Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Attempting ministry amidst a spectacle

My 24 hours in La Palma was great. I spent just over half of it with a wonderful missionary couple from Germany who lead a single baptist church that meets in three places around this small island. The reason for this is obvious as soon as you get in a car.

La Palma is the greenest, most mountainous and, I think, most beautiful of the islands in the group, Dominated by a rangle of mountains in the centre of the island, reaching heights of 2,500 metres (just shy of 10,000 feet), the people live in towns and villages dotted around the coastline and just inland (but even these are at the top of steep inclines. The towns tend to be separated by both hills and deep gorges, meaning that journeys of a few kilometres take an hour or more on windy roads. Even recent investment in bridges and tunnels has only cut journey times a little.

So, getting from place to place for ministry means that folk spend hours in their cars. Those without cars are dependent on buses that take an hour or more to get to the neighbouring town and are not that frequent. None of this matters when you come here as a tourist and take advantage of the black sandy beaches or the breath-taking mountain scenery. But it does if you are trying to plant and nurture churches.

However, Pedro and Dorles are doing a fantastic job. They are full of creative ideas and after 17 years are firm fixtures in the community in Los Llanos where they live (this is a lovely town with wide streets, varied architecture and art of all kinds dotted around). Their colleague in Santa Cruz is more traditional in his approach but still has a significant ministry - especially in the local prison.

The churches here - as well as elsewhere on the islands - are very buildings focused and their buildings tend to be quite traditional. My feeling is that they need to think about how they can make better use of their homes backed up by the internet for teaching. But I'd need to reflect more on this.

Yesterday morning we drove up to the highest point on La Palma. The winding road leads up through dense forest into the clouds and then, beyond the cloud cover, into a sparse landscape of volcanic peaks up to the string of observatories built to take advantage of the clear skies. Standing on the peak you look down a thousand feet to the clouds lying like a fluffy blanket over the landscape. It's like the view from an aircraft window when at cruising height. It's truly spectacular.

Back for a day chilling in Lanzarote before my flight home this evening.

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