging to Spain.  This is a concern for the work there and in all of Spain.

We are hoping for opportunities to reach out to neighbors this Holy Week.  We had a good chance to meet a couple of new neighbors yesterday.

Thanks for praying with us.

Mark, Kay and Ian


Posted by johnsonspain at 6:49 AM CDT
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Strategic Visits 3-09
Dear Friends,

People have been praying for Spain.  I could say this any time, but we've been particularly impacted in the last couple of weeks by the interest of people wanting to come to Spain to help us establish churches.  As we've hosted some of these and communicated with others by Email, we've been reminded again of the tremendous need in Spain.  And we've been affirmed in our call to Spain.

Here is a bit of what we've heard and experienced as we hosted our friends the McMillans and the Yauns.  The percentage of evangelical believers in Spain is still under one percent.  There are 377 towns and cities of more than 5000 that have no evangelical church.  There are more than 10 million Spaniards that do not even have a church in their town.  And in cities like Madrid, where there are churches, there are still huge sections of the city representing hundreds of thousands of people that have no church.  There are about 300 churches now in Madrid, which may sound like a lot.  Madrid has a population of 5 million.  If the churches average attendance of 100 per church (the average is actually much less), more than 99 percent of the population does not have a relationship with the body of Christ.

We visited one section of Madrid with Tony Vasquez of CAM.  In this section, Lavapies, there are 100 nationalities living within a few square blocks.  Many of these are people from North Africa and do not have the opportunity to hear the gospel in their closed home country.  As Tony said, the people in Northern Africa have open hearts but the door is closed to many countries.  In Spain the door is open to preach, but many Spaniards' hearts are closed.  It was exciting to share Tony's vision for reaching Arabs around Madrid.  In fact, as I met in a cafe in Madrid yesterday several people from different denominations were meeting to strategize about how to reach northern Africans in Madrid. 

There is a Latin connection in Spain.  Some friends from Venezuela, the Tablantes, have moved to the Madrid area and would love to be involved starting a church with the couples that visited.  In fact, Pete and Sharon McMillan helped start the church the Tablantes attended in Venezuela!  It's amazing the way God puts pieces together.  In addition to that, another couple have moved to Madrid from the McMillans church, though they are currently back in Venezuela, the Miramares would also love to help the McMillans start a church.  

Pray for the McMillans, for Micah and Kimberly Yaun who were also here last week, and for Scot and Lorna Muha who visit next week.  They also have visited Tenerife, an island that also belongs to Spain, and were impressed with ministry opportunities there.  They need God's direction about where He will want them to serve.

Luis Palau said that possibly God is going to reach Spain through immigrants.  I talked with a Spaniard today who says he believes God is working in a powerful way in Spain today, all around Spain, because of the economic crisis.  We don't wish trials for anyone, but many times a person has to go through tough times to recognize he needs God.  May it be, and may many churches be multiplied as a result.  God is doing great things in Spain!

Thanks for praying with us,
Mark, Kay and Ian


Posted by johnsonspain at 6:48 AM CDT
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Promised Land 2-09
Dear Friends,

The boxes are disappearing and we are feeling more settled in our house.  This is a good thing, because our ministry has begun to take off.   Alejandro, our church intern from Venezuela, will move in with us next week.  Two TEAM couples from Venezuela will be coming to stay with us in March, investigating the possibility of serving in Spain.  I have begun to meet with different people to explore possible ministry projects for TEAM Spain in the future.

If you would like to see pictures of our new place, and our congregation, take a look at our web page.  The address is below.

Kay has started participating in the women's association in Meco again and has been well received.  Wednesday was a cultural event called "The Sardines", which still confuses me.  It has something to do with burying sardines related to Ash Wednesday.  A free plate of sardines is served to anyone in town that wants it as part of the festivities (not the same sardines that have been buried!).  Kay helped serve with her Spanish friends.  She then had  hot chocolate with her friends afterward and got into a good discussion related to the fear of God.  She also spent significant time with her friend, Amelia, who is going through a divorce.

The leadership team in our church is doing a terrific job.  Alejandro is organizing the worship team, and we had 8 young people (including Ian) playing and singing last Sunday.  We are investigating the possibility of partnering in ministry with an older established church from Madrid.  We are inviting a young couple, Lemuel and Rachel, to come and develop our youth ministry and work with the praise team.   He is Puerto Rican, she is British.  They are considering three options, including ours.  We are hoping to start a home group in our town of Meco in the next week or two.

There is plenty of prayer ammunition above,  Again, thanks for partnering with us in Spain through your prayers.

In Christ,
Mark and Kay

Posted by johnsonspain at 6:47 AM CDT
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