I’ve grumbled about Salamanca for years. It’s not Salamanca’s fault. Here’s what happened. In 2007 the annual Celebration, when the leaders from all of Globalscope’s campus ministries get together somewhere in the world, convened in Salamanca. I was given a bit part in the program and was eager be with the young people. I also was eager to visit this renowned university town. Then Naomi Kouns, who was in charge in those days, had to change the date of the meeting. Understandable. These things happen. But on the new date I had a previous commitment, so I couldn’t come to Spain. In my mind I knew Naomi couldn’t help it. But in my heart I placed all the blame on her. After all, she didn’t consult with me before setting the new date. I’ve complained about how she cheated me ever since. (She reads these posts. She’ll learn when she reads this one that I haven’t forgotten what she did to me. I’ve forgiven her, of course. I’m a Christian, so I have to. But I haven’t forgotten!)
So here we are a decade later, drinking in the beauty of this remarkable city of 229,000, home of the University of Salamanca (established in AD 1218, the oldest university in Spain and the fourth oldest in Europe). UNESCO declared the Old City a World Heritage site in 1988. It deserves the honor. Today over 30,000 university students pursue their studies here. It’s a good place for Globalscope to be.
Our primary purpose for being here is to look in on En Vivo Salamanca. It’s one of Globalscope’s oldest and strongest campus ministries. Jesse and Sophie Bentley, whom you met in our last post, were founders of this one; they worked here several years before moving on to Valencia to establish En Vivo there. Today’s team is ably led by Cody Spencer, shown below with his coworkers.
We sat in on their weekly Tuesday evening event—and managed to stay awake. The event begins at my bedtime and goes well beyond it. These are young people, after all. About fifty of us crowded into the room (after devouring tapas to die for!) for singing, round table discussions, and an Easter-themed talk by Cody—in fluent Spanish.
Earlier in the day we met with the staff (from left to right: Sierra Yancey (visiting from Kenya), Cody Spencer, Lydia Wilson, Tamara Munroe, Karla Alejandre Olivares, Eva Puerta Lopez, Dan Dillard.) They politely asked me to say a few words. I said many.
Lydia volunteered to be our tour guide on a look around the old city. We oohed and aahed our way from one historic site to the next, every turn in the street offering a new photo opportunity.
Joy commented, “How clean this city is!” She spoke the truth. Another notable feature here in the old city is the scarcity of automobiles. The streets are primarily pedestrian walkways. Lydia explained that’s because in this section there is no parking, so it’s easier for drivers to park outside and walk in. The result is a feeling of safety and spaciousness.
There are also bits of whimsy to be found if you know where to look. On the Cathedral facade, for example, among the ancient holy carvings you will spot an astronaut!
It’s not all buildings and history, though. Here and there is green relief, as in this garden. But notice the intrusion of modernity: Joy spotted a chain of locks in the garden, offering an instructive contrast between the tranquility of the flora and the anxiety with which we protect our possessions. This speaks volumes to the Lawsons on the loose these days, since between us we don’t own a single key.
Not far from the garden and its intrusive chain of keys we looked up to see nature getting even. In this case the agent of revenge is a stork that found the perfect place for a nest.
The bird has even stored up additional building material on the lower level. You never know when a strong wind might carry away part of the nest. As we talked about the stork, whose tail feathers you can see in the picture, Joy consistently referred to the bird as a “he.” I had to correct her. Storks are she’s, not he’s. After all, they deliver babies. A he can’t do that.
Everywhere we looked were inviting doors or passageways enticing us to explore further, to go in deeper, to lose ourselves deliberately (not accidentally, at which we are experts) in the maze of visual feasts waiting for us.
The Cave of Salamanca added to the university city’s fame centuries ago. Legend has it that the devil himself taught black magic here to seven students for seven years, after which he held a drawing. The loser had to stay in the cave and serve the devil for the rest of his life. Joy didn’t know the legend when she took this picture. She just likes doorways and narrow streets.
We weren’t much interested in the devil’s lectures. Instead, we’ll remember Salamanca primarily because of the dedicated young men and women who came here to bring good news of hope and joy and love and belonging to university students preparing for their professions–and for life.
Our visit to Salamanca was much too brief. We were sorry to leave the en Vivo team, sorry to leave this fascinating old/new city.
And we may have had just a touch of apprehension as we faced the challenge of finding our way back to Valencia. We traveled by trains, the Valencia-Madrid and the Madrid-Salamanca. No problem, except that in Madrid we had to transfer by the underground from one of Madrid’s train stations to the other. It’s amazing how few English speakers there were in the train station. Finally, though, we made the transition. Now on the return trip we’d have no trouble. We’re veterans. Wrong. Once again we needed help. And once again we got it. So made it, finally, both coming and going. We congratulated ourselves.
Only one challenge remained. How will we ascend to our sixth-story apartment in Valencia. When last we reported to you, the elevator was lying paralyzed at the bottom of its shaft. It was a serious disability, lasting several days. Will it have recovered by the time we arrive at 11:30 pm? Yes! We didn’t have to carry our luggage up the seven stories!
JOY’S PICK OF THE PICS