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Anabaptists in Spain send request for mission workers

   

April 19, 2004
-by Bethany Keener

 


Anabaptist leaders in Spain met twice last year to discuss their vision for church growth. During their annual leadership meeting in March they will continue to explore methods of implementing their vision. from left to right; Jose Ignacio Diaz (Vigo); Davide Junquera (Vigo); Bruce Bundy (Madrid); Jose Luis Suarez (Barcelona); J. Robert Charles (Mennonite Mission Network); Augustin Melguizo (Burgos); Dennis Byler (Burgos; Mission Network worker).

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During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. – Acts 16: 9-10 (NIV)

Madrid, Spain – Anabaptist leaders in Spain have a vision based on multiplication: take five churches with 160 baptized believers and increase the numbers to 12 churches with 500 believers by the year 2025.

In order to work toward this goal, they have issued an invitation for mission investment in Spain to their fellow believers in North America, Latin America and Europe. While the Mennonite and Brethren in Christ congregations are currently seeing their numbers grow, they have few resources to work at church planting or leadership training.

“It is my hope that the churches in North and South America will receive this invitation from our handful of Anabaptists in Spain, as something of a ‘Macedonian call,’” said Dennis Byler, Mennonite Church Canada Witness worker and Mennonite Mission Network partner in Spain, citing Paul’s vision as recorded in Acts 16: 9-10, after which he carried the good news of Jesus Christ into Europe.

Byler said the hoped-for numbers would be the minimum requirement for a self-sustaining, self-replicating Anabaptist presence in the country. Otherwise, he said, the denomination must rely on imported leadership or face “the disappearance of a specifically Anabaptist witness lived out in local congregations in the country.”

José Luis Suarez, pastor in Barcelona, said his congregation’s focus during its first 25 years was “living out the gospel,” but now there is interest in trying to grow in numbers from the fairly constant numbers they have had over the past few years.

The Brethren in Christ congregation in Madrid, whose pastor is Bruce Bundy, has been a cell church since its inception and has already started a church plant 40 minutes outside the city.

Davide Junquera, pastor of the church in Vigo, and José Ignacio Díaz, an elder there, said that their congregation hopes to grow to 60 members, and then begin a new church plant in a neighborhood where two or three church families now live.

“The veneer of pseudo-Christian piety with which Europeans for so many centuries covered their deeply pagan faith and lifestyles has finally peeled away,” said Byler, who sees the urgency with which Spain needs “answers to the deepest needs of humankind which only the defenseless gospel of Jesus Christ can address.”

Byler shared the vision of the Anabaptist churches with a group of Latin Americans during an emotional meeting at Mennonite World Conference in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, last summer.

After first acknowledging the pain that Spain has caused Latin America in the past, he asked for assistance in building up the Mennonite witness in Spain through sending mission workers and praying. Tears flowed as prayers were lifted and many of the delegates from Latin America shared their own vision and calling for ministry in Spain.

Fikru Zeleke, a pastor from the Meserete Kristos church in Ethiopia, also called for a “powerful new missionary thrust in Europe” during the Global Mission Fellowship sessions the Sunday before the conference.

Anabaptist leaders are hoping for partners in mission who will have the patience to wait several decades for results, rather than having three- or four-year goals.

“Anyone who does invest in missions in Spain must do so in the awareness that Spain is a deeply secularized society, profoundly cynical about Christianity, individualistic to a fault and therefore slow to make any kind of commitment,” said Byler, who has worked in Spain since 1981.

“They must be able to invest for decades in the expectation that eventually the Lord will begin to give an increase.”

The leaders met twice in 2003 to discuss their vision and ways of working with Latin American Mennonites who are coming to Spain for employment and witness opportunities.