Everyone sat silently in a semi-circle, intent on the visitor. She raised her hands, and, without speaking a word, the story of Adam and Eve came to life. Other hands started flying with questions. “Why did God say not to eat from the tree?” “Were there two bad trees or just one?” “What about that other guy in the Bible? Was his name Moses?” As the hour progressed, I saw the tower of Babel, the great flood, Abraham and Isaac, the temptation of Christ, and Jesus’ crucifixion, all explained with their prophetic connections, and all done inaudibly. The group and the speaker were deaf, and this was a Sunday night to remember.
A group of deaf Christians from Tennessee has had a burden for the Portuguese deaf for years. They have visited Lisbon several times, even before we came here. One of their members was an elderly lady named Ruth, who had spent weeks in Portugal witnessing to the deaf and teaching them. Just over a year ago, Ruth died of cancer. This deaf group from Ruth’s church had come again, and the Portuguese deaf were full of questions about where Ruth was and why she had died. In a mixture of American Sign Language and Portuguese Sign Language the team point-blank said, “You have heard the gospel many times, and some of you need to make a decision. Now.” One by one, the Portuguese deaf stood before each other, some crying, some saying they believed, some admitting they did not.
Most deaf people are willing to listen to a deaf person before a hearing person. It’s a trust based on cultural and linguistic differences and life experiences. The deaf team coming last week opened up doors that we, as hearing missionaries, cannot easily access. Besides the Sunday evening service for the deaf, the team shared their testimonies in a hearing church; we hosted a luncheon for deaf in our town; went to deaf associations 3 nights; visited a school for deaf adults; and had supper with deaf contacts 2 different nights. We also received training in a new method for teaching the deaf. In the end, we have built or reinforced relationships with a dozen deaf people, and are praying for wisdom for the next step. Two deaf made professions of faith this week, but need more teaching. We are still learning Portuguese Sign Language and are new to the Portuguese Deaf Community, but God can overcome these obstacles. We pray that the results of this week will be the beginning of a permanent deaf work here in Portugal. Please pray with us for God’s guidance in what is the next step.
In other exciting news, this month I passed out tracts with a man named Genilson who comes to our Bible study. We were able to place tracts in almost 2,000 mailboxes. Along the way, we both were able to have some good conversations with people. I spoke with two men, Zé Manuel and César, for almost twenty minutes. They approached me and asked me what I was handing out. I explained what I was doing, and Zé Manuel replied candidly, “Well, I have to admit that I have been a little upset with Jesus Christ.” For the next several minutes, he shared his sad story of how his wife had died, leaving him to care for his two daughters. I explained that the Bible is wonderful because it doesn’t try to cover up the fact that we all experience sadness and difficulties. It is filled with people who asked God hard questions about suffering. I then continued on and shared briefly of the hope that can be found in Jesus Christ. Please pray for these two men that I would be able to speak with them again soon. Know that the many good things we were able to share in our letter this month are a result of your prayer for us and the people of Portugal. We are grateful to be working together with you for God’s glory here!