March 05
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Johnson Journal

3-13-05, Coaching

3-20-05, Romanian Connection

3-27-05, Happy Easter

Dear Friends,
Kay and I try to get out for a date every week, even if it's just to McDonalds.  Last week we went into Madrid for a movie called Finding Neverland.  It's excellent, we recommend it, even though it does have a sad ending.  It's about the inspiration behind Peter Pan, including the concept of Neverland.  John Barry, who wrote Peter Pan, had a difficult childhood and imagined a place called Neverland, which he then developed with the creative help of some children he came to know.  The theme of the play was, "You just have to believe."  As Christians, of course, the object of our faith is much more trustworthy than ferries and a fantasy land.  Our faith is in foreverland, the Kingdom of God, and more importantly, in the King Himself.
Foreverland is where God Himself intercedes for His people, as He does in Exodus.   Foreverland was manifested in the administration of King David, where he experienced God as "my, strength, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, my refuge, my shield, my stronghold" (Ps 18:1.2).  Foreverland is where one can buy the bread of life and fine wine without money (Is 55:1), and where the Word of the King always accomplished it's purpose, just like the rain and the snow.(Is 55:10,11).  It's where the King loves us, His people, so much that he sent His own Son to save us.  It's the fulfillment of our deepest desires the realization of our greatest joy and it will never end.
Foreverland is real, and we long to see our new friends become citizens.  Amelia and Ignacio are becoming good friends (Kay is with Amelia right now, they are going shopping together).  Fernando and I have gotten out of the pattern of bike riding twice a week, I hope we can go today, we always have a good conversation.   Alberto is a new friend who wants to learn English.  Oscar and Anabelia are expecting their first baby, Marcos and Sofia just had one, Luis and Merchi are open spiritually.  God is working all around us, we just want to be open to what He's doing, and lead people into His Kingdom.  We are praying to be able to start a seeker sensitive group in our home by the end of April.
When you see the movie, remember the many in Spain that still don't know that the truth that Foreverland, and knowing the King Himself,  is so much more wonderful than the fantasy of Neverland.
Thanks for praying,
Mark and Kay, Greg and Ian

Dear Friends,
The last couple of days have been full.  Today I played tennis with Oscar, a neighbor, then our family went to Oscar's and Anabelia's house for paella, a very special Spanish dish they made for us.   They are expecting their first child, and Oscar hit it off with the boys showing Greg his guitars and computer program for composing music, and then his advanced Play Station game (a racing game with a big screen TV, surround sound, a steering wheel and pedals).   Oscar and Anabelia, Fernando and Loli, Luis and Merchi, Ignacio and Amelia, and Alberto are candidates for the seeker group (Alpha) we hope to start soon.  So are Marcus and Sofia.
Tonight Marcus and Sofia, who just had their first child, invited us out to a movie.  We went to "Mar Adentro", a controversial and popular Spanish movie about euthanasia.  We had a good conversation afterward, came back to our house for coffee, where Greg told us he was robbed.  Seems a young guy with his hand in his pocket told Greg he had a gun and Greg gave him 15 euros (about $20).  Obviously we're thankful he's OK, and that he reacted the right way, just giving the guy what he wanted.  We know the prayers of many cover us, and this is one instance we specifically sensed God's protection.
A friend recently sent me a book called Coaching 101 to help me in my relationship with a young Venezuelan missionary in Northern Africa.  The book is quite good, and helped yesterday in a couple of meetings with young pastors I'm trying to encourage.  Actually, Eric is a businessman who is trying to establish a church in his "spare time".  He and his wife just had their first child and he's a venture capitalist who has to do a fair amount of traveling.  He's Harvard educated, obviously very bright, also very innovative, but hasn't fully thought through all of the implications of what he's trying to do.  I don't have all the answers, but was able to ask good questions to help him focus.  He would like Greg to help him with music, and Greg's excited about that possibility.  Eric is the friend who is successfully using the Alpha course in Madrid, so he's also been helping us think about how to use it in our area.
Carlos has been a pastor for less than two years, and is still in his "testing period".  He has a lot on his plate, hoping to start a new church, a need to develop leaders, and a project to expand their facilities.  On top of all that he's dealing with a sticky divorce  problem in the congregation.  He is not sure that he will be approved by the congregation when the two year testing period is over (75% have to agree to call him).  I've mentioned Carlos before, he's a young pastor who has much potential.  He gave me his annual report to the congregation, and some of his frustration comes out in it.  He could use our prayers.
Even as I say that, I know many of you are praying for us, and we again want you to know how thankful we are for you. 
Mark and Kay

Dear Friends,
Looking out my second story office window, where my computer is located, I can see our Romanian neighbors.  They have family visiting, as they often do over a weekend.  I had an interesting talk with Alexander, the father, this morning. I reiterated to him that our purpose for being here is to start a church, something I don't say to our nonchristian neighbors.  He said he would like to contribute financially when we get to the point of starting public meetings.  They are 7th Day Adventists, but share our vision for seeing Spaniards come to Christ, and seeing a church started.
Mircea works at the school that they boys attend.  He is able to fix about anything, but more importantly has a big heart and also wants to see Christ's church established in Spain.  I see him every Thursday morning at 6:30 AM when we meet with other men to pray and share what the Lord has been teaching us.  You can pray for Mircea's niece who has leukemia.  His family is trying to raise money for an medical insurance in Romania. 
I was exhausted after playing tennis with Luis and some other friends yesterday.  We finished late.  But he brought up the subject of starting a seekers' group, so we definitely seem to be moving forward with the idea.  It's a good sign when our friends start bringing it up!
Thanks for praying,
Mark and Kay, Greg and Ian

Dear Friends,
Last night I finally saw The Passion..  Greg had seen it last year with our friends Mariano and Fanny Pineda, and has been bugging me ever since to watch it with him.  Kay and Ian opted out: too violent and too bloody.  And it is, of course.  But I wonder, too violent and bloody for whom?
It obviously wasn't too violent for the Romans.  They were used to that kind of thing and invented crucifixion, or at least perfected it.  The Jewish religious leaders arranged it, went out to Golgotha to see it.  But one of the things that impressed me was that the people who really had the chance to call for Jesus' release instead called for his crucifixion.  Mob mentality.  I've felt just a bit of it at a football game and have been surprised by it, a "civilized" manifestation of the Roman games where people were killed by gladiators or animals. 
Visualizing our Lord Jesus Christ bloodied and beaten attacks my sensibilities.  I'm driven to look away, but I don't.  In the case of Jesus, it's more than just morbid curiosity; I know that He is suffering what I should suffer, He's paying the price that I could never pay, in fact He is paying the price for all of us at the same time.  It is not too violent, it's what Michael Card calls A Violent Grace in his book.  It is as violent as it had to be.
After several days of rain and darkness, the sun came out this morning and the birds are singing.  I don't know, but I would like to imagine that the sun was shining on the first Easter morning too.  And when the rock was rolled away and  Jesus sat up and laid aside His clothes, birds were singing.  There is new life, new hope and creation rejoices.
We pray that one day soon our neighbors and non-Christian friends will rejoice with us, that we will celebrate next Easter with a new church that the Lord has helped us plant here.
Thanks for praying with us,
Mark, Kay, Greg and Ian

Thanks for praying!