The Turtle

By: Sarah

“Good fences make good neighbors.” This seems to be the theme of the people we encounter every day, including those in our apartment building. I was reminded of this as, once again, we delivered homemade Christmas cookies to each of our neighbors. Last year, we received strange looks and awkward “thank you’s” when we handed them their plates. For some neighbors, this was the only contact we’d had with them since then. It was  discouraging to think of the unsaved condition of the people with whom we share walls. I prayed for them, and asked God to give us opportunities to have relationships with them and tell them about Him.

That same week, I answered a knock at our door. It was our closest neighbor family, with whom we have the best relationship. By this, I mean we know each others’ names, chat when we see each other in the hallway, exchange goodies at holidays, and have been in each other’s homes. The family is not saved and has shown no interest in the gospel.  We long for the day we can sit down and explain the Bible to them. But, for now, it’s an issue of trust. Why should they trust us or trust in our Savior? We reach out to them, working to build that relationship. When I opened the door, they were heading out to visit family for Christmas. “Can you watch our turtle until we get back?” Two minutes later, they were gone, their turtle was in my kitchen, and I had a huge smile on my face. “They trust us to watch their pet! That’s progress!”

During the week of Christmas, we received text messages from Portuguese deaf people, a visit from former classmates, and one of our teachers brought over a gift for Laura. We spent Christmas Eve with people from our Bible study, all of whom were strangers to us last year. These were reminders that God is working, and we are developing relationships. I have the turtle to prove it.

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Recent pictures

Sarah signing a Christmas song at church
Cookies for our friends and neighbors
A traditional Portuguese Christmas... We spent Christmas eve with some friends. This was the main dish of the evening - a codfish and potato casserole. Of course there was a lot other food as well.
I was out riding my bike recently and saw this.

Excerpts from our December prayer letter

Dear Friends,

The aroma of cookies, cake, and apple cider filled the air. The women of our Bible study wanted to have an event to invite other ladies of the community, so Sarah hosted a Christmas tea. We were pleased to have twelve women come, four of whom were unchurched. It turned out to be a wonderful afternoon filled with crafts, music, games, and a brief devotional that Sarah gave. Afterward, two of the women asked about coming to our regular Bible study.

Speaking of the Bible study, in November we started having it every other week. Besides the core group, we have had one visitor come…

…Please also pray for more of our contacts to begin coming to the Bible study.

This fall I started playing basketball with a group of guys that are 30-50 years old (even though I am still 29). Meeting men this age is a challenge, so this activity is a perfect way to do just that. People here think that because I am American I should be a good basketball player. I have dispelled that myth.

Since the beginning, we felt that the pace of our sign language classes was extremely slow. We wanted to learn more quickly. Also, as Laura gets older, it will be harder to keep her quiet and still during a three hour class. We needed a plan B. God provided an answer through a deaf lady in our town, who now comes to our home and teaches us several hours each week in addition to our other classes. It is making a big difference. We hope to have a Christmas party with her and several other deaf friends.

Looking back on 2011, there is no doubt that we have been blessed and that God is working in lives here. Onward to 2012!

All set for the Christmas tea
Family Christmas picture

 

What a weekend!

Thank you for your prayers throughout this week. On Friday, our bi-weekly Bible study went well. I woke up that morning feeling sick, but thankfully I was able to make it through the day and have the strength to speak that evening. We didn’t have any visitors this time, but even so it was an encouraging evening of prayer, singing, sharing, and studying the Bible.

On Saturday, Sarah spent most of the morning preparing the house for the ladies Christmas tea that afternoon. At three o’ clock in the afternoon, twelve women gathered together and had a wonderful time of doing a craft, drinking tea and apple cider, singing Christmas carols, and listening to Sarah share a brief Christmas message/testimony. While she was nervous, she did a very good job. One great blessing was that there were three ladies who came for the first time. As far as we know, they are all unsaved. Pray that these women would continue to come to events that we have.

More later!

 

Update for the week

This is an exciting week for us. On Friday, we once again have our Bible study. We have invited several more people to come, and we are hoping to have at least one new person come.

In this Bible study, I am doing a series called “Following Jesus: Discovering the truth about Jesus Christ through the eyes of the Apostle Peter.” This week we will be studying Matthew 14:22-33 where Jesus calms the storm and Peter walks on water. In preparing for this lesson, I am understanding a little bit more clearly what it means to really trust Jesus. I don’t have near the faith Peter had. Even though he took his eyes of Jesus and began to sink, at least he got out of the boat. If I had been there, I wouldn’t have even thought to do that. The amazing truth is that Jesus invites us to trust Him with everything. As weak as our faith may be, He says, “Come.”

One other big event this week is the ladies Christmas tea that Sarah is hosting on Saturday. She would be the first to tell you that she doesn’t feel adequate or cut out to do “Ladies Ministries”, so please pray that God would give her strength and grace. She will be giving a short Christmas devotional to the ladies that come. Pray that God would give her the words to say.

Thanks for praying for us! We’ll let you know how it goes.

 

More than enough

At the beginning of this month, I was reviewing our financial statement, paying some bills, and updating our money software. I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed with gratitude. Looking back over 11 months of this year, we have received just over 100% of our needed support. Approximately 45 churches and 10 individuals have faithfully partnered with us financially making it possible for us to live and serve here. Every month we pay our rent, buy gas for our car, get groceries and are able to go to the doctor because there are people who care about us and about taking the gospel to Portugal.

Besides taking care of our personal needs, the support we receive funds the ministry that we do here. Because of the generosity of so many people, we are able to buy Bibles and tracts, and we can pay for language school. You may not think about it, but we use our support for everything from buying cheeseburgers for teenagers after a Bible study to paying the tolls (most months we spend at least $100 on this expense) to travel to and from all the different things we have to do.

All of this leaves us deeply grateful and humbled. When we open our monthly report, we see the names of each church and person that supports us. We realize that many people sacrifice much to make it possible for us to do what we are doing. Because of that we want to be good stewards of every dollar we receive.

So we just want to take a moment and thank God for the wonderful churches and individuals He has placed in our life. He has given us more than enough!