October Prayer Letter

News from America: Six weeks ago, we started our first furlough. With visits to Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Iowa, we’ve adjusted back for these six months as English-speaking, minivan owning Americans. It has been great seeing family and nine supporting churches so far. It’s also fun to introduce our kids to ordinary parts of American life. For example, Laura (who turned 3 this week), chirps, “There’s a starfish!” every time we pass a Hardee’s sign with the star on it. She also likes “the bell” (Taco Bell) and “the restaurant with the girl” (Wendy’s). Samuel appreciates carpeted floors for crawling, and we are all enjoying time with family we haven’t seen in years.

Laura and Wendy
Laura and Wendy

While tax laws require us to return to the USA every so often, our main goals are to report to our supporters what God is doing in Portugal, encourage others to get involved in missions, and rest and recharge for our next few years on the field.

So far, we have been blessed by:

  • Wonderful families that have opened their homes to us for a meal or to stay the night.
  • People that ask terrific questions about Portugal and the ministry going on there.
  • Pastors that have spoken encouraging words and given wise counsel to us.
  • Generous gifts to our family.
  • Churches that read our updates and pray faithfully for us.
  • Safe travels through the thousands of miles of driving we have done.

God is good to us! We are grateful for this time in our lives.

Samuel enjoying a nice fall day
Samuel enjoying a nice fall day

Meanwhile, back in Portugal, the people in the church are doing a terrific job of carrying on the work in our absence. Here are some reasons to praise God:

  • Mário Duarte was baptized last November. Tonight he will lead the Bible study and teach from the Bible for the first time. This is an exciting step.
Mario Duarte
Mario Duarte
  • Do you remember reading in our last letter about Horácio taking the responsibility to visit an elderly man in the church who was a shut-in? Well, Horácio went far above the call of duty and ministered in such a sweet way. Sadly, this elderly man passed away recently. The entire family is unsaved, but at the funeral, Horácio was able to read the 23rd Psalm and say a prayer.
Horacio
Horacio
  • Nuno, who was saved just last month, is faithfully attending church. He even brought his family one Sunday.
  • Many people in the church are quietly and faithfully working for the Lord by cleaning the building, bringing cake for the fellowship time, picking up kids for church, paying the bills, visiting the shut-ins, leading the music, taking care of the nursery, and many other things that are tremendously important, but that don’t get much attention.
  • Last Sunday, three girls, that were saved during the past year, sang in church. How wonderful it is to see Patricia, Tatiana, and Andrea singing praises to God. Click here to see a video of this sweet moment.

Please pray that God would continue to protect and strengthen the work in Montijo, Portugal.

What about the Deaf ministry? We have some exciting news to share! God has sent another missionary to Portugal to work with the deaf! Today (October 22nd), Amanda Bloom landed in Portugal and will soon begin her language learning. We are excited about working with Amanda, because she is hard of hearing and has such a heart for the Deaf. Since Amanda is hard of hearing, she will be able to reach out to the Deaf even more effectively. We believe we have only begun to scratch the surface of what God will do among the Deaf in Portugal. Praise God for Amanda, and pray that God would use her to reach many Deaf with the gospel.

Well, time to go pack for Chicago. We look forward to seeing many of you as our minivan comes your way. May God bless you!

Celebrating Laura's 3rd birthday
Celebrating Laura’s 3rd birthday
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1,000 cups of coffee and the importance of being a good conversationalist

How to use your time with people to point them to Christ.

Building relationships was one of our main goals when we arrived in Portugal four years ago. When we first settled in our new home in Montijo, we didn’t know anybody. We soon discovered that building relationships required intentional and purposeful work on our part. Friendships don’t just happen if you stay at home and neglect to engage people. So, we did our best to meet our neighbors, get involved in the community, and initiate conversations whenever possible.

Little by little, God began bringing people into our lives. Some of these people passed through for only a brief season. Others became some of our good friends. In the process, we quickly learned that in Portugal most conversations happen at a café over a tiny cup of robust and delicious Portuguese coffee. During our first four years, I am certain that I drank thousands of cups of coffee all while in conversation with different people.

Let me give you an idea about coffee in Portugal: There are cafés on pretty much every corner. Rarely does a day go by where I do not go to one of the four cafés near our apartment building. The coffee typically costs about 80 cents. There are also a variety of pastries available, but I hardly ever get one in order to protect my weight and my wallet.

Enjoying a cup of coffee with my favorite little girl.
Enjoying a cup of coffee with my favorite little girl.

So what have I learned after drinking thousands of cups of coffee and having countless conversations? Here are a few things:

Be polite, and focus on the person you are with. Don’t look at your phone or place it on the table. In fact, smart phones are the worst enemy of healthy conversation. Smile. Make positive eye contact. People love spending time with other people that value them.

Listen. Sometimes this is a struggle for me as there are people who can go on and on about some issue or situation that I really care about very little. However, I try to keep in mind that I may be the only one who is really taking time to listen and care about the person on the other side of the table. Listening is an act of caring and showing that you value the other person.

Find ways to compliment people. Who doesn’t appreciate a sincere and well-timed compliment?

“That’s a good thought…”

“I like how you said that…”

“You seem very talented in your work…”

“Your kids are very well behaved….”

The list goes on.

Ask good questions. Sometimes I pretend I’m Larry King asking questions from his guests. Many times, my questions are simply to follow-up on what the person is talking about. But, whenever possible, I do try to steer the conversation in a way that causes the person to think about God. For example, if I am speaking with somebody who is unsaved I may ask questions like:

“How has your faith helped you through the situation you mentioned?”

“Do you think the Bible would have anything to say about this?”

“Do you feel that you are growing more or less curious about spiritual matters?”

Often these questions provoke fascinating responses and provide an open door to begin to talk about Christ.

Don’t argue about things that don’t really matter. People ask me my opinion about American foreign policy, Portuguese politicians, gay rights, and a host of other issues that are interesting, but are not primary to me. It’s easy to get distracted or even angry when you are talking to somebody about one of these issues. You can let people know where you stand without getting into a drawn out argument.

Do speak gently and courageously about things that do matter. When it comes to matters of the Bible and God, don’t hide the truth. Speak it. There are many helpful books that speak about how to do this, but here are just a few observations I have found true:

Use the Bible as much as possible.

Don’t feel like you have to explain everything at once. Be sensitive to the person with whom you are speaking. If they don’t understand or don’t want to continue talking about the Bible, it may be best to stop and pray for another opportunity another day.

Ask lots of questions. This helps you to see what the other person is thinking and what he or she understands. It’s useless to carry on talking about a certain matter if you lost the person in the beginning of the conversation.

Don’t feel like every conversation has to be about the Bible or spiritual matters. While my desire is to see as many people saved as possible in Portugal, not every conversation must be about the Bible. There are many times I talk with people about their families, sports, weather, or other topics. People need to know that you care about all of their lives.

Do pray for God to open doors to speak of him. Even as you are conversing, pray that God would provide opportunities and open doors to speak of him.

Drink coffee. Love people. Pray. Watch God use simple conversations to begin to turn people to Him.

Back in the USA

We’re back! It’s time to catch you up on our month of travels.

September 11th we flew out of Lisbon, and, after 2 flights and 15 hours, we landed in Detroit, Michigan. It was wonderful to be greeted by David’s parents, and Laura and Samuel have certainly enjoyed their time with Nana and Papa.

After two weeks of visiting local churches, we hit the road! God provided us with a fantastic van, which we broke in with visits to churches in Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Iowa. We were so glad to see Sarah’s grandfather and four generations of her family in North Dakota. It was also the week of Sarah’s birthday, so she got to celebrate with family all week long. Samuel saw snowflakes for the first time while we were in North Dakota. (Yes, in the first week of October. Brrr!) When wind gusts reached 55 mph, Laura didn’t want to get out of the van. She said, “No. I don’t like windy!” Sarah enjoyed seeing one of her elementary school teachers and taking the kids to the park where she once played as a girl. We also visited a wild life museum with giraffes, a polar bear, and dozens of other animals that a local farmer had hunted around the world.

The last two days of our trip, we visited a church in Iowa that had sent us a mission team last summer. We enjoyed visiting with them again and updating them on their friends in Portugal. The next day, we drove from Iowa to Michigan and started a conference that night at David’s parents’ church. The church was generous and loving, and we enjoyed sharing about missions in the meetings and activities each day.

The past month has flown by with 7 churches and more than 3,000 miles. Thanks for keeping up with us as we share the work in Portugal with the USA.

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Afternoon playtime with Nana
Afternoon playtime with Nana