Posted on: 2nd March 2020
CMS missionaries Mike and Tania Snowdon work with high school students in Valencia, Spain. Although many Spanish people are cynical about organised religion, God is at work, helping young people encounter Jesus through his Word.
“We long to see this happen in Spain! Youth meeting Jesus, continuing in him, and sharing him with others. It could change the nation.”
Tania and I met Paula soon after arriving in Valencia. She was 13 and the only Christian in her school. She was eager to share Jesus with her friends. She asked us to pray that God would give her one Christian friend so that she could invite friends to read the Bible with them.
Our hearts broke for her. We were determined to walk alongside her, encouraging her to keep trusting Jesus and the goodness of his Word, and to help her to share Jesus with those around her.
The vision and the challenge
Thankfully, this is what Jesus and his people have always been on about. When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, he gave thanks that they had turned to serve the living and true God, but he then accompanied them, always seeking that they might continue living for Jesus’ glory. Their perseverance was his goal, his crown (1 Thessalonians 2:19). He urged them to keep following God’s good instruction, so that their lives would show a better story to those around them (1 Thessalonians 4:1-12). Paul worked hard at this because he knew that it didn’t depend on him, but on God who would bring it about (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).
We long to see this happen in Spain! Youth meeting Jesus, continuing in him, and sharing him with others. It could change the nation. Although Spain has a long association with the Roman Catholic Church, only around 5% of people attend church. Most don’t trust institutional religion. Many follow Catholic traditions, but only really as part of their family commitment. Jesus is mostly forgotten. The younger generations are searching, but are suspicious of dogmatic rules.
So when those brought up in Christian families talk in their schools about believing in the God of the Bible, they are often mocked. They start to doubt the goodness of God’s word, and they’re tempted to give up. Their churches are worried as they begin to see younger generations drift away, and don’t know what to do.
Bringing the gospel to Spanish high school students
In this context, can you imagine a group of Christian teenage students sharing Jesus with their classmates in every high school in Spain? That’s the vision of Grupos Bíblicos Estudiantiles (GBE, meaning ‘Student Bible Groups’).
Tania and I began as volunteers with the GBE group in Valencia in 2013. I joined the team as a staff worker in 2016. When we share this vision with churches in Spain, they say: “Impossible! How can we expect teenagers to share Jesus in their hostile schools?” They’re right, humanly speaking. But God has shown us over and over again how he works—even through weakness—to bring teens to know him, grow in him, and share him with others. He is faithful. So instead of giving up, we trust Jesus, and seek to faithfully play our part, asking God to do more than we can imagine.
Spain does not have an established heritage of youth ministry through churches, but God has used families and churches to build a small foundation of young Spanish Christians. Implementing the vision of GBE must start with them. In fact, a GBE group involves two or more high school students who read the Bible together at school and invite their friends to join. It is their mission first, especially since churches and adults like us can’t go into the schools to help. But we still have an important part to play, faithfully walking with them in their mission, like with any local Christians in cross-cultural ministry. How?
The GBE (staff workers and volunteers) provides resources for teenagers and churches in seeing Spanish youth meet Jesus, continue in him, and share him with others. We do this in three key areas:
Christian teenagers are dispersed throughout the nation, but not alone. We organise gatherings for teenagers from an area (like the city of Valencia), similar to a combined youth group. This gives teens who come from small churches the chance to meet other Christian teens in similar situations. Alongside local volunteers, we help teens to read God’s word for themselves. This grows their confidence in Jesus and the goodness of his Word, and trains them in how to do it in their schools.
We run a national camp and some regional camps for teens from all over Spain. These give opportunities for training, reflection and challenge, complementing the ongoing work of their local churches. We also have a lot of fun together!
As staff workers and volunteers we seek to create resources such as videos, specifically for Spanish teens. We hope they serve both teenagers and their churches. Follow the link at the end of this article to check out some of these resources for yourself.
So how can CMS supporters partner with Spanish youth and us? Remember Paula? She has just finished high school without having been able to start a GBE group. However, she has kept following Jesus, and is now boldly sharing Jesus on her university campus. If you’re a teenager who is part of CMS, how are you using the opportunities you have to grow in faith in Jesus and share him with others? If you’re an adult, how are you walking alongside the teenagers at your church, or discipling your children or grandchildren?
Please pray with Mike and Tania that teenagers all over the world would meet Jesus, continue in him, and share him with others.
Discover some of the resources the Snowdons and others use to reach Spanish teenagers. Mike has also translated many resources into English, in the hope of blessing young people in Australia and across the world.
 Name changed for privacy reasons