“I love God and I love the people. So what can I do?”
I marveled at Sarah’s faithfulness. She has been a Pioneer in Madrid for five years and served in North Africa for 20 years prior to that. When I asked her about the spiritual fruit of her labors, she only had a few converts to report for her decades of work. When I asked her if she gets discouraged she said, “Yes, sometimes. It’s lonely work, but God called me to it. And He has to provide the fruit.”
After leaving North Africa during a recent expulsion of Christian missionaries, she arrived in Spain in the midst of their Great Recession. She immediately saw the needs of the North African immigrants and refugees and she moved in amongst them to provide relief and to shine the light of Christ. While she baptized seven women in her bathtub in North Africa, she has yet to see someone come to Christ in Madrid.
Sarah attends a local Spanish church, but is the only one in her community with a vision for sharing Christ with the local Arabs. She has had teammates at times, but is currently serving alone, as she often has over the years. Because she is fluent in Arabic and knows North Africa well, she has had no trouble forming friendships amongst the women. They are drawn to her kindness, generosity, and cultural familiarity—things not readily extended to them by the Spanish community.
North African Arabs are kept an arm’s length away from Spanish society. Because they are not integrated into the local culture, their identities as North African Arabs grows stronger as they reside in Europe. As they draw into themselves, they form neighborhood enclaves where they have their own shops, their own butchers, their own mosque. Those who were nominal Muslims back in Africa grow stronger in their religious identity when they get to Spain. ISIS finds fertile ground from which to recruit, as young men especially feel rejected and then themselves reject Spanish culture.
Sarah knows the Arab ladies love to gather for parties, so she hosts them often. She serves tea, provides food, and makes space for moments of levity and enjoyment. She is diligent in sharing Christ’s love and says that the women are usually very open to conversations about God and the Bible. Next week she’ll be hosting about 50 ladies for tea and to watch a movie about Christianity. The film was made by Arabs for Arabs and explains the Gospel message. Sarah regularly reaches out to the immigrant children, as well, hosting holiday parties and events for the kids.
While Sarah has had much success forming friendships and even sharing Christ and praying with and studying the Bible with Arabs in Madrid, she has yet to see one surrender to the Lord. She says that they stick around for awhile, but then she suspects they are persuaded away by the Muslim community. “It’s a close community,” she says, “they all see where each other goes and what they are doing.”
Sarah dreams of opening a community center for the Arab immigrants—a place they can go to learn to sew, to learn to read, where kids can get help with homework, where newcomers can gather for refreshment and to hear about the love of Christ. Pray that God would provide humble and hardworking teammates for this work in Madrid—teammates who, like Sarah, love God and love the people.