After more than three months – 100 days – of being confined in our homes, 21 June marks the end of the state of alarm in Spain with the de-escalation of lockdown. Over the last few weeks, strict quarantine measures have been relaxed somewhat and we have been enjoying more freedom. Children were allowed out for the first time in six weeks on 27 April for an hour a day, which was a great relief for them and for their parents.
On 2 May, the rest of the population was allowed to do exercise outdoors in different time bands. I have never seen so many neighbours on bikes or wearing sports gear! Finally, on 25 May, in Madrid, we were able to sit at pavement cafés with a group of friends. In my neighbourhood, at least, the pavements were overflowing with people from early in the morning until late at night. Everyone wanted to be out!
But at the beginning of the lockdown, things were very different. You could only go out to shop for essential items, near your home, or to go to the chemist or the doctor. There were a lot of police controls, I even felt like I was being watched when I went out to throw the rubbish in the bin.
It seems to me that everything happened very fast in Spain, because in the months leading up to March, there was hardly any mention of the coronavirus or how it might affect us. Sometimes you heard something about a strange virus in China, a few cases in a couple of other countries. But then news came of what was happening in Italy, which is not far from Spain, although we do not share a border. They were closing down schools and shops and locking down the country due to the number of infections and deaths. Then, on 11 March (which is to Spain like 11 September to the USA), the WHO announced a global pandemic; schools were closed in Madrid and on 14 March the state of emergency was declared and the whole population was quarantined.
So it was for a group of creative artists, Impact Spain, who live together in an apartment block that houses the missionary organisation Youth With A Mission. They are young, creative, full of life. They can’t stop dancing, singing, moving and allowing their joie de vivre to overflow. It seems like they can’t sit still for long, so they pushed back the furniture in the living rooms of their apartments to make some space to exercise and dance. At least that way they could let off some steam and keep fit, even though they were not able to go out or put on the performances or events that they usually do.
Who are Impact Spain?
“We proclaim truth through different expressions of urban culture. We are united by a purpose that is bigger than ourselves.”
What unites the members of Impact is their faith in God and their desire to love Him and others by expressing their faith both in word and actions. One of the ways they do so is to put on shows that tell a story through dance, theatre, song, rap and by sharing some of the life experiences of the young people from different nationalities and ages that make up the group.
Usually, at Easter, they have a bootcamp followed by one or more free events, where they share the message of the gospel in their own unique way, which leaves no-one indifferent.
This year, because of the lockdown, it wasn’t going to be possible. They held some conferences and training sessions on Zoom, but there seemed to be no way to put on an event due to the restrictions caused by the coronavirus.
Ana Crespo, one of the members of the Impact crew, relates how Impact started to perform from their balconies during the lockdown. Mini-shows that they dubbed balconing.
One day, some of the girls were on the balcony of their apartment playing the guitar and singing some songs. The neighbours from other apartments started to clap and shout out, “Encore! Encore!”
That’s how the idea to use the balconies as a stage came about and Impact’s balconing was born in the Saucar district of Torrejón de Ardoz (a far cry from crazy tourists who dive off hotel balconies on the Spanish coast!).
The first performance was on 2 April. After taking part in the now traditional clap for health care workers at 8:00 p.m., together with all the neighbours, Impact started to sing a well known hymn: How Great is Our God. Immediately afterwards, Ibán Mbassa spoke briefly and then prayed to God for His intervention in the coronavirus pandemic.
And so it started. Three days every week, for a month, bringing joy and hope to the neighbourhood through dance, inspiring songs and rap, until 2 May when people were allowed to go out with more freedom. On Saturdays, the group put on a more elaborate performance with a choreography and someone sharing about their life experiences and their faith. There was even a neighbourhood dance with all the neighbours around the square joining in.
In this neighbourhood, as in the whole country, people have suffered. Some have been gripped by fear or anxiety, others caught the virus and recovered, others have had family members who died. Ana says that during this time the group has been able to get to know their neighbours better, in spite of the lockdown, and there was a real sense of empathy and identification with them as they shared their stories from the balconies.
The response to Impact’s performances has been very positive. The neighbours are grateful for the messages of hope the team shared. Some people made them cakes or brought them food, others sent messages full of emotion:
“I find it hard to express how grateful I am for all you are doing for us. You are so full of life, joy, hope, magic, you are wonderful, extraordinary people. Thank you for sharing your time with us, your stories move us, you make us laugh, have fun, dance, sing, feel full of faith and many more sensations and emotions.”A neighbour from the Saucar barrio.
Just after Easter, the team sang the gospel song Oh, Happy Day! from the balconies, with a moving performance from Serena, reminding us of Jesus’ message that He is the resurrection and the life.
The rappers Mbassa and Josué, and also Centti, entertained the audience with their amazing creativity on several occasions.
There was a definite festive atmosphere during the last performance on 2 May, with many songs and dances, but there was also a note of seriousness with the challenging messages that different members of the team shared.
Iván started by saying:
“We believe that Jesus has answers, He offers you hope and solutions. During this time, many people have started to think about eternity. When all the things we trusted in fail us, we start to look for something beyond this life. This is the time to believe in Jesus Christ, who has promised us eternal life.”
Later on during the event, Fiorella spoke about how difficult it has been to lose her grandfather, who died from the coronavirus.
“My granddad died in hospital of COVID-19 and the only thing that gives me hope to carry on is because Jesus is real and has promised to be with me in one of the worst moments of my life.”
“Maybe you are afraid of dying, or you feel anxious in case you catch the virus. Almost everything we felt we could trust has disappeared, but the God of the Bible, Jesus, is trustworthy. Death is not the end. There is eternal life. Even though it might seems that things are returning to normal, the only trustworthy thing is Jesus.”
“Not a ‘new normal’, but a new life.”
Iván finished the event and this time of balconing by challenging those listening to make a decision to accept what Jesus offers: “Not a ‘new normal’ but a new life.”
If you want to find out more about Impact Spain, get in touch with them through their social networks or the web page, or YWAM Madrid‘s website. They don’t only sing and dance, they also have training programmes for young people and much more besides.