MÁLAGA, Spain (Mennonite Mission Network) — A spiritual foundation has been laid for a new Mennonite congregation in Málaga, Spain.
In March 2005, Bill Brubaker left the United States for Málaga to help longtime Mennonite residents José and Maria José Fernandez plant a Mennonite church in a community of Paraguayan immigrants.
An earlier church plant in this area struggled. Leaders said they began outreach efforts in the church too fast with a lack of commitment from some of its members. But the previous effort resulted in a pool of former members for Brubaker to contact as he and the Fernandez family attempt to help rebuild a healthier church.
The goal is to build a place where God is worshiped and community thrives.
“Before, we didn't have much in common. It wasn't the Lord's timing, and it didn't have a strong foundation,” said church member Lilian Gimenez through a translator. “We came from different churches and denominations and cultures. We have learned that we should have waited on the Lord longer.”
José Fernandez had worked in a traditional evangelical church, where he said peace and social compromise were not important. Before becoming involved with the Mennonite church, he felt censured on issues that were important to him. It made him feel like half a person, he said.
When deciding to start a Mennonite church, the Anabaptist theology was at the basis of their faith, Fernandez said. They also had other Mennonite churches in Spain and the rest of the world to counsel, support and inspire them.
“(They) are our extended family,” he said.
Brubaker’s ministry support team, based in Johnstown, Pa., is his family extension, providing consistent prayer and personal support. Team leader Steve Kriss has traveled to visit Brubaker in Spain and organizes congregational support through prayer, care packages and financial giving.
“I feel like God brings together different kinds of seekers in Spain," Kriss said. "There is much for us in North America to learn from the emerging Anabaptist communities in Spain, in how people from diverse experiences and perspectives are finding a way to walk together.”
The Málaga church, made up of immigrants from Paraguay and the Fernandez family, has been blessed in many ways locally, as well. These blessings, including the donation of a keyboard and a free place to worship, have inspired its members.
Fernandez had been off of work for a couple of weeks when he talked with Brubaker about the church's need for a keyboard. The first day he went back to work, his co-worker, Antonio, approached him and asked if his son was still interested in learning to play keyboard.
Antonio gave the keyboard to Fernandez, who passed it to the church.
“I feel God was providing us what in that moment we felt that we needed,” Fernandez said.
Antonio did not know about Fernandez’s church or the need for a keyboard, but his donation provided a high-quality keyboard and hope for his congregation.
Brubaker said he believes life together and reaching out are both needed in a church-planting situation.
“Worship is the most important part of the church,” he said. “Evangelizing is important, but it is also important to take care of the people within the church and help each other to grow spiritually. We’re in the process of starting to look outward.”
When the church began, members had been studying a chapter each week of the book Building the House Church by Lois Barrett. Now, their focus has turned to spiritual gifts of the church and individuals. They are gauging how individuals in the congregation are willing to offer their time and talents.
Currently, they hold weekly Sunday services and Bible study, all in Spanish.
Before one service, a visitor named Zuni told her friend that she would only visit on the condition that she would not have to speak. As they went around the room sharing about their favorite Psalms, Zuni probably spoke more than anyone, Brubaker said. Through tears, she talked about her experience in connection to the Psalms.
The topic of the service seemed to fill a void for Zuni, Brubaker said .
Comunidad Menonita de Málaga is a small congregation with growing commitment and support from across the world. Their Christian fellowship is demonstrated through the established members as well as the foundation of support that the Pennsylvania ministry support team has established.
“Now we are much better prepared in every sense because of our earlier experience and have learned to wait on God to work and not get dismayed," Gimenez said. "We know that he is with us constantly just as he was with the early Christians.”
Brubaker said, “God was there and there is a point to our little church. We may not have gotten a big ministry going, but individuals can come and feel comfortable.”
Bill Brubaker taught Spanish at Johnstown (Pa.) Christian School and served as a Service Adventure unit leader before going to Spain. He is a member of Carpenter Park Mennonite Church in Davidsville, Pa.
Steve Kriss works in the Franconia Conference as Director of Communication and Leadership Cultivation.