Neighborhood Unrest

We live in Vicálvaro, a small neighborhood that is located on the edges of Madrid. It is one of the older and poorer areas of the city, with a high population of people 65 or older. Communities like Vicálvaro are experiencing a bit more unrest these days, mainly because of the rising costs of living and a broken social security system. Due in large part to the government’s mammoth political corruption, unemployment is on the rise and pensions have effectively forced millions below the poverty line. For example, 3 million people are receiving 400-600 euros a month for social security. At the same time, many of these retirees are using their embarrassing pension to support their unemployed family members. The unemployment rate has been holding strong at 20 percent for almost 7 years now.

The consequence of all of this is that many people, especially unemployed younger people, are taking their angst to the streets. Vandalism is rising. Radical leftist groups with ultra-feminist ideology are gaining more support. Just as an illustration of some of this anger, I took a picture of some fresh graffiti in our neighborhood. It appears to be from a group of ultra-feminists taking out their frustration on men in positions of power. It reads “I am not your mommy. If I was, I would have aborted you.” I think this adequately illustrates the situation.

The unrest in the Spaniard’s heart will not be resolved by political agendas or political ideologies. The only hope is Jesus. The only hope for the young ladies who vandalized this wall is the power of the Gospel and the regeneration of their sinful hearts.


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Bible School Seminar in Valencia

Every trimester our Bible school (Escuela evangélica de teología) hosts a Saturday seminar at different locations around Spain. The seminars or “encuentros presenciales” give students an opportunity to get to know one another and their professors outside of the virtual learning environment. The truth is that there is no substitute to getting to know your students face-to-face.

This last weekend I was asked to help lead a seminar in Valencia, a city on the eastern coast of the Spanish peninsula. Though it was not as well attended as we hoped, we feel like the weekend was a success. There were five current students at our location and three perspective students checking out the school. In the other two locations (Madrid and Barcelona) we had a fair turnout as well.

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Tracking Time with Toggl

One simple tool I use in order to keep myself accountable with time is called Toggl. It helps me monitor all my activities or ministries, even down to the more insignificant details. At the end of every week, month, and year, I can see where I have participated in God’s work in Spain.

I use Toggl for a variety of reasons. On one level, it is immensely helpful to see the year end reports. Basically I try and keep a balance between work in theological education, church ministry, and evangelism. Occasionally Toggl has reminded me to reign in my workaholic spirit. Any work week that exceeds 50-60 hours is simply too much for a man with three young children.

The main reason I use toggl is for maximizing stewardship of time and money. God has taught us that our time is not our own, and he also has taught us that our resources are not our own. All our time, and all our money, is God’s. And as stewards, God asks us to use both of these resources wisely. For example, Ephesians 5:16 encourages us to make the most of opportunities because the “days are evil,” and Luke 12:33-34 teaches us to store up our treasures in heaven through giving our money away to the poor.

In some ways, I think that it is easier for us to remember that we are stewards because of our work. As missionaries, we receive our salary from churches and individuales that sacrificially give to God, for God’s work in Spain. Often we feel more deeply the weightiness of how we use our time and our money because of the sacrificial giving of others. After all, it is only through these gifts that we are on the front lines in Spain.  Toggl has become a practical way for me to have peace in my heart as I work towards healthy stewardship.

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Let’s Not Grow Weary

Julie and I have been singing a song to one another these days. It’s a children’s tune from Steve Green in his Bible verse series, and we’ve enjoyed as much, if not more, than our boys. It is Steve Green singing in an upbeat style a quotation from Galatians 6:9: “Let us not grow weary in doing good, in due season you shall reap.” I suppose you could say that the song matches the concept, with its cheery melody. But more importantly, the message is clear; no matter what, keep on doing what God has called you to.

Right now, Julie and I need this verse. Even though we’ve recently been encouraged by open doors, there are always opportunities to be weary, to coast, or to despair. Always! I honestly think that at any given moment in our seven years in Spain this little line could have functioned as something of a “go to verse.” In each of the various seasons, with their unique challenges, Galatians 6:9 has been God’s exhortation to us. Whether it has been support raising, infertility and loss, language training, culture shock, abuses, rejection, secularism, more culture shock, or more rejection, God breaks in to speak to our hearts and says, “Do not grow weary! Keep doing what is right!”


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Slow Down You Move to Fast

In 1966 Simon and Garfunkel released a song called “The 59th Bridge Song.” It also had the alternate title of “Feeling Groovy.” I remember the lyrics of the song because I listened to it on the radio when I was kid. The song fits with the Spanish culture, especially their approach to leisure. If I’m not careful, sometimes when I go to my Spanish friends’ more relaxed events on the weekends or holidays, I can really overwhelm them with my American intentionality and drivenness in conversation. We Americans can be so pointed or specific in how we approach our time with friends, it can really overwhelm the Spanish people.

One thing that’s helped me not rock the boat too much is to hum to myself a few of the lines of this song. When I am acting too American in Spain, I try to remember verses like these:

Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy

I got no deeds to do
No promises to keep
I’m dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep
Let the morning time drop all its petals on me
Life, I love you
All is groovy

It’s not that this is my new philosophy on life, or that I’ll ever really stop being American, but in order to connect with the Spanish way, I need to remind myself to “slow down,” because by nature, I move way “too fast.”

I’ll give one recent example of how I messed up and wasn’t feeling the Spanish “grooviness.” At the end of June, our church had a all-day gathering at a mountain river for a baptism. After baptisms like these, we spend most of the day together with a picnic and a lot lounging around. Sometimes, after the service, people don’t even talk to each other. We all just eat, sit, smile at each other…la la la…feeling groovy. It feels so different for us, but in a really fascinating way, Spaniards truly feel a connection with each other by just being together.

Well this year, just before the baptism, I came from a conference in Britain on the New Testament. I had spent every waking minute of the previous three days interacting with my peers on the New Testament. Conversation was intense, driven, and fast-paced. Without even noticing it, one day later, when I went to the church’s picnic, I came with the same kind of intentionality to talk with my church friends. I went around to people asking them about their summers, pressing in and asking particularly pointed questions about anything and everything. I can’t believe I didn’t realize what I was doing, but one thing I did notice is that everyone started to avoid me, setting up their picnic blanket, far, far, away from the Reesers. By the time we were in the car riding home, Julie and I had to remind ourselves yet AGAIN that we need to slow down, because sometimes we just move too fast.

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Much More than a Preaching Conference

This last weekend I (Chad) travelled to a camp/retreat center with an elder from our church named Kike. We arrived and greeted some 60 other pastors and elders, and we learned that everyone was really excited for the opportunity to learn more about expository preaching.

The conference did not disappoint, as many of the workshops really strengthened our resolve to preach in faithfulness to God’s Word. However, it ended up being much more than a preaching conference for us. Though Kike and I went with the expectation to learn about exegetical outlines and crossing cultural horizons, we found that the weekend turned into a weekend of refreshment and encouragement.

For Kike,  it was an opportunity to hear from other pastors in his situation. Many others are just like him. They have been handed the preaching responsibility in the church as the older generation of pastors moves on into retirement. However, the younger leaders they leave behind wrestle with their qualifications, whether to give up their day jobs, how much to commit, etc. In this sense the conference was vital for Kike; it showed him he is not alone. He also learned about some great tools and resources for his own theological training and development.

This was way more than a conference for me because it encouraged me to the impact a missionary can have, if he/she perseveres. Everything takes longer in Spain, but I was pleasantly surprised at the powerful impact that many missionaries had in their organization and implementation of this conference. They not only offered vital resources for this next generation of teachers and preachers, they also offered a setting for people to network and encourage one another. I pray that I can eventually have this kind of impact.

On the left–a plenary session / on the right–Kike and I

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Online Bible School Gathering

Every year my Bible college (EET) holds its encuentro presencial or live gathering for students from all over Spain. It is a full day of seminars on a variety of topics given by professors of our school. Most of all, it offers students the opportunity to get to know at least some of their professors and classmates in person. Sometimes they travel a couple of hours to the nearest meeting point, and they often come excited to learn.

This year we had three cities in which a student could attend a gathering: Madrid, Cordova, and Barcelona. Each meeting point was led by a professor whose objectives were to give a seminar in person and then be the technology point person for live Skype lessons from the professors at other locations. I was in charge giving a seminar on exegesis in the Gospels and helping project the Skype presentations from the location in Madrid.

In the end the live (and virtual) gatherings were a success. We had 44 students attend in total and 11 of those students were with me in Madrid. The picture on the left is from the location in Barcelona, and the picture on the right is from Madrid.

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