Excerpts from our September prayer letter

This past year, we’ve been trying to obtain a Portuguese medical document for Sarah. As with most documents, these are obtained through prayer, patience, and being sent in circles to a dozen different offices. About 3 weeks ago, we went to the medical center (again) to meet with a doctor who could maybe help us. He spent 10 grouchy minutes telling us why he couldn’t help us, and then sent us away without the document (again). But, while we waited for the appointment, one of our deaf friends walked in . . . with another deaf lady named who also lives in our town. We enjoyed chatting with her for several minutes and it was evident that day that God sent us there, not to obtain our document, but to make another contact in town. Amazingly, the week after, as soon as we walked up to the counter at the same clinic, they handed us the document with no problems. After a year of trying, God provided what we needed just before the baby arrives.

While we continue to build relationships with lost people, we are thankful that God has also allowed us to meet brothers and sisters in Christ right here in our own town. This past Friday night in our home, 17 believers joined hands, bowed their heads, and prayed for God´s guidance in beginning a church in Montijo. By the time everybody left the dinner and Bible study, it was after 1:00 in the morning. As Sarah and I put away the leftovers and tidied up a bit, we were deeply grateful for what had happened and hopeful for the future. Since June, we have been meeting each month with this group of believers which now includes us, three families that live here in town, another missionary couple, and a pastor from a church in a city 30 minutes from here. In our previous updates, we asked you to pray that God would help us start a Bible study in our town. God answered that prayer, but in a different way than we first envisioned. There is much potential with this group, but we also need much wisdom for how to proceed from here. The first week of October, I am meeting with some of the men of this group to pray about and discuss the next steps we should take. Please pray that God would show us what to do.

In other news… We will be starting Level 2 of Portuguese Sign Language classes on Oct. 1st. Sarah is now 8 months along in her pregnancy, and we look forward to our daughter being born by the end of October. We continue to strengthen our relationships with people we mentioned in past prayer letters.  All of this is possible in large part because of your prayers and partnership. Thank you!

1927-2011

This past April, I was reading a book at the park when an elderly gentleman sat down on the bench next to me. He was very distinguished looking, dressed in a navy suit, white shirt, and navy tie. Since he was sitting alone, I decided to strike up a conversation. Soon I discovered his name was José and that he had lived in Montijo all 84 years of his life. I asked Senhor José about what kind of work he had done, what the town was like back when he was young, and his thoughts about society today.

He was a wonderful conversationalist. I discovered that even though he had worked in a hospital most of his life, his real love was poetry. He said with a flourish, “I am a poet at heart… To me anything can become poetry.” He told me how he had written poetry for special occasions in the town, and how he had even written a song for one of the town festivals. At one point, he became so enthused about his work that he excused himself, walked across the street to his house, and returned minutes later with a copy of one of his books of poetry that he had written.

“Here, I would like to give you my book.”

“Oh, you don’t have to do that. That is very kind of you.” I replied.

“Do you have a pen?” He asked, “So I can sign it for you.”

I handed him a blue pen, and on the front page he wrote,

“For my friend David Both (sp). With a warm embrace from your friend.” April 20, 2011

I was touched by this act of kindness and was hopeful that I could talk with him again.

I saw Senhor José again a couple of weeks later. This time, he wasn’t feeling very well. Dressed in the same suit, he still looked distinguished, but he seemed confused and disoriented as we chatted. Soon, he said he needed to leave. He got up, shook my hand, and walked across the street to his house.

For the next couple of months, I returned to the park and always looked for Senhor José but with no success. I wondered how he was doing and prayed that I would have an opportunity to see him again.

Finally, one day about a month ago, as I was walking out of the library, I saw a glass case holding an exhibition of books. I recognized one of them as the book Senhor José had given me. For a moment, I was excited as I thought, “How neat! The library put his books of poetry on display.” Then, my heart sank. At the bottom of the the case, his full name was written out and below that was:

1927-2011

I lingered for a moment, read the obituary which spoke highly of his contributions to the community, and then slowly walked out of the library and down the street to my car.

This bothered me on so many levels.

“Where was he now?” Even though he was a “good” man, it was doubtful that he had trusted Christ alone as Savior.

“What should I have done differently?”

“I should have been more forceful about sharing the gospel with him.” 

All of these thoughts raced through my head and a deep sense of sadness moved my heart. From this experience, I concluded two things:

1. Every single person I meet will someday have a birth date and a date of death under his or her name. While I have always known this theoretically, my moments with Senhor José made me understand on a whole new level that the task I have is an urgent one.

2. I don’t ever want to have a friend or acquaintance that dies without me at least having tried to tell them about Jesus. Never again do I want to have that feeling. Never.