Tim Westergren knows what it is like to live abroad. In fact, he has spent most of his life outside of the United States.
“I was born in Vietnam,” said Westergren, who is currently serving as a missionary in Spain. “My parents were missionaries.”
Westergren was in the area recently to talk with members of the Echo Alliance and Redwood Alliance congregations as part of the churches’ annual missions conference. The time provides for increased emphasis on those who serve as ministers around the world and helps those who have remained behind to understand just what things are like for those serving in another culture.
Westergren, who serves in Tres Cantos, Spain, said the challenge for him has been in working through generations of preconceived beliefs about the Christian faith based on the past.
“It takes a long time to build relationships,” said Westergren, who serves as a church planter, university professor and pastor in the European nation. “You need to build bridges of trust.”
That means getting to know people where they are and asking them lots of questions.
Thankfully, he said, people who are from Spain like to talk.
“They are a very gregarious people,” he said, adding it is a culture very different from what he had experienced growing up. “Unlike most people in the United States, they are very passionate and often speak very candidly about what they believe. At times they can be very blunt.”
Westergren said the Spanish culture is different in that many people stay up much later in the day.
“It is common to find people gathering to-gether later at night just to talk,” he said.
As a missionary, that means he has had to adapt to those cultural changes.
Westergren and his wife, Marilyn, have three daughters, who are in college in the U.S. and they are currently on a one-year home assignment.
After serving a four-year stint abroad, missionaries who are part of the Christian and Missionary Alliance are called home as a way to rest but also to serve as the voice of missions to churches across the country.
Westergren said Spain, like other Euro-pean nations, is seeing a much more relativistic and pluralistic world view from people, with more influences from Eastern religion as well as Islam.
All of that, he said, just poses new challenges for missionaries as they try to share what they believe with the people they meet.
“A lot of people have a watered down view of the Scriptures,” said Westergren, adding there are also prejudices against the Christian faith one has to try and overcome.
Page 2 of 2 - Yet, he said, when people discover what missionaries are offering, what Westergren called an authentic faith, they do listen and lives change.
“A lot of what we do is one-on-one, life-one life ministry,” Wester-gren said, adding he sees people’s livres changing because someone took the time to get to know them and show them the love of Jesus.
When Westergren returns to Spain next June he is going to be taking on helping plant churches and work to improve marriages.
“There is still plenty of work for us to do,” he said, adding he is looking forward to that.