Agua Viva 2008, the Report
News as it came in
Zaragoza water Expo is now over. The Evangelical pavilion was among the attractions - and received over 330,000 visitors by the close on 14th September. Many thousands attempted to attend the Juan Luís Guerra concert, so many that the Expo's doors were closed early for the first time. 30th August was the Agua Viva pavilion's 'special day' and the Expo had a record 121,000 visitors. 5th July saw 15,000 hear the 320 voice Gospel Choir concert with Richard Smallwood at the Expo. Read on!
One of the most important outreaches of the past years is now over in Zaragoza. Coinciding with and very involved in the World Water Expo, the region's churches have a pavilion in the Expo, highlighting evangelical development around the world. In addition, four district outreaches ran (on and off) for the 3 months of the Expo during the summer.
Open Air evangelism: at the end of May, evangelist Ken Barrett gave a weekend training seminar for sketchboard preachers. Unfortunately, the practical sessions had to be cancelled due to too much water... rain! From then on, Ken was back a couple of times and Chris & Hilde Mathieson and Ramón Rendon also worked at various times with the local church teams, a veritable marathonian relay of local and national participation. Meanwhile, the local churches did not stop taking every opportunity to get out into local parks with the gospel.
Romanian church sing and mime
At the last moment and despite giving plenty of warning, the city authorities turned down requests for permission for various activities which were planned by the churches' council and visiting groups. The stated reason was that they wanted nothing to distract people from the Expo! But in the end the police only intervened once in the activities, some slightly lower-key than originally planned, but including concerts and distribution as well as preaching the gospel in numerous ways. Give thanks that the objective -presenting Christ as the Living Water in a spiritually parched city- continued almost unhindered.
There was also a 320 voice Gospel choir performing on 5th July, with composer Richard Smallwood (famous for 'I love the Lord' sung by Whitney Houston in the film 'The Preacher's Wife'). An estimated 15,000 heard the gospel through the concert, according to FEREDE. 7,000 were seated in the auditorium, another 1,000 standing in front of the stage, plus thousands more on bridges and walkways in the area.
Among the attractions at Agua Viva during the month of July was the Brazilian band Lovanza ('Praise').
Then on 30th August, coinciding with the Agua Viva pavilion's 'Day of Honour', there was a concert given by Juan Luís Guerra, an evangelical and winner of numerous 'Latin Grammys'. The gates of the Expo had to be closed early that evening, as thousands queued to see the concert. Already 3 hours before it began (at 23.30), the auditorium was full. Again, thousands more crowded the concourse and walkways close to the auditorium. The day was also -despite closing early- the Expo's most visited day, with over 121,000 entering. The Operations Director said it would not have been honest to continue selling tickets when we knew most were coming for a particular show and the late-comers would have no chance of getting close to it, since it was already full.
A fascinating addition to the show at the Agua Viva pavilion is Alfonso Cruz, an evangelical from Terrassa, Barcelona, who is one of only two painters who works under water, making paintings of wrecks, reefs and sea life. Videos of him at work, together with several of his paintings are on show in the pavilion.
Up to 25th August (about 10 weeks), the pavilion has seen almost 225,000 visitors, of whom over 163,000 viewed the 'espejismos' (mirages/ illusions) video presentation. See the Video here! So about 5% of the (so far 2.5 million) total Expo visitors are making it to Agua Viva. In the first ten days 3,000 of these left contact details asking for more information. 1,500 contacts are local people from Zaragoza. Many have also taken a John's Gospel, Jesus film video, or other material. The pavilion is now expecting up to 300,000 visitors over the 3 months.
The video presentation can be downloaded
A number of evangelistic organisations and teams are supporting the outreach. During the first half of July Decision had a team, later in the month GBU/IFES was in action, while a Brazilian church team prepared in various types of presentation, such as mime, was there the whole month of July. During the first half of August it was the turn of baptist group MEM and Pocket Testament League. Other smaller groups are also helping from time to time. Local church members are showing signs of tiring at the half way point. Pray for them!
Click for Decision report!
6 to 8 million are expected to visit the Expo, including at least 4.5 million Spaniards. By 26th July 2 million had visited, by 20th August the number was up to 4.5 million. The last 3 weeks are expected to be even busier.
Hilde and Chris were in Zaragoza for two full weeks, taking a 3 day break between them. We stayed in the excellent new facility at the Baptist church, enjoying an ensuite room with air-con. Eating was the only problem as they only have a small kitchen and no equipment except coffee maker, fridge and microwave, so we had to go out immediately to buy two mega mugs which also served as bowls, plus some basic cutlery. Main meals were eaten out. When we were not at the Expo, we ate at a Christian Chinese restaurant close to the Baptist church or other restaurants in the area. At the Expo we were able to use the staff canteen, where a reasonable 3-course 'menu' cost 6-44. We could have eaten würst and sauerkraut instead at the German pavilion for over 20... plus drink, dessert, etc.. We didn't bother to investigate prices at the French or Japanese pavilions!
As you can see from the general notes and photo report, we were involved, as invited, in two aspects of the 3 month outreach.
Firstly, we were invited specifically to train and lead the local church and other groups in open air outreach in parks across the city. We arrived on a Thursday and immediately were out in a park, preaching alongside a group from two local churches. One was a Romanian church, who sang in both languages and then did mime. The Spanish church hosted a seminar on the Saturday, attended by representatives from 3 churches. We did another seminar for a visiting team from churches in and around Valencia, attended also by some local people. we did open airs with these churches and also with the local 'mega-church', Betel, which has over 1,000 members, having grown very rapidly in 2006 when it was allowed to use the old station building. Betel holds open airs and other outreaches most days year-round, so they had some excellent dancers and preachers.
Secondly, were were invited to help in the Agua Viva pavilion. as you can see from the above and photo reports, the pavilion is getting many visitors. At the time we were there it was getting about 2,000 visitors each day. One day, with the team from Valencia, we did an open air on the terrace outside the pavilion, using their clowns and puppet theatre, before a sketchboard message. During the second week, Chris worked with his 3 rope trick inside the pavilion, speaking to people of the need for hope in an apparently (according to much of the expo propaganda) dying world. The good, bad and normal characters discussed how to save the planet and what hope when it burns up anyway! The hope was then to be found by watching the video, not totally convincing as an evangelistic message, but it prepared the visitors well for what otherwise is possibly a bit surprising and even shocking, since it speaks of saving the soul, not the planet.
Hilde, meanwhile, was at the exit door, attempting to speak with people and at least give them a gospel or Jesus video. Given that most had paid 35 Euros for the day and wanted to see as much of the Expo as possible, it is not surprising that many of the visitors raced out of the pavilion and on to the next one. Children had their 'passport' stamped as they left. Nevertheless, some stayed long enough to view the under-water pictures and a few even stopped for a chat and ask questions about the presentation. We did not see any decisions while there.
We are very impressed at the effort the local churches have made, virtually with no outside financial support, to build and run the pavilion and at the same time give up their summer holidays not only to man the pavilion, but also to keep up the witness throughout the city over the 3 months. It is not surprising that at the half way point many of the volunteers were quite exhausted already and that the leaders were concerned how to pay the outstanding bills for some 90,000 and yet still order in faith another 20,000 copies of the Jesus video (@1 each).
While we personally saw no clear responses, we are assured that many have shown interest, some accepting Jesus as Lord. With many of the visitors being local people, we trust that the local churches will be well rewarded for this immense effort. Pray on!
Photos and videos
In addition to this news, you can view some of our photos on the next page or:
Download (or view)the full slide show here
Download (or view) the Agua Viva evangelistic video (in English!)