July Prayer Letter: Together Again

What a joy it is has been to gather with our church family in person! After twelve weeks of online-only services, we have been allowed to gather in small numbers again. In order to make room for everyone who wants to attend church, we are having two services each Sunday and livestreaming as well. It is a different feeling. Before, there would be plenty of hugs, kisses, and hearty handshakes. We would cram into every space available and fellowship over food. For now, we are following government regulations and keeping our distance physically, but our hearts are strengthened by being in each other’s presence and worshipping together. We’re so thankful that God does not change, and we are happy to be partially back together again. We have even had visitors almost every week! Praise God!

Working together to be together

Last week, I finished teaching Old Testament Survey to a class of nine students, all of whom displayed a great zeal for learning God’s Word. Through Zoom, we have also continued mid-week Bible studies for the whole church, as well as small-group studies for men, women, and teens.

For deaf church, we pre-record an entire service with music, preaching, and a drama. Then, we meet online to discuss what the deaf learned and to pray together. At the beginning of quarantine, participation was high. But as restrictions have loosened, the deaf are being distracted by everything else again. We are thankful for the spiritual discussions we are having with those who attend. Please pray that God will give the deaf the interest and understanding they need to be saved and to grow.

Most of our summers are jam-packed with camps, mission teams, and activities. This summer is different, but we believe that God is still at work. Fewer big events mean more time for one-on-one conversations. We’ve also been able to complete some little projects that have remained undone for years. We hope to be allowed to do our outdoor Bible club for kids, and we have been encouraging and counseling many people on the phone or through video calls. Pray for us that God would give us great creativity and open doors to know how best to move forward.

A beautiful aspect of the recent pandemic has been the testimonies of our church members. Many share how God has stretched their faith. One member said, “I’ve never read my Bible so much in my life!” Some have faced enormous personal or financial struggles. Rather than staying home having pity parties, they have been encouraging and serving others. One young mother who has had very challenging circumstances said, “At first I was frustrated that more people weren’t calling me to encourage me. Then, God reminded me that I wasn’t here to be served, but to serve.” Ever since, she has been calling and messaging other ladies in the church, including Sarah, to bless and encourage them.

Speaking of a blessing, we have one more praise to share. Lord-willing, we will have a very special Christmas present this year: another Baby Booth. Mommy and Daddy are excited, and Brother and Sister are over the moon.

Next month, we celebrate 10 years of ministry in Portugal. God has been so good to us in providing partners like you who pray for us faithfully, give generously, and care deeply for the work of the gospel here. Thank you for journeying with us.

Looking forward to greater things!

David and Sarah

Laura and Samuel enjoying a beautiful Portugal sunset
Thank you for praying for us.

 

May Prayer Letter: Apart, Yet Together

“So, how was your quarantine?” After 7 weeks of “sheltering at home”, Portugal has entered Stage 1 of resuming a new normal. Churches can reopen with restrictions starting May 31, so our church will have spent at least 12 weeks in isolation. Though the long-term effects of Coronavirus are yet to be seen, we are happy to report short-term spiritual effects have been positive here in Montijo, Portugal.

All of our church services have continued through livestream, and both hearing and deaf people in other parts of the country have been able to watch the services in Portuguese and Portuguese Sign Language. Besides our regular-attending members, we have many more watching at least part of the service each week.

Gathering online

Through Zoom, we have had interactive Bible studies for women and teens. The men have “prayer breakfast” online; they just bring their own breakfast to the computer. David continues teaching his seminary classes online. For deaf services, our coworkers, Amanda, Joyce and Cal, have helped make videos. Each person contributes the drama, Bible reading, or special music, which we add to the sermon to make a complete service. In the past, our attendance at deaf church was very low. But now that we are putting the church service videos online, more deaf people from various cities are seeing the services. Afterward, we do an interactive Zoom call, where we discuss what they learned, share prayer requests, and pray together. Between the video and the call, we are reaching deaf people who couldn’t or wouldn’t attend services before, and interest is picking up.

Audiovisual team getting ready to broadcast!

Various church members are stepping up to serve as well. Some are helping David serve at a local food bank. Others provide food, furniture, or help with bills during these months of unexpected unemployment. One member is leading an online ladies’ Bible study. Some of us have made Bible story videos for the children in our church, and we made a video thanking frontline workers for their contribution to our community. Many people from our church have shared Bible verses that God has used to help them trust Him these past two months.

Helping our community

We are also thankful for these days we have had at home. Most Portuguese families used to leave early for their commute to work, and only saw their families late at night. Now, we see our neighbors spending more time at home with their children. Our family has appreciated more time together as well, and our kids are THRILLED that school is at home for the rest of the year. We have loved the extra time together to work on projects, to do more reading, and to start memorizing Psalm 103 each night after supper.

Please pray that we will continue to grow. We need great wisdom for each step of society reopening, and what that looks like for our church. Pray that the positive effects over the past few months will remain, that our priorities will stay right, and that we won’t run back to the distractions that used to vie for our affections. May God guide you and each of us as we seek His will over these next few months of reentry.

Keep up with us on our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/boothsinportugal 

March Prayer Letter: Good News!

“Our soul waiteth for the Lord: he is our help and our shield.” Proclaiming the gospel is always urgent and needful, but I especially felt that on Sunday as I preached and Sarah interpreted the message from Psalm 33 to a live audience of three (Laura, Samuel, and Genilson, who is one of the church’s deacons). Perhaps like you are doing this Sunday, we livestreamed our service because we were not able to gather as we normally do. While the setting was different, the message was as critically important as ever. In the end, over a hundred people watched the message live, and many hundreds have watched at least part of the message later in the week. While we long to gather again soon, we trust that many people will hear the gospel and be saved as a result of this pandemic. We are also praying that, as a church, God will spur us on to show the hope and love only Christ can offer.

This month has been filled with many other good things as well:

  • Our mission trip to North Africa was tremendous. It was a joy to give more than 100 New Testaments, books, and tracts to the believers there. Beyond that, the experience moved our hearts and helped each of us see that God is moving in the lives of many Muslims calling them to faith in Jesus. We are praying that here in Portugal we can be a base, sending supplies and teams to help the workers there.
The materials we brought
Mission team
  • Baptism Sundays are always special. On March 1st, four  teenagers named Patricia, Laura, Alexandre, and Filipe, gave their testimonies of salvation before their friends, family, and a packed church. It was moving to see how God is working in their lives, and seeing people baptized is absolutely one of the best moments ever. Praise God!
Baptism
  • While we are homebound for at least the next couple of weeks, our work continues on. I continue to teach my seminary class online. Sarah is recording videos of Bible stories for kids in the church to watch at home. Our services and Bible studies are continuing on as scheduled, albeit online. We are making countless phone calls and sending messages to encourage people and seeking to help where we can. God is sovereign and good, and we are hopeful that, in the end, we will be able to say with the apostle Paul that, the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel.”
Preaching the gospel to an online audience
Online seminary class

We know that each of you are living challenging days as well, and we pray for you. In times like these, we gain a greater perspective of how precious all of our friends and partners are. We love you! May God be with you!

When you have to stay at home, you make a tent in the living room.

February Prayer Letter: Asking for greater faith and joy

Have you ever prayed for something and seen God answer in a mighty way? It’s wonderful, isn’t it? But then, as time goes on, have you found yourself resenting or feeling weighed down by the very thing for which you prayed? Let me explain my experience, and maybe it will make sense.

Recently, while reading through Exodus, I was struck by how God’s blessing can quickly be followed by one of two responses: grumbling and division or faith and obedience. Days after God’s mighty deliverance from Egypt, the Israelites were grumbling and wanting to turn back. This was convicting and made me think about my life. Almost ten years ago we left for Portugal. We prayed fervently that God would help us reach people and plant churches. In amazing ways, God has answered that prayer: He has sent many people, established a church, and begun a work among the deaf. But with these answers to prayer, I sometimes find myself grumbling.

  • I long for people to respond to the gospel, and then resent having to love and care for those people’s problems and hurts.
  • I pray for a church, and then grumble about the people in it.
  • I get frustrated about investing so much time and effort in a person who falls away, while I fail to see the good things God is doing in so many other people’s lives.
  • I treat the work God has given me as a burden rather than as a privilege and calling.

Now before you think we are in despair and full of bitterness, know that we really are doing well. Each stage of life and ministry has its special challenges, and I am growing more aware of how these attitudes can creep into my life if I am not careful. Pray that God will protect us and give us joy and confidence in Him. Now… back to our regularly scheduled programming.

  • In two weeks, I am leading a team from our church on a mission trip to North Africa. We are praying that God will help us reach out and grow in our giving to missions. Pray for our team that our trip will be fruitful.
  • Three men from the church started taking classes at the seminary. I praise God for their eagerness to study the Bible and to grow in their abilities to serve the church. Pray for Filipe, Carlos, and Leandro that God will help them persevere in their studies and grow in grace and knowledge. Pray for me as I continue teaching Old Testament at the seminary as well.
  • Our co-worker, Amanda, is teaching a sign language class to a group of 10-12 hearing people in our church. This is a wonderful opportunity, and we are praying that God will use this class to raise up more people to reach the deaf.
Sign language class
  • Very soon, five or six teenagers in the church will be baptized. It is exciting to see them grow in their faith and in their eagerness to give a public testimony of their faith through baptism.

We believe that God is doing great things. We ask that you would pray for God to increase our faith and give us an even greater joy for the days ahead. Thank you! We couldn’t do what we do without you!

Merry Christmas from the Booths!

Merry Christmas! We hope you have a wonderful season celebrating the birth of Jesus. We are grateful for the evidence of Jesus working in the lives of people in Portugal today.

Teaching the discipleship class for those who will be baptized soon is one of the highlights of my week. The six teenagers in the class all show a great hunger for God’s Word and a desire to grow in their faith. Pray that they would all be bold in their testimony and faithful in their walk with the Lord.

Discipleship class

The hearing church continues to grow. Many Sundays, we have more than 100 people in attendance. Each step we take, we are treading new territory. We’ve never done this before, and we are trying to learn how to grow leaders and delegate as quickly as possible. For example, in the past, when we have had ladies’ teas or Bible studies, Sarah has done most of the preparation, and many women cancelled at the last minute. We now have a large enough group that Sarah can divide the tasks among various women, and they recruit helpers in their areas. For the meeting in November, each woman brought food; Carla and her team decorated; Rute led the music; Michelle and her assistants produced the craft; and Isabel prepared a fantastic message on Biblical gratitude. Twenty-two women attended, and each said how much she needed the reminder to thank God in all circumstances. Sarah was touched by the message and by seeing the women serving God and encouraging one another.

Ladies’ Bible Study

For the deaf church services, we never know how many people will come. There can be one person, there can be fifteen people, or any number in between. After low attendance this Fall, we were happy to see more deaf people at our Christmas service. Some were old friends we hadn’t seen since furlough, and some were first-time visitors. We’re grateful for each one, and we continue to pray for those who have not come to church in a long time (Sergio, Carlos, Rui, Zeza, and others). The longer we have worked with the deaf here, the more we have seen the need for prayer. We believe that someday there will be an awakening among the deaf in Portugal, and when that happens, we will know that it was all of God. For those of you who have faithfully interceded over the years, thank you. Please keep praying for that breakthrough.

Deaf Christmas party

In our town, God continues to send family after family, many of whom arrive from Brazil with nothing more than a suitcase of possessions. They come to church within days of arriving, with hearts ready to worship and hands ready to serve. The church members have been wonderful about anticipating needs and giving generously to help. This Saturday is our annual “bazaar”, a Christmas party in which church members bring clothes, toys and household items they no longer need, so that anyone from the church or community can take them for free. We also provide Christmas snacks, games, and the Gospel. Sunday is our church’s Christmas program as well. Please pray that God uses these events to bring the Good News of His Son to the Portuguese people who still need to know Him. We are grateful for our Savior’s birth, and we are grateful for each of you who prays for us. Have a joyous, hope-filled Christmas!

October Prayer Letter: Challenges and Opportunities

Imagine for a moment that your church’s attendance had doubled over the past two years. That would be great, right? And that is exactly what has happened with us. But now suppose that 90% of the new people that began attending your church had moved to your town from England. While you speak the same language and share many common traits, there are also significant differences. The new people speak with a British accent, and drink tea instead of coffee at fellowship time. Instead of talking about college football, they talk about soccer and Brexit. The list could go on. While you are all brothers and sisters in Christ, there are cultural barriers. Where there are differences, there is the opportunity for Christian love and unity to shine, just as there can also be the potential for misunderstandings and conflict.

As I was thinking about our experience, this was the closest example I could come up with to describe to you what is happening here. Many Brazilians are immigrating to Portugal, and every month brings several new families who have just moved to our town. Brazilians speak the same language, but with a different accent. Culturally, they are as different from the Portuguese as Americans are from the British. Thus, our church is growing in number and in cultural diversity. Most Sundays now, we have more Brazilians than Portuguese. Don’t for a moment think that this is a complaint. On the contrary, we see this as an opportunity, and we are grateful for new members who desire to serve the Lord. At the same time, we are aware of the challenges. We’re doing our best to be a church that maintains its Portuguese identity, and yet is welcoming to all who come. We ask that you pray with us in this way:

  • Just this past Sunday, we had a new members lunch where we had more than 25 people come expressing interest in joining the church. Pray that God would help us receive these new families well, and that all the members of the church would find their place in using their gifts and serving the Lord.
  • Pray that God would unite our hearts and that our church would be a brilliant example of Christian love and unity. Pray that God would guard us against division and cliquishness.
  • Pray that God would keep us focused. With a growing church, there are many needs that can veer us away from the mission God has given us. Pray that we would continue to focus on evangelism and church-planting. In Acts chapter 8, the church in Jerusalem was scattered, and the gospel spread as a result. Pray that God would help us leverage this growth to better reach Portugal with the gospel.
New members lunch

In our work with the deaf, we are facing a different challenge – building the practice of faithfully gathering together as the church. There are many who have attended our deaf church off and on throughout the years, and yet getting them to commit to faithfully gathering is a challenge we have yet to overcome. The good news is that, over the years, many dozens of deaf in Portugal have had the gospel clearly explained to them in their language and have access to a church where they can gather to learn more or to grow in their new faith in Christ. The bad news is that we still have many Sundays where just a few, or even none, will show up. Pray for an awakening in the lives of the deaf, and pray for us that God would give us great perseverance and wisdom to know how to move forward. As always, know how grateful we are to God for you. We feel as the apostle Paul did when he wrote, “We give thanks to God always for you all… Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Church anniversary service

August Prayer Letter – Our Return to Portugal

Summer is usually our busiest season of ministry. Beside all the regular church ministries, we host mission teams, teach kids’ Bible club, and work at camp. This year there was an exception: it was our first summer back in the States for furlough. We prayed for God to raise up people to fill in and lead the various ministries.Here is who God used:

Pastor Eder has been filling in all the preaching services for the hearing church. He has also helped shepherd the congregation with their needs and encourage the new visitors. Though Eder is a native Portuguese speaker, he does not know sign language, and we needed someone to preach at deaf church. God provided John Olson, an American deaf pastor, and his family! They gave two months to live in Portugal, learn as much Portuguese Sign Language (LGP) as possible, and spend their days focusing on just the deaf church. They presented at a deaf association, went on trips with the deaf, and helped our coworker, Amanda. This past Sunday, John had learned enough to preach his message in LGP! We are thrilled that God provided someone so capable and who loves reaching the deaf for Christ!

Singing from a recent church service

Ricardo and Ana Paula are a couple who joined our church last year. Ricardo helps with the maintenance at church, and this summer he stepped up in another role: camp van driver. Over three weeks of camp, we had 22 kids and teenagers who needed to be transported. It can be hard to find people who have a vehicle or the time available, so we are grateful for Ricardo and others who volunteered to help in this way.

Ricardo, Ana Paula, their son, and the five teenagers that served as camp counselors

Speaking of camp, we are thankful that our church took another step forward in camp ministry. In our first years, we had no children to send at all. Then, we grew to have several campers. This year, we saw some of those campers transition into junior counselors! Five of the teenagers gave almost a month of their summer to wash dishes, clean, take care of kids, and dozens of other things required of camp counselors. We love seeing people in whom we have invested now investing in others for the sake of the kingdom!

As for us, we are deeply grateful for our time in the United States.We arrived in March worn out physically, mentally, etc. Our wells were dry. Many of you have taken time to pray with us, talk with us, love our kids, and show us friendship or support in myriad ways. You know who you are and what you’ve done. You’ve poured into our wells. May God bless you and strengthen you as you keep fighting the battle for His glory here.

We’re back off to Portugal on the 30th of this month. Please pray that in our first two weeks, we can adjust back to the languages and time change, move back into our home, figure out schooling for our kids, and use our time wisely. There are more people and ministries than we can possibly do; we need God’s wisdom to discern which are the people and avenues that God has for us in this next year.

Watch this short thank you video about our furlough

June Prayer Letter

On a recent Wednesday evening, we drove for a couple hours to a country church in the east Tennessee hills. We hadn’t seen these folks in four years, and as we pulled into the parking lot, we wondered how our meeting would go. We needn’t have worried as we were welcomed like family. For the next hour, we shared with them about Portugal, a place none of them had ever visited. Even so, they care deeply for the work of the gospel there and for us, their missionaries. They asked lots of questions, prayed for us, gave us a generous offering, and encouraged us with handshakes, hugs, and kind words of affirmation. Then, we drove off into the night. We don’t know when we will see these precious brothers and sisters again, but we know that they are with us and for us. While the distance between us is great, and the time we share with them is short, our bond is strong.

There are many other experiences like this one that have strengthened us:

  • On Sunday, an entire church gathered around, laid their hands on us, and prayed for God’s blessing.
  • Today, after we shared about missions at a Bible camp, a young boy came up to us and gave us a wrinkled envelope with five $1 bills.
  • A couple weeks ago, we gathered with sixteen people who have visited us on mission trips to Portugal. It was a night filled with funny stories and sweet memories.
  • Last month, a group of women prepared crafts for us to take back to use at our Bible club in Portugal.
  • We’ve lost count of how many meals we’ve shared with sweet brothers and sisters who have shown us true Christian hospitality.

Watch our video about furlough!

This is one of the great joys and mysteries of being a missionary. From the hills of Tennessee to the plains of Iowa to the great lakes of Michigan, there are people all over this country who pray for us, give, care, and even come visit us. By the time we are done with our furlough, we will have visited almost 50 different churches. Some of these are large congregations with many staff members and beautiful facilities. Many others are small churches in towns most people have never heard of. The immensity and diversity of all that God is doing is breathtaking. We still can’t get over how amazing this is. To each of you who have made our furlough so encouraging and refreshing, thank you.

Before we know it, we’ll be heading back to Portugal. (We leave August 30th.) In the meantime, keep praying for the ministry there.

  • In July and August, more than 20 kids and teenagers will be going to Bible camps. Three of the teenagers in our church will be serving as counselors. Pray for open hearts and abundant spiritual fruit.
  • Pray for missionaries John and Tricia Olson and for our co-worker, Amanda. They are doing a tremendous work with the deaf in our absence.
  • Pray that God would continue to work in our hearts and prepare us to return to Portugal. We want to go back with stronger faith and a greater vision for what He would have us do. God is good!

In Christ,

David and Sarah Booth

Important News! We now have a Facebook page. Follow our journey at facebook.com/boothsinportugal

Good moments along the way: visiting churches and seeing friends

April Prayer Letter

An elderly man approached me after church with a small photo album in hand. At first I thought he was going to show me pictures of his grandchildren, but when he opened it up, I saw our prayer card along with many other missionary cards filling the pages. “This is what I use to pray for the missionaries every day,” he said. What a powerful encouragement this was!

We began our furlough at the beginning of March, and since then we have had many similar encounters that have amazed and strengthened us. We go to churches where we have not been for years, and we are received as family. We meet people who barely know us, and they show us amazing kindness. Over and over again, we see the beauty of Christian love.

Perhaps you may be wondering, “What is ‘furlough’ and what is its purpose?” For us, this time in America is an opportunity to:

  1. Share what God is doing in Portugal. Over the years, churches and individuals have prayed for us and given generously to the ministry. Now it’s our time to see them face to face, rejoice in the progress, and share about the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. We want our partnership to grow stronger.
  2. Encourage our supporting churches and friends. As missionaries, we are given so much, but we want to give back as well. We want to encourage, and strengthen every church and individual we visit. We also pray that God would use us to call others to be missionaries.
  3. Grow and be edified. Our goal is to return to Portugal with stronger faith and a greater vision for what God would have us do. Whether it’s attending a counseling workshop, swapping ideas with other missionaries, or listening to wise and encouraging words from an experienced pastor, these are all moments that help us become better missionaries as well as followers of Christ.
  4. Spend time with friends and family. Of course, seeing family and friends is an important part of furlough. For our kids especially, this has been a wonderful chance to connect with cousins, aunts and uncles, and spend lots of time with grandparents. These are moments that we cherish.
  5. Rest and recharge. To be honest, when we arrived in America, we were pretty drained. God is blessing the ministry in Portugal, but we have also felt overwhelmed at times. Furlough is a chance for us to withdraw for a while, rest, and gain perspective. We hope that by the time we return to the field at the end of August, we will be recharged and ready to go.
Furlough adventures

Meanwhile, back in Portugal, the ministry continues on full-steam ahead. Pastor Eder is doing a terrific job leading the church in our absence. Instead of treading water, the church is growing and reaching out. More people are using their gifts and serving the Lord. For example, four of the teens in our church served as counselors at a children’s camp over spring break. One of these teens shared her testimony and there was a great response from the kids. Stories like this are encouraging because they show the multiplying effect the gospel has.

Our co-workers, Amanda, Cal and Joyce, are continuing the work with the deaf. This past month of Easter has seen new opportunities to answer deaf people’s questions about why Jesus died on the cross and what His resurrection means for us all.

It has been wonderful seeing some of you recently, and we look forward to visiting with many more of you face-to-face. Thank you for your prayer and love!

In Christ, David and Sarah

February Prayer Letter

I’m sitting at our dining room table taking everything in: the colorful Portuguese plates hanging on our dining room wall; our porch soaked in rain; the school bell ringing two blocks away; the sound of our son playing with his toys in his room; the basket of school books, airplane snacks, and important documents waiting to go in a suitcase. Then, I stare at the picture on my computer screen. It’s of our church people, and tears come to my eyes. In two weeks, we will begin our 6-month furlough, and we will be an ocean apart from all these things and people. These people are where the past 8 years of our lives have gone, and, honestly, it’s hard to leave. At the same time, if I’m honest, some of the tears in my eyes are from exhaustion. We have been “on call” to witness to, pray with, encourage, confront, comfort, celebrate with, teach, and work alongside the sheep God has entrusted to us here in Portugal. We love them, we worry about them, we pray for them, and we rejoice over them. We know they are God’s sheep. He is their Good Shepherd. We ask you to pray with us that God will continue to protect, grow, and use each of them for His glory. We also pray the next 6 months will let us rest, refill, and come back recharged for our next term.

Practically speaking, we are working furiously to pack our house for the people who will live in it while we are gone, to cover all of our responsibilities here, and to prepare for our time in the States. While it is never easy to leave the work or our home for such a long time, we are eager to see family and friends and to return to our supporting churches. You have prayed, given, and encouraged us so faithfully over the years. Now, we will get to see many of you again and share stories of God’s grace and mighty work here in Portugal. Since we need to get back to packing, we will get right down to business.

1. We praise God for providing people to cover the church. Rather than calling in different pastors to preach each week of our absence, we were thrilled to see God provide a pastor and his family who can stay the entire 6 months. Please pray for Pastor Eder to have wisdom for the preaching as well as weekly care for the church.

2. Speaking of church, our town is growing, and so is our church, mostly from newly-arrived families from Brazil. With the influx of more help, the church has been able to create more departments, such as the Events Committee and the Building and Grounds Committee. As each person takes ownership and responsibility for a part of the church, the church becomes a little more “weaned off” of us and a little more ready for national leadership someday.

3. This past month, between the two locations, we had 12 deaf attend church services. That is a good number for our group. In our absence, Amanda, our coworker, will open her home to a Bible study for her deaf friends who want to learn more. God has also provided a deaf pastor from America to lead the Sunday services and various activities for a few months. Please pray that Pastor John will quickly pick up Portuguese Sign Language and that God will use him to reach and care for the deaf of Portugal.

A recent deaf church service

Our schedule is quickly filling up, but we want to visit as many of our supporting churches as possible. If you are a pastor and would like us to come and visit your church, please let us know by giving us a call or sending an e-mail. As we say in Portuguese, “Até breve!” (“See you soon!”)