First Week in Barcelona

Seven days ago I arrived in this beautiful crowning city on the Spanish Mediterranean coastline. In this short time, God has already shown up in so many ways and taught me many new things.

First off, I know a lot of prayer went into my journey across the pond. Huge blessings there alone; a friend of mine from Biola heard about my plans to go to Barcelona and decided to help out. His mother works for Delta Airlines and she gave me a very discounted buddy pass ticket to get here and back again. So thankful! I got on the plane with no trouble and safely made it to my little apartment for the summer.


I live with a sweet Catalonian woman named Cristina and two other temporary boarders from the States. My room exceeded my expectations by a long shot — comfortable, cozy, very close to the metro and I even do devotions on a little private balcony every morning. Cristina cooks authentic Catalan food for cena every night. It’s pretty blissful.

Orientation (and feeling lost a few times) behind me, I’m starting to get into a rhythm here. The first couple of days honestly struck me a bit roughly. The only people I really knew at that point were Americans who came to party…hard. This city caters to night owls. I do enjoy going out, but our evening preferences tend to quickly diverge. Drugs and heavy drinking aren’t my style at all. Having just turned 21 this year, hanging out at a chic bar definitely had its charm initially but escorting drunk girls home and dodging creepy men got old fast.

Despite all the incredible new things to do and see in Barcelona, I felt spiritually isolated and starved for real connection. The stats don’t lie; running randomly into Christians on the street just doesn’t happen here. I found myself praying and asking, “Where are you, God?” The stark contrast of going from a deeply religious setting to a totally secular environment in an unfamiliar place felt unsettling.

Then yesterday I finally got to meet up with El Lokal, the small church I’m serving with this summer. What an amazing day! The people I met there gave me hope for a totally revitalized experience. Worshipping and getting into the Word with them reminded me how anywhere in the world you can find brothers and sisters in Christ and they just feel like family. There is a light in their smiles I had found lacking elsewhere.


Even more incredible, I ran into a girl I had met at a plaza in Madrid a year ago. I never heard her name or got any contact information from her then, but we both realized our faces seemed familiar to each other this morning and made the baffling association. God works in mysterious ways. Most of the congregation, so around 50 of us, went out to eat lunch and fellowship for a few hours after the service. Later last night, I gratefully accepted an invitation to celebrate the festival of Sant Joan with a group of fascinating 20-somethings from all over the world at the home of a couple from Southern California doing mission work here in Catalonia. Small world, small world. I enjoyed myself more than I had all week prior in their company.

Now, I feel fully encouraged. Already I’ve had the opportunity to share Christ with a good handful of people here and invite them to the new church I just joined. Please pray the Spirit continues to soften hearts and open ears. There is so much work to be done in this city.

PR as a Calling

I’ve heard that the average college student changes their major at least three times before graduating. However, I’ve had the blessing of knowing since high school that public relations seems to be a perfectly suited field for my natural skills, passions and interests.

When I first came to Biola, wanting to dedicate my life to serving God fully, I briefly toyed with the idea of abandoning this career direction to pursue vocational ministry. In fact, some people actually told me foreign missions is the holiest calling one could follow. Thankfully, this fallacy was addressed in one of our Missions Conferences Sessions at Biola University by Timothy Liu. (The whole sermon is great if you have time, but if not he addresses this point from 18:14-22:15.)

Hindu’s have a caste system; so do Christians! Do you know who is at the top of the caste? Foreign missionaries— they have no running water and no cable TV.

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And at the bottom of the caste, unfortunately, is me: salespeople! Lawyers! Traders, bankers, oh, we hate bankers these days! And other business people— shame on you! But this caste does not exist in biblical terms.

Liu steals a page from Martin Luther when he says God cares more about the heart than the outward appearance of our actions and public acknowledgement of them.

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God isn’t concerned about actually what you do; he’s more concerned about how faithful we are to our calling that God has made for us; He’s more concerned with how obedient we are to His calling.

My Calling

There are a few components of PR that I really love and find fulfilling:

  1. Storytelling: This is what I spend most of my time doing at work: telling people’s stories. Which, inadvertently, always results in telling the story of God’s work in people’s lives. It’s pretty awesome. I get to use different media — writing, photography, video, sound, audio, Web, design, themes, events, vision-casting — to communicate the beauty and meaningfulness of someone’s story as carefully, intentionally, accurately and creatively as I can. In one respect, this is a career that I can take with me to eternity; all creation is called to testify and tell the story of the greatness of our God and how His work and creation reflect His goodness.
  2. Building relationships: The difference between PR and marketing usually comes down to the fact that building relationships becomes the focus as opposed to a constant obsession with the bottom line. The basic elements of building relationships are respect, honesty, compassion, communication and integrity. A company shouldn’t only be concerned with their customers; their public reputation, relationship with their geographical and political neighbors, socially responsible partners, etc. matter just as much if not more.
  3. Advocacy: I recently got elected to a new position on the National Committee for PRSSA. My responsibility broadly stated is to act as the official voice for ethics, diversity, education and globalization issues. I think this is something God has really given me a profound passion for and I hope to use whatever influence I am given to advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves. “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” Isaiah 1:16-17.
  4. Creativity: I love to create things although I’ve found that I can make nothing truly new that God has not first inspired. This is one way that expression mimics the work God has already done. When I am drawing out a new design or capturing a moment between the light and lens of a camera, my work is appreciating and reflecting the beauty God has already placed into this world for us to find and enjoy.

Not only does this career lend itself to many very biblical pursuits, but as Liu pointed out, no matter what vocation one is called to, there is still an opportunity to shine as a light in a dark place. The first step is to be faithful in the small things. Pursuing excellence for the glory of God can be a great way to start whether you are mowing the lawn or putting legislature in place. In these ways, we can also have platform to witness.

Public relations is a calling God has placed on my heart and confirmed in so many ways. I have some incredible mentors in this field who exemplify the way I hope to use this passion  in a faithful way.


I’m sure one of the questions you may have for me is how I feel about leaving a monolingual culture for the Romantic tones of Spanish, Catalan, French and Galician.

Oh, friends, one word: ECSTATIC! I love to speak and learn other languages. ¡Que hermosa! Not to say that it is particularly easy for me but I do work very diligently at this skill and God sometimes does bless me with a freed tongue to break down communication barriers. I already am very comfortable with Mexican Spanish but definitely need to spend some intensive time in the country before I master the local dialects of their European counterparts.

Surfing lessons in north Tijuana!

Surfing lessons in north Tijuana!

I’m thrilled to immerse myself in a Spanish environment and hope to soak in as much new vocabulary as humanly possible. I hope to be completely fluent in Castilian Spanish by the time I return and feel more practiced in the other idiomas I mentioned as well.

How have I been preparing for this linguistic leap?

  1. I’ve taken several classes in college that are helping me to finesse my grammar, written and oral skills. The most recent I completed was Periodismo; I got to create a media portfolio in Spanish complete with recorded interviews, press releases, news articles, soft pitches, sound bites, radio spots and magazine mock-ups I created. Great practice for doing PR in Spain.
  2. Every morning and afternoon I read tweets and relevant news articles from the top 5 major Spanish newspapers. This helps me keep up with the cultural happenings, economy, politics and entertainment trends. I also blog about topics of interest involving the Spanish government.
  3. Every week I worship at a small Spanish congregation in La Mirada called La Gracia. This community has blessed me so much. They gave me a Spanish Bible to read and listening to Spanish sermons has helped me develop my biblical vocabulary that does not come up in class or typical conversations.  And another added benefit is I have memorized several popular worship songs in Spanish. I love to sing and hope I will be able to remember them if ever called upon to lead worship in Barcelona!
  4. I regularly volunteer at a Mexican orphanage just across the border in Tijuana. This is one of the highlights of my life and a side benefit is that I get to practice speaking Español! Read more about that here.

Experiment in Aesthetics

One thing my favorite theology professor here at Biola has always emphasized is that our God is a God of order and design. True beauty is the sum of all His attributes. Wow.

I’ve taken a few drawing classes and actually am working toward an art minor in my undergraduate studies. My favorite subject to draw has always been…people!

What could be more challenging and lovely and intricate than the very creatures crafted in God’s own image?

A hanging relational study on trust I made for a Figure Studies final from live models mimicking trapeze artists.

A hanging relational study on trust I made for a Figure Studies final from live models mimicking trapeze artists. Sometimes you have to let go of what you know is comfortable and trust that God will catch you when you make the leap.

Last summer, I used this love for art as a way to not only further explore the beauty of human intricacy but also to break the ice with people I met, start deeper conversations and preserve lessons I learned while in Europe. My mentor gave me a beautiful little sketchbook before I left and I decided I wanted to draw portraits of people I met during my travels who inspired me or taught me something important. It gave me a chance to see the little reflections of God in each of them and allowed them the opportunity to look at the beauty I saw in them as well.

This is Javie.

Javie probably taught me the most about Spanish pride; He had served in the Spanish military for many years and loved to talk about his country, reveling in her accomplishments. He spoke French and Spanish but absolutely no English, so our conversations were fun and full of a lot of extravagant hand motions that make me smile when I remember them. Javie and I served at an albergue in the little town of Ligonde on the Camino de Santiago. He was very fascinated with meeting the pilgrims on their journey and asking them why they were walking the Camino. Javie recently came to Christ thanks to the relentless witness of his brother and was still struggling to sacrifice his former lifestyle for a new one as a follower of Christ.

Javie probably taught me the most about Spanish pride; He had served in the Spanish military for many years and loved to talk about his country, reveling in her accomplishments. He spoke French and Spanish but absolutely no English, so our conversations were fun and full of a lot of extravagant hand motions that make me smile when I remember them. Javie and I served at an albergue in the little town of Ligonde on the Camino de Santiago. He was very fascinated with meeting the pilgrims on their journey and asking them why they were walking the Camino. Javie recently came to Christ thanks to the relentless witness of his brother and was still struggling to sacrifice his former lifestyle for a new one as a follower of Christ.


Javie, Kim and I at El Fuente de los Peregrinos in Ligonde, Spain.

Here are a few other drawings…

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I plan to do the same this summer! Check my blog for new sketches and portraits.

Changing Tides of the Church

The Christian world is shifting; the bulk of the church is moving from the western world to Asia and Africa. The average evangelical Christian today on the globe is a young adult woman living in Africa. The largest churches in the world are located in South Korea. The countries that used to be powerhouses for sending out missionaries and Christian leaders are losing their faith all together. In fact, seven of the top ten countries predicted to be completely devoid of any Evangelical Christian representation in the coming years are located in Western Europe. Spain is facing this crisis with less than 2% of it’s population being believers.

In the past, missionaries have often used physical or social needs as a bridge for ministry and to break into the culture. This was helped by the fact that America has in many ways been blessed with the resources to develop superior technology, wide-spread education models and economic success. It’s a different challenge to go to an obscure village in Swaziland with promises of free health treatments and education.

Spain is a very developed country, which in many ways is snuffing out their spiritual fire now. They generally don’t need wells built or vaccines given. IMG_0463


Young Spaniards feel they don’t need Christianity at all; in their eyes, it is a religion of their parents which led to ugly things such as the Crusades (which they very much still remember!), political oppression, corruption in the church, wars, etc. With the Enlightenment a new age began; one of the worship of science, technology, youth and modern intellect. Christianity, the list of rules and rites that their parents have followed, seems to hold them back from all the real fun.

Unemployment is hitting record highs in Spain for young adults at over 55%. Heavy drinking and drug use is very common for youth in Spain from a very young age. Sexual promiscuity is very popular not unlike it is here in the US, although more accepted universally. (The average age for beginning to both have sex and binge drink is about 15 years old.) I’ve found the situation in cities like Madrid and Barcelona to be very similar atmospheres to the club districts in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Most young urbanites stay up late and party every night and then repeat day after day after day. There are no moral boundaries really.

The Generations Before

Maria, my adopted little cow-herding abuela

Maria, my adopted little cow-herding abuela

An interesting movement is occurring; it’s one that the Spanish government is seeking to fight in horror and frustration. Culturally, there used to be an assumed deference to elders. Spaniards regarded old age as being associated with wisdom and thus deserving of honor and respect. But the young people of Spain are moving in a different direction. People are being reevaluated by their functionality in society. Elders are no longer respected as they used to be , in fact, they are worth even less than the younger generations who are coming into power.


Dear friends and family,

Brothers & sisters in Christ empowered by His grace to do the good works He laid out in advance for us to complete:

God has been doing work in my life this year that I am very excited to share with you! Last summer, I spent six weeks in Europe serving with church planters in cities with less than 2% Evangelical Christian population. The research our team conducted proved these countries may have once housed the birthplace of the Reformation and the headquarters of missional evangelism, but the light has gone out on their lamp stands. Catholicism often is empty religiosity and the younger generations living there now do not know who Jesus is, regarding Christianity not only as outdated foolishness but also to blame for war, conflict and tragedy. 486850_4253942279570_1499820553_n

This reality has rested heavily on my heart since then. Vivid memories from Spain burn in my mind: an endless stream of pilgrims walking thousands of miles for a certificate promising them their journey has earned them the peace they ache for; Teenagers drinking themselves into a stupor every night because when the parties end, life feels meaningless and devoid of hope.

After a year of prayer and seeking wisdom in what to do with the broken heart I hold for the people of this country, I feel led to return to the mission field in Spain this summer. My main goal is to serve as a light to the people God places in my path by building faith-filled relationships, pouring into the discipleship of new believers and spreading the Gospel wherever I go.

Although traditional missional efforts have been facing roadblocks because the government is limiting visas and Spaniards do not respond to methods that work in many third-world countries, I am going a different route. I want to use my passion for public relations and art as a bridge to do ministry. For two months, I will be interning with a PR agency in Barcelona while serving with a local church plant and fledgling ministry. I will be living with a local family and, for the first few weeks, will take intensive Spanish courses while working and getting plugged into the small Christian community at El Lokal.

The Body of Christ has many parts, and I would like to invite you to be a vital member of this group effort. I cannot go without the prayer, blessing, guidance and financial support of my church family here. Expenses for housing, food, insurance and travel will cost approximately $6,671 that I am still working to raise. (You can donate easily with PayPal or a credit card by clicking the link here.) There is a lot more to this story as God has already blessed my journey so much! I would love it if you check out some of my posts on this site to see some of what He has been teaching me in this adventure. I also have many specific needs spelled out there that you can join me in praying for and will be blogging regularly to update you while I am overseas. Please consider partnering with me in this vision if you feel God is igniting in your heart with a desire to see His children in Spain come to a saving faith and the city of Barcelona experience a revival for His glory!

¡Dios le bendiga!

 ~   Jessica Airey

Would you like to partner with me financially? Click here to donate and help me reach my goal! ¡Muchas gracias!