Spreading The Gospel on the streets of Benidorm
|Benidorm trip: 2008|
|Horsham team shares Jesus in Benidorm! |
The team: Rev Julie Shimizu, Rev Lynda Hulcoop (from Southwick Christian Community Church), Julie Capas, Peter Coot, Eileen Gray, Jenny Jessop, John Milborrow, Anna Pisani, Eric Tansley, (and of course, Jesus)
"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth". Acts 1:8
|In August 2007, there was an invitation, from Rev Julie Shimizu, to join a 4 week training course on equipping and encouraging people to share their faith. I attended as to me that seemed a great idea. I'm no evangelist but I do sense a call to share The Good News of God's gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. I personally find evangelism a bit overwhelming, but I do realise that scripture commands us to be a witness to Jesus. Although the course was loosely based on J John's book Breaking News, the most useful part was an aid memoire based on "The 4 Points" (Copyright www.the4points.com)|
|God loves me I have sinned Jesus died for me I need to decide to live for God|
|"The 4 Points" are an overview of the Bible designed as a conversation starter to talk about Jesus with anyone who doesn't yet know Him and explaining the basic Gospel truths. It was as a follow up to that course that Julie arranged a short evangelistic mission trip to Benidorm, from Thursday 12th to Monday 16th June 2008, entitled "PowerPoint 2008 - Life: What's the point and where is the power?". The idea being was to encourage us in sharing our faith there so we would be consequently bolder in witness when we returned home to Horsham. |
Why PowerPoint? In recognition of the computer age, it's a pun of asking: What's the point of living, where does the life come from and where is the power? Jesus has a purpose for our lives whatever age we are and I believe that it is to worship Him and surrender to His purposes. If we know Jesus, He will command our final destiny, but in the meantime, God wants us to be a passionate people for Him and tell everyone The Good News.
Why Benidorm? Julie has contact with Rev Lynda Hulcoop at Southwick Christian Community Church who as a church support the work by Paraclete Christian Network International, a charity organisation dedicated to serving and equipping the Evangelical Community, at home and overseas, and committed to evangelism and discipleship. Under their oversight they have "The English Church", a small local church in Benidorm.
Wearing our "4 Points" bracelets, we flew out to Alicante on the Thursday, from Gatwick with Easy Jet. The flight was two and half hours long and we could choose where to sit, so we decided that as a team we were not going to sit together. It was a good way to start our mission with a possible opportunity of sharing Jesus on the airplane. As we boarded the flight we prayed where we should sit. I don't think it was any co-incidence that I sat next to a retired couple, who were Roman Catholics, (I am an ex-Catholic) who regularly fly to Benidorm as they own an apartment just outside Alicante. They told me that they had a daughter who is suffering with MS which not only gave me an opportunity of mentioning Jesus but an opportunity of praying for her.
Upon arrival in Alicante we were met by Lynda, who had flown out the previous day in order to prepare the accommodation. She was a real blessing to us whilst we were out there, as she really knew the ropes. We picked up our hire car and made about an hour's journey, firstly to a point overlooking Benidorm to pray. This gave us an immediate overview of this city. On one side we could see a natural beauty; the crystal clear blue Mediterranean Sea and beautiful sandy beaches, but then on the other side there was hundreds of high rise concrete hotel and apartment blocks. The good thing was that occupied buildings mean that there is a high concentration of people and souls. We then made our way to our designated apartments, which were about 10 minutes away from the beach front.
That evening we sampled the atmosphere of walking along the beach front promenade which was still busy with activity. There weren't a lot of sunbathers but plenty of people in the bars, restaurants and shops. The beach front was very well cared for and it seemed a lot of work is undertaken, mainly at night, in order to keep the place clean. There wasn't anybody in our team interested in the night life, but Benidorm is renowned for it's abundance of cafes, bars, pubs, restaurants, amusement arcades and nightclubs. If you woke up during the night you could hear the activity of the night clubs and revelers in the streets, even from as high up as the 13th floor of our apartment block.
|On the Friday morning we had our first service at "The English Church", a quaint building which we were advised had been transformed from a restaurant into a church. Lynda preached that morning on "set aside to meet with the living God". It was by comparing our lives in the same way, that we have been transformed by realizing God's grace for us. Jesus chose to be amongst the people and this church had certainly taken that on board as it was situated in the heart of the beach life surrounded by bars, restaurants, and only a few minutes walk from the Levante beach front, where during the day, there are usually hoards of people sunbathing. There seemed to be a steady flow of people walking nearby.|
|The most impressive feature of the church was a beautifully crafted wooden cross. Lynda reflected that it had rough edges reminding us that it was a place where we could come and reflect, where our lives could become transformed, chains fall off and where we are set free. This church was to be our base throughout our stay. |
Both the Friday and Saturday followed a pattern of a Training Sessions, a light lunch, free time, and then Evangelistic outreach, where we split into three groups. Group 1: Praying at the church; Group 2: Leaflet distribution, praying for people and inviting them to the church for a special evening service; and Group 3: Engaging in "prophetic evangelism" which was prayer walking, a chance to be listening to God and then speaking to people. Each group rotated every 40 minutes.
|Going out brought a bit of a mixed bag of experiences. It was a chance to sample the different people's reaction to the mention of The Good News, just like the 4 heart soils parable in the Bible: from seed falling onto the path (just wasn't interested), onto the rocks (very slight interest but not bothered), choked by the thorns (appeared interested by had no desire to pursue any further), or on good soil (there was a desire to pursue further). Whilst we were all geared up to sharing the gospel with English-speaking holidaymakers, the trouble was finding them! It seemed there had been airplane loads of Belgium and Dutch people that had arrived at the resort on those days! It was also a time to experience and to learn that it's not about trying to convert people straight away, but it's a process of meeting people spiritually where they are and not where we wanted them to be. Above all you should leave room for the Holy Spirit to do His work. |
On both evenings there was a celebration and outreach meeting, which realised any people who had been given a leaflet and decided to take up the invitation. There were about 25 people who attended each evening. The outreach meeting consisted of light nibbles, prayer, worship, and someone in the team sharing their life story: our history before Jesus. Each one of us brought a different emphasis of how we met Jesus. Each one similar in that - it was a realisation of recognising that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, and also the difference He's made in our lives, (the awesome realisation that we can have a relationship with the Creator of the Universe). There was an opportunity for anyone coming in to pick up outreach literature and give a healing testimony.
On the Sunday, The English Church had two services, the morning one was a special Father's Day service, and there was a further service at 4pm.
At each service and outreach meeting there was a worship session where John played the guitar, and Julie Capas either played the flute or piano. Both Revs Julie Shimizu and Lynda, shared the sermons, and there was an invitation for healing prayer. Over the three days there were 7 confirmed healings, (A transcript of their written testimonies can be found here).
The church members are a small nucleus of an established community of believers. These are mainly expats, but as the area is touristic, there appear to be countless numbers of different people just dropping in, who are grateful of the worship services. All the regular church members and those who attended the outreach meetings, made us feel very welcomed. Recollecting some of the names, Sohee who regularly plays the piano in the services, her husband Stanley one of the welcomers, Malcolm and Pat, Cecelia, Ann and John who look after the treasury, Mary-Ann and a dear lady who is in her nineties, and 3 young ladies who were on holiday from Wales. As one lady put it, she found that our visit was an encouragement to them, but for us, our fellowship with them was an encouragement to us.
|As a team we also enjoyed wonderful fellowship together. All our evening meals were in local restaurants. It was great to see each one growing in confidence with the passing of each day. |
We also had some free time. On the final day there was an opportunity of going to the open air market. The highlight was seeing a T-shirt slogan of "Good girls go to heaven, Bad girls go to Benidorm", which was a far cry from Jesus's message of "The kingdom of God is near, Repent and believe the good news" (Mark 1: 15).
|Our final trip together was to another nearby seaside resort, Altea. This was different to Benidorm - being a very traditional Spanish town that was smaller and more intimate. |
To many people Benidorm is sun, fun and booze, but if we can have a moment to be still in the presence of the Lord, He does speak to us amongst all the hustle and bustle of activity. Certainly there are many visual metaphors on offer, but one which spoke to me was from the Benidorm sandy beach. You could see a rock which reminded me of Jesus' parable about the wise man who built his house using the rock as a foundation, and the foolish man who built his house on the sand with no foundation.
|When the storms came only the house built on the rock withstood the flooding. The message of that parable is that Jesus is our Solid Rock whilst everything else is sinking sand. |
My last impression? - I feel blessed. A very special thanks to everyone who prayed for us during our trip away.
On behalf of everyone in the "Horsham Team"