To God be the glory, great things He has done

To God be the glory, great things He has done! You have prayed for this to happen and have given so generously. And now, God has answered and provided. This past Sunday, July 24th, we had our first church service in our new building! It’s hard to describe all that happened and the emotions we felt, but we’ll try.

After a flurry of phone calls, e-mails, and trips to the bank, we finally were able to close on the building on July 15th. Walking out of the notary’s office with all of the documents in order and in our name was a huge relief and answer to prayer. Proverbs 15:22 says, “Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counselors they are established.” We are grateful for how God used many different people, both from our church and other churches, to guide us through this process. Now, with the building in our possession, it was time to begin the move.

The very next day, we went to the airport and picked up a team of twelve people from a supporting church in Tennessee. The timing of this mission trip ended up being a tremendous blessing, as the team was with us for our last Sunday in our old building and for our first Sunday in our new building. In between, they served with great joy and helped us in a hundred different ways.

  • They asked many questions and were genuinely interested in the people and ministry.
  • They loved and befriended the people. Throughout the week, I saw members of the team praying with individuals, laughing, listening, and serving.
  • They cared for our family and loved our kids. Lucas loves to roam, and so they probably saved his life more than once.
  • They gave Sarah and me time to get away for a date.
  • Besides all of this, they passed out thousands of invitations to church, taught classes and workshops, sang, preached, helped us move to the new building, and did whatever needed to be done.

A wonderful week

On Sunday morning, everything was as ready as it could be, and so God’s people gathered and praised Him for His mighty acts and were challenged by the preaching of the Word. Beyond providing us with a building, God is moving in our hearts and molding a church that moves forward by faith.

As we reflect on this milestone, it’s hard to overestimate the importance of what has happened. We firmly believe that this building will be an instrument that God uses in a mighty way for generations to come. Once again, thank you! Without you, this would not have been possible.

Thank you for praying for us.

98%! We’ve almost reached our goal!

This past Sunday afternoon, we gathered at the river to baptize four young men. They boldly declared that Jesus is their Savior and told of how God was working in their lives. While the baptisms were special, there were other encouraging moments.

Knowing that there would be other people at the beach where we did the baptism, we did two additional things: 1) picked up several bags of litter on the beach, and 2) prepared gift bags with water bottles, chocolates, tracts, and information about our church to hand out to all the bystanders. We gave away every gift bag we brought. Paulo, the man who was baptized just last month, eagerly led the way. At the end, he said, “We need to do this more often. People need to know how urgent it is for them to be saved.” Amen to that!

Less than two months ago, we shared with you our goal of raising $100,000 toward the purchase of our new building. At the time, we had no idea how God was going to provide for a goal that seemed almost impossible to us. However, God is more than able! We’re thrilled to share with you that we have reached 98% of our goal of $100,000 for the building fund. We are humbled, extremely encouraged and motivated by the outpouring of generosity that we have seen from so many churches and individuals. Perhaps even this week we will surpass our goal. What a mighty God we serve!

We still need you to pray fervently for our bank loan to be approved. There are two banks who are evaluating our application, but this process is taking a long time. In their words, “This is an unusual case. We don’t normally make loans to churches.” We have until June 22nd to finalize everything, so please pray with us that our loan would be approved and that we can move forward with signing the final papers. The same God who has provided almost $100,000 is the same God who can move in this situation to cover the rest of the cost of the building.

We say this almost every letter we send to you, but, once again, we want you to know how grateful we are for you. So many good things are happening and great opportunities are before us. It is a joy to serve Jesus together with you!

Click here to give to our building project

Encouraging news: Baptism and Building Project

Most Sundays, as we lock up after church, we feel an even mixture of sadness and joy: sadness over people and situations that concern us and joy over those in which we can see God working. Then, there are Sundays like yesterday, in which joy is overwhelming, and faith is sight. 
 
To get to yesterday,  let’s go back to March of 2020. Covid restrictions here made us start wearing masks and stop meeting in public. Church went online. Just like many of you, we were scrambling to learn how to livestream a church service and care for our members from a distance. What was a difficulty for us, however, was part of God’s saving plan for others. 
 
Susana, a single woman in her early 40’s, had just lost both of her parents, her pet died, and she was painfully alone in quarantine. She called her friend (named Si) in France, who went online and “happened” to find our church. Susana reluctantly began watching our church online, then started coming, and was taken under the wings of women in the church who have taught her and loved her as their own daughter or sister. Yesterday, Susana gave her testimony before the entire church, thanking many people who were part of her salvation story, including Si, who, of course couldn’t come all the way from France to be there. Suddenly, a stranger stood up and walked down the aisle. “I don’t believe it!” Susana said. It was Si! She had surprised all of us to be there for the baptism! She hugged her friend and cried for joy, and most of the church cried with her. 


Si was overjoyed that her friend, Susana, is now her sister in Christ

Paulo, a father of two elementary-age boys, was agnostic. During the lockdown, he went online and spent hours listening to videos of people giving their testimonies of accepting Christ. He also found our church’s livestream and started attending in person. Since then, David has sat with him for hours answering his questions and pointing him to Christ. Yesterday, he testified of how God has helped him believe and is changing his life. His mother and sister were saved last year, and they sat in the front row with his sons watching him be baptized yesterday.


What a joyous moment!

Like a captivating painting, there were strokes of beauty all over the sanctuary. A deaf church member’s 3-year-old daughter sang in sign language with all her might. A woman quietly placed money in the building fund donation box. People whose recent pasts include drug addiction, sexual sin, loss of loved ones, or financial distress were worshipping the God who restores and sustains. The church was packed to the gills with 134 people! Plus, after 25 months straight, we were able to meet without wearing masks! We saw each other’s smiles for the first time in 2 years, and God gave us so many reasons to smile.
 

Click here to watch the testimonies and baptisms of Susana and Paulo
 

It has been a long two years, but God has been working His plan. What a joy to glimpse the beauty of that yesterday!

We are also seeing steady progress toward our building fund. As of today, we have reached 50% of our goal. Almost 30 different churches and individuals have given to help us get this far. We are overwhelmed with gratitude! God willing, we will reach our goal of $100,000 by the end of May. 
 
We also have a very generous partner who has offered to match any gift, dollar for dollar, up to $10,000. This is a great encouragement to us, and if God puts it in on your heart to give, your generosity will be multiplied. 

Giving to our building project takes less than three minutes

This is an exciting time! Good things are happening! We depend on your prayer and are grateful for your encouragement.

Our love be with you all in Christ Jesus, The Booths

Building Project Update

Three weeks ago, we shared about the building we are working to buy and of our goal to raise $100,000 by the end of May. God is answering! As of right now, we’ve seen more than $30,000 come in from churches and people just like you. From California to North Carolina, from North Dakota to Florida, we have seen God’s people rise up and respond in a way that has humbled and encouraged us greatly. To each of you who have given, thank you! More than helping us reach this goal, you have strengthened our resolve and made an investment in the work of the gospel here in Portugal.

While we still have a long way to go to reach our goal, we are confident that God will supply every dollar we need. Even as I was writing this letter, I received a phone call from a pastor of a church we visited in Tennessee when we were on deputation way back in 2009. Though we have never been back to visit, the church has kept up with us and prayed for us. The pastor informed us that his church just voted to send $10,000 to help buy our church building. Tears came to my eyes as I once again stood amazed at such an unexpected gift and at how God works.

Besides the building, there is more exciting news. Two weeks ago, a team of four from our church went on a mission trip to take Bibles and discipleship material to north Africa. Our trip went very well, and it moved our hearts greatly to see the courage of the believers there as well as the great need for the gospel. Our church in Portugal has now made three mission trips to help bring materials to this area.

Next Sunday, we will baptize several people. One lady who will be baptized, Susana, began watching our services online during COVID lockdown. God has worked in her heart in a powerful way, and it is sweet to see how her life has changed. Where once there was fear and confusion, there is now joy and a hunger to grow in her walk with the Lord.

Paulo, who will also be baptized, began coming to our church about that same time. Over the past two years, I’ve spent countless hours at a café talking about life and what it means to follow Jesus. God has worked in his life, and it is encouraging to see him take bold steps of faith.

God is working. How can you help us now?

  • Rejoice and thank God with us for His provision! He has done great things!
  • Pray for the purchase of the building. Far more than raising money or acquiring buildings, God is working in our hearts and building our faith. Pray that God would steady our hearts in moments of doubt and frustration. In the midst of paperwork and meetings with lawyers, accountants, and bankers, pray that God would keep our eyes fixed on Him, and that we would not lean on our own understanding.
  • Give. One of the most of encouraging parts of this process is seeing how God is using so many different people to help meet this need. If you are able, we invite you to join with us in this journey of faith. Click here to give to our building project.

Thank you for keeping up with us! May the love of Jesus Christ fill your heart as you contemplate and celebrate His death and resurrection this weekend.

If you haven’t already seen the video about our building, here it is.

March Update: Buying a Building

We can’t wait to share this news with you! 
In our last update, we spoke of how we had found a building that the church hopes to buy. Since then, God has answered prayer and opened doors as only He can do. We are moving forward by faith to purchase this building. Thankfully, this huge step is not just our own vision. Over the past month, we’ve had two church member meetings, and each time the church has voted unanimously and joyously to move forward with the purchase of this building. 

Click here to see a video of the building

Why are we buying a building?

  • It is a testimony of faith. This is the biggest step of faith we have ever taken as a church. Already, we can see God working in a mighty way in our congregation, and there is an excitement and a sense of responsibility toward what God is calling us to do. More than buying a building, God is at work in our hearts. Furthermore, we believe this building will be a testimony in our city of how we are a church that loves Jesus, preaches the Bible, and is here to stay. 
  • It strengthens the church. As church-planting missionaries, our aim is to plant churches in Portugal that are autonomous and are working to plant other churches. The church in Montijo having its own building is a huge step forward in making this possible. Little by little, the members of the church are assuming greater roles in leadership, giving more generously, and serving in more areas. Our prayer and desire is that this step will be a catalyst to further growth in our own church, and also the beginning of a movement to plant more churches in the future.

Where are we in the process? 
This past Tuesday, we sat down with the owner and real estate agents, and paid $41,000 (from the church’s funds) as part of the down payment on the building. We now have 90 days for God to provide the remaining $379,000. (Please see details in the Quick Facts box below.) While this is a far greater task than we are capable of doing, we are confident that God will provide and guide us each step of the way. 
 
How can you help? 
Since we began serving the Lord here, we have felt your prayers, encouragement, and support. So much has happened over the past 12 years, yet we are more excited about what God is doing here than ever before. We ask you to pray fervently for us that God would make a way and provide what we need to purchase this building. We also ask you to consider giving towards this project. Your partnership and vote of confidence in this step means far more to us than the amount of any gift you may give toward this project. If you are able to give, we have a special fund set up for this project through our mission agency. Everything given though this fund will go toward the purchase of the building.

From the bottom of our hearts, thank you!  

Our love be with you all in Christ Jesus,

February Prayer Letter: Moving Forward

Hello from Portugal! We usually share about what has been happening. Today we want to tell you about some things we hope will happen soon.

BUILDING OPPORTUNITY: Over the past few years, the church has been growing, and most Sundays, we are at maximum capacity. For a long time, we have been looking for either a building or a property that we could buy and develop for a larger facility. Recently, we discovered a building that seems to be a terrific opportunity. This Saturday, the church will be meeting to hear about it and to affirm our desire to move forward. Please pray for us to know God’s will. If He wants us to have this building, He will make it possible. If not, He will guide us to the right place at the right time. We will absolutely keep you updated on this!

Could this be the place?

THE BIBLE IN PORTUGUESE SIGN LANGUAGE: We mentioned in our last update how God is moving in amazing ways to provide a video Bible translation for the deaf in Portuguese Sign Language. For example, we didn’t know that the Portuguese Bible Society had also been thinking and praying about a project with the deaf. A college student, who is studying to become a sign language interpreter, did a class project with them. A while back, this student visited deaf church and let us know about the Bible translation idea. At the same time, in America, the Deaf Bible Society contacted Amanda to see if they could help start a Portuguese Sign Language Bible translation. It is clear to us that God is bringing people and organizations together like pieces of a puzzle. All of us are moving forward together by faith, and we have been meeting through Zoom to make plans and prepare the project. Our meetings are a mixture of American Sign Language, Portuguese Sign Language, English, and Portuguese, but the message and the goal is the same – to provide a video Bible translation for the deaf of Portugal. We are excited, but also a little overwhelmed. This is a bigger project than we expected! Pray especially that God will raise up Portuguese deaf to participate in this project.

LOOKING FORWARD TO MEETING SOMEONE SPECIAL: Since we started livestreaming church 2 years ago, we never know who might be watching. In a city 4 hours away from us lives a 9-year-old girl named Beatriz. Her parents are hearing, but she is deaf, and the whole family is trying to learn sign language at the deaf school. The parents know Jesus, and want their daughter to know Him, but there isn’t a church near them that uses sign language. So, they found us online, and every week their daughter’s main source of church is watching our service on the screen. At the end of this month, their family plans to visit our town and come to church. How we are looking forward to meeting Beatriz and talking with her in her heart language!

We never know who may be watching.

LEAVING A LEGACY: Last month, I flew back to the States for a few days to see my Mamaw who was in her final days of life. Thankfully, I arrived in time to see her just a few hours before she went to be with Jesus. While all of us miss her, it was sweet to celebrate her life and look forward to the day when we will be together forever with the Lord. It also made me reflect on how she blessed my life. She lived simply, was unknown to most of the word, and rarely traveled outside of her native Tennessee. But she loved and served the Lord, and her life left a great legacy. She was a godly example and encouraged me to serve the Lord. She didn’t know much about Portugal or the people here, but she prayed for us, and her life was instrumental in making it possible for me to be a missionary.

Grateful for my Mamaw

A good number of you reading this letter have visited us here in Portugal, but most of you have never been here and have never met the people we tell you about. Despite the distance, you care, pray, and give so that we can serve the Lord here and proclaim the gospel. I am grateful for my Mamaw’s life, and we are grateful for each of you, who faithfully serve God where He has placed you, and also care, pray, and have a great part in what He is doing here.

Lucas has a great brother and sister in Laura and Samuel
It was a joy to teach Old Testament Survey to this great class of students. For the past four months, we met every Friday night from 7:30 until 11 PM to study each book of the Old Testament.

December Prayer Letter: Merry Christmas!

“Rescue the perishing, care for the dying, Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save” is what the hymn declares. Our church building is on the ground floor of an apartment building that has six apartments. Within the past year, three of our neighbors in the building have passed away. It is sobering to know that all three of them very likely perished. The spiritual needs surrounding us are enormous, and it drives me to say, “God, we are just one family, but you are sovereign. Please show us our part today in Your plan.” God is leading us in large and small ways.

For example, Sarah went for a run. It was extremely windy, so she ran a different route in the opposite direction she usually runs. God brought her past a farmhouse at the exact moment the caretaker came out of the gate to get in his car. Sarah had met him months ago when she and the kids were searching for a field where they could fly their kites. He had generously offered a bag of oranges from his orange tree, let the kids use the field, and then shared about his wife who was incapacitated after a stroke. Ever since then, Sarah would wave at him from afar when he was working the fields or groves and she would pray for him. On this day, she stopped and asked about his wife and if she could pray right there with him. This is not something most Catholic-raised Portuguese people do, but he accepted. After the prayer, he had tears running down his face. Sarah asked, “Do you know Jesus?” He and his wife believe in God, but are not yet sure of their salvation. Please pray for them to have certainty of the hope He offers. This month alone, God has used Sarah’s day-to-day tasks to lead her to six individuals whom she could tell about Jesus and His love: this farmer, a store clerk, a parent at our kids’ school, two of our kids’ friends, and a man raising money for a charity.

Flying kites

God is also using organized, large-scale outreach. This past week, we had our neighborhood Christmas party. People in the church donated clothes, toys, and household items. It was like a giant garage sale where everything is free. Dozens of people in the church rallied together to organize and prepare for the festivities. On the day of the party, we had at least 100 people come, 50 of whom had never been to our church before. We served many gallons of hot chocolate, gave out cookies, and delivered gifts to the neighboring houses, businesses and police station. We’re thankful for the church’s testimony of generosity and service.

In order to reach the deaf, our co-worker, Amanda, has been making videos of the Bible in Portuguese Sign Language. Slowly but surely, she is making progress in translating portions of the Bible. Recently, a Bible translation organization reached out to us offering significant help in this process. We met with the Portuguese Bible Society to see about the possibility of partnering in this translation work. Please pray for us to follow God’s timing and plan as He brings His people in place for this task. Through both large- and small-scale encounters, God is leading us to tell people about Him.

Excited about the possibilities of the Bible in Portuguese Sign Language

As we come to the end of another year, our hearts are filled with gratitude for you. For most of us, 2021 was a challenging year where few things went as we expected. Even so, God is good and faithful. One special way that He shows His goodness is by placing brothers and sisters in Christ like you in our lives. To each of you, thank you for how you have prayed for us, cared for our family, partnered with us financially, and showed your love and friendship. We hope that we can be even better friends and partners to you in the year to come.

Lucas recently celebrated his first birthday.

November Update: A Wonderful Sunday

UPDATE FROM SARAH

Six months ago, I walked into my Sunday School class, and I cried. Like an evacuated apartment in the town of Chernobyl, my classroom was frozen in time.  The attendance chart listed the Sundays through the rest of the spring, but the stickers all stopped in March of 2020. The children’s photos were now outdated. When attendance capacities were put in place, dozens of chairs were removed from the sanctuary and stacked in Sunday School rooms where the children once learned. Hence, my heavy heart and my wet cheek. I mourned the lost moments of teaching and growing since we had placed those last stickers one year earlier.

“God,” I prayed. “Please let this pass. Let these chairs be full of people in the sanctuary again, and let the children come back to these rooms to learn about you!”

Last week, there were new sights and sounds in the Sunday School rooms. Chairs were moved! Nails were pounded into walls to hang decorations! Floors were swept to put rugs and kid-sized chairs again. I was skipping from room to room, giddy with excitement. And this Sunday, I stood in my Sunday School room, and I cried again. A new student had entered my room. Her Mom teared up as well. So did other Sunday School teachers who told me how their students had prayed, memorized verses, and had deep thoughts about God. THE KIDS ARE BACK! SUNDAY SCHOOL IS BACK! FULL-CAPACITY CHURCH IS BACK!

The pandemic has taught us much this past year and a half. For me, it has given me new perspective on the privilege of meeting together. When the “stickers stopped” that Sunday, we had no idea it would be a year and a half before we would be able to meet again. Thank You, God, for answering prayer. Help us use each encounter to invest in people for eternity.

Our love be with you all in Christ Jesus,
David and Sarah

October Prayer Letter: Learning to Let Go

It’s a beautiful, 80 degree, autumn day here in Portugal. Believe it or not, I just finished drinking a pumpkin spice latte while thinking about what to write. Yes, the wonders of pumpkin spice have made it to Portugal as well. 😉

We spent the month of August visiting family and a few of our churches in the States. It was good to be back for a brief visit, and everyone was overjoyed to meet Lucas and see Laura and Samuel as well. When we arrived back in September, we geared up for back-to-school and a flurry of activities. We celebrated our 5th anniversary as an organized church with a wonderful picnic. Over a hundred people came, and it was a sweet day of fun, food, testimonies and good times.

We now have five Bible college students/interns coming to our church. These students are 18-22 years old and are from America, Germany, and Hungary. While most of them don’t speak any Portuguese, they have a sweet spirit and a desire to learn and serve in any way possible. It is encouraging to see the church reaching out to host and befriend them. Pray that we will have a great impact on their lives.

Later this month, we will resume meeting together for deaf church services. But in the meantime, Sarah has been interpreting the hearing services and a few of the deaf have been attending. Two Sundays ago, three deaf people came in right as the service was ending. We weren’t going to waste this opportunity, so we loaded everybody up and went to Burger King. While I wrangled Lucas, Sarah gave a thorough recap of the message while everyone was enjoying their burgers. Flexibility is certainly important! We ask that you pray for Sandra, a deaf lady who came occasionally to church in the past, but now is coming regularly, and seems to be growing in her desire to learn the Bible.

I also began teaching my Old Testament Introduction class in the seminary. There are fifteen students in the class and since it is online, they are from churches all over the country. Pray that I would teach this class with zeal and clarity, and that all of us would grow in our knowledge and love of God’s Word. 

Finally, pray for us that God would give us wisdom to know how to lead the church to grow stronger while becoming less dependent on us. As church-planters, we are used to doing everything from stacking chairs, to marriage counseling, to making sure the pizza gets ordered for the youth activity. This “do whatever it takes” mentality is important in the beginning, but as time goes on, it can become a great hindrance to multiplication. We are constantly learning where to “intervene” and when to let go. Equipping leaders to make decisions and assume responsibility is challenging, and we often feel like we are learning how to do all of this as we go. There are certainly growing pains, and we are finding that working your way out of a job can be a lot of work. Even so, there are promising signs:

  • Four different men in the church preached while we were gone.
  • A very successful ladies Bible study is going on without Sarah’s leadership.
  • Men’s and youth Bible studies take place frequently without my participation.
  • An increasing amount of ministry and decisions are taking place without our presence.

Thank you so much for praying for us and encouraging us as we learn and press on.

Our love be with you all in Christ Jesus,

David and Sarah

Serving as church-planting missionaries in the land of the discoverers