Monday, June 7, 2010

Only the Beginning

You may remember that I mentioned in my last blog that I would be staying with a Spanish couple for a little over a week. Well, I had a wonderful time with Mari and Salvador. My Spanish absolutely grew by leaps and bounds during that time. I received daily lectures from Mari for speaking in English and then she would look at me and say, "talk." I would ask her what she wanted me to say and she would tell me it did not matter, I just needed to talk. So I did. I learned a lot and grew close to them.

As I came up on the last six weeks of my time in Spain, my mom asked me some really good questions. Since then, I have been thinking and praying about them. Here are her questions and my thoughts as I close the door on this short but very impactful season in my life:
1.) If I felt I had accomplished/was accomplishing what I had set out to do.
2.) Whether my expectations for this time had been on track or not.
Her question really stuck with me. Have I accomplished my goals? Have my expectations changed? Have I made a lasting difference?

 Some of my goals in coming here were to be a blessing, to make a difference, to draw closer to God, and to learn more about the plans He has for my life. I believe that every day I accomplish each of these a little more. I have definitely gotten a small taste of the price I would have to pay to live the life of a missionary. I have counted the cost of God's call. Though I am still far from knowing or understanding the true price, I have seen a glimpse of it and realize that only with God's strength and with Him by my side can I accomplish His purpose for my life. After this time in Spain, I now feel God's call on my heart into full time missions more clearly than ever. I do not know the "how's", the "when's", or even really the "where's", but I am excited for the road ahead, twists, turns, bumps, and all.

My main expectations of my time here really were just to work hard and to form lasting relationships, and of course to learn the language. I can say very definitely that I have indeed fulfilled those expectations and continue to fulfill them each day I am here. While I am good friends with most of the youth in the ministry here, I have grown especially close with one girl in particular. This friendship began mainly because she speaks such clear Spanish that I could understand her easier than most Spaniards. So we started hanging out and doing things together, which quickly became a thing where just about every free moment we had, we spent together. I now count her as one of my very dearest friends.

As to whether I have been a blessing and made a lasting difference, I believe I am and have. One lady came to me in April and said she was not sure if I remembered, but I had prayed for her one night after church and it had just blessed her so much. I have to admit I was stunned. I did remember. It had been in my first weeks here, when I knew so little Spanish it was laughable and I was so homesick. When I prayed for this lady I was able to say a little bit in Spanish, but then the rest I prayed in English. This lady speaks no English at all and I still have no idea why she wanted prayer that night. However, to hear that even through all that, she had been blessed by my paltry efforts was amazing and eye opening. It really is the little things that count, and when you allow God to work through you, those little things make the big difference.

This church has equally (and probably more) been a blessing to me. One by one, all at different times and for different reasons, they have come to me and encouraged me. One girl told me, "Oh Grace, your Spanish is so much better now. I noticed because now when we tell jokes, you laugh too." She then went on to let me know how much my friendship meant to her. This church really is a family and they just enfold everyone who comes in the doors in arms full of love. When they see me, many of the ladies of the church come to me, saying, "Mi niña, mi niña!" (Which means both "my girl" and "my daughter.") An "Abuelita" (a grandmother) who literally has calluses on her knees because she prays so much, grabs me in a bear hug each time she sees me, she then blesses and prays over me.

Mark 10:28-30 says, "Peter said to [Jesus], 'We have left everything to follow you!' 'I tell you the truth,' Jesus replied, 'no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age.' "
I left my home, my family, and everything familiar to me to follow where Jesus was leading me. I will not lie, it was hard. However, just like Jesus tells us in this verse and just like Job who gained a double portion in the end, God has blessed me with not just one wonderful family, but two. God has given me sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, (and even in a way children) here in Spain. Do not hesitate: leave everything and follow Jesus. It is the best thing you could ever do. In the end, the blessings far outweigh all the sacrifices.

I leave Spain tomorrow, June 8, and will be back home with my American family. I said my goodbyes to my Spanish family yesterday at church. Afterward I was overwhelmed by how many wanted to come and speak to me, to bless me, and to give me a little something to remember them by. (As if I could possibly forget them!)

This time in Spain has made a lasting difference on my life. The way I see things and people have changed, I have learned more about myself and grown closer to God, and I am doing what I was created to do. Thank you so much to everyone who made this trip possible. To those who supported me in finances and prayer, to my church and the pastors in the U.S. for sending me out, to the church and the pastors here in Benalmádena, Spain for receiving me, to those who encouraged me and told me to never give up. Thank you all.

Yes, this is the end of my time here in Spain, but it is no where near the end of my time serving God. I have just begun to scratch the surface of the amazing things God has for my life, I have just begun my walk in this adventure we call 'life' and you can be sure that you will hear from me again soon; for this is only the beginning.

Que Dios os bendiga y os guarde (May God Bless you and keep you)
~ Grace

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sprinting to the Finish Line

In an earlier post I made mention of how, as the time for me to go home came closer and closer, I was reminded of Hebrews 12:1, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." I added that I felt like I had paced my running up until this point, and now it was the time to sprint to that finish line. As I look at the calendar, it has become more and more apparent that I am in the middle of my sprint. From the end of April until June 8th when I leave, there is an event on the calendar each weekend. Each week then, is spent preparing for the weekend event.

One event that took place on Saturday night (May 8th) was the dedication of a new church building in Málaga. This church has spent years trying to find a good building for their church and have finally found one. Our congregation, Iglesia Cristiana Arroyo de la Miel, joined together in support of this other church. My first indication of the surprise I was about to received was the name of the church: Vida Abundante (Abundant Life). I thought it was kind of funny that this church had the same name as a church I had been to on my missions trip to Mexico in 2008. However, I quickly forgot about it and did not think of it again until the guest speaker was introduced.

By the time the service started, the church was completely packed!
The speaker, John Spyker, is the found of Vida Abundante in Morelia, Mexico and the father of the current senior pastor of Vida Abundante, Mexico - the very same church I had been based out of with my youth ministry on that missions trip! Turns out that the church in Málaga was a church plant that came out of the church in Morelia. When I realized the connection, it made me want to jump up and start singing, "It's a Small World After All." Don't worry, I contained myself. ; )

We have also been hosting a number of different guest speakers at our church. In fact, next Monday a couple from New Zealand are coming to minister and since they will be here for a whole week, they will be staying in my room. I in turn will be living with a Spanish couple from the church. I am looking forward to it, as I'm sure it will be a really good experience, and I absolutely love this couple. They are as Spanish as Spanish can get, speaking no English at all, and speaking faster than I have ever heard anyone speak. It will be a fun time! The only downside to living with them, is that they do not have internet. So while I am there, I most likely will not be able to reply to emails and other such forms of communication. That being said, it will be a great total immersion experience.

Praise Reports:
  • We have all recovered for the most part from the nasty virus we had.
  • The church is really growing spiritually and drawing closer to God; it's amazing to see and to be a part of it.
Prayer Requests:
  • Please continue to pray for my uncle's healing from cancer. The reports I have heard have not been encouraging. It's such a comfort to know that God has a plan!
¡Dios te bendiga!
~ Grace 

Monday, May 3, 2010

Everyday Life

As I sat down to write this week's blog, I wracked my brain for something interesting to share with you. However, the past two weeks have actually been just normal, everyday life. When I mentioned to Miss Patti that I had no idea what to write since nothing really exciting or interesting had happened lately, she told me, "Missionary life is not always fun and exciting;" and then encouraged me to write something about my everyday life here. As I thought about her advice, I was reminded of a time about two months ago when my mom (a former missionary herself) told me almost the exact same thing when I was again having trouble thinking of something really amazing to write about. Considering they are two of the wisest women I know, I figured I should take their advice.

My everyday life really tends to revolve around people. I am part of a couple different discipleship studies - one Bible study and two connect groups - I meet twice weekly with my tutor, meet weekly with another girl for Spanish/English lessons, Wednesday night church service, worship practices, and that's only during the week. Add in youth group on Saturday nights and church Sunday mornings and I would say it's safe to say I'm no hermit. =) And I really enjoy every moment I spend with these people. I think some of my favorite times in the week are worship practices and the discipleship studies.

Tuesday nights we have worship practice that tends to go anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half. I enjoy it for a number of different reasons. 1. We use that time not only to practice the songs for the upcoming Sunday and learn new songs, but also just to worship God. 2. It's one of the few times throughout the week that I am able to play the piano. 3. Learning those Spanish songs actually has really helped me with my Spanish. It teaches me things like correct grammar and sentence structure, and it sometimes even helps me to learn words if it is a song I know in English.

Wednesday afternoons and Thursday mornings I have Discipleship Bible studies. I really enjoy being a part of these because not only do I get a lot out of them, but I love seeing how hungry the other women are for the things of God. It's so amazing to witness God moving through Spain, touching the people and drawing them to Him. I have learned so much from my times with those women. Things such as what it really means to hunger and thirst after God. They've shown me Psalms 42:1 in action; "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for You, oh God."

Praise reports:
  • I have officially made my decision on where to go to college: Gordon College in Wenham, MA. It was my top choice college and I'm so excited and thankful to be able to attend there. I will be studying Linguistics.
  • I have been offered a full time summer job! Just a week ago I started thinking about whether or not I should get one, and how I would go about getting one since I'm here in Spain. I prayed about it and left it in God's hands. The next morning I had an email from an old acquaintance asking me to nanny for her full time this summer. God is so good!
Prayer requests:
  • Some kind of virus has been going around and we've all caught it. Thank God, we're mostly better and recovered now, but please pray for continued and complete healing.
  • My uncle (whom I mentioned before in a previous post) has cancer. He's back in a treatment center after being in remission for about a month and they just found another lump. He'll be having a CAT scan sometime tomorrow to find out if it's more cancer. Please pray God's healing and His peace and will over this whole situation.
Dios te bendiga,
~ Grace

Monday, April 19, 2010


This week at Iglesia Cristiana Arroyo de la Miel, we spent three days in prayer. Church members would sign up for times throughout the three days, day and night, so that there was someone praying in the church at all times. Our theme was “Praying through the Temple.” We chose different items from the Temple each with their own special significance (the Bronze Altar, the Laver, the Menorah, the Table of Showbread, the Altar of Incense, and the Ark of the Covenant). For example, the Bronze Altar was where the blood sacrifices took place and so at this “station” people would pray and thank God for His sacrifice and declare the blood of Jesus over their lives. The Laver was a giant bowl that held water and when the priests went to wash, they would see a reflection of themselves. Here people would pray and examine their hearts, asking God to make them clean and pleasing to Him. It was a powerful time. God is really moving through this church and in these people.

Before our three days of prayer began:

After our three days, with all the prayers and notes of the people and things God spoke to them:

I have six weeks left. Every time I remember that, Hebrews 12:1 comes to mind, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” I feel as if I have paced my running and now it is time to sprint to the finish line. It's so close I can see it, and yet it just may take the most out of me. It's times like these when I am so glad God is my coach in this race and my friends and family are cheering me on all around me. Thank you all!

Prayer request:
  • Please pray for Europe in general. A volcano in Iceland is erupting and has sent a giant ash cloud through Europe. Because planes cannot fly through the ash, almost all European airports have closed down. The ash cloud is still growing and it is unknown how long the situation may last. Experts are estimating anywhere from weeks to months. Needless to say, it's chaos.
Dios te bendiga,

Monday, April 5, 2010

Halfway Point

If I thought my first month went by fast, I am even more shocked at how quickly I have reached my half way point. I feel as if I stepped off the plane, blinked, and reached this point. I am almost afraid to blink again and find myself stepping onto the plane to go home. I have seen so much, done so much, learned so much. Every day there is something new. I am amazed at all that has been accomplished in such a short period.

In my Spanish I have reached the extremely confusing time when half my thoughts are in English and the other half in Spanish. Some words I have a really hard time remembering in English while other words I know I know in Spanish sometimes just are not there. For example, as I am writing this, I am having to translate some of what I want to say from Spanish into English. Yet many times it is not complete sentences in either English or Spanish - everything is completely mixed up. I am told that this means I am learning and really adapting to the language. All I know is that I can no longer speak any language correctly!

Change is a major part of my life. In the short month since I posted my schedule, things have already changed. I now have a new Spanish tutor who I meet with on a regular basis. Some of the Bible studies I am a part of have gotten moved around as well. Here is my new schedule as of this month:

Tuesday: Beth Moore “Breaking Free” Bible study in the morning, administration in the afternoon, worship practice in the evening.
Wednesday: Staff meeting in the morning, administration in the early afternoon, a discipleship class in the late afternoon, a church service in the evening.
Thursday: Discipleship class in the morning, administration in the afternoon, and a "Grupo de Connexión" (Connections small groups that get together in people's homes and learn/discuss a certain topic about the Bible.)
Friday: Lesson with my Spanish tutor and housecleaning in the morning, administration in the afternoon, and another "Grupo de Connexión."
Saturday: Any loose ends to be tied up from the week and any last minute details in order to be ready for the Sunday service, Youth Group in the evening.
Sunday: Church in the morning and afternoon.
Monday: Although this is my day off, I have a lesson with my Spanish tutor in the morning.

Of course, interspersed throughout this schedule are the events that change week to week or even day to day – getting together with friends, practices for special events (I have been a part of a dance here and am also part of a group of musicians working on a special song for this Sunday), and other such irregular events.

As mentioned earlier, I do have a new Spanish tutor. My old one had gotten too busy to help me and so I had been looking for a new one for a couple weeks and just started meeting with this one last week. I think that working with this lady will really help me grow in leaps and bounds in my Spanish capabilities. She is a fantastic teacher and I am looking forward to working with her.

Praise reports:
  • I have a wonderful Spanish tutor =)
  • Had a wonderful Easter with my new friends and family here
Prayer requests:
  • A week or two ago I learned that one of my uncles has cancer again, and this time, it has spread into his lungs. Instead of improving with the treatment he received previously, it appears that the cancer has grown some. Please pray for healing for my uncle and comfort and peace for him and my family.
Thank you all so much for your continued support; it means more to me than words could ever fully express in any language.

Dios te bendiga,
~ Grace

Monday, March 22, 2010

Julie's Visit

This past week one of my good friends from the States came and visited me. We had a lot of fun, having opportunities to go sightseeing in Córdoba -
in Gibraltar -
in Mijas -
and Málaga -

However, this week wasn't one of just play. On March 18 and 19 the church had two work/cleaning days. On those days Julie and I painted, cleaned, organized, and had just as much fun as when we were sightseeing. We also kept my normal schedule for the most part, being involved with the church and its people. It was a very busy, but fun, 11 days.
Praise reports:
  • March 13 I shared with the Youth Group and that went really well. I talked to them about being chosen and called by God.
  • Julie arrived safely and we had an amazing time together. (She is returning today; please pray for a safe trip home.)
  • Every day I am continuing to improve in Spanish. I've had a friend offer to get together with me a couple of times a week to help me with my Spanish. In return I'll help her with her English.
If you have any questions, comments, concerns, or would just like to email me, you can contact me at: Thank you all for everything!
~ Grace

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A God Opportunity

For the first time in days, if not weeks, we are having a sunny (though cold) day. Before this we've had so much rain there have been a number of floods. Interestingly enough, in one of the Bible studies I am a part of, we've been learning about being thirsty for God. In Psalms, David talks about how his life is like a drought without God. We've all had some good laughs while learning that.

Spain is notoriously hard and closed to the Gospel and Benalmádena is especially difficult. While we don't know what, we do know that something happened here in Benalmádena years ago with a Christian outreach. Because of this, the entire eight years the Chesneys have been here the officials have not allowed any sort of Christian outreaches, ministry, etc. However, recently a church was given permission to hold a service – only worship with absolutely no preaching. We grabbed this God opportunity and ran with it.

Just last Friday night, March 5, a group of churches got together (including our church) and put on a two hour English/Spanish worship service. Our worship team played a "special." We were the only completely Spanish church (Spanish speaking, and Spanish people). We played "Mi Padre Me Ama" (which translated is, “My Father Loves Me”).

Not only did everyone have a great time, but the whole evening was a grand success. We are all looking forward to many more opportunities like this – God opportunities.

Monday, March 1, 2010

One Month Check-In

Can you believe that I've now been in Spain a full month? I know I'm still trying to grasp that. When I mentioned to someone that I felt like I'd only been here half that much time, she told me "at least you don't feel like you've been here a year." =)

I'm happy to say that I truly am enjoying my time here and learning lots. I've established a pretty set routine for each week, using just about every second available. My week starts on Tuesdays and goes until Sundays. When Monday finally rolls around, I'm more than ready for my day off and to take full advantage of the day to recharge.

Here is a brief glance at my weekly schedule:
Tuesdays: Bible study in the morning, administration in the afternoon, worship practice that night.
Wednesdays: Staff meetings in the morning (which I sometimes am and am not a part of), administration in the early afternoon, Bible study in the late afternoon, church service in the evening.
Thursdays: House cleaning in the morning, administration in the afternoon, and a "Grupo de Connexión" (Connections small groups that get together in people's homes and learn/discuss a certain topic about the Bible; we just finished going over Biblical Values) in the evening.
Fridays: Beth Moore Bible Study in the morning, administration that afternoon, and another Grupo de Connexión that evening.
Saturdays: Any loose ends to be tied up from the week and any last minute details in order to be ready for the Sunday service, Youth Group in the evening.
Sunday: Church in the morning and afternoon, short rest, membership class at night.
Monday: a glorious nada! Nothing this day unless it's for fun.

Interspersed through all of that, I meet with my Spanish tutor, get together with friends, and other unplanned-until-that-week things. I might also be starting Spanish classes at the local cultural center in order to improve my Spanish and learn it faster; however, that depends on just how expensive it is and at what time the classes are held.

Praise reports:
-I finally got over an annoying cold I'd had since before I even got here.
-I've also begun to pick up more and more of the language so that I can now reply to just about everything said, even when not said slowly and very distinctly.
-I've settled in to my life here, made a number of good friends, and learned so much, about missions, about people, and about myself.
-Lastly, one of my very good friends from the States has tickets to come visit me from March 11 - March 22. I'm so excited about this opportunity to have her come. Please pray for a safe and blessed trip.

Prayer requests:
-I would ask you to please pray for my Spanish tutor, Rocio, who is not a Christian, though both her mother and brother are Christians and attend the church here.
-Please pray that I would continue to improve in Spanish.
-I have been asked to "preach" for the Youth Group on Saturday, March 13. Please pray that it goes well and I speak what God would have me say. Thankfully I will have a translator, since my Spanish is nowhere near good enough to adequately preach.

Thank you all for your prayers, your emails, and all your support. I'm looking forward to coming home and telling you all the amazing things God is doing here . . . in Spanish!

¡Muchas gracias por todos y Dios te bendiga!
- Grace -

Miss Patti and I - We had an Esther themed tea party and had lots of fun!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Settling In

Just a couple days ago I got together with some new friends and we went to a party celebrating that one of the girls had gotten her braces off. We had a great time eating all the junk food she was now allowed to have again. Even with the culture and language differences, there are some things that pass them by. This happened to be one of them and I was able to celebrate with this girl, knowing full well just how wonderful it is to get braces off!

I've now been in Spain for just about a week and a half. I have jumped right into the pace of things since day 1 and find myself going to bed each night exhausted, but knowing that I have begun to accomplish what I set out to do. I've met the amazing church family and publicly greeted them all in Spanish on my first Sunday (many thanks to those who helped me with my Spanish before I left.) The people here are very gracious despite all the mistakes I make, culturally, in the language, and anything else. They motivate me to want to do better for them.

I have begun to find my place here, begun to settle in, and begun to get the hang of my new schedule. Slowly but surely, each day I find myself adding new words to my growing Spanish vocabulary. For the most part, I find I can understand enough of what the person is saying (as long as they speak slowly) so I can give the correct reply. Although there are still many times when I just smile and nod and try not to look beyond and completely confused and lost. Today I met with my Spanish tutor for the first time, so God willing, I'll start learning Spanish with leaps and bounds.

Thank you all for your many prayers. You have all encourage me so much during my time here already. I can not stress enough just how much I appreciate it. There have been some times when knowing that I have family and friends back home praying for me is what really pushed me beyond what I thought I could reach, but was what God had for me. Thank you, thank you, thank you. God bless you! ¡Dios te bendiga!

The youth group on Saturday night.

Monday, February 1, 2010

God's Amazing People

As I get ready to start my four month missions adventure in Spain (just two more days!), the closer the time comes to leave, the more my mind turns to the family and friends I am leaving behind and the ones I will gain in Spain. I want to thank everyone for their amazing support, their blessing, and all their prayers. Our God truly is great, and when His people follow His example and live a life of love and uncompromise, they show more clearly the awesome and loving God of the Universe. That's what my family and friends have done for me, they have blessed me by encouraging me and simply showing and reminding me of God's great love; something everyone should keep near to our hearts.

Thank you all for your shining example.