October 04
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Johnson Journal

10-3-04, bike rally

10-10-04, God centered ministry

10-17-04, partners

10-24-04, the battle

10-31-04, wet firewood

Dear Friends,
Did you ever throw a party and nobody came?  It's a fairly common occurrence for church planters.  We thought a good way to get to know some of our neighbors better would be to invite some that were still just acquaintances to share some cake and coffee for my birthday.  Kay worked hard making two cakes and we all spent the day cleaning the house.  Of the five couples invited, one came.   The boys didn't mind, there was lots of cake left over!
Oscar and Anabelia did come, on the way to visit her father in the hospital.  We gave them some roses from our garden and let them know we'd be praying for her dad.  I invited Fernando and his wife (don't know her name yet) and Antonio and Lidia.  They both use fireplaces and I proposed going together to buy firewood this winter, which they have agreed to.  Developing friendships here just goes very slowly, sort of like trying to light wet firewood.
Victor and Carolina, our neighbors right next door, gave an interesting response to the invitation.  They are Jehovah's Witnesses and don't celebrate birthdays.  But they did give me some literature, invited me in for coffee, and we talked a bit.  To tell you the truth, I was thrown off balance by their response and didn't have a whole lot to say.  But they are open to talking more and I've been looking up things on the internet, as well as reading the materials they gave me.  The sad thing, is they have so much right, but are so wrong.  Where is the joy in Christ?  Basically they exchange one set of rules for another.   They need Jesus.
Thanks for praying with us,
Mark and Kay
Dear Friends,
Last year I invited a former missionary from Spain to lunch and asked him if he had any advice for us before we left.  He told me to be ready for the spiritual warfare, that he wasn't and that was one reason he didn't return to the mission field.  This didn't surprise me too much.  Missionaries are subject to spiritual attacks periodically.  We don't have the support structure of family and church that we have in the states.  In addition to that there are places in the world where there seems to be a greater degree of spiritual oppression.  Dr. Timothy Warner from Trinity University, who has written books on spiritual warfare, once told me that he had never sensed such oppression as on his visit to Caracas.
Spain has been another target for oppression, from the days of the Spanish Inquisition to persecution under Franco the last century.  And although Spain is changing and doors are cracking open, spiritual attacks continue.  Let me share a portion of an email that I received from a friend this week, sent only to fellow missionaries: 
"Over these past couple of days I have personally been struggling with issues of faith and perseverance.  It seems like doubts and uncertainty keep plaguing me and my thinking.  Can I make a request of you all?  Can I ask you to pray for us...?"
These thoughts are not unique to my friend John.  They attack me periodically, and I'm sure that they plaque our missionary colleagues.  Could I repeat John's request, first that you pray for him, his family and his church planting team?  And while you're at it, please pray for us and for Ned and Joanie on our team as well.  
Thankful for your prayers, 
Mark and Kay
Dear Friends,
Very few people have the capacity to start a church by themselves.  In fact, I'd go so far as to say that it can't happen.  Even when it appears that a missionary starts a church without a team, there is a team, starting with his family and extending to his prayer and financial supporters.  We're richly blessed by the churches and individuals who love and support us from a distance.  We're also blessed by good relationships with others who are committed to establishing Christ's church in Spain.
This week we met with other TEAM missionaries who are starting churches in the Madrid area, and a couple of times with our partners, Ned and Joanie Steffens.    We're all working through the start up phase that everyone wishes would move more rapidly.  We need God's perspective and encouragement.
At the same time God has provided encouragement from two groups of friends.  Yesterday, Ned and I met with a the TEAM missionaries involved in MK education in the boys' school.  They contribute to our work primarily by doing a great job of teaching our kids, but they are also deeply interested in the progress of the Camarma Initiative.  It was great to sense their warmth and support and to receive their prayers.
Wednesday evening we had the blessing to meet in Carlos Ramos' church on the other side of Madrid.  I've mentioned Carlos before, he has become a good friend.  I brought a message related to missions and evangelism, but the neatest part of the evening was an envelop that Carlos gave me after the service.  It had their church bulletin from last month with our pictures in it as their church's "Christian workers of the month" and included prayer requests that Carlos had pulled off of our web site.  There were several sheets of paper with personal notes of encouragement from individual members of their congregation.
It's interesting that when we need encouragement God most often provides it through His servants.  And we feel privileged this week to have received it from so many, including some of you who have written. 
More specifically, we feel like the Lord has opened an opportunity to talk with our JW neighbors.  They probably think they are trying to convert us, so we appreciate your prayers for Victor and Carolina.  And keep praying for Oscar and Anabelia.  Her father is quite sick, and that may be an open door to share the gospel.
Thanks for partnering with us!
Mark and Kay 
Dear Friends,

Imagine if you had the opportunity to define what a church should look like, then establish that church.  You have to exegete from the Bible what you believe to be the essential elements of the church and then apply them to the cultural context in which you live.  It doesn't do any good to put down  practices and policies that you don't like, because you are being called to establish them.  You can't criticize the pastor, because you are the pastor, at least for awhile.  This is how a church planter gets started, and it's one of the most difficult and rewarding positions that exists.

We are still working through the process of developing the values that will guide us as a team as we seek to establish a church here in Camarma and surrounding urbanizations east of Madrid.  One of our core values is God centered ministry.  This is how we have defined it:

We seek to glorify Jesus Christ and follow Him in all we are and do. We seek to apply the Bible to our lives, believing it is God’s Holy Word to us and that the Holy Spirit uses it to guide us. We believe that worship and prayer are vital components of a God centered ministry.

These are much more than words to us, they are guideposts for Ned and Joanie Steffens and us  as we seek to establish Christ's church.  We'll focus on other of the values in coming weeks, and if you want a refresher you can always find them on our web page.   Pray with us that we'll apply these value in our lives daily.
This afternoon Kay and I visited with a young couple we'd met a few weeks ago, Marcos and Sophia.  Marcos is German, Sophia Spaniard, and they are expecting their first baby in a month.  Marcos travels to Frankfurt to work every week and then returns on the weekends.  This is a new friendship which we would like to see deepen to the point that we can share the good news with them.
Thanks for praying with us!
Mark and Kay
Dear Friends,
It seems to us that evangelism should be a lot easier than we tend to make it, and God has blessed us with some fun ways of making friends here.  This week our neighbor, Oscar, invited us to a bike rally in Madrid.  Kay passed because of bad knees, but I joined Oscar and his wife Anawelia (pronounced Anabeilia).  The police had closed off some of the major streets downtown and we were able to bike past many of the gorgeous fountains and architecture that is Madrid.  Unfortunately there were thousands of other cyclists that had the same idea, and poor Anawelia is not really adept with her bike.   She fell at least three times, the last time scraping herself up a bit.  We took her to a first aid tent at the end of the route (about 20 kilometers), made sure she was OK and then went out for coffee.  (It was her idea!)
One doesn't often expect clear opportunities to present the gospel in an outing like this, and there wasn't one today.  But we did pass a movie theater and I was able to comment on a Spanish movie, Mar Adentro (Ocean Within)  that has been the focus of much debate.  It's about a man who becomes a quadriplegic and decides to commit suicide.  The movie is apparently quite well done (we haven't seen it) and has raised the Kevorkianesque question of whether a person has the right to kill himself.  Most Spaniards say yes, but I was able to say that it depends on one's perspective.  If there is no God and we run our own lives, then one would have the right to do as one likes.  But if there is a God and He gave us life, then only He has the right to take life.  Oscar agreed, then I think Anawelia fell again and we were interrupted.  But we've broken the ice on spiritual issues.
That's life for us these days, looking for friends with whom we can share the good news of Jesus and developing the credibility to do so.  As always, we very much appreciate your prayers.  By the way, our web page has been updated and includes some pictures of the bike rally, in the photo album.  The address is below, check it out!
Thankful for you,
Mark and Kay