MALAGA, SPAIN (May 26, 2011) – It’s not every day that 20 leading members of Spain’s top political parties show up at church on a Sunday morning, but they did recently at a church pastored by Evangelical Covenant Church missionaries Eugenio and Pia Restrepo.
As unusual as the politicians’ attendance was, it bordered on shocking because the preacher that day is a Gypsy pastor – and other Gypsies attended the service as well. Gypsies in Spain are relegated to basically the same social status as “untouchables” in India.
The politicians have been listening to Juan José Cortés since 2008, when his five-year-old daughter was kidnapped and murdered by a sexual predator a court had allowed to roam free. The case attracted national attention.
Since then, Cortés has written a popular book about his faith in Christ and the power of forgiveness. He has spoken to groups across Spain and has been interviewed on numerous television programs. He also has garnered more than two million signatures of people pushing for tougher laws against sexual predators.
“He is a living testimony of forgiveness, kindness and an example to follow, which has raised great interest and many supporters of his cause for justice,” says Eugenio Restrepo.
The worship service as well as the words of Cortés witnessed to the power of the gospel to bring disparate people together. “I feel good to integrate payo (non-Gypsy) and Gypsies praising God,” Restrepo said.
The witness was not lost on those in attendance. Eight people responded to the call to receive Christ. “In Spain,” Restrepo said, “this is a crowd.”