Beaches, river, land — what do they all have in common?
Ribadeo is on the northern holiday coast of Galicia, where there are many beautiful beaches, including one called Los Catedrales (The Cathedrals), which attracted over 250,000 sightseers this summer. Even though there are some ongoing attempts to begin new churches in different towns, there are still many medium-size towns like Ribadeo, Barreiros, and Foz that have no established evangelical church. But going back to almost 100 years ago, there was an Assembly in San Miguel, which was finally abandoned because of political and social pressures. The meetings had been held in different homes and eventually a church hall had been built, but they were never able to obtain official permission and twice the premises were closed by the police. Eventually most of the believers moved away or emigrated to Argentina. There is a small cemetery where some were buried, and the seed that had been sown is all that remains.
It is here in San Miguel (right in the middle of these northern towns, called the Mariña) that God has brought us to rebuild the ‘ancient ruins’ of His church. Every week we pack our suitcase and drive the 110 kilometres from Narón to San Miguel, to work from Thursday through to Sunday afternoon on this new church plant project.
For us, Sunday starts on Saturday evening, with Manoli preparing the meal that we usually share with everyone after the morning meeting in San Miguel. But this Sunday it will be different, because we will be returning earlier to Narón for a special event.
It has been a busy but really fruitful summer, with a lot of teams and young people coming, many for the Camino pilgrimage trek. A highlight was the bilingual youth camp with a combined group of young people from Australia, all over Spain, and the Agua Viva church in Narón. At the end of the camp there were five young people who wanted to be baptised.
Back in San Miguel on Sunday morning, we begin the day with a coffee of course, I finish preparing the messages for the two meetings today, and Manoli finishes preparing the meals. Then we go and pick up some local people who don’t have transport, including Maruxa, who with her 80 years still remembers her father and others who went to the old church. She vaguely remembers her father singing songs in the street with one of the believers. We are now meeting in a bottom floor apartment, which we were able to purchase at the beginning of this year, with the help of several donations from Australia and with a bank loan. We are only one kilometre from the beaches and one can see the ocean from the large patio that we have at the front of the apartment.
The apartment we are presently using has been the next step forward in the church plant project, as it provides us with a meeting place for which we don’t have to pay rent, and it is a good investment for the future needs of the project. Maruxa has just recently taken us to see a plot of land in San Miguel. It used to be her family home, but now there only remains some old broken-down stone walls of the house and a good large field at the back. She wants us to buy it, and we are looking for a plot of land to purchase. We can then begin building a retreat and camp centre for young people, and eventually have a larger premises for the future church as it grows.
There is a huge need to work with the youth — it is one of the biggest needs locally and nationally, as there is really nothing positive for the upcoming generation. There is little hope for the future with a still-high unemployment rate of almost 50%. God is also giving us more and more opportunities to work with youth in camps, retreats and training programs. Having our own retreat and training centre will be a real asset.
We have coffee at 11:00 with everyone who arrives at the meeting, coming from a wide range of towns around us, including a team of helpers who come regularly from the Agua Viva church in Narón to assist us with the new church plant. The meeting starts at 11:30, and afterwards we usually eat together on the patio, before returning to Narón for the evening meeting. But today we have baptisms by the river, and we go straight there after the meeting ends in San Miguel.today we have baptisms by the river, and we go straight there after the meeting ends in San Miguel.
Galicia is the greenest and wettest part of Spain, which makes it always a challenge, if you are going to organize something outside, even in our summer time. It was looking like rain and we had planned for all of the church to eat together beside the river, and then have the baptismal service, followed by the outdoor evening meeting in the same area
It is grey and overcast, but the rain holds off during the time of the picnic lunch. By the time of the baptisms, it has started to drizzle. This is no problem for the young people who go down into the waters, nor does it bother the church members and a large number of family and friends who have also come to see. We just use umbrellas, which make it a typical Galician baptism. The following church meeting outdoors is a bit more risky, as it begins to rain more heavily. By taking shelter under the trees and using a suspended plastic ground sheet, we are able to hold the meeting and everyone enjoys the day. It is a great public testimony. God is good.
After packing up and finishing talking with everyone, we finally get back home to our house in Trasmonte (near Narón). The suitcase is unpacked again, and we relax a bit with our evening meal, which we eat round about 10:00. It has been a good day in some ways, finishing a great summer month of July working with young people and ending with five of them taking a step of faith of baptism in the river. Within a couple of days we will be packing our suitcase again to return to San Miguel on the beach, to continue with the new church plant. There we will continue to look for the plot of land that God has for us to be able to build for the future of the new church and the young people.