The Bylers' retirement has had a ripple effect on their church in Burgos. While Connie and Dennis will no longer be present to preach on Sundays, the role will be filled by others at church. "This will be a great opportunity for some of our young adults … to have more opportunities to develop their gifts," said Brian Fox.
Brian and Noelia Fox have served alongside the Comunidades Unidas Anabautistas in Burgos for 11 years with Mission Network. While most of their time focuses on ministry through an English-language academy, they are very involved in their church's youth ministry and in raising new leaders in the church. Brian has preached in the past, and looks forward to the challenge of preaching in Spanish again.
Connie and Noelia had both interacted with refugees in the past. Now, with Connie's retirement, Noelia is taking more leadership to help families transition to a new culture. Over the past year, Noelia had been walking alongside a refugee family from Ukraine. They've become more involved in the church, and when they moved into their own apartment, the entire church showered them with gifts and well wishes.
Connie and Dennis were based in Burgos, but through his teachings, Dennis sowed seeds of Anabaptism across the country. They've since sprouted into faith communities. Those faith communities are now welcoming two new worker families.
Joshua and Alisha Garber serve in Barcelona, along with their son, Asher. They work alongside the leaders of Comunidad Evangélica Menonita (Mennonite Evangelical Community), to show that Jesus is still relevant to youth and people of all ages in Spain's post-Christendom society. "We believe the church is in a time of transition—metamorphosis, even—and we're hopeful the Anabaptist perspective can serve as that voice as we support the emerging church," said Joshua.
Francisco and Juana Machado are just settling into life in Madrid. They are focusing on church life, building relationships, and learning the culture. The Machados plan to work with local Christians to plant an Anabaptist church in Madrid by helping Spaniards to "discover the simple and genuine ways to follow Christ," wrote Francisco.
Post-Christendom* cultures, like that of Spain, are often the result of a lack of authentic spiritual role models. While the Machados are new to Spain's post-Christendom culture, they know full well that authentically living out Jesus' teachings has implications for their everyday life.
Francisco and Juana spent most of their life in Honduras. They were first introduced to Anabaptism in 1982 and discipled by believers from Honduras and the United States, like Linda Shelly, from Mission Network. The Machados learned to love Jesus and their neighbors, to work for peace and justice, and to care for the poor. Francisco's faith led him to advocate for Hondurans exploited by open cast mining, which is mining from an open pit. But his opposition of government policies and his influence among fellow Hondurans put his life in danger.
In November 2008, after several death threats, Francisco and Juana and their family left for the United States. "We … left behind everything we possessed. Everything from the material aspects to the intangible pieces of a life," wrote Francisco. "I was not able to understand the purpose of God in my life in this new level, but now I am sure that the Holy Spirit protects me and our family. Thus, friends and the church redeemed us from death to be servants of God for the rest of our lives."
*Post-Christendom refers to the highly secular society that follows the decline of Christianity as the dominant social and religious belief system of a culture.