Semana Santa, or Holy Week, is one of Seville, Spain’s largest annual religious traditions, with festivities filling the city’s streets and plazas for an entire week. The booming sounds of drums and trumpets follow processions, and images of the crucifixion and of a grieving Mary can be seen almost everywhere.

Eleven Scarborough College and Southwestern Seminary students recently traveled to Seville to partner with missionaries and church planters in the city during the week prior to Easter. Much of the city was on a “spiritual high,” says Bachelor of Arts student Jonathan Sorne. The cultural atmosphere was charged with the excitement of one of the city’s most prominent Catholic traditions, bringing locals out into the streets and attracting many curious tourists.

Yet as soon as the festivities concluded, most people returned to their lives with no further thought of these religious traditions or their implications. It was a sobering moment for Sorne and the rest of the team to see people who were so close to the truth of the Gospel yet blinded by their sin and religious tradition.

Unlike some cultures, Sorne says, Spain on the whole is not a suffering one. “They have everything. They have education, money, modern conveniences, yet they don’t have what they need most, which is the Gospel.”

In fact, Sorne adds, in this country in which Christianity has historically had a presence, very few give any thought to eternity or its implications. “It is not a concept,” Sorne explains. “It is all tradition and culture there.”

Engaging modern worldviews and philosophies became a central focus for much of the team. In addition to evangelism efforts and preparations for an Easter egg hunt later in the week, the team joined local missionaries in facilitating English classes for children in the area.

The team invited many Spanish-speaking volunteers, many of whom were not believers. Three teenage girls preparing to conclude their high school degrees joined the classes as volunteers for the week. During the Monday session, one girl sat at a table with Bachelor of Arts student Jessica Theis.

As they discussed school and life, the girl asked Theis what she was studying. When Theis explained that she was in college studying humanities and biblical studies, the girl responded with an inquisitive look. After a pause, she asked, “What does that mean?”

“I explained to her how I believe in the Bible and want to study more of the Word,” Theis says. “The humanities aspect serves to help us understand the different philosophies we have been presented over the ages and how they influence everything else we do.”

Theis then presented the Gospel and explained her Christian worldview. The girl’s friends had joined her by this point, and as the conversation came to an end, all three looked back at Theis with astonished expressions. They had never heard Christianity presented so clearly. 

More specifically, this was the girls’ first time to hear anything about Christian beliefs beyond the Catholic imagery seen during Holy Week and other religious traditions. Christianity had previously been an abstract concept, something expressed in religious customs but never in a way that could offer any value or transformation in their lives.

Soon after this conversation, Theis had a significant realization: everything she had discussed with the girls was something she had learned in her classes at Scarborough College about philosophy, worldviews, and how to engage those views while holding to a high view of Scripture.

“It showed me the value of what we study here and the importance for us students to have an understanding of the different philosophical ideas and to be able to present that,” Theis says. “It is important when people question your beliefs to be able to explain why the truth is found in the Bible.”

The three girls returned later in the week, eager to resume their conversation and ask more questions. Theis used her Bible to present key passages from Scripture instead of reciting them from memory. She knew these girls were presented with numerous philosophies and worldviews in their schools and communities, so she wanted them to understand the importance of having a foundation and a reason for one’s beliefs.

Theis explained to them, “Even though I believe that what I told you is true and completely reliable, you need to have a basis for all that I have just said. See it for yourself.”

The girls were amazed and responded, “Wow. I have never seen a Bible before.”

As Theis walked the girls through Scripture, explaining why it can be trusted and valued, the three girls began to see the flaws in their own worldviews. They still had many questions, but Theis says they made significant progress that week in evaluating their passive acceptance of modern philosophies. Furthermore, they committed to remain in touch for further Bible study.

“The week reminded me of the importance of what we are studying here in college,” Theis says. “It motivated me to continue to study and to learn these concepts and ideas so I can better interact with people in ministry.”