Written by Leanna Westerhof. Media by Max Gensler
In Spain, I attend the church Comunidad Cristiana Luz Y Vida, translated as the Light and Life Community Church. It is a small church with around 20 or 30 people attending every Sunday. A lot of the members are from different countries including Peru, Costa Rica, the United States, and Spain.
As four young girls from small town Illinois, Brittany, Brooke, Michelle, and I have found ourselves embraced by this small community of believers. Every time we enter through those doors we are set upon by friendly, rapid Spanish speakers who bestow kisses on both of our cheeks every time we say hello or goodbye. It is the kind of community where after church, no one leaves right away. Instead, people linger and talk until someone has to usher them to the door. Even though I’ve only attended twice, I can tell this church in Spain is a close-knit community. Everyone has a role whether it is pitching in to help with passing the offering plate, leading worship, or organizing the newest community service project.
Since the church is small, and Josue Fajardo, the Free Methodist Missionary based in Spain has, on several different occasions, mentioned there are a lot of atheists in Spain, I decided to do a little digging based on what he said. Gallup found evidence that Spain is the fifth country with the highest percentage (20%) of atheists only behind China (61%), Hong Kong (34%), Japan (31%), and the Czech Republic (30%). I’ve also noticed, in the few Sundays I’ve been here, that there are few young people attending the church and youth group is a completely foreign concept.
In curiosity, I asked Isabella Fajardo, who is the daughter of Josue, why this was the case. She told me a lot of parents don’t enforce going to church in Spain because most of them don’t like the church. The reason for this is because of Franco, specifically, Francisco Franco the dictator of Spain from 1939 to 1975. Franco overthrew the Second Republic of Spain which was a democracy and inserted himself as the general and dictator of Spain. He made Catholicism the only tolerated religion in all of Spain and was overall a very controlling man. Also, families were forced to give money to the church and the church didn’t necessarily use it for the poor and needy. Once the dictatorship of Franco ended, the Spanish people were not inclined to attend church. Isabella also said that if youth do attend a church they undergo la comunión, also know in the U.S. as communion or confirmation. According to her, a lot of kids she knew only went through la communion for the party after the completion of the ceremony and classes. After they got their big party, many of the youth stopped attending church.
While worshipping with the new community I’ve found in Spain, I find myself in awe. Even though the language is different, we sing the same songs to the same God. The God I worship during Greenville College’s chapel on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings, and Thursday evenings is the same Dios I worship in Spain. Even though around 4,442 miles separate me from Greenville College, I still feel connected to people back home through Jesus Christ. It is comforting to know even though my language and culture are different from the people I am worshipping with, we are worshipping the same being I call my Lord and King. Knowing my beliefs span across oceans emphasizes for me how BIG God is.
According to Isaiah 55:8-9, we will never comprehend just who God is or how big He is, “for my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” This verse fills me with awe and a little bit of fear if I am being honest. It fills me with awe because I serve a God who knows what is best for me when I do not and fear because El Señor is so beyond my understanding that I can never truly grasp who He is.