An elderly man approached me after church with a small photo album in hand. At first I thought he was going to show me pictures of his grandchildren, but when he opened it up, I saw our prayer card along with many other missionary cards filling the pages. “This is what I use to pray for the missionaries every day,” he said. What a powerful encouragement this was!
We began our furlough at the beginning of March, and since then we have had many similar encounters that have amazed and strengthened us. We go to churches where we have not been for years, and we are received as family. We meet people who barely know us, and they show us amazing kindness. Over and over again, we see the beauty of Christian love.
Perhaps you may be wondering, “What is ‘furlough’ and what is its purpose?” For us, this time in America is an opportunity to:
- Share what God is doing in Portugal. Over the years, churches and individuals have prayed for us and given generously to the ministry. Now it’s our time to see them face to face, rejoice in the progress, and share about the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. We want our partnership to grow stronger.
- Encourage our supporting churches and friends. As missionaries, we are given so much, but we want to give back as well. We want to encourage, and strengthen every church and individual we visit. We also pray that God would use us to call others to be missionaries.
- Grow and be edified. Our goal is to return to Portugal with stronger faith and a greater vision for what God would have us do. Whether it’s attending a counseling workshop, swapping ideas with other missionaries, or listening to wise and encouraging words from an experienced pastor, these are all moments that help us become better missionaries as well as followers of Christ.
- Spend time with friends and family. Of course, seeing family and friends is an important part of furlough. For our kids especially, this has been a wonderful chance to connect with cousins, aunts and uncles, and spend lots of time with grandparents. These are moments that we cherish.
- Rest and recharge. To be honest, when we arrived in America, we were pretty drained. God is blessing the ministry in Portugal, but we have also felt overwhelmed at times. Furlough is a chance for us to withdraw for a while, rest, and gain perspective. We hope that by the time we return to the field at the end of August, we will be recharged and ready to go.
Meanwhile, back in Portugal, the ministry continues on full-steam ahead. Pastor Eder is doing a terrific job leading the church in our absence. Instead of treading water, the church is growing and reaching out. More people are using their gifts and serving the Lord. For example, four of the teens in our church served as counselors at a children’s camp over spring break. One of these teens shared her testimony and there was a great response from the kids. Stories like this are encouraging because they show the multiplying effect the gospel has.
Our co-workers, Amanda, Cal and Joyce, are continuing the work with the deaf. This past month of Easter has seen new opportunities to answer deaf people’s questions about why Jesus died on the cross and what His resurrection means for us all.
It has been wonderful seeing some of you recently, and we look forward to visiting with many more of you face-to-face. Thank you for your prayer and love!
In Christ, David and Sarah