Two summers ago, an eight-year-old boy named João began coming to our outdoor Bible club. He had a speech impediment, learning disabilities, and poor behavior. Most of the time, he would distract the other kids during the lesson or stare off into space with a glazed look. When he discovered that we had church on Sunday, he asked if he could come. At first, I put him off and said that we would have to get permission from his parents. I am ashamed to admit it, but at the time, I felt that we had enough badly behaved kids coming to church. I was hesitant to add one more to the mix. But João kept on asking, and finally I relented. Just as I had expected, he created problems from the moment he arrived. He spoke during the service, was rough with the other kids, and was often disrespectful. He got on my nerves, and several people in the church complained about his behavior. But he kept coming. Every Sunday he was waiting for me to pick him up in front of his rundown apartment building.
Fast forward two years: since we have been home on furlough, João is the big news we keep hearing about every time we talk to someone from the church. His behavior has dramatically improved. He is remembering the Bible stories he learns in children’s church. He’s started bringing his little brother to church as well. He begged some of the people in the church to pick him up to come to Wednesday night Bible study. They explained that it really wasn’t for kids, because it was a small group of adults doing a short Bible study and praying, but he kept insisting. Now he comes on Wednesday nights as well. What is truly sweet to see is how the people in the church are taking João under their wings and helping him. Genilson and Meire had him and many other kids in the church over to their home for dinner. Mario Duarte sits by João on Wednesday nights, helping him find passages in the Bible and letting him read out loud. There is a feeling of joy and wonder in the changes in João’s life.
This furlough is flying by with less than six weeks before we return to Portugal. While furlough is not exactly a vacation, we have experienced many wonderful moments that leave us strengthened for our return to the field. Last month, we got to visit Sarah’s family and introduce them to Samuel. We have shared sweet moments with friends. Churches and individuals have generously opened their homes to us, asked about the work in Portugal, told us they pray for us, and given our kids and us goodie bags. We are overwhelmed by your love and encouragement. We have enjoyed our time in the good ol’ USA, but our hearts and minds are looking to Portugal. Laura keeps asking if she will ever see her room again, so she, too, is ready to head back “home” to Portugal.
We are praying for God’s guidance us as we prepare to begin our second term in Portugal. These are four big goals we have as we return.
- Strengthen the church plants (both the hearing and Deaf church) and help them grow towards maturity and autonomy.
- Begin new works. As the hearing church strengthens, we hope to eventually begin new Bible studies and works in other areas without churches. With the Deaf, our goal is to begin having weekly services and see more Deaf saved and baptized.
- Train more leaders. During our first term, our big priority was to meet new people, but now we hope to spend more of our time this term training leaders.
- Lead more people to the Jesus. God is control of this, but each time we are able to lead someone to the Lord, it makes us hungry for more. It took us until almost our third year to finally be able to lead someone with whom we were directly working to the Lord. But since then, we have seen almost a dozen people profess faith in Christ. We hope this number will grow greatly in the years to come. Thank you for your part in helping us reach people like João with the gospel.
In Christ, David and Sarah