Extremadura is a mystery. It is a land rich with history and grandeur, a big land with big skies. Perhaps it is the out-of the way location, or the rugged and sometimes hostile terrain, but Extremadura remains one of the lesser known and lesser reached regions of Spain.
We entered from the east, through Cabeza del Buey, then into Castuera and up to Campanario, in a region called La Serena. Yellow expanses of dried grasslands stretched into the hazy horizon, interrupted only by distant hills, and dotted with occasional oaks, a ring of sheep huddling to escape the scorching sun. Rock outcroppings support what remain of abandoned castles. By day the towns seemed deserted. Abandoned plazas and empty streets awaited the cool late breezes that drew out the young couples and old men and mothers pushing strollers with sleeping babies.
After Don Benito the scenery completely changed. Pulsating irrigation sprinklers covered the valleys in green. Canals of water brought color and life into the flatlands of central Extremadura. And the town of Guareña came to life with the late night notes of the municipal band and the sparkles of the annual fair.
Water has changed this part of Extremadura, with its truckloads of tomatoes and extensive cornfields. Here agriculture drives the economy.
As we moved north the green once again changed to brown. But up ahead the slopes of the Sierra de Gredos promised cooler winds.
But most Extremeños have had to learn to adapt to what the land gives. In western Extremadura endless expanses of cork oak trees, bare trunks orange from the recent harvest, yield one of the region’s main export. Black pigs graze on acorns in the shelter of these same oaks, giving a special flavor to the Iberian ham prized all over Spain.
From the land came a spirit of adventure and resilience. Even the smallest of towns can boast a grand castle, reminders of many battles for the the re-conquest of Spain. The Knights Templar were given the town of Jerez de los Caballeros when they came to aid in the fight. The fortress in Alburquerque dominates the countryside for many miles around. And the rugged fighting spirit continued long after these battles were over. When Spain conquered the New World, it was led by Extremeños like Cortez in Mexico, Pizarra in Peru, and Nuñez de Balboa, who gave the Pacific ocean its name.
Another native son, Casiodoro de Reina, fought a different kind of battle. As a priest he was drawn to the radical teachings of Martin Luther, and the authority of scripture alone. He had to flee from the Inquisition to Northern Europe, where he helped translate the Bible into Spanish. Though his translation became universally accepted among Spanish speaking Protestants, the Protestant foothold in Spain was destroyed. Even now most small towns in Extremadura have no evangelical witness at all.
Extremadura is a is a land of challenges. The weather and the land require a certain type of individual – one who is committed for the duration, who is not afraid of a challenge and will persevere and even prosper when conditions are difficult. To bring the gospel to Extremadura requires the same sort of person: One who continues in prayer and is faithful to the end, who keeps the goal in view, and will not give up. And just as water has brought life to Extremadura, so the Living Water can bring life and hope to the people in places like Guareña, Alburquerque, San Vicente de Alcántara, Jerez de los Caballeros, and all the towns in Extremadura that need the life the Living Water brings.
Joel, Angela, Frances, Reggie and Dina are praying for Extremadura.
I will pray for this region of Spain. I have been there many times since I was a child. One of the people I have loved most throughout my life was from there.
Peace and Joy from our Savior Jesus Christ be known throughout Extremadura! Amen!
I pray Lord, Father of glory, that all of Spain comes to you in spirit and mind, that they will see how much they need you, so Lord send labourers to the fields of Spain, in Jesus' glorious name!!
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