How we came to be in Spain....

mick

Lynette and I came to Spain early in February 2005. We currently live in a casita in the beautiful campo in Pego amongst the orange groves. We have two rescued cats; Mindy and Tinker, and a dog we rescued this year (2015) called Ruby.
I was ordained a deacon in December 2006, and as a presbyter in November 2007. I was invited to the post of Senior Pastor in February 2007 by Bishop Josep Rossello. I have a degree in theology and found my first few years as a Pastor here very challenging .... I may write about them before too long. A few years ago I was greatly encouraged to record God's goodness and grace in leading us to Spain. Here is the story.....

Shortly after I was filled with the Holy Spirit on the 2nd of October 1985 God put it on my heart to go to Bible School. I shared this with my Pastor who put me off by saying "It would more likely spoil your faith than help you". It seems strange now, but then I simply accepted his wisdom. Nothing more was ever said.

 In 1993 I was working on a pig farm owned by a Christian family. I was living in a single-decker coach which I had bought some years earlier and had converted to a motor-home. It had a double bed, kitchen, shower room, and all the necessary fittings including solar panels on the roof and a demountable wind-generator. It was green, had a 12 litre, 6 cylinder Ford diesel engine and did about 12 miles to the gallon on a good day! I had wanted to settle down again eventually into a Static Caravan the likes of which I had owned and lived in several times earlier in my life.

The week before a major turning point in my life, I had visited such a caravan at a friend's mother's birthday that we had been invited to. It was located in a damp and grubby park, but the caravan was beautiful. We discovered that she had bought it several years earlier and hardly ever used it. The birthday party was an excuse to go there for a barbeque. I clearly remember looking at it gleaming, with its real wood interior, smart fittings, and luxurious upholstery, thinking "Oh boy Lord, if ever I was to have another one of these...."

That same week we visited the friends only to interrupt a noisy telephone argument between Pippa and her mum. It transpired that the mum had promised Pippa and her husband Keith the money from the sale of the van ("Sale of the van?" my mind repeated incredulously!) and that she had agreed to let a dealer have the van for the ridiculously low sum of £4,000 knowing that she had paid £15,000 a couple of years earlier when it was new. The mum was unrepentant and adamant the van was to be sold immediately as something had happened in her personal life

When Keith had consoled Pippa sufficiently I discovered the facts, had a flash of inspiration, and suggested that we ring the mum back immediately. Despite Pippa’s reluctance I spoke to the mum, reminding her of our recent meeting, and told her that if she was willing I would bring round £4,000 in cash plus an extra £500 for the sake of her saying "Yes" to me. What had she to lose? I had everything to gain; a caravan worth at least £10,000 .. but she said "Yes" on the condition that I spoke with the dealer who had agreed to buy it. OK, so he wasn’t best pleased to lose the deal, or should I say ‘steal’ but it was OK. He backed down if a little ungraciously. Within a couple of days it was delivered to the farm where I worked and lived, and the 12 feet by 39 feet shiny monster took up its place next to my ‘bus’. God had worked a minor miracle again. I had thought, seen, desired, gained, (and Pippa and Keith had £500 more than they might have had) and not for the first time in my life I was left wondering what God was up to. This wasn’t about me -  it never was.

 I had moved in and was glorying in my new accommodation. The farmer’s daughters both worked on the farm, and lived in the farm house. It was only a bungalow and, with the son still at home as well, it was ‘full’. I discovered that Katherine really had wanted to become a bit more independent, but couldn’t afford to move out of home, and that the grandma, who lived alone but nearby, was getting to the point where she needed daily care. A solution was needed, but of course God was way ahead of us all. For the grandma to move in someone had to go. Kath wanted to, but to where? She said to me one day that she would love to be able to afford a Static like the one I had but couldn’t anywhere near afford it. She only had £6,500 and didn’t earn enough to support a proper house or even get the mortgage in the first place. Besides to work there full time (and a farm is a 24 hours a day mission!) she needed to live there, or very nearby - town was a drive away and suitably quaint and expensive. The solution was obvious; to me at least. The caravan had really been for Kath and the family - I was only the ‘channel’. I told Kath the next day that she could buy the caravan from me for the £6,500 pounds and move in right away. I would return to the ‘bus’, and the grandma could move into the bungalow. Kath saw the sense but understood only too well the value of the caravan, and I had only moved in about three months previously! I reassured her that all was well; told her the full story of the purchase, and she was tearfully overjoyed to accept my offer. Everyone was happy. I always liked to ‘bus’ anyway, and besides I had gained £2,000 without trying. Now there’s a thing .. I knew God hadn’t done yet. There was something more afoot. I could feel it in my spirit. 

I began prayerfully asking God what this £2,000 was for -  it evidently wasn’t really ‘mine’. Over the next few weeks I began to have thoughts of far away places, and God seemed to bring to mind childhood dreams of South America. I had always sort of wanted to go to Brazil. The rainforest held a special appeal to me. At the weekend I shared my vague and undirected thoughts with my Pastor, David Price. I knew he had traveled there and was once an evangelist in South America although we had never really discussed it. I was one in a congregation of over 150 people. To my surprise David took me to the boot of his car, and handed me a pack of papers .. he said something like “Read all that  if you want to go to Brazil, you can.” Later I found out that he had just become the North West of England representative for a Christian Mission organization called Latin Link!

When I returned home, I read hungrily and was a little shocked to discover that a trip had been organized (which I should have applied to join over 6 weeks ago!) and was leaving for three months in Brazil with a team of nine people helping to extend a Bible School building. It was due to leave the UK just two weeks later! 

There’s a line in a song by Pink Flloyd about a sort of knowing that comes like a bell that rings deep in your soul. It’s silent, but the loudest thing in the world to you just at that moment. OK, so it’s only a song, but I always kind of knew what it meant this was one of those moments. I was going to Brazil. The cost of the trip was £2,200. I had the £2,000 ‘spare’. Oh, I could easily have afforded the extra £200, but God wasn’t done teaching me something and confirming His way. 

Every other Sunday I had to work, but was released for a couple of hours to go to a much nearer local congregation than my own. They were nearly all farmers of course, and God-fearing men and women. They were short services where the preaching was Biblically-centred around cows, ducks, geese and all manner of farming that would make a non-farmer smile broadly, but made their faith real to these lovely men, women and children. I had not really gotten to know many folks except the people I worked with. There wasn’t a lot of time to hang around and fellowship - chores beckoned and work pressed. 

One Monday afternoon a lady in a lovely dress appeared like a vision in the sunlit dusty doorway to the dark, dank pig barn I was working in. I called out quickly not to come in - nice dresses and nice shoes don’t bear pig smells too well. You don’t really get many visitors to a pig farm. I hurried outdoors into the fresh air, and was surprised to just about recognize one of the ladies from the local church. She said most politely that she and her husband had been praying, and had felt led to give a certain gift to the man they had seen coming sometimes to the church. They themselves were quite new to the congregation, and she was a little nervous about how she would be received. I reassured her, thanked her, and said I would chat to them the next Sunday that I saw them. God was having His fun again, and I laughed when I opened the crisp, white envelope to find exactly £200 inside. There was no practical way that this lady or her husband knew what was going on in my life. God had sent the full £2,200, to the pound, straight to me. 

Now I was in trouble - God had clearly said “Go” and it was time to share over a large farm breakfast everything that God had been doing. My farm-boss Peter, the father, took it all in his stride. The mother Muriel rang the people in London who were organizing the trip, and the next morning I was on a train. A weekend-seminar later, loaded down with more leaflets, instructions about jungle fever, insurance, and the need for at least six injections I was hurrying to buy a rucksack and making doctor’s appointments. 

So I was led by God to spend 3 months on a Mission trip to South America, under the auspices of the London based Christian group called Latin Link, on what they called a STEP program; a short term mission trip for a team of 9 people. There was another slight twist. My Pastor’s son, Stephen, who was also my friend, was in Bible School in Argentina, and happened to be graduating shortly after the Brazil trip was ending, so I was able to negotiate a second trip to the south immediately after Brazil to spend a further 3 months there. The deal was that I worked on the Bible School facility to earn my little apartment’s rent, and I would be passed around from family to student to family to eat on a rota basis. At least I would meet lots of different people! Suddenly I was on an aeroplane ”¦ 

I spent 3 months in Foz do Iguacu in Brazil, working on a building project to extend a Bible School, ministering to street children and in the nearby shanty towns whilst learning Portuguese (or at least their flavour of it). It was a difficult but wonderful time.

I left the team at the end of the project to spend my 3 months in Argentina, also working in a more general way on a Bible School buildings, amongst the students and staff to improve the facilities, and in a small way assist in outreach and the students’ assignments.

God (by their own testimony) put two students alongside me to help me to learn Spanish (so that I could communicate), and encourage me. One of these was Marcelo, whom I grew to love, stayed with his family, and we talked much about mission, our futures in God, and we sometimes said “I’ll meet you in Spain” as his heart was to become a missionary there. This set a seed in me for the Spanish culture, language, and my future which never went away from my thoughts for very long. I had never been to Spain, had no serious desire to go there for my own sake, and didn’t. (Incidentally Marcelo is now a Pastor in the depths of Argentina, and although I have over the years contacted his family by email, his exact whereabouts are unclear to me.) 

In the following few years, thoughts of attending Bible School occasionally came to me again, which I promptly excused myself of the responsibility of by such as “I’m too busy just now” and “I don’t really have several thousand pounds to spare” and “When I finished this or that project I’ll give it some serious thought.” etc, etc. 

When Lynette and I became married in 2001, our regular prayer was for God to guide us in His way to minister together wherever He would send us. We both were serving in the church, but I believe God was already prompting us towards our future. He had a lot more up His sleeve than He had revealed at that point. Over the next few years we tentatively explored the possibilities of ministry in a few countries, including China, and Africa, and I had shared with Lyn about how I still felt about the possibility of a work in Spain. So on the 29th August 2004 we flew to Fuengirola to make contact with the Ark Christian Fellowship there under Pastor David Smith. Lynette had visited them some years earlier whilst on holiday. We stayed in a hotel for two weeks, had lovely fellowship with them, and came to the not-so-astonishing conclusion that God was moving in Spain, and that He had a place for us; it wouldn’t be Fuengirola though .. 

Three years earlier we had bought a little end-terraced house in Nelson in a very run down condition, for the princely sum of £12,000. We had spent all our precious spare time on it, and said often “Whatever happens, we’ll always keep this little house.” We had put our heart and souls into making it lovely. This was a ‘keeper’. God however had a different plan. When we came back from Spain both Lynette and I knew that we had left our hearts there, and that God had done something profound in us. When we came home the debate began “How do you ‘go’ to Spain and find God’s will?” Several choices seemed to be before us like to go by ‘plane, book into a hotel and trust God to point us, or to take our little camper van and drive around looking for Him, and other such common-sense ideas. One thing was obvious; we needed funds, and our main asset was the house. We decided to hang out a little fleece. Now this isn’t something I would normally condone; however if you feel that God wants you to hang out a fleece, then you’d better do it. We had bought the house really cheaply, and spent not too much on it. Our idea was to get the house valued, and see if there was anything about it that would prompt us to think it was part of God’s plan to sell the house. (We wouldn’t have toactually sell it of course!) Well, I had a figure in mind, and Lyn had a figure in mind, and I thought that Lyn’s was optimistic in the extreme. God must have been chuckling! The housing market was by no means strong in our area, and a house had sold on our street a few months earlier for about £28,000. I felt that this would be marvelous, but Lyn felt that she wouldn’t part with it for less than £45,000! Well, there’s faith and there’s FAITH. Lyn had FAITH! Three different Estate Agents on the 1st of October 2004 set the bracket to more or less £44,500. I was amazed. Not only that: the first three ‘viewers’ all wanted it, and to cut a long story short; we sold it. Nobody was more surprised than us two! So we had funds, but we told the buyer upon his full offer on the 29th of October that we weren’t prepared to ‘complete’ until some time in January 2005. We didn’t yet have anywhere particular to go, or a plan of how to get there - we only knew we were going. 

The exact date now escapes me, but some weeks later, Lynette and I had shared our thoughts on the ‘where’ exactly, and she had persistent prompts about the ‘Costa Blanca’ not even really knowing where that was. I knew because she kept asking me! We consulted maps, and felt drawn to a little sticky-out bit of Spain opposite Majorca and Menorca. So we began to pray . “Lord, do we take the camper? Do we just fly out there? Do we try to find a long stay hotel like the pensioners do; three months out of the British rain in Benidorm in a cheap hotel?” Within a day or two the answer came like a bolt from the blue . 

Now some years earlier I had been a manager in the NHS in the I.T. Department. (Fixing computers and training apprentices!) I had a rented apartment near Burnley General Hospital over the local Locksmith’s shop, and became reasonably friendly with my landlord Brian, occasionally also fixing his computers. We were never very close, never visited each other’s house or had drinks or meals or anything . just friendly. Every few months Brian would ring when his latest apprentice had spilled yet another cup of coffee over the shop computer, or his engineer had dropped the secretary’s base unit; some tale of PC woe. So the telephone rings .. 

“Hiya Mick, its Brian.”

“Hiya Brian, what’s up?”

“I’ve just bought an apartment in Spain ”¦.. (pause) .. and it’s got this thing called an ‘underbuild’.”

“Yes (brain working furiously whilst gesticulating to Lynette that someone on the end of the telephone was talking about Spain ”¦)”

“Yes,” Brian says, “It’s all been knocked about and wants ripping out and redoing; making into a proper apartment like the one above ”

“Who are you going to get to do that Brian?”

“I’ve no idea, why?”

“I’ll do it” I heard myself saying .. a surprised look crosses Lynette’s face  

Talk about a surprise! We get invited to Brian’s house and meet his wife Liz. He has a cigarette packet with a barely legible scrawled sketch of walls and floors. 

“So when are you completing on this apartment, Brian?”

“In January”

“Did you know we’re selling our house?”

“No. When are you completing?”

“In January”

God chuckles again! 

We came out with an agreement for us to spend three months in Spain living in the upper apartment, whilst working on the lower apartment; building walls, rendering, plumbing, etc. with time off every few days for our own explorations. We had gleaned from Brian and Liz that the apartment was near a place called “Java” (spelt as pronounced!) but they couldn’t remember the name of the town it was in! We rushed home, found the map, and concluded that Java had to be Javea! We learned shortly afterwards that the actual town was Teulada .. directly in the centre of the little sticky out piece of land we had been praying about! Isn’t God absolutely amazing!! 

On the 4th February 2005 we hand the keys over to Larry, drive to my mum Nancy’s house in St. Annes, near to Blackpool airport, leave the car there, and within a few hours we are in Spain

I’ll spare you the trauma of doing building work in Spain, the sand the dust, the heat, and the language, but it was all made worthwhile by the joy and knowledge of being in God’s will. We were in a beautiful apartment for no rent, and the search began for our new place of worship .. 

In the local paper was an advert for a church that read “New Beginnings Church” in a nearby town called Benissa. We felt this was where God would have us go, but at the first few attempts we didn’t make it. The bus didn’t run directly there as far as we could ascertain, or at least not when we wanted it to, and not on a Sunday. (I think it does now, or maybe it’s seasonal?) The train went from Teulada to Benissa but stopped way out of town  nobody seemed to know just how far ‘out’. I tried to walk it one day (it didn’t seem so far away!) and nearly got mowed down by trucks on the N332. Halfway there I turned back disappointed. So we took a break from building and church-finding and used the little train out of Teulada to go to Calpe for the first time. It skirts the town of Benissa, before heading towards the coast. We got the bus down into Calpe town, went a little too far, and walked back up from the beach area. We passed a sandwich-board saying “Internet Café and Christian Bookshop” so I said to Lynette “We’ll go there for lunch.” That we did and met a warm and welcoming couple called Sue and Simon who asked us where we were meeting for fellowship. We told them the tale of wanting to go to New Beginnings to be amazed that it was there ‘home’ church, and that they even passed our Urbanization on  the way there because at the time they lived in Javea, north west of Teulada and directly in line for a trip to Benissa! A ‘lift’ was soon arranged, and the next Sunday we met our ‘new’ fellowship .. 

God had His way and had taken Lynette and myself from a bustling old mill town in Lancashire to a little Spanish church in Alicante. We had both given up jobs, had distanced ourselves from our families, and left our home church where we had been worshipping for well over 10 years. But don’t worry . God had finished with us yet. 

************            **             *********** 

Whilst on our first trip to The King’s Church in Benissa, a small local Christian fellowship joined the church, and we grew in numbers, and co-Pastors Jack & Dorothy Marsh came with the fellowship and were ‘ordained’ into the leadership, taking over the day to day church/fellowship from Bishop Josep Rosello. This released him more into his international ministry. As we got to know them, submitted to them, and worked with them, they eventually sat down with us round a table and shared their hearts with us. They told us (much to our surprise in one way) that they felt God had called us there to be trained by them, and to eventually take over the pastoral care of the church in Benissa. This was towards the end of our 3 month stay, and there was little opportunity to have this fully explained, expanded, or explored.

Around this same time we became aware that there was a plan hatched at God’s prompting to launch a Bible School from the church. 

Upon our second trip to Benissa, holding all this in our hearts, we intended to get alongside Jack & Dorothy, and have them confirm or deny their first thoughts, and we were prepared for a total withdrawal from, or full commitment to, their original feelings. This unfortunately did not happen as when we arrived they were both in full swing to launch the Bible School, and promptly set off to England for a well deserved Christmas break and time with their families. All we wanted to know was God’s word to us through them, accepting of course that none of us are infallible, but we would look for confirmations either way. 

I had already decided, and shared with Lynette, that “I wouldn’t mind actually attending the Bible School myself, perhaps part time or whatever.” 

During a visit to some neighbours to fix their computer, I was telling them a little about the Church in Benissa, and what was going on there, and the young man of the house said “Are you a Minister?” This of course is not a very straightforward question to answer if we are to avoid being glib, so after some brief explanation of ‘ministry’, I said “no”. It did prompt a very useful conversation about faith, denominationalism, and the ‘church’ in Spain

I had planned to meet with Bishop Josep, and as we walked along to a café, I shared with him the above tale, and he halted, smiled, looked a little hesitant, and said  “ Oh, OK then, there is something I must tell you”

He went on to explain that as he had been praying for myself and Lyn, he had felt God say that he should ‘ordain’ me. He wasn’t going to say anything, but as I spoke he had felt prompted to reveal his thoughts.  Much discussion has ensued about the term ‘ordain’ .. 

Jack & Dorothy were now in the UK. Josep had no opportunity to talk to them about it. Nor had J & D ever shared with him about our original conversation. I hesitantly explained the conversation, not wanting to get at cross purposes with leadership, and not knowing at that time how J & D still felt. Josep simply smiled and felt it was further confirmation, and saw no conflict. 

As soon as J & D returned we met with them, shared the tale, only to have them confidently and warmly confirm their original thoughts, and expand somewhat on what Josep’s ‘ordination’ of me would mean.

To be continued ...............