October Prayer Letter

 Every Wednesday, I have a Bible study with three teenagers. Two of them, Tatiana and Carlos, made professions of faith at camp this summer. The third, Patrícia, did not. This week, after our Bible study, I asked Patrícia, “We have talked a lot about the importance of salvation in Jesus. What do you think about this? What is holding you back from asking Jesus to save you from your sin?” To my surprise she replied, “I was waiting until camp next year to make that decision.” Needless to say, I reassured her that she didn’t have to wait for next year. She could be saved today! So, that is exactly what happened. Praise God Patrícia repented of her sin and trusted Jesus to save her.

Remember the outdoor kids’ Bible club we did all summer? At least seven of the kids that came to that now attend church regularly. Each week, Sarah is teaching a classroom full of kids while I preach to the adults.

In our last prayer letter, we asked you to pray for José Balegas, a man in our church who was going to teach a music class as an outreach to the community. Last Saturday we had our first class. Eleven people came, five of whom had never had any contact with the church before. This is a big deal here, and it is what we were hoping and praying would happen.

It was also exciting for us in several other ways. One, it was encouraging to see people in the church taking the lead in reaching out. Then, the next day, one of the women from the music class came to church for the first time and brought her husband along. This couple lives in the neighborhood where we did the summer Bible club. Over the past two years, people from our church have taught their daughters in Bible club, taken one of the girls to camp, brought them food, given them clothes, taught them music classes, and prayed for them. When I saw them at the service on Sunday, wearing clothes that someone in the church had given them and getting help looking up verses in a Bible, I thought, “How beautiful when believers work together as the body of Christ.”

 As we praise God for the work He is doing among the hearing people in our town, we have one big prayer request we would like to leave with you. On Sunday, November 4th, we will have our first deaf church service in Portuguese Sign Language. Honestly, we are nervous. As hearing people, the Deaf view us as outsiders. Portuguese Sign Language is our 4th best language, so we still struggle to communicate sometimes. Yet, we have spent 3 years studying the language, building relationships with the Deaf, and answering their questions about the Bible. If we wait until we and they are 100% ready to have a church service, it will never happen. In ourselves, we are not capable of doing this, but we believe that this is what God would have us do now. We have no idea who will show up or how it will go. Please pray that we will clearly communicate the message that God wants to whomever God brings that Sunday. We have seen God work in tremendous ways during the past month.

Praising God with you!

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Fear and Pride

Recently Sarah wrote this article as a guest writer for another missionary’s website. These are Sarah’s reflections about the challenges she faced when we first came to Portugal in 2008 and what God taught her through it all.

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Once upon a time, I was a capable American adult. I knew two languages, taught in a public school, did my own banking and grocery shopping, drove my car, and served in my church. I was competent.

And then I moved to Portugal.

I stepped off the plane, and all I heard was, “Mush, mush, mush.” I couldn’t drive the car, didn’t know how to read the signs, wasn’t sure what I was buying in the store, and had to give strangers kisses on both cheeks. Church was a two-hour struggle to stay awake through messages I didn’t understand. I was lost and nervous. I wanted to hide in a corner like the verbal and social toddler that I was.

After stick shift lessons and some Portuguese 101, I tried bumbling my way through errands. My husband severely sunburned his feet. When I went to the pharmacy, I accidentally asked for medicine for “my wife’s cheesy feet.” (Queijado instead of queimado. Come on! They’re pretty close.) At the ATM, I needed to make a withdrawal. Do you know how many follow-up questions the ATM asks about your withdrawal, all in formal language instead of the simple present tense? Do you know that if you mess up three times in a row, the ATM thinks you are nuts and won’t give your card back? Do you know that if you say “inferno” instead of “inverno”, you can tell a sweet lady at church that her soup recipe would be perfect in hell instead of perfect in winter?

Thanks to my debacles, I learned how to say “sorry” and many other words. I took the advice to laugh at myself, and that usually helped, but there were days I got tired of being the idiot that everyone was laughing at. It was embarrassing and tiresome. I just wanted to stay home and be left alone. I knew people were unsaved, but the fear of trying to speak this new language often kept me in the house instead of out chatting with them or calling them on the phone. God used His Word to remind me that “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (II Tim. 1:7). Yes, it was scary, but, with His help, I would learn this language and reach people for Him.

As I worked to overcome my fear, I recognized another opponent festering inside of me. It showed up in situations like this one: My husband and I ate supper in the home of an unsaved couple. They understood my husband’s role in the church, but then the man looked down at me and snorted, “Why don’t you get a job?” Boom. Right there. I wanted to burn holes in him with my eyes and scream, “I moved all the way to this country. I’m learning new languages, adapting to your culture, and taking ridicule from you people every day. The whole point of this is to help save your soul. Don’t you get it? YOU ARE MY JOB!!!!!!!!!!”

Why the anger? Why did I want to shake people and demand some respect? Shamefully, it was pride. The Bible hit me right where it hurt when I read Philippians 2:5-8: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” I left America to be unappreciated and embarrassed as I share the Gospel. Big deal! Jesus left heaven to be mocked and crucified while opening the way of salvation. He embodied humility. I should tear out the roots of my foolish pride and follow His example.

What about you? Whether living abroad or on the street where you grew up, what keeps you from reaching those around you? Are you too afraid to pick up your phone or talk to your neighbor about Christ? Is pride keeping you from serving people who don’t appreciate you? Fear and pride are on opposite ends of the spectrum, but they can both paralyze the believer. Lord, please help us be courageous enough and humble enough for You to use us.