It is quite amazing to be home… a journey that effectively began some 9 months ago when we were convinced that we were to give ourselves to the ReConquista and the expulsion of the Muslims from Spain. The final four days of that journey were spent both on La Linea (the Spanish side of the border) and in Gibraltar itself. Before arriving home yesterday Gayle and I spent one final night in Granada on a hill overlooking the city. Granada, being the final Muslim kingdom to surrender, was quite a place to reflect back, at sunset, on the past months. We are not sure what more we will do in direct focus on the ReConquista / expulsions. In the immediate we know something has been completed and we will need time to reflect further. There are so many parallels to the Civil War (36-39) and this might indeed pull us.
In a few days we will head north to the Basque Country, being joined there by Noel and Tricia Richards. After all-but 8000 kms (5000 miles) we plan to kick back for a week!
So Gibraltar – the place where Tariq landed in 711 with a relatively small invading force from Morocco. In a few years from Gibraltar the whole of the Iberian peninsula (with a small exception) was Muslim. The majority of those in the land before and after that invasion were Spanish / Portuguese (excuse the anachronism). They converted from ‘Christianity’ to ‘Islam’. Being the entry point this is what led us there and shaped our plans to end in that geography. We were so glad that we were joined by 8 from the UK (Roger & Sue, Graham & Nicky, Julie, Steve, Lee Ann, Kay), 4 from Sweden (Claes & Kina, Bjorn & Maria), and very thankful that the three who came with us in the first few days of travel some months back were at the end of this phase too – Sam (France), and our Spanish friends who have welcomed us again and again to the land, Noe & Loli. In Gibraltar itself we were welcomed by Stewart and Louisa Duthie who many of us knew from Bridgend in Wales almost 20 years ago. They created wonderful space for us and it was so good to reconnect. So a great group of people all who carry so much history in God. Gayle and I could never have accomplished very much without this group of people.
It is genuinely hard to report on the time there, and certainly we are less able still to make an assessment of what took place. We know as we drove away Sunday night that a huge weight was off our backs, even if we had slept only a few hours each night these past days. Gibraltar was not only the entry point for Islam into the land, but it is a portal from heaven to earth, and as such there are always layers of history in such places. Our focus then was not simply on the entry of Islam – indeed that was barely a focus – but on seeking to align ancient purposes of right trade, hospitality as opposed to piracy and borders that exclude.
We had a big focus on piracy. In our first years in Spain (2009-11) we had a focus on a threefold manifestation: piracy (at work in the banking system), betrayal and murder / destruction (we owe those insights to Michael Schiffmann). As we have travelled we have seen again and again that there was a pattern in the expulsions of betrayal followed by murder. In Gibraltar we sought to shut down the root of the spirit of piracy, not simply in relation to that geography but as it affects the western world system. We worked toward this and on the final morning focused sharply on closing it down and opening what has increasingly accompanied us in our travels – ‘convivencia’. A living together, giving one another space regardless of gender, age, ethnicity or faith. We see this as that which the body of Christ, as a catalyst, is responsible for. Of course the outworking is very challenging. It can leave us as vulnerable and open to being persecuted, and open to living out the Pauline gospel once again! This we consider is the trajectory for the coming years. Vulnerable… lambs among wolves!
We were acutely aware that the era we are living in is so focused. Empires, regardless of what adjective goes with that, are not simply being challenged, but are being exposed and are showing real signs of crumbling. Hard borders will give way to inclusive boundaries. Simply put we believe that our time in Gibraltar contributed to that trajectory. Of course we are probably more impacted as we were involved so our sense might well be exaggerated, but there is a real sense of a before and an after.