Writer, traveler, maker


Travel updates and occasional commentary

Madrid part 1: Evangelism and tapas

My third (!!) international trip of the year started on a Thursday, immediately after a week-long work trip to New Orleans. In fact, the two trips were so close that I pre-packed the Europe bag in case I needed help swapping luggage (I did, but my housemate's help actually made for a much more relaxed layover).

Oddly, I got my first passport stamp at a layover airport: Dublin (two hours, but time enough for a tasting at the duty-free shop). From there I flew to London, where I lunched on ramen at a noodle place first discovered on my maiden Europe trip in March 2000. One flight more and I finally reached Munich, but just to sleep. Thankfully the Airbnb was convenient and pristine.

Saturday afternoon, I finally arrived in Madrid. As soon as I stepped off the plane, I sensed a difference: warmer temperatures, ample natural light and touches of yellow and red in the airport architecture. I liked the vibe immediately. A friend I knew from my college church met me outside baggage claim and drove us back to the small town near the Christian school where she teaches students whose parents are mostly missionaries. I saw her parents in Strasbourg last November, but hadn't seen Marie or kept up much in at least 15 years. Even so, we swiftly found an easy conversational rhythm.

After a rest at her spacious two-story apartment (some rooms decorated with her paintings), we set off for a larger town, Alcala. On the second floor of a largely abandoned outdoor mall, some people from her church were celebrating the two-year anniversary of a ministry they call the "red box." They must rent a few former retail spaces for the church's use. We arrived during an evangelism training. I got paired with a Nigerian woman for a role-playing exercise. It was interesting to hear her answers to my fake doubts and objections.

When the practice ended, the group briefly visited over cake and snacks -- including the thick, egg-based pancake the *Spanish* call "tortilla" -- then a smaller crowd continued on to the square where they set up the red box for evening testimonies and preaching. Alcala's most famous citizen, Cervantes, gave one plaza his name and prompted a statue. The square seemed a popular place for people of all ages to gather and talk.

As Marie passed out postcards that connected Cervantes to Jesus and gave a website with more information, I followed her and prayed for the conversations and people. Then, during a break between speakers, someone asked if I wanted to give a testimony. When they said they could translate, I asked for a few minutes to think. Between Toastmasters and other speaking I've done, the talking didn't concern me, but I did need an approach for the people hanging out in the plaza, many of who seemed young and probably unsure of themselves.

Ultimately, I talked about the desire to be loved, how all loves disappoint, and only God's love has never failed me. It's hard to know whether or how God used it, but at least it felt honest and sincere. After staying a few minutes longer, Marie and I left to go eat.

For the meal portion of our evening, Marie and I started at a large tapas place called Maimonides, which had a deceptively small entrance, but extended back and around a corner to a large, crowded room of tables and chairs, some bearing tall, test-tube like carafes of wine for the table. Several probably also served a popular sangria-like drink made with wine and orange soda.

In keeping with Spanish custom, we had one round of tapas and drinks, then moved to another place to repeat the process. By the time we got home, it was almost midnight -- also typical, according to Marie.