In the midst of tradition and cultural Catholicism in the 1970s, a group of young Spaniards began to search for something new as they felt the Holy Spirit call them to more. Together, they formed a small faith community, read Scripture, and pursued a deeper relationship with Jesus. From these small beginnings grew Comunidades Unidas Anabautistas, a Mennonite church in Burgos, Spain.
Over the years, various Anabaptist workers have dedicated time and energy to nurture this fledgling movement into a thriving congregation. Included in this group of mission partners are Rosedale International’s newest workers: Brian and Noelia.
Brian—a Mennonite boy from Indiana—and Noelia—the daughter of Comunidades Unidas Anabautistas founding members—first met and fell in love through a short-term missions program in the United States. Together, they followed God’s call to Spain, where for fifteen years, they have served in Burgos, investing in Comunidades Unidas Anabautistas and the surrounding community. This couple began in youth ministry, helping to disciple the church’s young adults; as their ministry evolved, they took on work with young couples and families. Now, as they transfer to RI as their sending agency, Brian and Noelia will take on a new role once again.
“We will be stepping into more of a pastoral role within the congregation,” Brian explains. For the next few years, they will work alongside their pastor, learning the ins and outs of church leadership. “Once he retires, the plan is that I will take his position as pastor of the church.”
“They are asking the question, what is God wanting to do in our time, with our generation?”
As this new aspect of their ministry takes shape, where do Brian and Noelia hope to lead their congregation? “Many of [our young people] are starting to look to the stories of their parents and how they were part of this great Jesus movement in the ‘70s and ‘80s,” Brian shares. “They are asking the question, what is God wanting to do in our time, with our generation? Part of what [Noelia and I] feel God calling us into is to lead and nurture and guide that process of discovering what this next step is.”
Something that weighs heavily on Brian and Noelia’s hearts is the reality that, despite an overwhelming Catholic presence in the country, Spain remains spiritually barren—and many communities have no evangelical or protestant witness. In recent years, Comunidades Unidas Anabautistas has begun to grapple with this, beginning a small cell group in a neighboring town with the hopes of establishing a church in the community. “As we’ve watched this process and seen how different people—including missionaries from other congregations—have gotten involved, it’s begun to stir a new vision” for the church to become a hub that trains and sends people into Spain’s smaller towns.
Brian and Noelia also look to the church’s history of service to inform its present and future. “We’ve always been a church that has reached out to those who need it most. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, that looked like running drug rehabilitation centers and homes for people who were terminally ill with AIDS. Later in the ‘90s, they got involved with a ministry in Africa to start a home for orphaned children, a school, and a small business.”
Now, Comunidades Unidas Anabautistas has seen and responded to the need of those seeking refuge in Spain. “Over the past ten years, we’ve seen a large number of refugees coming from Venezuela, from Colombia, from Ukraine. The church has opened its arms and welcomed them—giving them food, clothing, and a place to stay, helping them find jobs, teaching them the language.” This outreach, coupled with a merge with a Baptist church a decade ago, has created a diverse congregation of 200—“for Spain, a pretty large church!”
As they look toward leading this community of believers, Brian and Noelia are open to whatever God has for them. “God’s always had different challenges for us over the years; there have always been different steps of faith to take. We are walking into this very humbly, not really sure why God has called us into this role, but certain that he has.”