Update from Spain During COVID-19: A Q&A with Executive Director Larry McCrary

Editor’s note: The world is reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic and different countries have put different measures in place to try to stop the spread of the virus. Several countries in Europe have instituted a complete lockdown, which directly affects The Upstream Collective Executive Director, Larry McCrary. We asked him to share about what his life is like right now, how the church is responding, and how we can be praying.

During the week of March 7th, we knew something was brewing regarding COVID-19 here in Spain. The number of those infected was continually increasing and in just a matter of days it spiked to an alarming rate. Now, our infection and mortality rate is tracking with what is happening in Italy.

While our government suggested social distancing, washing hands, and self-quarantine for those exhibiting symptoms, people were still getting together in small groups and eating out on the terraces of restaurants like we love to do here. These measures did not curb the infection rate. The virus was still spreading rapidly.

On March 13th we learned that we would be in a lockdown situation due to a state of emergency the Spanish government enacted. This meant essentially that the country would shut down except for essential goods and services.

How is this affecting your daily life?

My wife and I live in the city center of Madrid. There are almost 4 million people who live in the city and another 3 million people in the suburbs. We are not allowed to leave our places of residence except to go to the store, pharmacy, or bank. While all restaurants are closed—including my favorite local coffee shops—we can shop online and deliveries are permitted.

We also are not allowed to go running outside. This is particularly hard on me since I log almost 30 miles a week, which is hard to do inside without a treadmill. While you are allowed to take your dogs out briefly, unfortunately we do not have a dog. We live in a small apartment about 700 square feet. It is just us. We had stocked up on food last weekend. And just like the United States, toilet paper and hand sanitizer are very hard to come by.

What are the people doing?

Giving Blood

Before the lockdown, I made a quick run to buy some coffee at a few of our local micro-roasters. It is a tough time for small businesses so I was trying to purchase my goods from my friends and shop owners in our neighborhood. Every little bit will help them during this time.

As I was walking back to my house I noticed a long line of young people waiting to donate their blood to the Red Cross. The hospitals needed blood as they prepared for the high demand. These men and women were standing calmly and silently ready to do their part. Their compassion and willingness to help struck a deep emotion that I have for the people in our country.


Every night since Saturday night nearly everyone in the city opens their windows to clap and yell in support of the medical providers who stand in harm’s way everyday. They are showing their solidarity as a people. Spaniards, like many Europeans, know hardship. It has not been that many years since two world wars were played out here on our continent. We have seen terrorists come into the streets and do horrible things. Now we see disease. But people of all backgrounds, political views, and other differences are trying to stand together and be there for each other. It moves me when I see people with different ideologies put their differences aside and come together. My hope is that it specifically encourages the medical providers who are tirelessly working everyday.

What are you doing?

Trying to Have Normal Routines

We are trying to have our daily routines. For me it helps to create structure in my life. So I plan out my day. I use my pocket journal to create my TO DO list and TO CONTACT list. I have my quiet time. I work out in my apartment with my Nike App. I take a shower and get dressed like I am going to work—only I do not go anywhere. I set up several workstations in our apartment in order to move around a bit and break up the monotony.

Making the Most of Our Time

There are a lot of things that a person puts off in the course of a year. For me, I procrastinate on organizing my photos, google drive, and deep housing cleaning. I’ve put those on my to-do list. I also made a list of things to write. I have several writing projects to work on during these days without movement.

Reflecting on the Mercies of God

I think this mandated slow down can be good for your soul. However, I am learning that I have to disengage from social media some during the day. I turned off my notifications so I am less distracted. While we love getting texts and other messages from our family and friends, we are also trying not to let social media and media in general consume us right now.

I have been using this time to read as well. Currently, I am reading Every Moment Holy. We have a lot of silent time right now and it is great to reflect on how much our Father loves us, has provided for us, and shown us grace in every area of our lives.

We are trying to journal a lot these days. It is important to be able to capture your heart and soul now. It is important to do this all of the time but my reality is that I do it more when I am locked in my house. This time of solitude has reminded me of how grateful I am for my wife, my children, their spouses and our grandchild as well as our friends and colleagues. I am grateful we can keep in touch with them online in order to maintain a sense of community.

I am also realizing how real online community is. While I love being with people in real time, I find it a bit easier to maintain community even when you are not able to sit down face-to-face with people over coffee or a meal. I’ve been able to keep up with friends and “meet for coffee” through video chats.

How is the evangelical church responding?

Spain is a majority Catholic country. Though the Catholic church has declined drastically over the last couple of generations, it is still a part of the culture one way or another. The number of evangelicals in the country is best estimated at less than two percent of the population and most of them are not Spaniards. Most come from countries in places that have a higher percentage of evangelicals—such as South America. While we have quite a few evangelical churches of most every denomination, there has not been a lot of unity between the churches except during times like this.

On Monday, March 16th the evangelical churches declared a day of prayer. The church came together virtually and this was encouraging. I pray this will continue throughout this time and onward.

Many of the Spanish pastors and church planters that I know are working hard to stay connected to their members, trying to minister to their congregants when they cannot get to them physically. Many of their members are sick and they are not able to visit them.

Some pastors and Christian workers are using social media to find ways to engage with not yet believers who have many questions right now. Our prayer is that through this time people will reflect on their lives and the eyes will be open to the only way they can truly be set free.

What is your missional group doing?

We are part of a small missional group here in our neighborhood. We started meeting last fall. We are mostly expats who have regular jobs here in Madrid but trying to live intentionally and do our best in sharing the gospel with people we meet as we live our lives day to day. All of us live within 4 blocks of each other.

Though we are so close in proximity, we cannot see each other. So, like many throughout the world, we use WhatsApp to pray for one another, encourage one another and just hang out some. We use video chats for our group to be able to meet together to pray, read scripture, liturgy and even sing together. In many ways it has drawn us closer to one another. It is amazing how a crisis can have that effect.

How can we be praying?

Pray for healing throughout the land. We would love to remain healthy ourselves but I think this is everyone’s prayer. So please pray for our health but also remember your family, your friends and people who you have never met. A lot of people need healing right now.

Pray for our missional group. Pray for our connectedness during this time. Pray for us to find creative ways to help people in need during this lockdown

Pray for the church in Spain to unite. To pray together. To encourage one another

Pray for non-believers here to be open to spiritual matters and receive the gospel during these days of illness raging in the cities.

Final Thoughts

We are living in an unprecedented time. I wholeheartedly believe that how believers respond now can literally change the world. One of the great movements of the early church was how they showed mercy, care, and love when sickness and famine came upon their cities. They took care of one another and of the ailing. The church grew in number but also I believe their hearts grew together as well. That is my prayer for the world today.

#community #coronavirus #spain #covid19 #europe

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