Since I last lived here more than four years ago, authorities have erected a transparent barrier atop the stone wall of the Bailen Street viaduct to keep the hopeless from leaping to their deaths.

Was it a Frenchman who said the more things change, the more they stay the same? The same fellows who worked the Madrid kiosks when I lived here from 1994 to 1998 continue to sell their periodicals. Madrilenos still like to dress in black. The advent of the euro notwithstanding, they still think in pesetas to make sense of the value of things. And hope, here, is still hard to find.

The U.S. missionary who pastored the church I used to attend announced, last Sunday, that he is leaving. Clinically depressed after more than 20 years of church-planting that was nothing short of miraculous in Gospel-resistant Spain, he is leaving the professional ministry altogether to run a coffeeshop back home.

He used to speak of Spain being on the verge of an eruption of the Holy Spirit. He used to encourage the church to dream big. The average Protestant church in Madrid numbers 50, and as our church was large at 150 he had a vision for growing it to several hundred. It has indeed grown, to about 200, since I left—mostly from Latin American immigration.

Among the Spaniards whom I could no longer find at the church was Miguel, who had testified of being healed of homosexual behavior. He has not reverted to former ways, as far as anyone can tell, but he has withdrawn from all church life.

Despair in Madrid takes several forms. Long-term unemployment is a big one. A friend named Juanma (a contraction of Juan Manuel) obtained a law degree but has never worked for a law firm. Still living at home in his mid-30s, he is now taking classes in computer programming. ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.