Better late than never… Here are a few pictures from our time in America:
“Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” I think that’s true. Not only did 5 weeks in America let us reconnect with family and some churches, it also gave us perspective on the work in Portugal and a renewed love for the people to whom we minister. David and I rested, prayed, made plans, and went back recharged. Within 24 hours of getting home, we had unpacked, called our contacts, and were hosting the Bible study in our living room. Laura played happily as we busily worked. It was good to be home.
A few nights later, I had so much back pain and vomiting that we went to the ER, and I was admitted with a kidney infection. Screeeeech. Stop. Our 100 mph plans took God’s detour. As David took Laura home and I headed to my room, God was working. You see, our Bible study has been a sweet group that meets regularly, but suddenly they started acting like a body. Ring ring. “Hello, David, can we baby-sit Laura for you so you can have a couple hours to study? Can we bring you a meal? How can we help?” “Sarah, we are praying for you. Call me if you need anything.” People stepped up.
Back at the hospital, I was in a room with an 85-year-old named Maria José (Mary Joseph. How is that for a Biblical name?) Her breathing mask and cries of pain woke me in the night, but in her hardest moments, she cried out to God and quoted bits of verses. During the day, she made me laugh when she said the cleaning lady accidentally threw away her dentures! Then it hit me. I was talking through a curtain to a woman with no teeth, and I understood her. . . and all the Portuguese channels on her TV! Do you know how hard listening exercises were for me in language school? But I was understanding this –all of this — even the colorful medical parts I could have lived happily never knowing! I read Scripture to this sweet lady and asked her about her hope of heaven. She LOVES God and Jesus, and, from what I could tell, I think she is saved. I’ll enjoy seeing Mrs. Mary Joseph (and Jesus) in heaven someday.
For lunch, they sent me to a separate eating area where I met Maria Conceição (Mary of the Conception. Do you see a pattern here?) The kidney pain felt as though I were having mild contractions, and I paused my eating to take slow, deep breaths to get through the pain. I hoped to just eat and go lie down, but Mary looked at me and said, “I’m an atheist.” Seeing a conversation about to start, I sent a silent SOS prayer for strength and joined in. Mary had asked her Catholic school teacher a question and had never gotten an answer. Since she had been waiting more than 40 years, I was glad to give her one from the Bible. God let me explain the plan of salvation to her as well — in between breathing breaks. By then, I was drained and went back to bed. (After all, this is a hospital. I hear I’m supposed to get rest.) Despite everything, she said she didn’t believe God would punish her, but that the Bible is on her top-5 list of books to read someday. I hope she gets busy reading.
By Thursday night, I was painfully but happily back home. The pain increased, and I had a mild fever, but we pushed through to Sunday. We needed to be there to interpret, or else the deaf teenager who comes wouldn’t understand anything. We made it through the sermon, then went straight back to the hospital. Sure enough, my kidney now has an abscess, and they admitted me once again. So, with the help of the body of Christ, David is taking care of the homefront and the ministry. I’m talking to my new roommate, asking God how to reach her. We are trusting the God who makes no mistakes that He planned this “detour” for His glory. We’ll let you know where it leads.
We arrived back in Portugal last week from our five week visit to America. It was wonderful to see family and friends, and it was encouraging to connect with several of our partner churches. What blessed us most was seeing how many people are faithfully praying for us and really do care about God’s work in Portugal. Sometimes we forget that there are many hundreds of people who are, in one way or another, working together with us. To each of you who read our updates and pray for us, thank you!
Now that we are back, we are eager to pursue what God has in store for us this year. We have seen good progress during the two and a half years since we have been here, but we long for so much more. Would you pray with us fervently to see God work in these four ways?
1. Pray that souls would be saved. We have not seen any people saved lately, and because of that we are praying that this would be a year where this spiritual drought will end. We know that God is the one that brings salvation, so we trust that He will do His work in the lives of many people to whom we are witnessing.
2. Pray for the church plant in our town. God willing this will be the year that we rent our own building and begin Sunday services. Pray that this church would have a healthy beginning, and that the Lord would add people to His church.
3. Pray that we will have regular Bible studies with the deaf. This past year we have met sporadically with a small group of deaf. Now we hope to meet with them regularly. Pray that the deaf in Portugal would have a desire to know God and His Word
4. Pray for our outreach to kids and youth. In the spring we will continue our outdoor neighborhood Bible club. Also, Sarah is beginning to teach religion and morality classes in one of the high schools in our town. Pray that these efforts will be fruitful.
Most of the times when we write our prayer letters we include stories of what has happened recently. This time we wanted to do things a little bit differently, and encourage you to pray for us and give you some tools to help you do that. Because of that, we have included a prayer guide that we hope you will use.
Finally, pray for Sarah. Today, she was admitted into the hospital with a possible kidney infection. She will be there for several days, and we ask that you would pray that the doctors would know how to treat this.
Thank you praying with us! We are looking forward to sharing how God answers our prayer.
This past Sunday, Sarah and I were able to be at our sending church, Harvest Baptist Church of the Deaf. It was wonderful to spend time with friends there and tell about our ministry in Portugal. Below is the video of the message I preached. At times it was a little challenging because I would confuse ASL with Portuguese Sign Language. Despite my weakness, God’s message of salvation is still powerful.
We arrived in America on December 10th, and we have been enjoying seeing family and friends as well as visiting some of our partner churches. On January 16th, we fly back to Portugal, and get back to work there.
It has been encouraging to see people who have faithfully prayed for us since we have been in Portugal. Their questions and interest in what we are doing makes us realize that we are not alone. Indeed, we are part of an army of people and churches who are devoted to seeing Christ glorified in Portugal.
We are excited about the year to come, and we are praying that this would be a year of growth and blessing.
Here are some ways to pray for us during 2013:
1. Pray that God would prepare our hearts for the work ahead. We can only be truly effective in our ministry when we are walking close to God.
2. Pray that God would give us wisdom as we plan to rent a building and start Sunday services this spring.
3. Pray that Sarah would be able to connect with many people through helping teach “Religion and Morality” classes in a high school in our town.
4. Pray that we would reach many kids with the gospel when we start Kids’ Club back up this spring.
5. Pray that this would be the year where we could have regular Bible studies with the deaf.
6. Pray fervently for souls to be saved. We saw a lot of good things happen in 2012, but we long to see more people turn from their sin and trust Christ as their Savior.
Thank you for your prayer! May God bless you as you begin this year.