It’s not every day that you hear baseball and bullfighting in the same sentence.
Josh and Shannon Herndon, missionaries in Spain, recently partnered with a Work & Witness team from the U.S. to lead baseball ministry for the children of Illescas, where the Herndons live and minister. Because baseball is not widely available in Spain, it has proved an incredibly popular way to build relationships and serve the community. (Read more and watch a video.)
The Herndons wrote about how baseball opened the door to a local school, and to … well, read on.
On March 12, 2016, a Work & Witness team from the Gateway Church of the Nazarene in Murrieta, California came to Illescas, outside Madrid, to put on a sports camp for the children of our community. We were unexpectedly blessed to be invited into one of the local primary schools to teach baseball in some of the physical education classes. This was a big deal, because Spanish schools are very closed off to visitors. Parents don’t even have easy access to the classroom or teachers. The fact that we were invited to interact and play baseball with children every day inside the school was amazing. We had approximately 120 children a day playing baseball at the school.
God once again opened unexpected doors to us for our evening baseball camp. Originally, we had hoped to play baseball at the local soccer field, as we had done in the past. When I went to find out if it was available, I was told that it was reserved every day of the week until 10 p.m. There was no room for baseball. So, we needed to find another option.
In our town, like almost every Spanish town, we have a bullfighting ring: The Plaza de Toros. In our town, there is a very large, open area outside of the bullfighting ring. This large area is meant for parking, most likely, but it is grassy and spacious. We approached the local City Hall to ask if we could use the green space outside of the bullfighting ring to hold a baseball camp. I submitted the paperwork explaining what we wanted to do, and where, and we waited for a call back.
A few days later, I received a call from City Hall asking if I would come to meet with the Councilwoman in charge of sports, culture and education for our city. When we met her, she asked us questions about our baseball camp. She was concerned that it may rain. She was also concerned that it would get dark out too early, and we would not have enough time to play baseball.
While we understood these concerns, we didn’t have another option, so we told her that we were still interested in the green space. She was quiet for a moment. Then she looked at us and said, “What about the bullfighting ring? Would that be good enough for what you want to do?”
We just stared for a moment, dumbfounded. The bullfighting ring is the largest building in the city. It is the center of all cultural activities for our community. It is the epitome of Spanish culture.
“Yes,” we replied, “the bullfighting ring would be wonderful.”
She felt that if we used the bullfighting ring, we would be indoors, so it didn’t matter if it rained. There are lights, so it wouldn’t matter if it got dark. And there was enough seating for thousands of people – plenty of room for the parents to stay and watch their kids play baseball. God did it again. He provided in the most unexpected way!
Over the course of the week, we had 65 kids participate in our evening baseball camp. They were thrilled, not only to be playing baseball, but they got to be in the center of the bullfighting ring! The kids had a blast and the team from the Gateway Church had a wonderful time interacting with the kids and showing them the love of Christ.
We had one little girl who was blind. She was one of our school kids, but she had such a great time and learned to trust the team, that she came in the evenings, too. She played outfield with an adult partner from the team, batted using a “T,” and ran the bases holding her partner’s hand. It was a beautiful experience all around. It was wonderful to be reminded that God cares about our lives and ministry, and He provides in the most unexpected and excellent ways.