Garrett Furnari, a junior Cross-Cultural Studies major, spent the 2012 fall semester in Salamanca, Spain, through Maranatha’s Study Abroad program.
Furnari’s environment completely immersed him in Spanish, and included the opportunity to audit classes at the University of Salamanca. He took Arabic, Islamic Thought, and Second Language French 1. Furnari chose these classes because of the large number of French-speaking Muslim immigrants in his hometown of Bow, NH. His church hopes to start a ministry teaching English to these immigrants.
Morality has declined even more rapidly in Spain than in America, Furnari said. Catholicism is still prevalent among the general population, but few young people embrace any faith. “We usually think of Europe as a Christian continent, but it’s not,” he said.
Furnari said that, especially in his interaction with Spanish classmates, it was important for him to live out his faith without being “preachy.” He wanted his classmates to see that he was different, but not unapproachable. “Our differences should not be a barrier to relationships with the lost,” Furnari said. “It should drive us to them.”
All of Maranatha’s Study Abroad students work closely with a local church during their time overseas. Furnari served at Iglesia Evangélica Bautista del Tormes (Evangelical Baptist Church of the Tormes). He stayed with the Bermejos, a church family, and also had the opportunity to work with the church’s pastor, Kent Albright. His ministries included working with the youth group as well as leading services. “They put me right to work,” Furnari said.
Albright became one of Furnari’s missionary heroes. “His life was ministry,” Furnari said. Albright’s day-to-day events, like spending time with friends, were not separate from ministry. Furnari also noticed Albright’s acceptance of, and belief in, people. Even young Christians were given opportunities to serve.
The church congregation showed great passion in worship and prayer, and the truths of the Bible were life-changing for many.
Furnari said the global economic situation has affected Spaniards even more than most Americans. There are few jobs. Some families are living without electricity. Furnari’s friend Kevin was almost forced from his home on Christmas Eve because he was unable to pay his bills.
“The only discomfort we have is ‘Oh, I have a deadline and I’m going to be up all night!’ Or maybe it’s ‘I won’t be able to go back to school next semester.’ But that’s a college education. That’s not getting kicked out of your house.”
Furnari said the biggest lesson he learned was that his environment did not determine his Christian conduct.
“We often shy away from ‘worldly’ circumstances … because we’re afraid of being (tainted) by the environment,” Furnari said.
Furnari said he was often reminded of what Bible Department Chair Brian Trainer says: “Life is ministry, and ministry is global.” Furnari learned that “A global ministry is infinitely diverse, colorful, unique, and special. It’s all the colors of the rainbow.”
–By Brynn Fitzsimmons