Two Easters

21 Apr

Spain has some very unique traditions when it comes to how they celebrate Holy Week.

This is a picture of a Holy Week Procession here in Salamanca.

After 4 years of living in Salamanca I have never seen one of these for myself since I normally travel during Holy Week. However, tonight I found myself in Salamanca and I wanted to experience a procession first hand. Honestly, they have always scared me a bit. You can’t grow up in Georgia and not be taken back when you see a man dressed up in a hooded robe of this style. But Holy Week Processions are a deeply rooted Catholic tradition here in Spain and I’m trying to get all I can out of life in Spain here at the end.

Let me give you a bit of context for the processions – all throughout Spain, and even in some Latin American countries, there are Catholic Brotherhoods – something like a civic organization that supports the efforts of a local church. These brotherhoods are the ones who put on the processions as a way for the members to pay penance and identify with the suffering of Christ during Holy Week. The Brothers wear Nazareno/penitential robes (the colors differ based on the Brotherhood) and they will walk around town, often barefoot, carrying a float that depicts either a scene from the Passion of Christ, a statue of Christ on the cross or sometimes Mary in extreme agony at the death of her son. The processions are often accompanied by brass bands and women wailing to express their grief at the death of Christ. All of this makes for a very intense and somber expression of what the events of Holy Week are about.

So tonight I went in search of a procession and what I found was not a cool cultural experience but a reminder of why I came to Spain in the first place. I didn’t actually ever find a procession, but I did see a bunch of people heading into the Cathedral, so I decided to follow and see what was going on. Inside there were hundreds of people, more than I have ever seen, and they were all walking around admiring the different procession floats that were on display. This was very much a tourist event and the sad thing is that tourism is what keeps that Cathedral open. Tonight the Cathedral was packed out with people there to admire the grandeur and artistry of wooden carvings ornately painted, sometimes even gilded, that later on will be paraded around town on the shoulders of men who want to show the community that they can pay for their own sins. There are dozens of churches in Salamanca, beautiful old places where God was once adored that are now only open during Holy Week because otherwise nobody would ever go in them. Being in the Cathedral tonight was a very emotional and spiritually difficult moment for me. It makes me question where is God in all of this? Is this what he wants from us? And what does all this have to do with Easter???

Holy Week Float in the Cathedral

One of my favorite authors, Frederich Buechner has a great line in one of his books, where he through the character of a slightly crazy old monk says- “All that is lost is nothing compared to what is found, and all the death that ever was, set next to life would scarcely fill a cup.” I imagine that this is exactly God’s sentiment when he looks down at Spain right now and sees people parading around loss and death- he knows that all this is nothing compared to the life we can find in him. So with that in mind- let me tell you about how we are celebrating Easter here.

You might remember my Valentine’s Day Tree from a previous post. Well, I know it seems like a silly thing, but we continued our tradition and turned it into an Easter Tree. Yes, I still have my Christmas tree up, but don’t miss the point here 🙂

Easter Tree- maybe more theologically sound than you might think...

When I came home from my depressing trip to the Cathedral this is what greeted me- a silly tree full of homemade ornaments- easter dresses, baskets, lilies, eggs and one ornament there in the bottom right corner that makes me laugh at how audacious God can be sometimes. Our friend Carmen made that ornament. It is a bright green cross with small Alpha and Omega letters on it. Carmen has been coming to En Vivo for 3 years now- and very reluctantly at first. However because she made true friends at En Vivo she stuck around. After a few months, Carmen became a regular at our Thursday Night Bible Studies, she got involved in a small group and our leadership group. She started questioning all the things she was hearing from us, she dove deeper into her friendships and somehow amazingly she kept coming around. After 3 years, Carmen is one of our best friends. She comes over to hang out with my roommate and I almost once a week- so one random Tuesday back in mid March, we convinced her to help us decorate our tree. She laughed at us as we made “American” Easter decorations such as an Easter Dress, a basket, a bunny and a duck. And then we saw what Carmen made, and we too laughed, but not at the silly thing she had made, but at how unbelievable God is. Carmen made a cross. When we asked he why- she said, “I thought this was an Easter tree!” She added the Alpha and Omega because he knew along that is where he would go and because for all eternity he isn’t there anymore. Carmen is Easter for me. Not a procession of men focused on the tragedy of Holy Week. Carmen is the hope of Christ that we find in that empty tomb come Sunday.

There are two very different “Easters” happening here in Salamanca and I am so very thankful that mine includes Carmen.

Happy Birthday, En Vivo!

7 Apr

That’s right, today is En Vivo’s birthday! Our lil’ ministry is turning 6 tonight! It is pretty crazy to think back to when all this started in the spring of 2005 when after months of meeting people and putting on concerts to bring them all together we had one final concert as a house-warming party for our brand new Spanish campus ministry. Here are a few throw back photos:

House warming party/ concert April 7, 2005

Hanging out afterwards myself and fellow teammate Hernan in the middle


I can’t believe that was 6 years ago and even more so I can hardly believe that I am still here. If you would have asked me then I would have said no way! One of the really cool things that is happening today- a way that I think God is celebrating because there are no coincidences when it comes to Him- is that tonight for the 1st time ever our leadership group is taking care of Bible Study. They are at our campus house right now cooking, cleaning, setting up, practicing the music- doing all the things that our team normally does on a Thursday so that tonight at 9:30pm their friends can come experience the love of Christ. And the best part- we didn’t ask them to do this. We didn’t say oh it would be so cool if on En Vivo’s anniversary our students led Thursday Night Bible Study. Our leaders asked us if they could be in charge one night. They came to us with this idea and already had a plan in mind for what they each wanted to do!

I love things like this- ways you can see God moving things that you could have never planned for yourself, os that when you see them happening all you can do is say, thank you. Thank you , thank you, thank you.



The Nucleo- our leadership group

CAMPAMENTO! Spring Retreat

22 Mar

Hey everybody!

It is that time of year again- the weather is warming up, students don’t have to worry about exams just yet and we’ve started to see the flamingos coming back to town after their winter in southern Spain. Yes, that’s right, the flamingos are back. Which can only mean one thing- it is Spring Retreat time!!! THIS WEEKEND we are headed back to our favorite camp location, Pinos Reales (Royal Pines, so perfectly cheesy) to get out of Salamanca for a few days, relax, play lots of games, eat like we are the kings of Royal Pines and compete in the annual Flamenco Futbol (Flamingo Soccer) game- guys vs. girls soccer where the guys have to hop on one leg during the whole game to make it almost fair.


Flamingo Soccer



This year we are really blessed to have a couple from our church as our retreat speakers, Timothy and Elena Glascock. Timothy is a missionary from England who has lived in Spain for more than 30 years and his wife Elena is from Galicia in northern Spain. They are a very brave couple because the topic they will be tackling this weekend is dating relationships and what God’s desires are for us when it comes to dating- a topic that is quite taboo here in Spain. We are so thankful to have couples like the Glascocks here in Salamanca who support En Vivo and are incredible examples to our students of what a life lived for Christ can look like here in Spain.

We are also really excited to have our leadership group, ” El Nucleo/The Nucleus” playing a much larger part in both the planning and leading of the retreat. They have been working really hard over the past few weeks to plan out all of the silly games we will play during the weekend as well as a devotional for everyone to use on Sunday morning as part of our worship service. I can’t wait to see what they come up with!

Please pray for us through out this week and especially this weekend! We have several new students coming this weekend, ones who have only been coming around En Vivo for a few weeks and it is also quite the international crowd- off the top of my head I can think of students from Spain, Brasil, Bulgaria, USA and China who are signed up. Pray for the Glascocks as they share about a very culturally controversial topic. Pray for our leaders as the step out and take on more responsiblity this weekend. Pray for me as I am our “Retreat MC” and will be in charge of keeping the schedule and making sure the weekend flows well. Pray for God to move in powerful ways in the hearts of our students as well as ourselves.

One of the struggles our students always have when deciding if they can come on the retreat or not is if they can cover the cost. We always tell them that money should never be a reason for you to not come. We tell them that we have scholarships that we give out every year. But what they don’t know is that we can confidently say that because we have incredible supporters just like yourselves who provide these scholarships every year.  If you are interested in providing a scholarship for one of our students so that they can come join us on the retreat, please email me- I’d love to let you know how you can help be an even more integral part of this weekend!

Thank you for your prayers and check back next week for an update on how the weekend went and lots of pictures!

How to recycle a Christmas tree

14 Feb

What do you do when it is January 20th and your Christmas tree is still up? Well you trick your friends into coming over by offering them food and then you force them to make ornaments for your Valentine’s Day Tree! My roomie Laura and I have decided that our Christmas tree  is just too wonderful to take down, so it has now taken on a 2nd life as our All-Purpose Holiday Shrub. I’ll keep posting pics as  the spring time holidays happen. Happy Valentine’s Day!!


Every day the 14th!

Back to school, back to school

13 Feb

If you are an Adam Sandler fan or grew up in the 90’s then you are probably singing the rest of that tune in your head right now. Hope it doesn’t get stuck there 🙂

We are back in the swing of things here at En Vivo! YAY! After a month of students being locked away in the libraries studying for finals it is so great to have students bringing life back to the campus house. During January we hosted daily coffee breaks so folks could stop by grab some coffee and a healthy snack to fuel them up for another round of studying. We also had a few late night pancake dinners starting at 10pm and going till midnight or later so students could celebrate having finished exams. I’m posting a copy of one of my pancake recipes – Apple-n-Oatmeal Whole Wheat Pancakes. Try it out if you get a chance and let me know how it goes!

Finals in Salamanca are so crazy! Students line up outside the libraries in the mornings so that they can be one of the first ones in to get a good seat- picture Toys-R-Us on Black Friday except lots of un-showered caffeine crazed college students with books and laptops. They spend the entire month studying for 5 or so exams and then if they don’t pass those they can make them up later in the year during a secondary finals period. I’m still kind of unclear on how it all works.

Entrance to one of the main libraries Zacut- love those bars, kind of like a jail

We officially kicked off our semester with a really fun Trivia Night which doubled as a way to share what our “vision” for En Vivo is. After each round of trivia with questions like, “What is the En Vivo address?” and “What En Vivo staff member burnt the bathroom while he was an intern?”- we would share a story from EV’s history or explain why we do the events we do- all with the goal of sharing with students that En Vivo exists so that we can share Christ with them. It was a great night and we got a really good response from the folks who came. I’m really looking forward to all the incredible things this semester has in store!

Sam’s Baptism

11 Jan

Hi Everyone!


I thought you might like to see some pictures of the joyous event- Sam’s baptism! It was an absolutely perfect day- despite some cloudy weather. There were about 20 of us who met up at a local park and headed down to this small beach area along the river. We sang and read some scripture that has been important to Sam during this incredible time of growth and discovery, then she and I walked out into that cold water! It was one of the most simple and perfect moments of my life and I know she would tell you the same and so would God 🙂

I hope you enjoy the pictures and that you have all had a wonderful holiday full of the joy and hope that Christ brings into our lives and into the world.

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8 Dec

This might be the best blog post I ever get to write. Let me tell you about a girl named Sam…

This is Sam 🙂

She is from Ohio, and american girl studying in Salamanca for the semester. Back at the beginning of November one for Sams’s friends from her study abroad program told her about this placed called En Vivo- Sam’s friend said “They are going on this weekend retreat, and I’m not going, but I think you would like it.” So Sam signed up for the retreat the day before we were set to leave.

Sam has always believed God existed and had even tried praying a few time but had resigned herself to the belief that God was like a watchmaker he made the world, set it in motion, then stepped back and just let it tick. And before the retreat weekend her only experience with anything having to do with Christ was going to her cousin’s baptism when she was 8. The only time Sam had ever looked at a Bible was that same day- a children’s bible full of pictures and stories.

So on Friday November 5 our very brave Sam got on a bus with a bunch of people she didn’t know and headed off to a random small town outside of Salamanca. Certainly she had a fun weekend, got to know some new friends but what really happened to Sam on the Fall Retreat – the miracle that happened in that small pueblo – is that, for the first time Sam encountered God. She for the first time she felt close to him, felt like he was present when she prayed- all our talk of God being personal during that weekend- was so very real to her- Christ was real to her for the first time.

Since that weekend I have had the privilege to meet with Sam as often as possible and read through Matthew with her- it has been truly amazing to watch this incredible young woman discover Christ and the love and grace that he has for her for the 1st time. She is so wise and kind and full of joy and the most impressive thing is that she already has an understanding for the character of Christ that few people have.

Sam is why I came to Spain. No doubts about it.

Sam’s life has been forever changed over the course of the past month. And, last Thursday I had the honor of being able to stand up with Sam, in front of all her friends at En Vivo, and ask her to repeat those great words that Peter says to Jesus at Caesarea Philippi – “I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” The really cool part- we did all of this in Spanish- Sam the American girl who came all the way to Spain to find God is now confessing her faith in Him in a language that is not her own so that she can be faithful to the place where He first moved in her.

Because of everything that has happened in Sam’s life over the past month – the way God moved in her life during the retreat and how she has begun to fall in love with Christ through reading the story of his life and ministry – because of her confession, Sam will be getting baptised tomorrow afternoon in the Rio Tormes here in Salamanca.

This morning I asked Sam if I could share her story with you all and this is what she said- “Yes, you may certainly write about me for your blog!! I’d love for even more people to hear my story and learn from/relate to/feel supported by it.” Sam can’t stop sharing of the love she has found here in Salamanca, she wants everyone to know about where her joy comes from and it is both a challenge and encouragement to the whole team here to be more like Sam.

Pray with Sam as she takes this faithful step- as she accepts the gifts of forgiveness, grace and salvation that only Christ can offer. Pray for us as we head down to the river tomorrow afternoon that we can continue to be a light in this dark city. Pray for more students to follow in Sam’s example.

We’ll be meeting up at En Vivo tomorrow at 3:30pm and heading to the river with anybody who wants to come and celebrate in the new life that Sam is receiving. The actual baptism will probably happen about 5pm our time which is 11m EST. You can be part of this great moment with us by praying for Sam tomorrow at 11am!