The reports about Andrew Brunson’s release are just another example of how little the media know about evangelical churches.
He carried out intense testimony work with hundreds of events in churches, schools, parks, bull fighting rings and in the streets of towns and villages across the country.
At 85 years old Juan Blake departed into the Lord’s presence on Friday the 30th of March. He was admitted to hospital with significant respiratory problems that he couldn’t cope with. In the last few years his health had weakened him, but his spirit was always one of encouragement and defiance for those who knew him. “Eyes above” was his motto.
In 1936 in Parkers Prairie, a small town lost in the north of Minnesota with only a thousand habitants, Juan Blake’s mother prayed to God for her son, Juan, of only three years old. She asked God to accept and send him as a missionary to Africa when he grew up.
God´s answer was no, Juan would serve in Europe. This was her secret guarded for many years, not mentioning it to anyone until Juan left for Italy, along with his wife Alicia.
In 1955 Juan visited Spain for the first time. He came wanting to better understand the situation of evangelical churches in the country. Six years before he had seen the film “Banderilla” (Banner) about the persecution of evangelical Christians during the time of Franco. Since then he had been interceding for the country.
During that visit of only eight days, at six o’clock in the morning on the last day Juan was out on the terrace of the hotel, looking across at the outskirts of Madrid, praying and asking that God would send more workers to evangelise Spain. In this moment he heard a voice within him, it nearly seemed audible, that said “Who shall I send?”. Instantly Juan responded, “Here I am, send me.” But he also immediately thought, “But what can I do, a truck driver, in such a complicated country as this?”. At this God replied with another Bible text that Juan had previously memorised: “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit’ says the Lord Almighty…” (Isaiah 6:8 and Zechariah 4:6).
With this call and the promise of Zechariah, Juan returned to the USA to finish his university studies in Northwestern College. After this he spend two years of training in Colorado with the Evangelical Association The Navigators along with his wife Alicia. They were then sent with this Association to Italy, where he worked two years, and then to Germany working there for a another year.
Finally, in May 1965, ten years later, Juan, Alicia and their three children landed in Barcelona. The first three year were focused on language training and learning about Spanish culture in the University of Barcelona. During this time Juan also served as an English teacher in the FIEIDE (Independent Federation of Evangelical Churches pf Spain) seminary.
After this, he left teaching to dedicate himself as a worker of the Billy Graham Evangelical Association (BGEA), in direct partnership with the recently developed organisation Evangelism in Action. This involved travelling to towns across Spain showing Christian films. In 1975, the same year that Franco died, the Blake family moved to Madrid to facilitate their serving in the churches and their journeying across Spain.
A few years after this, in February of 1977, the Association Decisión (Decision) was born (the name was taken from the magazine of BGEA). Juan Blake was the founder and director along with a small team of Spanish collaborators, including José Luis Briones.
The team grew with the involvement of Magda Vacas, Ted Blake, Antonio Pardo, Eduardo Fernández, Gumersindo Ruíz, Aquilino Pardo, José Luis Ochoa, Pedro Serrano, Samuel Santos, Gonzalo Soriano, José Pablo Sánchez and others who worked in various areas of responsibilities over the years. To these names there are also thousands of volunteers that participated in evangelism campaigns, spiritual retreats and other activities.
Between 1980 and 1990 Juan Blake carried out intense testimony work with a host of events such as cinema forums, concerts, international conferences, mini-campaigns, training in churches, schools, parks, bull fighting rings and in the streets of towns and villages across Spain, especially in those towns that had no evangelical witness. It was here that his vision to promote the reaching of the most needy areas of the country and have an update data base on the reality of the evangelical presence in Spain grew. In 1991 the BGEA offered Juan Blake the possibility to return to the USA and work in the main office there. However, he decided to forego this opportunity and salary and remain in Spain, starting up from scratch the Evangelical Association Decision.
Over the course of more than five decades Juan Blake was the advocate and driver of a host of evangelism projects in Spain: Misión Mundo Europa (1993), Misión Global (1995), Amsterdam 83, 86 and 2000, Impacto 2000, Festival with Luis Palau (2005), Mi Esperanza (2011). He also directly participated in the development of organisations such as Evangelists in Spain Conference, Association of Missionaries in Spain (AME), the Platform of Evangelism in Spain (PUEDES) and the comittee of the Lausanne Movement in Spain.
His legacy is written in the hearts of thousands of people who decided to follow Jesus thanks to his work, and by all those who decided to seriously committed to their faith as a result of his challenges.