On the surface, the Betel Church, one of the two largest evangelical churches in Madrid, Spain, seems like countless other young Protestant faith communities recently planted around the globe.
Most Protestant groups in this predominantly Roman Catholic city worship in crowded office space or in church members' homes rather than in gilded church halls or historic cathedrals. Likewise, Betel's congregation sits on metal folding chairs in a former book factory on the dusty outskirts of Madrid.
During worship one recent Sunday morning, Betel's 500 members, belting out praises to God, look healthy enough. There are only a few signs that this is a community that lives and dies together.
There is, for example, the persistent cough of pastor Raul Casto, wearing a warm jacket and sitting in the front row. Occasionally, he gathers his strength to join his wife and two daughters in giving thanks to God in spite of the AIDS epidemic that has visited his own household. Down the row, where another family worships, the frail body of a two-and-a-half-year-old girl gives silent testimony to the HIV that both she and her parents carry. Overall, there is a spirit of unity among a people who together in Christ have beaten the long odds against overcoming addictions to heroin and other illicit drugs.
FIFTY PERCENT WITH HIV
Betel formed as an outgrowth of a gospel-based drug rehabilitation program, which began ten years ago without psychiatrists, doctors, or methadone. The rehab program was part of the ministry of missionaries with Worldwide Evangelization for Christ International (WEC).
The missionaries who came to Spain were church-planters, not rehabilitation experts. The fruit of their labor is the transformed lives of those who formed Betel Church—though ...1
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