Early History of the FWB Work in Spain

Loria and Mercedes Hernández, Free Will Baptists (FWB) from the country of Cuba, migrated to Spain after the communist revolution in their homeland. Reports indicate that they started a Bible study group in the capital city of Madrid, and as a result believed that FWB could and should have greater involvement in Spain. The Hernández family asked FWB in the United States to send missionaries. In May of 1971, the Board of International Missions of the National Association of Free Will Baptists in the United States of America (FWBIM) decided to open the field of Spain.

One year later, Dock and Norma Caton were appointed as the first FWB missionaries to the country of Spain. Board policy required that an experienced missionary couple help in the opening of a new field. For that reason, in August of 1973 the Board of FWBIM approved the transfer of Lonnie and Anita Sparks to Spain. The Sparks had already served three terms in Côte d'Ivoire, West Africa. Once these two couples were in Spain and the General Director of the mission met with them, they decided to begin the first FWB work in the city of Majadahonda. The Catons located in Majadahonda. The Sparks made what they considered to be excellent contacts in the city of Alcalá de Henares, and decided to move there instead to begin a work. There were considerable philosophical differences between these first two missionary couples.

In 1977, Ron and Linda Callaway joined the work in Spain. They helped in the Alcalá de Henares work until January 1981. Dennis and Trena Owen came to Spain in 1980. In 1982, Jeff and Susan Turnbough joined the work and located in Majadahonda. In that same year, the Callaways and the Owens began a work in the city of Móstoles. The Catons left Spain later that year, and the work in Majadahonda was closed. The Turnboughs assisted with the work in Alcalá de Henares and then moved to Collado Villalba to begin the work there in 1984. That same year Lynn Midgett arrived in Spain, locating in Móstoles. In 1986, Steve and Linda Reeves arrived, and after a short time in Móstoles, they moved to help with the work in Villalba. In 1989 Dwain and Debbie Crosby, along with their children, arrived in Spain, and helped with the work in Móstoles. The next year Mark and Juli Riggs were approved, and helped in the Alcalá de Henares work. Also in 1990, the Owens transferred from Spain to help with the FWB work in Uruguay. In 1991, the Sparks and Riggs received approval from the Field Council to move to the northern coastal city of Santurce, to begin a work with a family that had moved there from the church in Alcalá de Henares. Because of a difference of opinion among the missionaries, in 1993 the Sparks and Riggs resigned from the mission, yet continued to work in Santurce as independent missionaries. In 1994, the Reeves left Spain and returned to the USA for health reasons. In 1995 the Callaways transferred from Spain to help with the FWB work in Panama and Cuba. That year the work in Móstoles was closed and the Crosbys and Lynn Midgett went to help the church in Villalba. In 1996, the Crosbys resigned from the mission and returned to the USA. Then, in 2004, Lynn Midgett resigned from the mission and returned to the USA. In July, 2008, long-time missionaries to Spain, Jeff and Susan Turnbough, moved into the role of Director of Field Operations and continued living in Spain until October of 2011, when they moved back to the States, continuing in that role.

Today, FWB have three career missionary couples working in Spain and two career couples and a single lady working with Creative Access in Spain. While many people have come to Christ and received training through the work of missionaries, two churches have been planted and two more are looking to organize as a church in the near future. Other areas of outreach have also been launched.


(The years reflect actual time in Spain as FWB missionaries.)
1. Dock and Norma (Debbie and David) Caton: 1974-1982
2. Lonnie and Anita (Paul and Noel) Sparks: 1974-1993
3. Ron and Linda (Rachel) Callaway: 1977-1995
4. Dennis and Trena (Miranda and Jonathan) Owen: 1980-1990
5. Jeff and Susan (Matthew and Melissa Turnbough: 1982-2008 - moved to the role of Deputy Director of Field Operations in July, 2008 and stayed in Spain until October, 2011

6. Lynn Midgett: 1984-2004
7. Steve and Linda (Hannah) Reeves: 1986-1994
8. Dwain and Debbie (Michelle and Matthew) Crosby: 1989-1996
9. Mark and Juli Riggs: 1990-1993
10. Sam and June (Suzanne) McVay: 1997-PRESENT
Tim and Kristi (Alejandro and Ana) Johnson: 1998-PRESENT
Anthony and Lea (Emily and Marc) Edgmon: 1998-PRESENT
13. Doug and Patty (Andrew) Chamberlin: 2002-2005
Matthew and Brooke (Andrés, Caroline, Daniel) Turnbough: 2003-PRESENT (Transferred to THP in July 2012)
15. Josh and Christi (Nicolas) Smith: 2004-2005
16. Mick and Rachel (Keith and Ian) Donahue: 2005-PRESENT (THP workers)
17. Chuck Stewart: 2006
18. Jenny Stogsdill: 2012 (THP worker)

(NOTE: In addition to these, many individuals have helped with the FWBIM work in Spain for shorter periods of times: overseas apprentices and groups of believers that have served for specific purposes.)

Specifics of the FWB Work in Spain Today
Free Will Baptist International Missions (FWBIM) has centered its work in the Comunidad de Madrid or the autonomous region of Madrid. This is also synonymous with the Province of Madrid. While it is one of the smaller autonomous regions geographically, it has the largest population in Spain (5,423,384). The strategy of FWBIM in Spain calls for workers to plant new churches in close geographical proximity to existing churches. The rationale behind this plan is to establish clusters of churches that can more effectively join together to help reach the rest of Spain. In 2003 there were 278 Evangelical churches in the Madrid Province, with 12,428 believers. Several municipalities were listed as needing an Evangelical work.

FWBIM has worked in four different municipalities inside this province or autonomous region:
Alcalá de Henares (170,000), Majadahonda (40,000), Móstoles (192,000), Collado Villalba (53,000), Alpedrete (10,000), and Colmenar Viejo (40,000). There has also been an effort to begin a work in the Northern coastal city of Santurce (50,000). There are organized Free Will Baptist (FWB) churches in Alcalá de Henares and Collado Villalba.

The first FWB church in Alcalá de Henares was begun in 1976 by Lonnie and Anita Sparks. José Manuel, who became a Christian as a result of the ministry of this church, was the pastor of the first church from approximately 1990 until 2003, when he began the second FWB church in Alcalá de Henares. José was pastor of the first church while working on a secular job for years, receiving no pay from the church. In June of 1999 the Alcalá Church, the Villalba Church and FWBIM went together to pay José a partial salary, which allowed him to work less hours on the job so he could dedicate more time to the church. Also in that year, there was a significant influx of immigrants into the congregation, mainly from Romania. In 2003 José began to work on a secular job once again, and later decided to resign as pastor of the first church.
Today, both churches are fully supported and led by local believers. The first church has its own building and is run by the church council. Noel Sparks (FWB missionary not affiliated with the FWBIM) left the work in Santurce and moved to Alcalá de Henares in 2002, and now works with the first church. The second church (Esperanza) has purchased a small storefront building, and is led by José Manuel.

Family members of some of the members of the first Alcalá de Henares congregation moved to the Northern Basque Coastal city of Santurce, close to Bilbao. Several of the FWBIM missionaries traveled to Santurce to hold Bible studies in the home of one family there. Mark and Juli Riggs (were FWB missionaries not affiliated with FWBIM) worked at this FWB work in Santurce for several years, but resigned and returned to the States in 2007-2008.

FWB works were attempted in Majadahonda (1976 - 1982) and in Móstoles (1982 - 1995), but were later disbanded. There are now eight other Evangelical works in the municipality of Móstoles, and one other Evangelical work in the municipality of Majadahonda.
The other established FWB congregation is in Collado Villalba, and was started in 1984 by Jeff and Susan Turnbough. While attendance has varied, reaching a high of seventy on occasions, the present size of the congregation is approximately sixty. During 1999 there was a significant influx of immigrants into the congregation. (Immigrants come from Bulgaria, Colombia, Ecuador, Romania, and from other places.) The congregation has a pastor, Jhon Fredy who is originally from Colombia South America. The congregation owned land to build a church on since the late 80’s, but until the fall of 2000, it was held up in legal battles seeking permission to build. The court finally granted the permission in December, 2006. The church dubbed its construction goal "The Nehemiah Project" and began construction on the new building on Christmas Eve, 2007. They moved into their new church facility and had their first service on December 20, 2009. There is a church council (elected by the local church members) that leads the church, and missionaries are moving to other ministries in other areas. The congregation's greatest needs are committed spiritual leaders.

In 2002, the Sierra Team (composed at that time of Jeff & Susan Turnbough, Sam & June McVay, Tim & Kristi Johnson, and Anthony & Lea Edgmon) decided to target the city of Alpedrete, which is in close proximity to Villalba. This city of over 10,000 inhabitants has no Evangelical church. Today, two FWBIM missionary families live in Alpedrete, Anthony and Lea Edgmon and Tim and Kristi Johnson. They comprise the Alpedrete Team and are planting a FWB church in that town. In December 2005, the Alpedrete church was formed.

In September of 2004, Spanish FWB Churches, along with FWBIM in Spain joined together to help sponsor a new work in the city of Colmenar Viejo. There are 40,000 inhabitants in this city, with two small Evangelical churches that average less than 100 in attendance weekly. Juan Carlos is an ordained FWB pastor from Cuba. He is a graduate of the FWB Seminary in Cuba, and was pastor of two churches there. Along with his wife, daughter, father and mother-in-law, as well as brother-in-law and family (three families in all), Juan Carlos is one of the many immigrants to Spain. Because of financial difficulties and most of those who were attending returned to their home country, the church closed it’s door in April, 2012. For a couple of months, they met in homes, but in June, 2012, Juan Carlos and his family moved to Miami, Florida to live with family members there. The believers who were left are attending other evangelical churches.

FWBIM is investigating the development of a social outreach program as well as evangelistic outreach among large segments of untouched ethnic population groups in Spain. Matthew and Brooke Turnbough are presently working in the social outreach program and transferred to the Hanna Project in July of 2012. Mick and Rachel Donahue and Jenny Stogsdill, who are with the Hanna Project (Creative Access), are looking to arrive in southern Spain late in 2012 to begin their work there.

FWBIM missionaries in Spain have been working to develop of a national leadership-training program. Sam and June McVay are working in this program to fit the particular needs of believers in Spain. Most believers and leaders must stay in their towns and continue to work on their local jobs as well as in their local churches, yet desperately need training to continue to grow and lead local congregations and new ministry efforts.

Concluding Thoughts
There are many challenges in Spain today. There are many needs. There are many opportunities. Can you imagine walking around the streets of these cities, seeing all the people going about their daily lives in a modern environment, apparently not lacking the necessities of life, yet knowing there is no Christian witness even available to them? That is exactly the reality that we experience walking down the streets of Spain's cities. What does God want here? What does His heart feel? What are His plans for these people and these places? Where do we fit in to those plans as members of the body of Christ?

The Lord says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you” (Psalm 32:8). May God instruct us and teach us in the way we should go. May we be open to His leadership, willing and flexible to change and do what He leads us to do. We ask you to join us in this prayer and in this effort ­to impact Spain for the Kingdom of God.


Need more information? Ask here