Every month or so, we sit down and write our prayer letter, just like the one you’re reading now. As we try to communicate what has happened since the last time we wrote, we often wonder, “Is this too negative? Does it sound like we’re complaining?” Or, on the flip side, it can be easy to write something glossy and upbeat, but that ends up being artificial. It can be hard to find the right balance. So this time, we’re going to try to show you both sides. Please stick with us to the end.
First, the bad news: The past three months we were in our country’s second lockdown. What did that look like for our family and ministry? It meant feeding a newborn by night and doing Portuguese online school by day. It included hours of recording and editing videos each week for children’s Sunday School and deaf church… and wondering why so few people made the effort to watch. It was listening to people share their conflicts, needs, and anxieties over the phone. It involved buying people food, school supplies, car batteries, or whatever it took to keep them afloat one more week. It meant watching at least 20 people drift away to false doctrine or stop participating in church life altogether. It included fighting our own sinful flesh: resentment toward those we serve, grief over holidays alone, and jealousy toward others who could travel freely or whose family could visit them when they had a baby.
So, what were we going to do? Sit around and mope?
Cue the good news: God isn’t sitting in heaven waiting for Coronavirus to pass, so His work can go on. He wants us to keep looking up and getting up to serve Him, so that’s what we have been doing. Our church has a good testimony at the local food bank because of the church members who have volunteered with me there. Our kids help us make videos for deaf church and Sunday school. It is encouraging to see them participate and be excited about ministering in this way. We are also learning that the videos we make today may be seen by somebody years from now, and it may fall on good ground when we least expect it. Working with people is messy and time-consuming, and yet that is what we are called to do. God is surrounding us with brothers and sisters who are sharing this load, caring for others, and being peacemakers in ways that few people see, but that make a profound difference. We are grateful to serve King Jesus with amazing and dedicated people.
Though some have fallen away, I can think of at least 20 other people who have started attending church since COVID, and every Sunday, we have around 80 people in attendance. We continue to have to divide into two services because of space constraints, and while this is not ideal, it does mean that more people are involved in serving. Every week, I have at least 3-4 different opportunities to teach and preach the Bible. While “normal missionary life” may seem like doing the same thing over and over again, there is real change taking place, little by little, week after week. While there are always challenges, God’s grace is more than sufficient, and the Gospel is beautiful and powerful.
Thank you for sticking with us in prayer and in encouragement through the positive and the negative. While we wish we could sit down and share a delicious meal with you and talk for hours, we are thankful for moments like this where we can share a little bit of our hearts with you. Much love from us here in Portugal!