July 28, 2014
A team of four OBU students and one faculty sponsor spent May 25-June 12 in Spain teaching English to local high school students and praying for opportunities to share the gospel. Despite the language barrier, the OBU team was able to form relationships with the locals and saw God work in the hearts of Spanish students.
OBU adjunct Spanish professor Janet Burns served as the team’s mentor. Students Tristan Campbell, Kristen Sidler, Autumn Eads, Courtney King and Ashley Snow all traveled on the team.
The team worked in two suburbs of Seville, Bormujos and Mairena. Seville is one of eight provinces that make up the Andalusia community and is the largest province with a population of over 1 million citizens.
Located in south Spain, Seville is the hottest area in Europe. Even with temperatures in the 100’s, heat didn’t stop the team from immediately falling in love with the culture. “Spain is a beautiful, sunny, urban, relational place,” said Sidler, a senior English education major from Argyle, Texas. “It was incredible to me that every restaurant had a patio outside with umbrellas to shade customers from the sun. Seville gets hot, so shade is a necessity.”
The students found that sharing the hope of Christ in Spain was a challenge. In the past, Spanish leaders used religion as a tool to control the people. They now have religious freedom, but their hearts have become hardened toward the gospel. Burns found this to be the most challenging aspect of their trip. “This mentality was difficult to combat, so we worked on building relationships with the people,” she said. “In doing so, we prayed that they would see that we loved them because Jesus loves them, and hopefully through this process, they would ask us why our lives were different and then we could share our faith in Christ.”
During their first week in Spain, the students served as support for teams already working in the schools. They spent the next two weeks teaching and building relationships with the local students.
The team members also built friendships with the locals by joining English clubs in the area and hosting a vacation Bible school for children. These English clubs allowed Spanish adults and students the opportunity to converse with English speakers each week.
As the days passed, the OBU team diligently showed love to every Spanish local they came into contact with, praying that the Lord would change their hearts and open their eyes to His love.
One Friday evening, the students threw a party for the community attended by 130 local students. The team was overjoyed to see that the Lord was hearing their prayers and changing the hearts of the locals. That night the team was able to plant seeds of hope in the hearts of the locals through the Gospel story.
The Sunday before the team left, they attended one last service at a local evangelical church in the area. The OBU group was excited that 13 students attended the service. For some of them, it was their first time to attend a non-Catholic service.
Sidler said that seeing the local students come to church was the most rewarding part of her trip. “Even though some said they only came for us, they still came and were able to hear the word of the Lord in church that day. One student said he really enjoyed it. That gave me so much joy and hope for the other students.”
The team was amazed how God answered their prayers and softened the local students’ hearts to hear His message. One of the students was so intrigued by what he heard that he plans on visiting the church again. “We were so blessed to know that at least one student wants to learn more about what the Gospel means,” said King, a junior vocal music education major from Oklahoma City.
The students traveled to Spain by way of OBU’s Avery T. Willis Center for Global Outreach, which mobilizes, trains and oversees Global Outreach (GO) Trips. Each year, dozens of students, faculty and staff take GO Trips which align with OBU’s mission to transform lives by equipping students to pursue academic excellence, integrate faith with all areas of knowledge, engage a diverse world and live worthy of the high calling of God in Jesus Christ.
King, who has been looking for opportunities to travel to a Spanish speaking country, was overwhelmed by how much God worked while on their trip. “Sometimes we are so stuck in our own world, we forget to think about how big this planet is, and how big our God is,” said King. “There are ministries all over the world sharing the good news of Jesus, and getting to see that and participate in that is life changing.”
“For me, trips like this are a way to serve others in the short term, but allows practice for living in the long term at home,” Sidler said. “It forces you to take your relationship with the Lord seriously, be aware of others outside of yourself, as well as get out of your comfort zone and share the Gospel with others.”