Thursday, March 11, 2004

The following are archived Swains in Spain highlights from 2002. March 4, 2002 We are now and the final days of the pregnancy and very excited know that labor could start any day! So far it has been an amazing experience and we have to thank God for his grace and each of you for keeping us in your prayers (The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective –James 5:16). Lori’s mother will be coming to Spain this Friday and be spending several weeks with us. Please continue to keep Lori and the Baby in your prayers as well as that the delivery goes without any complications. February 2002 Divine Appointment As it happened I was eating a meal of pasta and pork chops in the middle of the student cafeteria that I frequent. The thing that bothered me most was that I was eating alone, and while I was sitting at a table in the midst of students I was still isolated from them, far outside of their world and praying for a way to enter into it. On that Tuesday I went to the cafeteria by myself in hopes to catch up with some students that I already knew. When I first walked in I was reminded of the experience that I think every kid experiences in high school or college. You step out of the food line and stand on the edge of the dining area peering around quickly for someone that you know so that you don’t have to stand there gaping too long. It is a moment that can stress even the most self-assured people in the world. If you’re smart, you’ll start looking while you are still in the food line, and if you’re timid you’ll only go when you can walk in with a friend. Well, when I walked into this cafeteria I did not see a single face out of the sea of heads that I knew or recognized. The waiter asked me if I would like to sit at a table near the back. While my first instinct was to just leave, I decided that I would make my way back through the tables of students to the one that he’d pointed out, because this would give me another opportunity to look for people that I knew. Unfortunately, I made it to the table without finding anyone, and that is how I came to eat alone. I decided that since I was there, I might as well make the best of the situation by praying for students around me. When I finished my meal and was getting ready to order dessert, a student that I knew entered and sat at a table nearby with some friends of his that I had not met before. He glanced over and saw me and I waved. He saw that I was alone and he said, “Grab your stuff and come over here and sit with us!” Not two minutes after I sat down with them another student that I knew walked by and said, “Hello.” So, I invited him to sit with us as well. He did not know the other three students, so there were introductions all around. It was wonderful! I found myself sitting at a table surrounded by students: some new and some that I had met before. Not only that, after lunch I had coffee with one guy and we had a great conversation. He asked me about our church, and he told me about his family. Then, the next day another student from that table came to our apartment and watched a movie with me. The protagonist in the movie thought money was the answer to happiness, but no matter how many millions of dollars he had, it was not enough. After the movie we talked about what truly makes someone happy. I thank and praise God for that lunch appointment that he set up! However, I also wonder how many appointments he has set up in our lives that we miss because we are too afraid, too busy, or just plain disobedient. Pray that God will set up some appointments for you and for me this week. Some with old friends, and some with new! But most importantly pray that we will be ready and recognize divine appointments when they are set before us. “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” - 1 Peter 3:15-16 April 2002 Swain Life Well, Abigail is over a month old now, and we are all starting to get used to life together. The first several weeks were difficult as she lost a good bit of weight and didn’t seem to be gaining very well. However, things have improved a lot, and at her one-month check up she had gained so much weight that her pediatrician told us that he thinks that her original birth weight was recorded a little high. It is amazing how much she has grown and changed in just a few short weeks. Lori and I both love just to watch her look around with her big dark eyes. We have even been able to coax a few smiles and cooing noises out of her from time to time. New Teammates Besides new team babies we have also been joined by a new couple. Troy and Jen Hellmann and their son Jack arrived in SDC at the end of March. The Hellmanns are from Texas and have been good friends with Scott and Shelly Stribling for years. Most recently Troy was an assistant pastor at a church that he and Jen helped to start in College Station, Texas. We are so thankful for their experience in church planting and praise God for them and what they bring to our team! Coffee House News We have a place!!! Located in the heart of the Old City of Santiago. We began renting a small storefront that is two blocks from our apartment and a short walk from the Cathedral. It has a tiny kitchen that we have converted into an office and another small room that we are going to use as a children’s playroom. The main room is freshly painted but entirely unfurnished at this time. It is our goal to line the walls with bookshelves and put in couches and chairs. We also would like to build a small platform to have a worship band or live music and designate an area for painting and drawing. We want this to be an interactive place for students to come and experience the truth and love of God. As we have looked into getting the permits required to serve coffee we have found that it could take a year or so. So, we are not giving up on coffee even though it could still take some time. While we are moving forward to obtain those permits, we have a place where we can try out our other ministry ideas. If you would like to know more about how you or your church could be involved in this coffee house/ministry center, please e-mail me and I will send you a packet of information. Student Cafeteria I have been continually amazed to see God open doors as I continue to eat lunch with students at their cafeteria. I have met many new students and been able to get together with several guys and play guitar. Last week two new guys sat with me and asked me what I studied. I explained that I am here to study the Bible with students. I started to tell them about the café that we are going to open and they said “Oh yeah, we heard a friend of ours talking about that the other day.” I was so excited that people are already talking about the Coffee House even while the paint on its walls is still wet. Thank you for your prayers! We can tell that God is giving us new opportunities here each day and your prayers go before us. Out of Town Our team will be out of town on a team retreat April 21-27. If you have an emergency and need to contact us, you can reach us at the following numbers: 011-34-652-306-207 or 011-34-658-662-863 Pass it on! Please feel free to forward or print out a copy of this to anyone who may be interested in the ministry in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. If you obtain a copy or forward of this newsletter and would like to receive it at your e-mail address please contact me at: April 28, 2002 Evangelism Anxiety??? Does the word “evangelism” cause you to get excited and make you want to lace up your shoes and go meet the world head on? Or does the word “evangelism” give you butterflies in your stomach and make you want to run into your house, close the door, draw the shades and hide under the bed? In either case, I just read a book that I think has a very fresh perspective on evangelism and what that looks like in today’s society. Whether the word evangelism pumps you up or scares you away, I think that you would benefit greatly in your own spiritual journey if you check out Brian McLaren’s book, More Ready Than You Realize --Evangelism As Dance In The Postmodern Matrix. Summer Team We are already having a blast with the fourteen college students that came from College Station, Texas last week. They have sacrificed two months of the summer vacation that they could be using to work summer jobs or hang out with their friends, to come and be living examples of Christ to the students of Santiago. A few more students from some other states will also join us in the weeks to come. This past weekend was their first here in SDC, so we spent time giving them background on the city, praying and worshipping together, and letting them get acquainted with the culture and city. Most Spanish students hardly know anyone their own age that truly believes in God. So these students will be some of the first believers that these Spanish students have ever met. Please pray for the next two months and the time that they spend with their roommates and Spanish friends. Team Spain Our Team leaders Scott, Shelley, and Madeline Stribling are currently in the last week of their USA tour to go to conferences and visit family and will be returning to SDC in about a week. Please pray for their travel. Also, in the past two weeks every member of our team has been sick in one-way or another. This could not have happened at a more inopportune time as we have making preparations for the summer team. So, please pray for health and energy and they we will be able to get the things done each day that we need to do. We appreciate this more than you can know! Family Life Abigail continues to grow and amaze us daily with her new developments. Although she does not say many words yet (ha ha), she tries to talk to us through baby sounds. Last night she had us cracking up as she would make a cooing talking sound and then start laughing (Don’t worry Grandmas and Grandpas, we got some good video footage). Today we had her two-month check and everything is very good. She received two shots and I am not sure if it was harder on her or on us! Web-page –Under Construction!!!— If you have visited our web site lately, you may notice that has not been updated recently. We are in the midst of totally revamping it and will be changing the format a bit. IT will include a new section for family photos (translated: that means Abigail photos). Lori has been working very hard on this in her “free time” and we will let you know as soon as it is completely updated. August 6, 2002 This is a letter to the summer team of American college students after they completed two month ministry experience with us. Greetings from Lancaster, Ohio. Lori and I arrived in the states about the same time as you. Abigail did very well on the flight over. She was very excited to watch everyone on the plane, so she did not sleep much, but she remained in a good humor. Ever since “all ya’ll” left I have been meaning to write to you and let you know how much I appreciated our time living, playing, studying, worshipping, and doing ministry together this summer. Since we have arrived in Lancaster we have been talking with friends, family, at Bible studies and at church services. Every time, I get the privilege of telling how awesome the last two months have been. I have been sharing stories of people like Juan, Mariah, Carlos, Roberto, Rosa, and Jose to name a few. These are just some of the visible ways that I was able to see God work this summer and I just wonder how many invisible seeds were planted that we might never know about. As you think about each of these people (and others that you met) please continue to lift them up in prayer over the course of months and years to come. You may the only person in their life who cares enough to pray for them. I wanted to thank each of you for sacrificing a summer break that you could have spent working or just goofing off to come to Santiago and minister to Spanish students. I know that God will honor your sacrifice! I think that the Spaniards that came to the train station to see you off with tears in their eyes is a testimony to the work that you did. I hope and pray that you take time to reflect on how God has worked in your life this summer. Being back in the states I realize how easy it is to fall in to old habits or mindsets. Please don’t let that happen. Instead, consider where you are now a continuation of the work that you were doing this summer. May the light of Christ shine through you and touch every person that you come in contact with. We love you and miss you and this is my prayer for you: Que el Señor te bendiga Que el Señor te proteja Que el Señor te bendiga Que el Señor te proteja Que el Señor te miro con agrado y te muestre su bondad Que el Señor te mire con amor y te conceda la paz In Him, Matt Swain August 15, 2002 Father’s Love Lori and I have had such a wonderful time in Lancaster seeing friends and family and we want to say thank you for making us feel right at home. While we were here we had the opportunity to catch up with several of the students that were in the youth program while Lori and I worked at the church. In the midst of these reunions a conversation with one young man sticks out to me. He has recently been struggling in his faith and feels like a failure as he realizes that he has not been following Christ in the ways that he wants to and knows that he should. The more we talked, the harder he berated himself for neglecting God and he just seemed unable to forgive himself, let alone seek God’s forgiveness. Finally, we talked about the prodigal son and looked at that story from a new perspective as I described to him what it was like to be a Father. I told him that on the day that our daughter Abigail was born I loved her immediately and unconditionally. I said that no matter what she does, there is nothing that she can do that will make me loose my love for her. I am sure that she will mess up and I know that she will even upset me. However, even when she makes me mad or hurts me, my love for her will not diminish. Then I said that if you look at my love for her it is still flawed, imperfect love from an imperfect and wretched sinner. But God’s love for his children is absolutely perfect love. I know how much I love my daughter, but God’s love for his children is infinitely better than the love of any human. At this point I exclaimed, “Imagine how we would live our lives differently if we even grasped a fraction of that love!” He said to me, “You are right; everything that we did would be different if we remembered God’s love like that.” “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” -Jesus Christ (Matthew 7:11) September 30, 2002 The First Invitation Today Matt Hanlon, Troy, and I(Matt) met to make plans for the new school year, and we decided to begin a small group Bible study next Tuesday. We will be using the Alpha Course which is geared toward people who are not Christians. It addresses many of the fundamental questions of what it truly means to be a follower of Christ. Tonight when I got home from our meeting I called Juan, one of the students that went on the Camino with us this summer, and he said, “Mateo, I am just getting into town. Can I come to your house at 8?” “Of course!” I said. So, he came over and we spent some time talking and catching up. While we were talking he asked me if our team was going to be meeting together to study the Bible. I told him that we were going to begin meeting on Tuesdays. Before I could say anything else he asked me if it would be OK if he came next week. I said, “Of Course!” Please pray for Juan and that God would transform his life. Also, remember us in your prayers as we meet with other friends and students this week to invite them to the Alpha Course! Divine Appointment Over a year ago I (Lori) had an awesome language partner. We would meet regularly for me to practice my Spanish and for her to practice her English. It was great because my Spanish was getting better and we were becoming fast friends. Unfortunately (for me), Maria got a scholarship to study English in Cambridge and was gone all of last year. We lost touch and I never really expected to see her again. Today as we sat down to lunch, Matt said the blessing, and as he did, he asked God for “divine appointments” this week. Late this afternoon, I decided to take Abigail for a walk. I strapped Abigail into her front pack and we headed into the park. About halfway around the loop, I heard someone call my name and I looked over and it was Maria! Talk about answered prayer! She was just as excited to see me as I was to see her. The last time she saw me, we had just found out that we were expecting, so she was thrilled to meet Abigail. We got to hang out this afternoon, and I’m looking forward to what God wants to do with this friendship. We ask you to praise God with us tonight for faithfulness with both Juan and Maria! “I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; Let your glory be over all the earth.” Psalm 57:9-11

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