Post-Covid, campus ministry in Spain reboots and rebounds
As campus ministers Jesse and Sophie Bentley looked around at the 50 students attending the Thanksgiving dinner at the En Vivo campus house in Valencia, Spain, recently, they were amazed at the many ways God is rebuilding His ministry there post-Covid.
“We started the fall semester after a year of doing only online events and small group Bible studies,” said Jesse. “The campus house was closed for so long, we wondered what would happen!
“Thankfully, five of our pre-pandemic students were still around; the rest had moved away or graduated,” he added. “So, with these five students, our team of six, three exchange students and a lot of hope and prayers, we began planning fall activities.”
Starting over with Encounter
One of the great advantages of a re-start was that the team could launch new events with better outreach potential.
“We started a large group event on Wednesday evenings called Encounter,” said Jesse. “It begins with music from our band led by CMF team member Jordan Gignilliat, followed by a game or activity designed for mingling, and then a 15-minute talk about God and faith. We finish the night with tapas.
“Each week, the attendance at Encounter has grown!” Jesse added. “Students return weekly and invite their friends.”
Before the pandemic, the team took the ability to gather together in the same room for granted.
“The gift of giving hugs, the warmth of laughing together, and being fully present in conversations were things that we knew were important in reaching out to students, but we didn’t realize how essential they are for us as human beings,” said Jesse. “We need and crave closeness.”
So, the team began another new activity, a monthly group meal. One Friday night each month, the team decorates the house and celebrates the gift of togetherness. In September, they held a welcome back dinner and in October, a potluck international dinner.
“The Thanksgiving dinner was our November event, and in a few weeks, we will offer our Christmas dinner,” said Jesse.
Each dinner was special and unique, and an easy invitation for non-believing students.
“We have seen the community grow week in and week out,” said Jesse. “Students who have first come to one of these dinners as guests of a ‘regular’ are coming back to Encounter and becoming involved in the community of En Vivo.
“Being together is a gift,” Jesse added. “We praise God for the dinners we’ve been able to have this semester and pray for His protection from Covid so we may continue to have them in the future.”
Top photo: Students in Valencia, Spain, gathered in the En Vivo campus house for a Thanksgiving dinner recently.