This is an exciting time to be working with young adults in Spain. They are spiritually hungry and truly looking for something more than what they’ve been offered in the past. CRM’s Ethné team in Málaga, Spain, are seeing this as an opportunity for Kingdom innovation. Ask them about it and they will say that something new is happening...
A few years ago, members of the CRM Ethné Málaga team started a small group for twenty and thirty-year-olds. The young adults and families in this group were asking lots of big questions about faith and how to invite friends to know Jesus. They were wrestling with all kinds of things: inner brokenness, struggles with sin, deep questions about God and spirituality, and a desire to discover purpose and meaning for their lives. The Ethné team spent a lot of time on inner healing, spiritual formation, and character development, which began to transform the lives of the people in the group. But it wasn’t long before the team began to realize that God was leading them toward something more.
To start with, the team members decided to transform their small group into an intentional space where those with spiritual questions could potentially have an encounter with God. It would be a place not only for believers, but also for those seeking answers on their spiritual journey—a safe place to explore Jesus.
They called the group Despertar (Awaken), because they wanted to see people come alive to a new vision of who God was and to recognize the lies they had attached to God because of their life experiences. The group would be a place for young adults to be awakened to an understanding of who they were—to gain self-awareness of their own needs and brokenness, and how God truly wanted to heal them. And, finally, it would be a group where they could be awakened to their calling and released to become the people God had created them to be for his Kingdom.
They told their twenty-to-thirty-somethings to start inviting those they knew who might be interested. “We said our group was a place to ‘belong and believe,'" Ethné Spain’s team-leader Randy shared. “You belong and you are accepted here, wherever you are at in your journey, whatever you come with. And on the way we hope you’ll believe in Jesus. But there’s space and time and a process for that. We have tried to create a safe space, and we have guarded that steadfastly.” Now, in every meeting, there are anywhere from 18–24 young adults and families crammed into their home, from all different backgrounds and in all different places in a journey toward Jesus.
“We’ll have a meal at our home, where everybody pitches in, and then we’ll go down to our basement and have a ‘conversation’ on a theme. We try to make it creative to engage people. And we’ll always do an exercise, usually a spiritual exercise,” Randy explained. The team works to create spaces for reflection on a set of questions where people can engage and encounter the Holy Spirit. “We’ve learned to speak less and provide more space, and to ask the questions that will provoke them to think and provoke them to listen. And God always speaks. After reflection we’ll go into small groups. ‘How was your time? What was God saying? What was he asking of you?’ A lot of great conversations happen in those small groups. And after our closing time we go for coffee and dessert, and that’s where a lot of the great debriefs, questions, and opportunities to witness come up.”
"What Are God's Dreams for Your Life?" — Dreams in a Bottle
"Symbolizing Your Spiritual Journey"
Randy tells the story of one young woman with particular enthusiasm. She was a friend from the neighborhood—a teacher in a local school. As this woman attended Despertar, there were moments where it was obvious to the team that God was doing something in her; she was encountering the Living God.
When a big life transition meant this teacher would be leaving both the city and Despertar, she came to Randy and Doralicia’s house to say goodbye. While sitting with her in their living room, Doralicia asked, “Hey, where are you at with Jesus?”
“I want to believe,” she answered. “I want what he offers. I’ve had encounters with him here.”
So Doralicia asked her, "Do you want to open your heart to Jesus?”
“Yeah, I do.”
So there in the living room she asked Jesus into her heart.
After she moved, Doralicia kept in contact to disciple her. Some months later this teacher's daughter accepted the Lord. And then her husband responded to an invitation to receive Christ. Now the whole family is growing in their faith and wanting to be involved in sharing the hope of Jesus in the city where they live.
Last February, the Ethné team identified eight of the core people in the group and started taking them through a nine-month training they call Core Awaken. “We hope that these young leaders will multiply Despertar into the other parts of the city where they live, but even if they don’t,” Randy reflected, “we’re seeding them with values and ethos and new tools. We’re talking about gospel movements and how Despertar fits in. And we’re dreaming with them about places in Spain where we’d love to see other Despertar groups—even other places in Europe.”
Core Awaken and the Ethné Spain Team
The openness in the younger generation to getting involved in God’s mission marks an exciting moment for Spain. “There are more and more people who are trying to establish fresh expressions of Church. Something is shifting,” Randy shared. “There’s a cry for something more, a cry to innovate for the Kingdom. I feel like we’re in that liminal space of transition. Our team hopes to see the organic growth of different kinds of churches, and I hope we’re a part of that. We would love to see a network of like-minded, like-spirited gatherings and groups—where people can come and experience an encounter with Jesus. Because that’s really what changes people—having an encounter with Jesus.”
ABOUT: Randy and Doralicia Gonzales have been with CRM since 1997, serving with Ethné in Venezuela and Costa Rica before moving to Spain 6 ½ years ago. They live in Málaga, Spain, with their two daughters.
Matthew and Melinda Talley have been with CRM since 2015 and have served in Spain with Ethné for 2 years with their three boys.