Way down south: Tarifa

Camping in the pine trees on the most southerly geography of continental Europe – further south than a couple of African cities – was where we were the night before heading home. Being eaten by mosquitos,in spite of mosquito net was less than ideal!

Tarifa

Extreme points are often liminal spaces. In ancient times they had myths attached to them and likewise today there can be new age spirituality attached to them. With Jacob who fled his home we read that he had a major shaping dream at one of those places, a boundary place. In the dream he encountered angels, and likewise on his return he encountered an angelic meeting point. We might add to the liminal space that it was a strategic moment in his journey.

In coming to Tarifa we had now travelled as far west as we were going, and of course as far south as we could go. We had one more place to travel to (I hope to post on that tomorrow) and this would take us on the road past Gibraltar, the last place on this journey from Lugo via Santo Toribio (from May this year). Beyond Gibraltar Morocco might well pull us, and also in our travels the era of the Second republic (1931 to the Civil War) has come into focus. How can it not when for example 4000 of the priests in Madrid were killed. There will always be a next journey, but major phase of this journey ends on September 10th in Gibraltar.

In Tarifa the Lord gave a dream that had many parts to it, much of it relating to the planned time in Gibraltar. There were also tangential encouragements to Gayle and I in it. For example, we met a verbally hostile group who were not impressed with what we were planning and challenging us about our belief in God and how he could send suffering. They referenced one city where God was about to send judgement. We responded with a ‘God is not like that’ kind of response. Eventually even the most hostile calmed down, and the response was ‘we have never heard this about God in Spain’. Very encouraging. Beyond that one of the people in the crowd (a neighbour) said that he understood what we were about to do in Gibraltar and that he too had had a dream, then he went on to say ‘But do not forget Badajoz and the life threatening storm that is coming there tonight’. It was a heart cry.

The dream both helped give a strong focus on Gibraltar and re-shaped the next road trip which begins on Sunday.

Paul had a vision of a man from Macedonia calling them over. His dream re-shaped their journey, when twice he found himself pushing for doors that did not open (Acts 16:8-10). I have often wondered about the vision of the man, for the open door he goes through is that of a woman, Lydia. Maybe he did meet ‘a man’, maybe the Philippian jailor was that man, maybe the vision got him there.

We will head to Badajoz over the next two weeks. We had forgotten it, mainly because it does not feature highly on the expulsions of the Muslims. It has a history as per elsewhere of being conquered during the ReConquista, and being a border city has been a strategic place of warfare and conflict, but expulsion-wise it has not stood out.

Badajoz has opened us up to Portugal, and as we were planning these next two weeks we were looking at Portugal and asking ‘when’. The next morning an email came in from David Vincent (London). He had just been in Portugal in the region of the main battle in the ReConquista (Ourique) and suggested that there was a connection to what we were doing. And then… a journey we made in July 2012 came back to mind which again highlighted that a door was opening now for us into southern Portugal. We now leave next Sunday with a re-shaped set of places to travel to. We will not forget Badajoz en route to Gibraltar.

Maybe we will find a strong ReConquista / expulsion connection. Maybe we will come over to help ‘a man’ and find ‘a woman’. Maybe but we are grateful for dreams and seek to take them seriously.

(We do have some thoughts on the significance of Badajoz for the era we are praying into, but are always surprised by what one discovers on the ground. No two geographies are the same. We are grateful for the connection in Tarifa and are wondering if we should sleep there again the night before we go to Gibraltar.)

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Granada to Cordoba via…

This was a 350kms day, starting out in Órgiva through Lanjaron (west gate to the Alpujarras), up to Granada, on to Jaen and La Carolina / Las Navas de Tolosa then to Córdoba. Granada – the last kingdom to surrender and clearly a city with an impressive history. We will revisit Granada at another time, connecting there with people of the land. This time we parked up (losing a hub cap on the way on the cobbled streets!) and climbed up to the central Mosque. Obviously, and understandably, seen as a symbolic achievement by those of the Islamic faith. What a challenge… freedom of religion? It is very provocative to realise that there is no physical level battle but our warfare is heavenly, and challenging to think of the NT context where faith in Jesus was for so long a miority belief in the public arena.

We were in Cordoba by the end of the day and the next morning. This is truly an impressive city, modern and a clear place of learning. In history the development of literature and study there was right at the forefront within the world of the middle ages. Cordoba was one of the first mega cities of its time. Something of this is still in the city. The gifting is there and evident.

 

We had a very moving morning in the Cathedral – or in the Mosque? The Cathedral took over the Mosque, so it is known as the Mesquita-Catedral. Beautiful and truly awe-inspiring. What a place to unravel our string! (From Lugo where we began this journey, May 21, where we bought a roll of string saying that something was unravelling from Lugo to Gibraltar, and we have slowly unravelled it as we have prayed.) So in the Cathedral there had to be an unravelling and that is what we did.

The pivot point of the day though was in going to the battle field of Las Navas de Tolosa (1212) and the monument at La Carolina.

Navas de Tolosa

The scale of it and the symbolism really are an abomination. A bag of salt was deposited all around it and a strong renunciation. This distortion of the cross is what disempowers the cross. At the cross Jesus was stripped bare and made an open show of – the result Paul tells us was that the powers were exposed and stripped of their power! So offensive to have the cross at the centre as the weapon used against others.

The battle brought together four kings who despite their differences aligned, volunteers also from France, and three orders of religious knight orders, including the Knights Templars and the Order or Santiago (the ‘Moor killer’). It is probably no great surprise that we discovered when travelling to Toledo that the returning forces then turned on and massacred many Jews in the city.

When one talks about repentance over what has been done to Jews in the name of Jesus there is often a glad response – even from those who do not grasp ‘Identificational repentance’. Bringing up the issue of repentance to Muslims and touching on that history does not bring about the same glad response, in fact it is sadly often met with resistance. The privilege to stand in these places and feel something of the heart of God to embrace one and all is huge. It is then an offence when so much of what is on the land today betrays the God of heaven. For that repentance is both necessary and an easy step to make. It is not simply that Muslims have a long memory – the land does, and it needs healing so that another story can be written rather than one that changes characters but the script stays the same.

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La Alpujarra

After Mojacar (see the posts pre-Barcelona) we drove from east to west throughout this region. We covered more places here than I will post on, and one could spend days travelling from one place to another where there were atrocities – and atrocities on both sides. Take, for example, Cádiar where in 1568 Christian soldiers billeted there were killed while sleeping; or Laujar de Andarax where 3000 Muslims were killed, including 200 (some reports say 600) women and children who were blown up inside the Mosque.

There were a series of ‘rebellions’ in the decades that followed the surrender of Granada (1492). This was mainly throughout the mountainous regions south and east of Granada, and was provoked by the very harsh anti-Muslim policies of Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros, who with the royal court moved to Granada in 1499. He ordered the burning of Arabic books and advocated a very hostile policy of forced conversions. His actions were in violation of the agreement that had been reached on the surrender of Granada.

We are noting a repeating pattern: take what is not yours, opens a door to betrayal, that then releases a spirit of destruction and murder.

Again in the midst of the overarching story there is a story of mercy. Cisneros became very ill and there were real concerns whether he would survive the illness. Finally a Muslim woman skilled in natural medicine treated him and he recovered. Sadly rather than this soften him it seems he was more resolved to counter the Muslim threat and was later able to apply the same policies beyond the borders of Spain. At the end of the rebellions the population of the kingdom of Granada had dropped from 150,000 to around half that figure. They were expelled from their land, again it is only appropriate to also give this the label of ‘civil’ war alongside any other labels attributed to those years of brutality.

Alpujarra

History is normally written by the victors and it was interesting to read in Órgiva town square about the rightful heirs being given the city. The rightful heirs were from Córdoba – some 3 hours drive away to the north. Apparently the rightful heirs were not those of the land.

There were so many places that we drove through and a number we stopped off at, either on the main road or small villages normally higher up the mountains. One place I will mention: Pitres. Driving there we came across two blights on the land. A well-established Buddhist retreat centre and all-but next door a town (Soportújar) with a public sign describing it as a ‘village of witchcraft’. Both we are sure sitting on the huge bloodshed across the valley. The valley is called the barranco de sangre (ravine of blood). Legend has it that it so flowed with blood that it never flowed with water again after that time. Blood on the land, particularly where it is tied to betrayal makes space for the demonic to sit there. All kinds of spirituality flourish in the Alpujarra(s).

alpujarra

The satellite map above will give some idea of the terrain. We came in from the East through Alhama de Almeria and out through Lanjaron – then up to Granada the following day.

It was a long day through the mountains, but it was also a long day spiritually. It is easy to be overcome by the immensity of what one encounters and we certainly do not have a perspective that somehow we have ‘done’ it. We though have, hopefully, made a contribution, and being convinced that God is not looking for the next ‘big thing’ but to presence himself in the midst of the multiplicity of small things we are content.

We are getting ready now for our next trip (which will take us into Portugal) and will begin by returning to the Alpujarras on Sunday, spending the Monday in there with a Spanish couple that we have yet to meet but are of the land. If we can strengthen them we will be content, helping those who love the land (rightful heirs) to create space for the Spirit of God.

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Barcelona – a back story

A thank you to all who have written to us about Barcelona. We were provoked to start an extensive set of travels through Spain this year of 2017 as we knew due to the history Spain was rife for terrorist attacks. Even without that threat the history had to be addressed. We cannot say, ‘It was a long time ago’, or ‘they were not real Christians’. We have to take the responsibility that the Lord shows us. We of course ask, and will continue to ask questions – are we pulling strong enough, are there elements we are missing etc. We do not ask them from a guilt perspective, but from a responsibility angle.

Our first foray was to the north and one of the key places was San Toribio de Liebana. This Noe considers is the real source for the ReConquista, the place where civic and church powers came together and some 700 years later the final kingdom of Granada falls. Noe wrote to us yesterday, I include his notes below, pointing out so much – what struck him is the attack came from Don Pelayo street, the king who was behind that agreement in San Toribio. Note also his comment on the place of the attack – the same place where there was a battle ground in the Civil War. We are finding a lot of overlay from the ReConquista and the Civil War.

Noe & Loli are from a Spanish church down the road from us. We have worked with them in the prayer journey, and they have been absolutely invaluable to us. As those of the land we value them enormously. They have been in Barcelona. With Samuel Rhein, Noe and Loli took us to the place where the ReConquista started – the agreement of church and civil powers. We are grateful for what did not take place as Noe outlines.

Noe’s email:

What Can I say? My family and myself arrived to Barcelona last Sunday for short holidays. We came last year and my daughter wanted to come again. We are in love with Barcelona!

We wanted to visit La Sagrada Familia (Gaudí cathedral) and Downtown (Barrio Gótico, Ramblas, Raval). We have been walking by La Rambla for the last 3 days. Just 1 day before the attack we were at the very place at the same time.

We live 480 km from Barcelona.

It is evident that Barcelona is a multi-ethnic tourism hosting international city with the biggest percentage Muslim community in Spain.

We stayed at a friends house in Tarragona, next to the second attack place, Cambrils.

FEELINGS: Just arriving I felt something weird. I felt it gonna be an attack 2 days before but I rejected it in my mind. Just a thought cross my mind. At the same time Loli was feeling that Barcelona will be a place of visitation and revival, all these days.

I shared with Martin & Gayle about the oppressive atmosphere I was feeling for the first time in Barcelona. (Note: Noe sent us a photo of a St. George statue – his presence is so often an issue where there is racism and division.)

THE FACTS: 2 days ago there was an explosion in a little town called Alcanar. It’s the first town of Catalunya after Castellon province of Valencia.

I saw a TV program years ago because it just the border between Catalunya and Valencia and they were demanding to change to Valencia because Vinaros is a big city next to them but is in Castellon. They wanted to change for health and other services.

When I was driving back we went by national road instead AP7 and went by Alcanar. That name came to my mind strongly and I remembered the TV program.

Recently Police has discovered the terrorists has come from Alcanar (210 km far From Barcelona) and the explosion it was because they were manipulating 20 gas butano cannisters to create large bombs inside the vans for Barcelona!!!

If the explosion did not happen Alcanar explosion maybe today we would have so far more than 14 dead people!

That explosion killed 2 of the terrorists and originated the quick attack in Barcelona. They rented 3 vans and due the explosion they just used one. The terrorist attack were planned to be huge.

Thanks God it has been “nothing” compare with they wanted to be.

THE PLACE: The first terrorist attack happened in La Rambla. Maybe the most touristic place in Barcelona. An ancient Avenue with a central promenade packed with tourists from all around the world.

Something that got my attention is that the attack came “from” Don PELAYO street!! Is from where the vehicle entered the Rambla.

Don PELAYO is the King who originated the Reconquista. He was a key character in our prayer trip to Santo Toribio (North Spain).

Pelai in Catalán.
Pelayo in Spanish
Pelagic in English:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pelagius_of_Asturias

The attack happened in the same place of the battle inside Red Front in the Civil War. Anarchist against communist. That’s was the battle ground.

THE ANSWER: As I guess in places where happened other attacks some people blow the hate flame but most of the society has answered properly, even with a cry: WE HAVE NO FEAR

HOPE: On Wednesday we visited the Sagrada Familia (Gaudí cathedral). Something got my attention in addition to the beauty of the place. Suddenly a whole bus with Islamic women came into the cathedral. They look wealthy, I guess from some Emirates or another Arabic nation. But just the picture of a bunch of Islamic women coming in from the ‘Pasion’s door’ (name of the gate) with the sun rays (at that time), gave me a sense of redemption. After this, a Muslim women with veil came to the prayer seats, prayed and cried. Was one on the best pictures on the trip.

(At the passion door is sculpted the betrayal of Jesus. Judas betrayed Jesus for money and because he had his version of the kingdom of heaven, which included suppression of all opposition through the use of power. This is what motivates us to travel and pray – so when Noe wrote that this was the door they came in through that spoke very deeply. The Reconquista was motivated in part economically and the suppression of all who opposed the ‘kingdom of God’ was through violence.)

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Own our story

I write the morning after the Barcelona attack, taking a brief pause in writing up our recent trip. (we have been this morning planning our next trip which we think will take us into Portugal en route to Gibraltar… another story.) A while back I watched a TED talk by Bren Brown (her web site here) on her own journey and research. Into the current violence she makes a very profound case for – if we do not own our story it will eventually own us, but if we can own it then we write the ending of the story. True personally and also corporately.

She recently reflected on Charlottesville – I make no comment on that as I do not live that side of the Atlantic, although if there is sin in the land it came from this continent here. I am also no great authority on Spain, its history and story. I simply suggest that maybe the ‘brother against brother’ might be a recurrent theme with a deep wound in the Priscillian incident being the first Christian to be killed by fellow Christians pulling on Imperial power.

To own one’s story we have to get perspectives from others (the other?). If we are part of the dominant side, the ones who write the history, then it is very difficult to hear the story from the underside. It is easy to see that the Civil War ends in Spain and the Valley of the Fallen is proclaimed to be a sign of reconciliation with people from both sides buried there. However, from the underside it would be like burying Auschwitz victims alongside Nazi persecutors, then proclaiming the past has been dealt with.

In travelling Spain it has been interesting to research using both English and Spanish sites. Often the big sweep of the Spanish sites will gloss over what went on. Thankfully in the years we have been in Spain issues surrounding the Civil War, the Inquisition, and even to some extent the Muslim expulsion have been covered with increasing honesty. This is vital for any forward movement.

We don’t know the stories of the terrorists who were involved in Barcelona, nor do we know the story they bought into but, for sure, some of what we are seeking to pray into will be a contributing element. It leaves us with a deep conviction that we have to continue, and also asking the question whether we began on this journey too late and have done too little thus far. We are not asking that from a guilt perspective, just a sobering one as there are responsibilities that we all carry.

Our prayers last night were for the police as well as the families involved. Sad today that so many have lost their lives, including the terrorists who departed this planet never having discovered the reason for which they were born. Yes, we need law and enforcement, but their job should be much easier if we can hold the space where true reconciliation can take place. We knew that if we did not do this journey of prayer that there would be terrorist attacks this year in Spain. The news has reflected these past months more arrests than before… but last night was yet again a sobering call.

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Mojacar

Leaving Cartagena behind we moved on to Mojacar on the south coast. We had visited Mojacar in 2010 so knew it a little. It was really intended as a sleeping point for us as we prepared for the major drive through the Alpujarras, but…

Mojacar

A quaint, beautiful place with narrow streets so well preserved:

Mojacar Streets

Before getting in to Mojácar and what we did there we look back on our first trip across the south of mainland Spain in 2010 with deep appreciation. We did this from Mallorca, renting a car and taking a tent, but now looking back it was so foundational to our understanding of Spain, and it was what eventually took us to Cádiz. It was at the end of our southern trip, we were in the city for just over an hour and then basically prayed for it for the next 2 years on an all-but daily basis. An accidental connection but a shift for us. Now living, more or less at the point of entry for that first trip, we reflect how what seems accidental can turn out to be so full of God.

Mojacar FountainSo off we went to Mojácar. Gayle says – so why are we here? To that point of time we had not read too much about how Mojácar fitted into the historic scene we were looking at. Not too much later we were reading one perspective that what took place in Mojácar was the root of what sparked the rebellions of the Alpujarras. We would not place such weight on it as that but the key event that we prayed into and were very moved by was the story surrounding the Muslim mayor (Al Avez) of Mojácar in 1488, in the immediate era when the Christian forces were closing in on Granada.

On June 10, 1488, the leaders of the region agreed to submit to the Christian forces, although Mojácar’s alcaide refused to attend, considering his town to be already Spanish. When his non-attendance was followed up he responded with (as on the plaque above the fountain):

Yo soy tan español como vos, cuando llevamos los de mi raza más de setecientos años de vivir en España nos decís que nos marchemos. Yo no hice nunca armas contra los cristianos, creo justo pues que se nos trate como hermanos, no como enemigos y se nos permita seguir labrando nuestra tierra, y añadió: Yo antes de entregarme como un cobarde, sabré morir como un español.

I am as Spanish as you, when we came (those of my race) more than seven hundred years to live in Spain, and now you are telling us to leave. I have never taken arms against Christians, I believe we should be treated like brothers, not like enemies and we should be allowed to continue to work our land, and I add: Before I surrender like a coward, I will die like a Spaniard.

This is the story line that we have found again and again. Different faith, but Spanish. They loved the land, this was their home. This follow up meeting resolved things… and then a second story line that comes up so often, within a few short years the Christians broke their treaty, moved all Muslims out of Mojacar (their town) and moved Christians in. The story lines repeat as is so often the case.

We have also noticed over years there is a pattern of betrayal leads to destruction / murder… and maybe some measure of crossing borders precedes betrayal. This is the same pattern as we first encountered in Mallorca: piracy to betrayal to murder.

We went back to the meeting place in Mojacar to the fountain where it took place. The place where regardless of faith everyone had shared together (and still do to this day) dependent on the same source.

To drink from the same fountain where speeches had been made, where people no different to us had drunk for centuries was an easy and necessary place to pray.

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Cartagena

Our first stop these past two weeks where we spent some hours to see, smell, taste and pray was in Cartagena. A port city and naval base in the Murcia region of southeast Spain. Founded by the Carthaginians around 228 BC, named after Carthage it was designed as the entry point for the conquest of Spain. The Romans captured it some years later and the city boomed during the Roman period. Among its many Roman ruins a theatre from 1st-century BC.

It was a prominent city during the Islamic period and was also one of the ports that Muslims were expelled through. In visiting these places, not as a tourist, but with a focus on prayer it is always surprising what kicks in. Slavery through the port was one aspect we prayed into, but the bigger situation was regarding the Pauline gospel. I do not believe Paul made it to Spain – of course there is no proof either way. Part of my convictions goes back to 2001 when in response to a question in Hanover about what wells to re-dig in Spain, I heard myself say that ‘You do not need wells of revival in Spain to re-dig. What other nation on the planet can we say with biblical authority that has unanswered first century apostolic prayer in the soil?’

Gayle believed very strongly that though Paul probably did not get there, she could ‘feel’ the weight of the presence of Gospel there from an associate of Paul. We called again for what had been released of that original message to permeate once more through the city, and for those who are believers there to again be confident in their proclamation.

Our focus on the expulsions was less strong here than we expected, but later in our journey we sense that we have picked up fresh understanding about the Pauline Gospel. As I indicated yesterday the impact personally when seeking to pray into historical issues is normally very deep.

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I have been silent but…

Gayle and I have been on the road for 2 weeks and in the next few posts I will try to pick up on the broad headlines of where we have been and what we have done. Some 2.5k kms (1.5k miles) later across the south of Spain and into the mountainous area just below the Sierra Nevadas called the Alpujarras (we were up as high as 4000ft / 1200mtrs). Mosquito bites, one night no where to park up other than a car park, a birthday while on the road (I have had a few before), but above all amazing to connect with history.

South of Spain

Our journey took us to Cartagena, through the mountainous area of Las Alpujarras (and windy roads), Granada, Las Navas de Tolosa, Cordoba and down to Tarifa and finally on to the amazing town of Frigiliana (nr. Malaga). Frigiliana has been voted Spain’s most beautiful village and it would be hard to argue with that. We have been motivated for this, and the previous trips this year, by the expulsion of the Muslims from Spain. Toward the end of last year the Lord put this on our hearts, not knowing too much about it, but are more convinced now than then that this has to be done.

Over the next few days I will try and blog about some of the key parts of these past two weeks and will put a few reflections in this post to set the scene. Over many years I have found that in prayer the bigger changes take place internally. It is probably impossible to get involved in repentant prayer for history without being changed oneself. In a recent trip a good Spanish person expressed that only in prayer had she realised that there was hatred in her ‘blood’ toward Muslims. We have no criticism of that. We all think we are OK until we confront the kenotic love of God who gives his life not for his friends but for his enemies.

Here are a few ways in which we are being deeply impacted:

  • It does matter whether one is a Christian, a Muslim or a Jew (the three religions that have impacted Spain, and I use the terms to apply whether the person is nominal or a ‘believer’) and the outworking is one of oppression over the other – they are all in opposition, to one level or another, to Jesus.
  • Our spiritual ancestors are those of the Jewish faith who were called to be priests for the nations. Like them we have failed, wanting to be as the others, determining who is in and who is out, rather than seeking to be servants for all.
  • Those called in that way when become guilty of oppressing others are extremely guilty because of using the name of Jesus, and they sow what is reaped elsewhere. Sharia law… seed is in the ‘Christian’ nation; Dayesh / Al Qaeda… look to the crusades, expulsions in Spain, Sykes-Picot agreement (French / British)… and ultimately to Christendom / Constantinianism. Sadly those elements are not part of history past but are often being beefed up among many charismatic movements today.
  • Those evicted were of the land. They were either converts who had been in the land for (all-but) forever, or were descendants of those who came some 700 years prior. The persecutions and war was civil war. Many were genuinely, as they understood it in their era, converts to Christianity, and as a result were kicked out only to be rejected and often killed when sent back to where their ancestors came from. (Imagine an immigration policy that evicted all those who had been in a land less than 700 years!!)
  • Never perfect, but there was a general ‘convivencia’ (living together) in the land for Jews, Christians and Muslims under Muslim rule. Part of Paul’s apostolic Gospel would be to restore that… without ever losing sight of the uniqueness of Jesus. Paul was clear on both. ‘We are all his offspring’. And he himself as a pious Jew needed Jesus otherwise he would remain as the ‘chief of sinners’. It seems we have strayed so far from the Pauline Gospel, so that election for Jews means there are two ways for justification, and we have the right to demonise all Muslims.

This journey is changing us. We sow our prayers for a change in the nation, Europe, and for a restoration of the Pauline gospel.

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