Opposition in 1973 Spain
March 31, 2015
The theatre was packed. We were probably crazy to even think that a week of evangelistic meetings could be held in Juan Bravo Theatre on the main plaza of Segovia, Spain. However, with considerable effort, we obtained necessary permission from the authorities to schedule an entire week of meetings.
It was 1973. Segovia was the city in which Queen Isabel was crowned in 1473. Five hundred years later, the spirit of the inquisition seemed to linger like a mysterious fog. Under dictator Generalisimo Franco, religious freedom continued to be very limited.
The planned evangelical meetings prompted concern in Segovia. A meeting was scheduled for priests, nuns, and leading citizens. When I found out about this gathering, I determined that I should attend. I arrived late which was of the Lord. The doorman was not at the door. He was behind a glassed enclosure at the entrance of the seminary auditorium in which the people had gathered. As I approached, he simply waved me on.
I found some space among those standing at the rear of the auditorium. On the platform at the far end, a priest from Madrid was explaining the planned evangelical event. He concluded, “Legally we can do nothing. They have permission which is supported by the constitution.” He held up copies of the documents. “I would suggest that you approach the week in the spirit of ecumenicalism through dialogue.” I thought to myself, “If this is all the opposition we receive, we can rejoice.”
The priest then offered time for questions. A young priest asked, “For those of us who teach classes in school, should we tell young people not to go?” The leader responded, “No, some will go anyway. It would be better to have a discussion afterward to explain what this is all about.”
The second question came from an elderly priest. “Who are these Jehovah Witnesses?” Errors of the JW sect were explained well. I was impressed.
There was a slight lull, and to this day I don’t know what prompted me. I found myself speaking up, “I should identify myself. It is obvious that I am not from Segovia.” I noted a number were nodding with inquisitive looks. Fortunately they all recognized the joke when I said, “I am a capitalist from the United States.” I continued, “Actually I am here with the group that has planned the coming week. I want you to know that we are not here to fight. I believe with all my heart in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. No, we are here to present the positive claims of Christ. He can change lives. I know because He has changed mine.”
The encounter actually helped. Several young priests thanked me for coming and showed appreciation for what I had said. Nonetheless, opposition continued.
Praise God for Opposition
It happened on the first night of the meetings. The theatre was packed. I noted a number of high school girls huddled together both on the main floor and in the third balcony. It seemed obvious that they were planning something. I talked to the theatre owner about a potential problem. He knew some English, “That’s right. In the police state we get the police.”
About the time the police arrived, the girls started chanting, “¡Somos católicas, somos católicas! ¡Fuera los protestantes!” (We’re Catholic! Out with the Protestants!) A man in the second balcony shouted, “¡Soy Católico también, pero tengo cultura!”(I’m Catholic too, but at least I am cultured!)
The police ushered the girls out of the theatre. They continued a demonstration in the Plaza.
This could have been the end of the campaign because, in receiving permission, we had promised to “maintain the peace.” The evangelicals from Madrid, Valladolid, and other cities who were helping in the campaign were rightfully very worried. Somehow I knew God was at work.
The high school girls could not have done it better. No advertising could match what they did. The next day, an article with photos appeared on the front page of the newspaper. Suddenly every one in the city knew about the meetings.
The week of evangelism continued and was the spark from which the first evangelical church in Segovia was founded. It continues to this day and has multiplied to six congregations scattered throughout the province.
Praise God for opposition. We have a promise; “…everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted….” (2 Tim. 3:12) This is the pattern in the book of Acts. We welcome it. Opposition is far better than apathy.
Dr. Ron Blue and his wife Libby left Central America in 1972 to lead a team of missionaries to begin ministry in Spain. Dr. Blue served as Camino's President from 1992-2000.
Did you know? In Spanish, "Camino" means "journey, way or path."