By Matt Norman
The core vision for the ministry in which we are engaged in here in the Barcelona area involves creating and assisting in the development of “safe” spaces that express the fullness of the gospel message where people can come to recognize both themselves and others as valued creations of God. That vision comes to fruition in different ways, but developing relationships is always a crucial component. One such relationship embodies this vision and highlights a core missiological value, that giving and receiving, learning and transformation happen mutually, by all involved in the relationship. Mission is not a one-way movement of information, aid, or charity. It is a mutual opening of lives to one another in the presence of the spirit of Christ that is nothing less than transformational for all. This relationship I speak of is with my friend Paco.
Paco and I meet every week for a language interchange. He is learning English, and he is helping me better my Spanish. We meet at my house or a cafe, and spending several hours just talking. Half the time we talk in Spanish, and half the time we talk in English. It turns out, that Paco is one of the best teachers I have ever had. He creates lesson plans for our conversation that are some of the most creative and practical that I have ever seen. One week we discussed the headlines of the local papers and Paco had created a list of questions that helped me not only understand the vocabulary but make connections to everyday life. He’s the kind of friend who stops me when I make a mistake and corrects me. And he does this over and over until I get it right.
I have learned much from Paco. Not only has my Spanish gotten better, but we have talked about his home country, why he immigrated to Spain, his hopes, fears, beliefs, questions about God, and what foods we love to eat. I’ve learned how to be a better English teacher from Paco and how he helps me with my Spanish. I’ve also learned how to be a better friend from my time with Paco. He has shown me that the most important thing in our conversations is not necessarily the speaking, but the listening. Without listening well, we miss the opportunity to assist the other in their goal of communicating clearly in the language one is learning. We also miss the opportunity to learn, receive, and grow. I pray that you too have relationships in your life that help you listen, receive, and grow. I’m discovering that such relationships, help me understand more fully what I have to give.
Matt and Michelle Norman are Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel serving in Barcelona, Spain, where they assist local churches in connecting with their secular community as well as welcoming immigrants and refugees. In addition to this location ministry, the Normans are Associate Coordinators for the two CBF Global Mission teams in Europe. They are responsible administratively for the work of CBF Field Personnel on both teams and resource their work as it connects to the larger CBF context. You can support their work here.