October Prayer Letter

Imagine you in Portugal with us. It’s a sunny, fall afternoon, and we are enjoying a pastry at a café overlooking our town square. We sip our Portuguese coffee, (sorry, no pumpkin spice latte here), and you ask us, “How is God working? How can I pray for you and the work of the gospel here?” This is how we would answer…

Overlooking our  town square.
Overlooking our town square.

We are encouraged to see many new people coming to church. Almost every Sunday, we have visitors attend. Often at least a third of the congregation is unsaved. This is exciting to see, and it is exactly what we hope and pray for – people to whom we can preach the gospel. At the same time, we see how Jesus’ parable of the sower and seed is so true. Many people come for a little while, display some spiritual interest, but soon disappear despite our best efforts to encourage them. While it is disappointing when this happens, we take heart knowing that as we sow, there will be some seed that results in spiritual life and fruit. Pray for fruit that remains. Pray for the salvation of our visitors Vania, Telma, Ana, Rita, Adelina, João, and Maria. Pray for those who have made professions of faith –  like Horacio, Mário, Diogo, and Patricia –  but who are struggling to grow in their new faith. Every single person that God places in our life and ministry is precious. We want to do all that we can while trusting God with the results.

We are excited about new ministry opportunities. This school year, I started teaching a class called “Religion and Morality” in one of the high schools in our town. You may remember that Sarah did this several years ago as well. So far, my experience this year is positive. Every Wednesday I have a class of nine students from very diverse backgrounds. We do Bible studies, talk about life, memorize verses, study church history, and play games. One of the reasons I decided to teach this class was because we were spending more and more time with “church” people and activities and less time in the community. We hope that this helps us meet new people and expand our influence in our town. This leads us to ask you to pray that we don’t get into a rut, but that we would have vision and energy to see beyond the daily “to-do list”. Pray for us to be faithful and patient. Pray for us to have love for the people with whom we are working and joy in the calling God has placed on our lives.

For a while, we have felt that we are not making much progress with the Deaf. Our regular group of 8-10 people comes to church faithfully, and while they all seem to understand the gospel and the Bible more clearly, none of them have made a public profession of faith. Despite this, we have seen some reasons for encouragement. Last month, we made a video announcement inviting people to church and put it up on our Facebook page. Over 1,000 people viewed the video, and one man named Rui came to church for the first time as a result. Clearly, more Deaf in Portugal are beginning to know that there is a place where they can learn about God in their language.

Thank you for taking a “coffee break” to read about the challenges we are facing and the good things God is doing here. Don’t stop praying for us and for Portugal. We need you!

Trying new things

When we first moved to Portugal five years ago, building relationships was one of our big goals. We didn’t know anybody in our town, so we set out to meet as many people as possible. We did volunteer work, I played basketball with a group of men, we made Christmas cookies for our neighbors, and we spent many hours at cookouts, cafés, and birthday parties. Fast forward to the present where we now know hundreds of people in our town… You know that feeling when you go to Wal-Mart (or wherever you shop) and you always see at least a couple of people you know? That is us now.

While we still want to keep meeting people, we are noticing a big change in how we spend our time. Instead of spending most of our time out in the community working to meet people, we are busy taking care of all the people attending and visiting the church plant. This is a natural progression in our work, but we don’t want to get so focused on “maintenance” that we forget to keep reaching out. Thankfully, we are at the point now where people always come to church on Sunday, and we have people work to keep us “busy” throughout the week. However, I don’t want to go from week to week in maintenance mode and forget to look up and see the big picture of what we are doing.

Because of this, I have started teaching a religion and morality class in one of the high schools in our town. Sarah taught a class like this three years ago. The goal is to meet new young people and to be more involved in our community. Pray for this to happen. Yesterday I had my first class, and seven students showed up. It may not seem like a lot, but I was thrilled, and I think more will come  as they hear about the class.

September was full of youth outreach. Here are some pictures:

Kids’ back-to-school activity
Youth singing in church
“Don’t let the tower fall!”
Laura’s first day of school
A recent Sunday