April 05
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Johnson Journal

Dear Friends,
Next Sunday, April 10, the Camarma Initiative team is taking a significant step of faith.  God has clearly been working in different individuals in our neighborhood, and we are sensing that it is Godīs timing to start a seekerīs group.  We are going to use the Alpha course as a base, which includes a clear presentation of the gospel.   The first talk is apologetic in nature, and is titled "Christianity: Boring, Untrue and Irrelevant?".
I apologize in advance for the length of this report, I value your time and try to keep them succinct as a rule.  But this is an important week for the Camarma Initiative, and we really feel the need for your prayers. 
There are many logistical details to decide, and we'll need your prayers for those.   But the most significant prayer request, or requests, would be for those people that we will invite, that God would be preparing their hearts.  Here they are:
  • Our teammates, Ned and Joanie Steffens, hope to bring Virginia and Pili.  Virginia speaks very good English and likes to explore different philosophies.  When Joanie confronted her with CS Lewis' conclusion that Jesus was either a fraud, crazy or exactly who He said He was, she said that He was probably crazy!  But she is reading the Sermon on the Mount (though she says she is not interested in the Bible).   Pili recently married a man from the Dominican Republic who claims to be a Christian.  The Steffens have known her for years.  They need discernment to know if God is preparing others to invite as well.
  • Antonio and Lidia.  Antonio helped me repair our chimney a few weeks ago.  Lidia's brother had a serious accident recently, was in the hospital for weeks and is now in a bed in their living room.  As I was going by their house today Antonio invited me in and I met the injured brother, Javi, and his girl friend Ruth, who is caring for him.  Antonio had told Javi that I'm praying for him and I was able to reiterate that, and had a great discussion with Antonio about spiritual things.  He is open to coming to Alpha, and hopefully the rest of the family will come as well.
  • Oscar and Anabelia.  Oscar is my tennis buddy, Anabelia is expecting their first child, who they have already named Sandra.  They are working hard to prepare the baby's room, but took time out to have a drink with us this afternoon.  They mostly showed us room designs from catalogues.  But we did tell them we are planning an event next Sunday without going into much detail.
  • Ignacio and Amelia.  Amelia is Kay's shopping partner, together they can be dangerous.  They are new to the neighborhood and are redesigning their front yard, I'm talking about brick walls and earth moving!  So I've gone over to help a couple of times in the last couple of weeks and we had a long talk with them today.  They always ask a lot of questions about what I do, so today we asked why.  Turns out they wonder why I am home so much!  (a common church planter's problem, and major reason why we've rented office space in Camarma).  We haven't invited them yet, but hope to tomorrow.
  • Fernando and Loli.  Fernando is my bike riding buddy, we try to go a couple of times a week and always have a great talk the whole way.  Thursday it was about the DaVinci Code and The Passion of Christ.  I found out that they are supporters of two different "virgins", Loli supports one and Fernando the other.  This is common in Spain, they are almost like religious clubs centered around virgins of different names (it is said that there are 22,000 virgins of different names in Spain alone, like "The Virgin of Medicinelli").  He has referred to a Jehovah's Witness who tried to convert him a few years ago, and is skeptical about the Alpha group.  He needs lots of prayer!
  • Luis and Merchi.  Merchi is the lady who said at the Christmas get together that her faith has been permanently damaged.  Luis is another tennis partner, likes to think of himself as a philosopher, reads lots of books (interestingly did not like the Da Vinci Code).  We have talked about the Alpha course before in terms of a discussion group where you can ask anything you want.  He said, "I'd like a church like that!".  We are supposed to have coffee together tomorrow.
  • Marcus and Sofia.  Just had a baby, Sonia.  Marcus works in Frankfurt, commutes to Spain for the weekends.  They invited us to the award winning Spanish movie "Mar Adentro" (Ocean Within) a couple of weeks ago.  It's about a guy who is paralyzed from the neck down in a diving accident, just like Joni Erickson Tada, difference is he commits suicide (actually he has to get someone to help him).  We had a good talk afterward.
  • Alberto is a young Argentinean who wants to practice English with us, I've been meeting together with him for a few weeks.  Alexander and Irina are Romanians, Seventh Day Adventists, who live across the street.  Paco is another tennis partner, he and his wife Isabel are separating.  Victor and Carolina are Jehovah's Witnesses.  We'll invite all of these as well.
As you can see, this is an eclectic group, and we really don't know who will come and who will not.  We aren't sure who the Holy Spirit is preparing, but that's not our job.  Pray for wisdom, discernment and courage on our part, and for open hearts in those we invite. 
Thanks for partnering with us,
Mark, Kay, Greg and Ian

Dear Friends,
Last week we took a step of faith and invited many of our neighbors to a seekers' study in our home.  Not one of them came.   That's not to say that it was a lost weekend.   Antonio had hoped to come, but was in the hospital with his mother awaiting an operation to see whether or not she had cancer.  Fortunately she does not, and he knows that we have been praying for him.  I had a good long talk with Luis and Merchi, and they were going to come but at the last minute made it a point to come and tell us that they would not be there.  That's actually a good sign, that they took the trouble to tell us in advance.  So we'll try again this Sunday, and we'll appreciate your prayers.
This week I was able to talk with Ramon Diaz, one of the leadership team in the church we started in Caracas.  They have their struggles, like any church, but there is some really encouraging news as well.  A couple of weeks ago we'd received a report from Luis Chacon that the church had a campaign over Holy Week and that 54 homes in the targeted area, Sarria, were visited with a number indicating a desire to receive Christ as their Lord.  There are currently about 50 people just from that area studying the Bible, to the point that Ramon and Angelica, his wife, are worn out.   Those people are not attending church, which isn't necessarily bad because they would not fit.  So they are talking about starting separate services for the people in Sarria and hoping to see that become a church.
Lucas Colmenares is the friend in Muslim Northern Africa I've been trying to coach and encourage.  He was recently visiting his home church in Caracas and met Ramon.  They spent some time together and Ramon answered a lot of Lucas' questions about how the CCB is organized and about their missions vision.   Several people from Venezuela have a desire to help Lucas in his ministry, and a small group may go to visit him next year.  It's fun to watch God bring people together and provide resources His way.
I think it must have been therapeutic for Paul to write to the churches he started even as he worked to start new ones.  He constantly makes statements like "I thank God for you", he was obviously blessed by the good reports.  It was encouraging  to hear good news from Caracas in a week that the Lord knew we needed it.
Thanks for praying,
Mark, Kay, Greg and Ian

Dear Friends,
Second time in a row, no one came to our seeker group.  One reason was that it was a busy week with lots of distractions.  Today is Greg's birthday  so we were out most of the day and could not remind people about the meeting.  But we had a great time together as a family, first at an English speaking church service the boys love to attend, then going out for a snack at the Hard Rock Cafe (Greg's request) in Madrid. 
But we have been in touch with our neighbors, and we're not giving up yet!  Antonio has been with his mother in the hospital most of the week and is exhausted.  I told him not to worry about coming.  Luis said he was interested in coming, but didn't, his wife Merchi seems less interested.  Fernando had a work related appointment.  Sofia and Marcus went to a family event.  Those are all people who are interested, others asked us how last week went, they are sort of waiting to see.  Of course there is nothing to report until someone actually comes!  So pray again for these neighbors, and for Pili and Virginia, the Steffen's friends.
God's still on the throne.  He never gives up on us, how can we give up on our neighbors?
Thanks for praying,
Mark, Kay, Greg and Ian

Dear Friends,
One thing I noticed about the Green Bay Packers of the late 90's is that they always made great adjustments to their game plan at half time.  The Packers might have problems in the first half, but the coaching staff had the capacity to make whatever adjustment necessary to give the team a chance to win the game. 
Time for the half time adjustment.  A missionary friend gave me some good advice yesterday, and we are changing our game plan.  We've seen evidence that the neighbors aren't ready for a direct presentation of the gospel, so we'll give it to them in bite sized chunks.  For example, this morning I went biking with Fernando, and we talked about evolution.  He always wants to respect others' views, have his views respected, and be able to dialogue.  But he recognized that there is absolute truth as soon as you say that God exists and that He created the universe.  We're making progress. 
We went over to Antonio and Lidia's house at noon for coffee.  It seems like God has allowed lots of trials in their lives and that they are open to at least talk about spiritual issues.  Javi (Lidia's brother who had a serious accident), Ruth and Lorenzo from the extended family were also there, and we talked about subjects like the difference between Catholics and "Evangelists" (their name for evangelicals), the virgin, saints, and what it means to have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
This evening our friends Amelia and Nacho are coming over for a barbeque.  We don't know what to talk about yet, but are sure God will give us some opportunity.  So the new game plan seems to be  less event oriented than related to people and their needs.  We still need to get to the point of sharing the gospel, but are dependant on the Lord for each step.  That's a great place to be!
TEAM Spain is also considering the next steps to take for it's future ministry on the field, so we'll appreciate your prayers for this process as well.  We want to do what we can to prepare ourselves, by faith, for a church planting movement of churches establishing churches in Spain.  Part of the process is to evaluate our strategic plan and streamline our structures. 
By the way, we've updated our web page (address below): check it out. 
Thanks for praying,
Mark, Kay, Greg and Ian