Zafra, Spain

Church meetings place, ZafraLynn and Neil spent 16 years in Zafra and Lynn is still involved from a distance in helping the small congregation in Zafra, a market town in the Spanish region of Extremadura.

Lynn writes:

In early 1996, while based in Southern Spain, church planting, Neil and I sat staring at a very disconcerting letter. It was an S.O.S. – an urgent cry for help from a small group of believers some 200 miles inland. Through subsequent visits, it soon became apparent their situation needed ongoing pastoral care, teaching and leadership. After prayerful consideration, the Rees family stepped out in faith, relocating to Zafra – a beautiful whitewashed town in the midst of an agricultural region, the administrative centre for its many surrounding villages, a place where relationships and community are of paramount importance and where traditions (religious and otherwise) very deeply rooted.

Good relationships… Gaining a place in the community… Bringing down prejudices and barriers… This all takes prayer, investment of lives and a LONG time! Over the years, much has been invested in prayer, worship, church life, evangelism (in a myriad of forms: street presentations, concerts, door-to-door, children’s work, special events, leafleting…), but also, very intentionally, much has been invested in building relationships and a place in the community. Activities have included Christmas toy campaigns for the area’s needier children, years of involvement in local radio, leading a Parents’ School in a local Primary school, running Kids’ Clubs and camps, offering English conversation practice, seeking to have an active presence in town festivals and parades… By aiming to bless and give into the wider community wherever possible and by getting involved with local initiatives and events we have seen how God has removed many barriers, weaving the church into the fabric of the town and we believe, in this process, preparing people to accept not only His messengers, but His message.

Festival “Yo Sí Soy Solidario”

A major landmark, which illustrates how God always does immeasurably more than we ask (or imagine), happened at Christmas 2012 when the small church of 20 or so members were allowed to use the town’s prime venue to hold a festival which was attended by more than 300 people, opened by the lady mayor and shown continuously on local TV for the next three days!

A distinctive characteristic of the Zafra church is its identity as a strategic, central place of worship for those spread over a larger radius, some living in villages where there is no evangelical church and perhaps no other known believers to meet up with. This dispersion and isolation of the members (especially for those who don’t drive) poses one of the challenges faced in building church life together. Over the years, much input has been received from other missionaries and Christians who have come to Zafra and intentionally sown a part of their prayers and lives there, be that for a week, a month, a year or longer. During this time, the church has comprised people representing more than 10 villages – as well as from much further afield – and many have passed through, some moving on in their faith (and geographically), some not (yet!) and others who have remained throughout. We thank God for all the lives He’s touched and for the ‘remnant’ who continue to meet.

Since the Rees family left in September 2012, this ‘remnant’ has continued to serve God and each other faithfully, growing in the process, despite the difficulties and the great discouragement of a key leader sadly dropping out. The much anticipated arrival of a missionary family (preparing to come to Zafra since January 2013) was scheduled for June 2014, but unfortunately has been postponed due to urgent health needs. We continue to pray and thank God for a positive response to treatment and that the family still desire to come to Zafra as soon as they can.

Challenges past and present

From the start, forming a strong, committed leadership has been a particular area of struggle and consistent target for difficulties. We believe that just as Zafra is a strategic town physically, so it is spiritually, which would explain such an ongoing (and at times, fierce) battle. However, we know that God faithfully brings to completion all that He starts and His purposes will be accomplished here !

The great reality with God, is that, in the face of each challenge, we have seen His encouragement and perfect provision – a dynamic, young American Bible School graduate coming to spend last year in Zafra, then as she was about to leave, a keen Christian couple moving back into the area after decades in the north of Spain. In addition, regular visits from a new missionary couple based in a town one hour away have brought further support and encouragement. God’s arm is most definitely not too short!

Much has been sown in this rural community, but there’s a lot of watering and harvesting still to be done.

Some Zafra facts

  • SITUATION….South west Spain, close to Portuguese border, close to Seville….not so close to any beaches (3 hours away)
  • FOOD……. Home to good olive oil, good red wine, succulent top quality cured ham…and any dish involving piggies.
  • CLIMATE…..Summer: Scorchio! (can get up to 40 but at least it’s dry heat!) – Winter: Coldish, but still quite bright, no snow – Spring/Autumn: Don’t really exist!
  • CLAIM TO FAME……..Annual cattle fair which receives 1 million visitors on its busiest day,and always makes it onto the national news!