Praise God for 3 years!

This past week, we celebrated three years in Portugal. While we are still a long ways from attaining the status of “veteran missionary”, we are learning much and are taking significant steps in the work God has given us here. And yet the longer we are here, the more we see to do. As we start our fourth year, this is what we pray:

1. We pray for a sense urgency. After a while, a routine can turn into a rut. When we first arrived here, everything was new. Now that we have been here for several years, we are settled and have enough work to keep us busy throughout the week. This can be dangerous. We pray that God would keep us from living life on cruise control. We don’t want to get too comfortable in our routine.

2. We pray for a clearer vision and a sharper focus for what we are to do. It can be easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day activities and lose perspective of the big picture. We pray that God would help us make the most of our time and resources. We pray that we would do what He wants us to do.

3. We pray that we would make the most of every relationship and opportunity God has placed in our lives. When we first arrived in Portugal, we prayed that God would help us meet people and build relationships. He has certainly answered that prayer. We have met and befriended dozens, if not hundreds, of people in our town and country that we did not know just three short years ago. Now, the challenge is to know how to use our time and how to invest in the people He has placed in our lives. Every person is important, and we don’t want to overlook opportunities that are before. At the same time, we can’t do everything. God, help us know!

4. We pray that God would use our lives not just in the corner of Portugal where He has called us, but throughout the entire country. We don’t have ambitions of greatness or of being famous, but we do hope that God can use our lives throughout this country. We pray that we would be used not just in our area but in many other corners of Portugal. We realize that the extent of our ministry is largely dependent on our faithfulness right where we are. However, if God allows us to be here many years, we hope that we will know churches and families throughout the whole country that God has allowed us to bless and encourage.

5. We pray that we would be faithful. We don’t have a plan B for our lives. This is what God has called us to do. If He wills it, we will work here the rest of our lives. While this is our desire, we pray that God would guard us from temptation and distraction. We pray that we would be faithful to the end of our time here whenever that may be.

6. We pray that we would not be “busy missionaries”, but missionaries that love God and people. Again, it is easy to be busy, but we want to go beyond just having flurries of activity. We pray that we would walk close to God. We pray that we would love people more than just as items on a “to-do” list.

7. We pray that we will be missionaries that God uses to call others to missions. We pray that the longer we are here, the more we will be able to influence others to be missionaries as well, here in Portugal or even in other places across the globe.

Finally, as we pray for these things to come to pass in our lives, know that we thank God for each of you that have made it possible for us to be here. We are servants together with you for God’s glory! We thank God for your prayer on our behalf. We thank God for the support you provide so that we can live and work here. We thank God for the interest you have shown in what He is doing here.

Looking forward to year 4!

 

 

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What a week!

Last Monday, we said good-bye to a mission team from Tennessee. Their time here in Portugal was a great encouragement to us. The team was made up of a female college student and two women who each brought their teenage daughters. Also, my Uncle John, Aunt Karen, cousin Layci, and her friend were here doing a mission trip, and their time overlapped some. In total, it was 13 days of lots of work and many blessings.

Here’s what happened:

We had a youth activity, and we had 6 youth from Montijo show up. There were two teenage girls that came with the mission team who were able to share their testimonies with the youth here. It was a great time of playing games, fellowship, and testimonies.

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This is a great game for youth… See what happens when you tie as many rubber bands as possible around a watermelon. The end result will amaze everybody!
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Coming up with a good strategy for the game

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We went to a senior citizens’ community center and did an English activity. The group sang some American folk songs, we played games, and shared about our respective cultures. Afterward, we ate brownies and cake. While we were not allowed to share the gospel openly during this event, we were able to make good contacts and build relationships in our community. During our Q&A time, several of the senior citizens asked why this group was here in Portugal. It gave us the chance to share that they came to tell people about Jesus and help the church here in Montijo. That response piqued the curiosity of the people and several other related questions followed.

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Activity at the senior center

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We had a church dinner. On Wednesday night, instead of our regular Bible study, we had dinner and a time of prayer and praise. It was a sweet time of fellowship, and we really felt that our church bonded quickly with the mission team.

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Enjoying a good potluck Portuguese style
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Singing and praying together

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On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday mornings, we did VBS in the neighborhood where we do our Saturday children’s Bible club. We had between 17 and 25 kids each day. It was exciting to see the kids waiting for us in the park each morning. On the last day of VBS, Sarah told the story of Saul’s conversion and at the end gave an invitation. After the invitation, a ten-year-old girl named Paula raised her hand and exclaimed, “I just prayed to receive Jesus as my Savior.” What wonderful words to hear. This girl has come to our Bible club for a year now, and has heard the gospel many times. It is heartening to see God’s Word take root in this young life.

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Reviewing our memory verse, Romans 5:8
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Our outdoor VBS

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On Saturday afternoon, the ladies on the team hosted a women’s Bible study. The women who came left edified and encouraged.

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Working on the craft at the womens’ Bible study

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While we could mention many more activities, these are a few of the highlights. Looking back, we can now see several important factors that made this missions trip such a success.

1. They prayed with us and with our church. How precious it was at church on Wednesday night to hear people praying in Portuguese and in English. Our time praying together did much to knit our hearts together.

2. They showed love to our people and showed genuine interest in their lives. A good missions trip is not just about doing a project; it is connecting with people.

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Learning Portuguese Sign Language

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3. They took good care of us and were extremely flexible. Hosting a mission team can be a lot of work, but this team did so much to make their stay here as easy possible. They did everything from taking care of Laura to washing dishes to buying our meals when we ate out. We are so grateful for their generosity!

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Laura chilling out with Jessica after a long day of work

4. They worked with us. It is one thing to pass out tracts by yourself. It’s something entirely different when you have an entire platoon of people to help you out. We passed out thousands of tracts while they were here. What was really neat was that they got to meet some people who have started coming to church as a result of the tract distribution they did last year. Besides passing out tracts, they did everything from stacking chairs to cleaning the church to performing drama for VBS.

5.They strengthened us and increased our boldness. One incident in particular stands out in my mind… One day we were passing out tracts and my Aunt Karen went up to give a tract to an older man who was just getting out of his car. I was across the street and as I saw her approach this man my first thought was, “Oh boy, that may not be such a good idea. She doesn’t speak a lick of Portuguese. This probably will be a little embarrassing.” Yes, I am ashamed to admit that was my first thought. And yet, what looked like it would be a socially awkward collision ended up being a providential encounter. The man spoke English, and, more importantly, he had lots of spiritual questions. We were able to share the gospel very clearly with him. 45 minutes later we bowed our heads together with this man named Daniel, and prayed for God to help him to understand more about Him.

6. They loved Portugal and were eager to learn more about it. While most of our week was filled with work and activities, we also made time to visit castles, explore Lisbon, and have some important cultural experiences.

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At Fatima, a Catholic shrine
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Learning about Portugal and about Catholocism
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Eating Portuguese food
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Exploring castles

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So there you have it… These are some things that make for a great missions trip.

Thank you TCBC Team Portugal 2013 for your sacrifice and investment in the work of Jesus Christ. You have blessed us and encouraged more than words can say.