Thursday, April 27, 2006

Ah, The Sweet Smell Of Competition!!

Hello All,

Missionary life lesson 101: When in line for anything, carefully observe what is happening in front of you and do as they do! This was very helpful for me this last week when I took the "Silver Hornet," our 25 year old Ford Fiesta, into the Spanish Government's version of the Smog Testing facility. In this instance, I watched very carefully what the guys in front of me did, as they guided their cars, mostly BMWs and Peugeots through the supervised testing routine. When it was my turn, things went pretty well, even though my car failed due to defective head lights of all things!

I learned this lesson the way I learn all my lessons: The Hard Way! Case in point: It was my first grocery shopping experience here in Spain. I was waiting, last in a long line, and became fascinated by the throngs of people that were surrounding me. I thought that I was being investigative, noting what they wore, how they talked to each other, etc. Well, it came my turn to get to the front of the line. I stood there and allowed the lady to run my items through. I continued my people watching while I waited for her to finish. I had the money in my hand, and did notice that she was not bagging the groceries, nor was there a bagger in sight. I figured that she would be doing that after she was finished. I stood there and smiled, while she shot me a few dirty looks, as though she were unhappy about something. I thought, "Hey, so I like Nestle Quick! Give me a break!" While this silent interchange is going on, the line behind me has gotten rather lengthy. She announces my total, which I dutifully pay, then she hands me a bag and it dawns upon me: They bag their own groceries! So, I don't think I have to tell you how that went! Let's just say I had a load of Spanish eyes trained upon me, the lame American!

After that regrettable episode, I began to train my mind for the next encounter. I remembered how our Stater Bros. baggers would bag our groceries, how they could do it without looking and always place appropriate items in the appropriate bags. It was like an art. Their eyes focused on the runway and their hands, discerning which item would be appropriate for the current bag. For example, you would never put eggs in a bag with toilet paper. Eggs go in the kitchen and toilet paper does not, a helpful side note to you single guys! There was such a method to it that I began to get intimidated. I even though about checking into a website for further details, but stopped short and realized I was being a bit too obsessive.

Suffice it to say, I was ready for the next encounter. My mind focused, ready for the task and my body positioned at the front of the check out stand. It was like any scene from any western you have ever seen. You know, whistling wind, extreme close-ups on the cowboys faces and of course a view of the guns; well just transfer that vision to any store nearest you, except I had a plastic bag in my hand and she does not have a handle-bar mustache! Anyway, I held my bag open, ready to receive. She smiled as if she knew that she was about to break yet another customer.

At first, I held my ground, having manufactured what she would be sending down the pike in neat little mini-piles. She followed the program for a bit, but noted that I had bagged all the groceries correctly. I am almost sure she could see the smug smile that I was growing with each passing moment. But then, she did not take the next nice little mini-pile. In fact, she started randomly throwing things down the pike! I started sweating, putting things in any open bag, regardless of what it was coupled with. At this point, I even solicited my oldest daughter to come and help daddy, but to no avail: The Teller still ended up helping me bag the groceries in the end, the insult to injury as it were!

I walked out like a dejected athlete, just wishing I had a towel over my head, while she started in on the next victim! Is it in my mind? I don't think so! The competition is fierce, and it leads me to Missionary Life Lesson 101 part 2: NEVER GIVE UP!

Blessings to the friends of Spain,
Frank Sanchez

Monday, April 24, 2006

So Far...And Yet So Close!

Hello All,

I hope that you are enjoying life there wherever you are reading this from. It is an amazing marvel that continues to baffle me, that I can somehow reach your life from right here in my office in Spain! Oh, and how you can reach mine as well is equally amazing. Through the advent of the web, so many great technical advances have made this huge world seem so very small.

Consider these daily activities that perhaps we are all so used to, but are nevertheless incredibly cool. Lela and I have emailed back and forth to so many of our friends and family, that we hardly feel like we are away. Through iTunes, and the blessing of podcasts, we have been able to continue to monitor our favorite teachers, and even our favorite sports and t.v. shows. Through the lens of a small camera, we have been able to see our families on more than one occasion. And just this last Sunday, my family managed to make it to the first service of our own Church through the live webcast that our church now offers.

I know that I am perhaps sounding a bit like somebody who is astounded by the technology that all of the rest of the world has had for years, but it takes on a new meaning when you are all alone on the other side of the world. Our computer represents a bit of home to us. When we come to it, it is our little haven where friends are gathered, at least electronically, and English is spoken by all!

And then we walk outside. Suddenly, very little is familiar. People don't know who you are and are not very interested in finding out. Most places retain a sense of mystery, for we know that a language barrier will make it hard to perform even the most mundane functions of discovery if we enter. Thankfully, we have not let this keep us from exploration, but deep breaths are often taken before and after such excursions. Even the ice cream is different!

But then to walk home, and know that we have friends who are watching and participating alongside of us, accessed simply by a little computer, keeps us balanced, and ready to head back out for the challenges that await us.

"Honey, we need some bread and milk from the corner market." Deep breath...

Blessings to the friends of Spain,
Frank Sanchez

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Ah, The Precious Siesta...

Hey Folks

Well, life is getting back to normal here. Little things like banks being open for money exchange, shopping for food at the now open Carrefour, and the precious siesta is all back in order. Siesta is one of the coolest things that Spain has going for itself. I love the afternoons, at about 2, when the morning is wound down and it is time to eat lunch! And then, if one is so inclined, there is a little nap and then back out for an evening stroll, some pastries, and then the lite evening meal if you are a Spaniard.

But it's the siesta thing that is also a little confusing. All business shut their doors at 2 and that is settled. I remember being in a restaurant with my wife in Alicante, and we got the distinct impression that it was well past time to leave! The cook and the waitress were staring at us from the cash register, virtually waving our bill at us! So, it is really ingrained. However, the tricky part is figuring out when the business that you fancy will actually re-open. This is quite the quandary, especially if you have no car and have a bad craving for some fresh bread.

So, we walked the town and enjoyed a beautiful afternoon here in Jerez, just prior to the service tonight. I was preparing my message, had been studying most of the day, and was just sick of Genesis 12, reverantly of course! I needed a break, so we got the kids in the strollers and we rolled. We got to the first pastry place, which said it would be open at 4PM and it was not even though it was at least 5! So we walked to the next nearest one, found it open and got our fill of the sweets at six.

On our way home, I was thankful. Not for the sweets, though they were good. But for the chance to enjoy a beautiful day in Spain, with my family, while at the same time getting that message finished in my mind. I got home and found that the black ink was out on my printer! BLAST!!

Even so, thank you Lord for your blessings and all the little things that you let us enjoy.

Blessings to the friends of Spain,

Saturday, April 15, 2006

"He Is Risen Indeed"

“Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. But the angel answered and said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.’ So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, ‘Rejoice!’ So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.’

Matthew 28:1-10

The Sun has yet risen in Spain as I consider these verses. The Lord is alive, there is no doubt or fear as there was that day. All there is now is confidence and joy and the contemplation of what the Resurrection means to me today. The Resurrection proves, without a shadow of the doubt, that Jesus is the promised Messiah of Israel, the Savior of the World! Paul says that He was "declared" such by the power of the resurrection from the dead. (Rom. 1:4) The word "declared" is so loaded, for it is the same word that is used for our English word "horizon." The horizon is the farthest that the eye can see to take in. Jesus manifested for the world by His resurrection, the greatest view, the greatest vision of Himself that man could ever take in!! As a result of His resurrection, we can trust that His sacrifice was complete and accepted by the Father.

But there is more, for Jesus rose again on the first day after the Passover. What day is that significant of? The offering of the firstfruits. Paul observes this in I Corinthians 15 and makes the correlation between the offering of firstfruits, which was a signal of the coming harvest, to the signal of the coming resurrection of all that would believe in Christ. That's right: His resurrection guarantees my resurrection! When I die, and my body will, then my Spirit will be released and be clothed with eternity! Death is conquered forever!

This covers the past and the future, but what of the present? The present reality of the resurrection, unseen by my eyes, but a reality in the sight of heaven, is that Jesus serves as my High Priest before the Lord daily. Hebrews 7:25 tells us that Jesus EVER LIVES TO make intercession for us! Jesus is there, standing as proof of redemption. If He, like the priests of Aaron's priesthood, were to die, then we would have a problem. Thankfully, Jesus belongs to another order. The priesthood of Melchizedek, one without beginning or ending! (Hebrews 7:3) Because He will never die again, He makes my position secure in Himself.

Thank You Jesus for the Resurrection! In Spain, there is much made of the crucifixion, and the guilt of people that put Christ on the Cross. According to those here who I have asked, there is great pageantry related to the death of Christ, but only a minor procession, almost an afterthought, to the rising of the King. How sad, because the guilt gives way to joy on the third day, and to live in that reality is the greatest gift that we in Christendom have, and the greatest truth we can offer.


Blessings to the friends of Spain & HAPPY RESURRECTION DAY!
Frank Sanchez

Friday, April 14, 2006

A Report On Santa Semana

Hello All -

Well, it seems that the weather really calmed the religious fervor of Santa Semana. We got a healthy rainstorm here in Jerez tonight, which kept us from venturing out, and from the look of the parking situation in our area, we were not alone! So, I am unable to provide you with an eyewitness account of the religious pageantry that normally occurs in this week. To be honest, I am kind of glad. I did not have a good expectation about what might have been seen, especially for the kids, who might have been a bit scared by the whole thing! So, I am glad on that account.

As for our plans, I am currently working on my first Resurrection message. In all my time at Redlands, I can't remember ever giving one! Kind of sad on one hand, but on the other, I feel excited to be putting my first one together. It has been a good time of study, as I am experiencing afresh the excitement of the Resurrection and it's integral part in the presentation of the Gospel. I look forward to all that the Lord gives to me over the next 24 hours.

Other than that, we are jet lagging pretty hard. Aside from that, we are so happy to be here among our church family.

Blessings to all the friends of Spain,

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Well, We Made It!!

Hello All -

After 20 hours of travel and roughly 3 hours of sleep, we have made it to Jerez! We started in LAX, Tuesday at 1:30PM. A special thanks to Johnny Love and Ed and April Sanabia for taking us to LAX. From LAX, we went straight to London's Heathrow Airport, skipped over to Barcelona and then took a final jaunt down to Jerez. I won't lie to you: it was grueling. The fact that Elizabeth and Caleb are so near the same age and experimentation level added to the challenge. But then the trade off was the growth of Renae, who was an awesome help, dutifully carrying her red carry-on with a real grown up sense about her. She's only four you know! Before you call the child labor authorites, just remember that she is big enough by her own estimation for just about anything and this year she also gets coke and gum on her birthday!

The challenges did not just come physically though. They also came mentally at us. For some reason, our tickets were processed incorrectly, so it was a struggle at every stop. We had to explain what was just explained to us at the last check in point to a new person, most of whom were definitely not employee of the month candidates! In fact, I believe I have met the oldest living heart donor today! And then there was the palatable tension of our fellow travellers. This was unusual to us, as last time, everybody seemed so at ease, more typical of the European mindset. Lela was harassed by a 20 year old to move her stuff from the overhead storage bin and I was berated by an older man for reclining my seat back too far for his taste. I felt that in all instances, we responded godly, but it was a further challenge to our Christianity. In fact, just to end that story arc, both the 20 year old and the older gentlemen really changed their tune toward us at the end of the 9 hour first leg. The 20 year old eagerly helped Lela with her carry-ons, and the older man was very pleasant to me and our kids.

This trip was definitely easier in some senses though. The amount of things brought over, the very level headed send off from family and friends, and the sense of knowing a place and belonging that made things instantly comfortable. We drove into town and were absolutely oriented to the town. My spanish even felt a lot better than last time, which really surprised me. But then there was the wonderful blessing of seeing our church family over here. They were at the Casco residence, getting ready for church when we got into town. The beautiful sense of love and family just swept over me and as I walked into our house for the first time in 4 months, I felt at home.

And the best part is that all of our luggage came and met us at the airport! That was a great surprise, as many of you remember that when we returned from Jerez, it took 4 days to recover all of our luggage! Oh, I know: Some of you are thinking about Paul being shipwrecked and then bitten by a snake, and then stoned. Ok, I'll stop complaining and start being thankful for the joy in our hearts, which is even greater than our exhaustion, for the opportunity to be here in Jerez, if even for a short time.

Thank you all for your prayers, love and support, without which we would be unable to do anything of any spiritual value.

I'll write more in a couple of days, as there seems to be quite a stir in the city. My next report will be on what the Spainiards call "Santa Semana" or "Holy Week."

Until then, blessings and love to you all.

Frank Sanchez, Spain Time: 11:PM

Saturday, April 08, 2006

A Big Thank You...

To All Our Spain Chain that were able to come and say "See You Soon" to us. We are so thankful for your love and support. God has been so faithful to us through the extension of His love through your hands and lives. Many blessings to each of you.

And to those who were unable to make it, we will miss you and we look forward to seeing you on our next furlough, which may be sooner than later!

To all, please keep us in your prayers as we pack and get ready to leave the Lowry house tomorrow. James and Pam Lowry have been so kind and have blessed us so much. We are grateful to them for their generosity and care for us. They have been tremendous examples to us and we hope that we can extend just a little of that graciousness they have given with to others around us.

We will be staying with the Finfrocks in Mentone and then heading into Los Angeles on Tuesday morning around 10AM. Our flight leaves LAX about 2:30PM and will be arriving in Jerez on their Wednesday evening at around 6:30PM which is 9:30AM Wednesday here on the West Coast. It will be a tremendous trip, so please pray for grace.

We love you all.

Blessings to the friends of Spain,
Frank Sanchez

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

See You Soon Open House

Hello Friends,

Just a quick note to let you know that we are having an open house this Saturday, April 8th at my parent's house in Colton. If you would like to attend, we will be there between 2 and 6PM. We would love to see you before we leave. Email us at to get directions.

Hope to see you there. If not, we will be sure to look you up when we are home on our next furlough.

Blessings to the friends of Spain,
Frank Sanchez