By Matt Norman
First impressions are important. We all know this. Most of our mothers told us this when we were younger. It is especially true in a different cultural context. I was reminded of this recently during a conversation with my friend and pastor here in the town we live in right outside of Barcelona.
He asked me how I respond when people in the community ask me why we now live in Spain. I told him that Michelle and I always tell people that we work with the Protestant church and that we partner with Spanish Baptist Churches. We explain that we teach Bible studies and talk with people about God as well as serve alongside our Spanish church in meeting the needs of the community. My pastor responded, “You are probably the first Protestant Christian or pastor that they have ever met…maybe the only one they will ever meet.”
I hadn’t really thought about this before he told me, but he is right. It is hard to explain how secular that society is here. According to a recent newspaper article, Spain is the 5th most atheist country in the world.
Using a story to illustrate his point, my pastor told me of recently meeting a man in his 80’s that had lived his entire life in our town of about 60, 000 people. When this man found out what kind of work our pastor did, he immediately said that he was the second Protestant Christian that he had ever met. He went on to tell the story of how he met the first. While on a business trip to Argentina, he had a terrible car wreck and came to in a hospital. A doctor was leaning over him doing something. The man asked what was happening and the doctor told him that he had been in an accident and he was getting ready to take him for surgery and was praying for him before they went. To this the man responded, “Thank you doctor, I am in your hands.” The doctor looked at him and replied, “No, you are in the hands of God.” The man looked at our pastor and said, “The first Christian I met saved my life, now tell me about you.”
My prayer is that God uses us all, every day, as we meet people, to offer a Christ like impression that might just change a life.
Matt and his wife Michelle serve as Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel among internationals in Barcelona, Spain.