Pandemia y Prayer in Madrid

By Roberto Tanzie, Apr 28, 2020

On March 9, I was returning home on Metro Line 2, the red line, which passes through Sol, four minutes’ walk from our piso. Some 120,000 people were dispersing from the International Women´s Day march, which had just concluded above my subway stop. My metro car was really packed—some still carrying banners with statements like “The Real Epidemic is Patriarchy.” The young woman sitting opposite me had a placard reading “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” Looking at her, I smiled and said, “A quote from Gloria Steinem. She pulled out her earplugs to better hear me with “¿Que?” “What?" I repeated myself and added, “Gloria Steinem, you know, a founder of the Feminist Movement. So young! She confessed that she had no idea of whom I was speaking and was just given the placard for the demonstration.

That same weekend thousands more gathered for a political rally of Vox, a new right-wing party, and many tens of thousands packed out our stadium to see Real Madrid play Betis. Coronavirus does not discriminate between male and female, Socialist and Vox, Real Madrid and Betis. COVID-19 is a fiendishly clever disease. That weekend provided a feast of infection that spread to all corners of Spain.

The coronavirus arrived in Spain five weeks earlier with our first infection, a traveler from Germany, but most were not paying attention to what by now were a mere several thousand cases in a nation of 47 million. The next day, March 10, the number of infections doubled, and as I write, is now over 200,000 with some 20,000 fatalities.

That night was my last metro ride as Joanne and I went into isolation, a couple of days before the Kingdom of Spain declared a national lockdown, the strictest in Europe.

"La ultíma llamada" or "the last call" has entered into our vocabulary. This is the call the dying person makes on their cell phone to say goodbye to loved ones as he or she dies alone. (We are grateful that this practice just changed a bit as the medical situation has stabilized.) The health system did not crash, but some older people were left to die by doctors forced to make decisions usually only made in active combat.

Under lockdown, my big adventure is taking out the trash with mask and gloves, then shedding my street clothes upon reentry and immediately showering. We live in Puerta del Sol just opposite Plaza Mayor, the center of Madrid, an epicenter of this pandemic. Amid the eerie quiet there has been a heroic response by our doctors, food venders, and civil servants such as police and sanitation workers. Every night at 8:00 p.m. sharp the nation goes to its windows to loudly acclaim its thanks to those who clean the streets, tend the sick, and bury the dead.

Now we are on the other side of the curve with about 5,000 new infections daily. Most get better, though without knowing if they can be reinfected or have immunity. Four million construction workers and others deemed essential to the functioning of society are now back at work. Small children will be permitted outside for the first time on April 27. The rest of us remain inside till further notice excepting dog owners, the most envied class of Spanish society.

“Protestant Digital” reports that inquiries about God have gone through the roof. Hundreds of thousands are asking the deep questions that previously were put to the side. In our current church plant, worship, daily devotionals by the elders, English class, Wednesday prayers, Bible study, our young adults group (hosted by the Chos), and Joanne´s Sol Sistas continue virtually. These have been effective in sustaining us and those we serve. Our God has been a very present help in this time of distress.

We now debate how to reemerge to society, how to plan for a second wave of the virus next fall, and what should have been done with people occupying their familiar political corners. “A toro pasado,” “the bull has passed” is a famous Spanish phrase. Everyone boasts of being a bullfighter when the bull has moved on and they are out of immediate danger.

So we carry on. All the ciphers are heading in the right direction here. Only 430 died last night in Spain from virus-related issues. The population continues to demonstrate a serious discipline. Nobody is crowding the beaches or protesting the government’s actions, but clearly people would like to breathe freely—ourselves included.

Although our pharmacy delivers to our door, I went in person today. I saw a few dog walkers, the Hare Krishna woman who is somehow permitted to sit on her mat in the street, and a man without gloves or mask who appears to have arrived from Hollywood Central Casting. With a long white beard, flowing white hair and a staff, I thought of Moses in those epic Bible films of the 1950s. On returning to our building, our little neighbor, "Vela" or Candle, had posted a sign at our building entry, that reads "All will end well,” and so it will—in God’s good time. 

Robert and Joanne Tanzie serve with MTW in Madrid.

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Give thanks to God for a movement of the Spirit spreading across Europe opening doors that have been long-shut.

Pray for Europeans who have heard the gospel but are hesitant to fully commit to Christ. Pray that God would draw them to Himself.

Pray for the MTW Spain teams as they face cultural challenges of ministering to the older generation with a faith built on fear, and a younger generation disinterested in God.

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