When we first contemplated God’s call to Spain more than four years ago, I never imagined how our ministry would intersect with the Muslim world. It didn’t seem likely! But the Lord has a funny way of weaving his will into our plans.
In the past couple of years, our ministry has intersected the Muslim context in interesting ways and God, in his wisdom, has done it through Spanish-speaking missionaries either in or heading to these Muslim areas. He’s done this through a training and care trip to a Hispanic team in the Middle East; through my wife, Doralicia’s participation in an annual retreat for Hispanic women who live and minister in Muslim countries; and most recently by allowing me to help prepare a young man of Spanish/North African descent who I’ll call “Carlos”.
Carlos is heading to North Africa soon as a sent one! Between December and February of this year, I was invited by the pastor and an elder of our church here to mentor and coach Carlos in preparation for his deployment to North Africa. Together with these two men, we gave Carlos training on three fronts:
- The pastor gave him Bible knowledge.
- The elder, a Panamanian brother with much experience in these contexts, trained him in how to do effective ministry in a Muslim context.
- I took him into a deeper understanding and articulation of his calling, and helped him to delve into issues connecting his head with his heart in the development of his inner life.
Let me share with you a little of Carlos’ story.
As we began our time, I took Carlos through a process called Awaken. It’s a developmental process that looked at his life — the blessings and the painful parts — in order for him to discern how God had been working in the totality of his life and shaping his calling.
Here are some important snapshots of Carlos’ life:
- He was born to a devout Muslim North African father and a Catholic Spanish mother.
- His father was strict, harsh, and abusive.
- He suffered the divorce of his parents at an early age.
- He grew up speaking perfect Spanish and excellent Arabic.
- Because of the emotional pain he suffered, he became the schoolyard bully casting fear on other kids.
- He became friends with a young man who brought him to our church, and at the age of 17 he received Christ.
- Now at age 22, his heart’s desire is to be good news for kids in a Muslim country who need to hear about the freedom he found in Jesus!
As I said, this is only a snapshot. The many other details of Carlos’ life create a fuller picture. But it has made my heart smile to see how Jesus can take a kid from the mess of his life, restore him, change him, and actually awaken him for the nations. I never get tired of seeing this.
I know that my contribution to Carlos’ story was one piece in a mosaic, but I feel like the Lord honored the time that I was privileged to have with him by giving him a beautiful clarity about his particular calling and how he should go about pursuing it.
I cannot wait to see how the Lord will use this young man in the years to come. And guess what? He enjoyed the Awaken process so much that he recommended two new candidates to go through it with me in the future.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Randy Gonzales (pictured above) lives and serves in Málaga, Spain with his wife, Doralicia, and their two daughters. The Gonzales' ministry can be described as a desire to put Jeremiah 29:7 into loving action: “And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you… pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” To this end they seek to bless others, sow the good news of Jesus, and engage people in processes of discovery that awaken them to who God is, to their true selves, and to God’s purposes for them in his Kingdom.