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Leap of faith

Have you ever faced a pivotal day in your life, one that could potentially launch you forward or slide you painfully backward? Tomorrow is that day for us.

One of our big goals here in Portugal is to start a Deaf church. For three years, we have studied Portuguese Sign Language (LGP). We have met privately with deaf people, hosted a deaf team and offered Bible studies in LGP. For one reason or another, the Deaf have hesitated to meet with us or to accept the truth of God’s Word. Up until now, we know of only two saved deaf people in Portugal. The lack of progress and interest is discouraging, but we believe God is doing and will do a work in the hearts of the deaf in Portugal. After much prayer and discussion, we think God wants us to start hosting monthly Deaf church services.  Tomorrow is Service Numero Um.

What will make it a “Deaf” service?

1. Instead of interpreting a spoken message or music, all of our preaching and singing will be done only in Portuguese Sign Language, without using our voices.

2. We will include a brief drama in sign language.

3. The service will be very visual, including many pictures and explanations of religious terms that no one has taught the Deaf here before.

4. The pace of the service will depend on how much the deaf are taking it in, and we may include a group review activity at the end.

How can you pray for us?

1. The Deaf in Portugal (as in most countries) have their own language – Portuguese Sign Language – and their own culture. Their deafness is not just a physical condition; it is who they are, and it is deeply tied to their identity. As hearing people, Sarah and I have worked hard to learn Portuguese Sign Language and integrate into the deaf community here. But since we are hearing, we will never truly be “insiders.” We remind ourselves that God used a donkey to communicate His message once, so He can use us too. Please pray that we (David, Sarah, and another hearing couple, Cal and Joyce) will be the instruments of His message tomorrow.

2. We have had 6 Deaf people say that they will come tomorrow. Please pray that they won’t back out, and that God will bring exactly which Deaf people He wants.

3. Most of all, please pray for open hearts.

Thank you for remembering us. The service starts at 11:00 AM tomorrow (6:00 AM Eastern time).

October Prayer Letter

 Every Wednesday, I have a Bible study with three teenagers. Two of them, Tatiana and Carlos, made professions of faith at camp this summer. The third, Patrícia, did not. This week, after our Bible study, I asked Patrícia, “We have talked a lot about the importance of salvation in Jesus. What do you think about this? What is holding you back from asking Jesus to save you from your sin?” To my surprise she replied, “I was waiting until camp next year to make that decision.” Needless to say, I reassured her that she didn’t have to wait for next year. She could be saved today! So, that is exactly what happened. Praise God Patrícia repented of her sin and trusted Jesus to save her.

Remember the outdoor kids’ Bible club we did all summer? At least seven of the kids that came to that now attend church regularly. Each week, Sarah is teaching a classroom full of kids while I preach to the adults.

In our last prayer letter, we asked you to pray for José Balegas, a man in our church who was going to teach a music class as an outreach to the community. Last Saturday we had our first class. Eleven people came, five of whom had never had any contact with the church before. This is a big deal here, and it is what we were hoping and praying would happen.

It was also exciting for us in several other ways. One, it was encouraging to see people in the church taking the lead in reaching out. Then, the next day, one of the women from the music class came to church for the first time and brought her husband along. This couple lives in the neighborhood where we did the summer Bible club. Over the past two years, people from our church have taught their daughters in Bible club, taken one of the girls to camp, brought them food, given them clothes, taught them music classes, and prayed for them. When I saw them at the service on Sunday, wearing clothes that someone in the church had given them and getting help looking up verses in a Bible, I thought, “How beautiful when believers work together as the body of Christ.”

 As we praise God for the work He is doing among the hearing people in our town, we have one big prayer request we would like to leave with you. On Sunday, November 4th, we will have our first deaf church service in Portuguese Sign Language. Honestly, we are nervous. As hearing people, the Deaf view us as outsiders. Portuguese Sign Language is our 4th best language, so we still struggle to communicate sometimes. Yet, we have spent 3 years studying the language, building relationships with the Deaf, and answering their questions about the Bible. If we wait until we and they are 100% ready to have a church service, it will never happen. In ourselves, we are not capable of doing this, but we believe that this is what God would have us do now. We have no idea who will show up or how it will go. Please pray that we will clearly communicate the message that God wants to whomever God brings that Sunday. We have seen God work in tremendous ways during the past month.

Praising God with you!

Fear and Pride

Recently Sarah wrote this article as a guest writer for another missionary’s website. These are Sarah’s reflections about the challenges she faced when we first came to Portugal in 2008 and what God taught her through it all.

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Once upon a time, I was a capable American adult. I knew two languages, taught in a public school, did my own banking and grocery shopping, drove my car, and served in my church. I was competent.

And then I moved to Portugal.

I stepped off the plane, and all I heard was, “Mush, mush, mush.” I couldn’t drive the car, didn’t know how to read the signs, wasn’t sure what I was buying in the store, and had to give strangers kisses on both cheeks. Church was a two-hour struggle to stay awake through messages I didn’t understand. I was lost and nervous. I wanted to hide in a corner like the verbal and social toddler that I was.

After stick shift lessons and some Portuguese 101, I tried bumbling my way through errands. My husband severely sunburned his feet. When I went to the pharmacy, I accidentally asked for medicine for “my wife’s cheesy feet.” (Queijado instead of queimado. Come on! They’re pretty close.) At the ATM, I needed to make a withdrawal. Do you know how many follow-up questions the ATM asks about your withdrawal, all in formal language instead of the simple present tense? Do you know that if you mess up three times in a row, the ATM thinks you are nuts and won’t give your card back? Do you know that if you say “inferno” instead of “inverno”, you can tell a sweet lady at church that her soup recipe would be perfect in hell instead of perfect in winter?

Thanks to my debacles, I learned how to say “sorry” and many other words. I took the advice to laugh at myself, and that usually helped, but there were days I got tired of being the idiot that everyone was laughing at. It was embarrassing and tiresome. I just wanted to stay home and be left alone. I knew people were unsaved, but the fear of trying to speak this new language often kept me in the house instead of out chatting with them or calling them on the phone. God used His Word to remind me that “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (II Tim. 1:7). Yes, it was scary, but, with His help, I would learn this language and reach people for Him.

As I worked to overcome my fear, I recognized another opponent festering inside of me. It showed up in situations like this one: My husband and I ate supper in the home of an unsaved couple. They understood my husband’s role in the church, but then the man looked down at me and snorted, “Why don’t you get a job?” Boom. Right there. I wanted to burn holes in him with my eyes and scream, “I moved all the way to this country. I’m learning new languages, adapting to your culture, and taking ridicule from you people every day. The whole point of this is to help save your soul. Don’t you get it? YOU ARE MY JOB!!!!!!!!!!”

Why the anger? Why did I want to shake people and demand some respect? Shamefully, it was pride. The Bible hit me right where it hurt when I read Philippians 2:5-8: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” I left America to be unappreciated and embarrassed as I share the Gospel. Big deal! Jesus left heaven to be mocked and crucified while opening the way of salvation. He embodied humility. I should tear out the roots of my foolish pride and follow His example.

What about you? Whether living abroad or on the street where you grew up, what keeps you from reaching those around you? Are you too afraid to pick up your phone or talk to your neighbor about Christ? Is pride keeping you from serving people who don’t appreciate you? Fear and pride are on opposite ends of the spectrum, but they can both paralyze the believer. Lord, please help us be courageous enough and humble enough for You to use us.

Prayer Needed

I know of no other time in our ministry here in Portugal that we have needed your prayers more.

This afternoon, I received a phone call from a leader in our church named Genilson. With an unsteady voice, he said, “I think something terrible has happened… I just heard that Marcelino and Lurdes were killed.” I immediately left the house, went and picked up Genilson, and drove to the home. There was a crowd of people gathered, and the police had cordoned off much of the street. We soon discovered that Marcelino and Lurdes’ own son had murdered them on Sunday (yesterday) and then committed suicide.

I wish you could have met this dear couple. Three years ago, a Christian doctor in our town shared the gospel with them and they were soon saved. Their lives changed dramatically, and they were some of the kindest and sweetest people I have ever met. They were always the first to arrive at church and Wednesday Bible study. They were always eager to help. Just this past week, Marcelino spent his morning at church helping me with some odd jobs.

The last time I saw them both was this past Thursday. They asked if I would come to their home to visit their adult son who lived with them. We had often prayed for him at church, and knew that he was creating lot of problems. He also gave strong indications of being demon possessed. Before speaking with their son, we gathered together in their tiny living room and prayed. Then, Lurdes went to see if the son would come out and talk with me. He appeared from his room, but was unwilling to talk with me for more than just a couple of minutes.

Later that same morning, Marcelino and Lurdes were showing me around their little house that was falling apart. Marcelino kidded with me saying, “Well, if I were to win the lottery, I would fix this place up.” I replied, “You have done better than that. You have an inheritance waiting for you from your heavenly Father. Heaven will make any house or lottery winnings here on earth seem like nothing.” Little did I know how soon that would be a reality for him and his wife.

It’s been a long day. We have cried, prayed, and hugged our brothers and sisters here. Now we need your prayer. While this is a stunning loss for us, we cling tightly to the promise that “all things work together for good to them that love God.” Satan may believe that He has dealt a blow to the cause of Christ in this town, but we choose to believe that God can use this for his glory.

While I have tears in my eyes as I write, my heart is filled with gratitude for each of you who read our letters, pray for us, and care about people here in Portugal. Here are some ways you can pray for us this week:

1. Pray that Marcelino and Lurdes’ family which is all unsaved. Pray that they would allow us to have the funeral at our church. Pray that their death would result in spiritual life for many.

2. Pray for our little congregation. Ask God to use this to bring us closer to each other.

3. Pray for the kids from our church that are going to camp tomorrow. Pray that Tatiana, Carlos, Patrícia, and Felizmina would be saved.

4. Pray that God would protect us from Satan’s attacks. Pray that we would be strengthened with the power of God. 

May Prayer Letter

Spring fever is here.  Everyone is wrapping up school year activities and preparing for the summer. The same is true for us.

At the church we attend Sunday mornings, we wrapped up a 2-month sign language course. Sarah’s deaf tutor, Patricia, was the teacher. Sarah has explained the gospel to her, and Patricia has rejected it, but the church members that took the course were an excellent testimony to her. Patricia was impressed with their eagerness to learn. Thanks to the class, a dozen church members are able to have basic communication in sign language, and the church has gained a better reputation with the Portuguese deaf community.

I have one more month of Portuguese Sign Language classes. Recently, my deaf teacher, Carlos, has met with me several times after class to ask spiritual questions and share about his life. Although he attends church or Bible study only once in a while, Carlos calls me his pastor and is opening up to me more. Please pray for Carlos to have the faith to accept Christ as Savior and live for Him.

Sarah has three more weeks of teaching Religion and Morality classes in the public schools. Since the classes are optional, the students only attend when they feel like it. Sarah never knows how many students or which students will be there. Each week, she goes prepared with several lessons and uses the one that seems most appropriate for who shows up. She has been able to share the gospel with a handful of unsaved students and has encouraged the Christian students to grow. In these next few weeks, students will sign up for the classes they will take next year. Please pray that God will touch the hearts of the students He wants to be in the class next fall.

Meanwhile, we are eagerly preparing for summer. So far, we have scheduled Bible camp, a soccer outreach, mission teams, and a children’s Bible club. Summer is often the most productive time in terms of contacts and one-on-one time with people. We are asking for God’s wisdom as we look forward to these ministries.

The church in Montijo has seen new families visit since we opened the doors last month. We also started Wednesday night Bible study/prayer time. A couple of kids that attended last year’s summer Bible club have been allowed to come to church as well. We are working to strengthen the core group and are thankful for each new person that is coming. We are especially excited about a new person who should start attending in November. That’s right. We are expecting another baby! He or she is due right around Thanksgiving.

Thank you for praying for us and for the people of Portugal!

First Service!

Having the opening service at your new church building is like preparing for a wedding. There are hundreds of details to take care of, but some things can only be done the day before. Such was the case for our building here in Montijo. For weeks, we had made invitations, planned the order of service, made decorations, and bought small items for the church. The contractors promised to have the walls, ceiling, and windows finished on Friday. That meant we had ONE DAY to get in the building and do everything else before our Sunday service.

At 9:30 Saturday morning, the people from our Bible study showed up ready to work, and work they did! Marcelino pulled weeds out of the sidewalk cracks in front of the church. Fernando hung toilet paper dispensers and mirrors in the bathrooms. Eduarda mopped floors until she had callouses on her hands. Others cleaned windows, peeled plastic wrap off of new chairs, mounted the cross on the wall, hung wallpaper, decorated the children’s classroom, assembled new tables, and folded bulletins. By that evening, the plain, white building looked like a shiny, new church!

Click here to watch highlights from our first service

On Sunday afternoon, people started pouring in. We had invited other churches from the Lisbon area as well as people from Montijo. We had borrowed extra chairs from another church, and, after all the chairs were full, people still kept coming! In all, 130 people attended the service! It was a sweet time of hearing testimonies of how God began the work in our town, watching a video of churches across America and Portugal praying for the work in Montijo, singing songs about God’s greatness, and hearing a message from God’s Word.

At the opening service, we had 7 new people from Montijo. We are excited about what God has done and are looking forward to next week. We are having an evangelistic service and hope that more new people from the community will come and understand what Jesus has done for them and how they can have a relationship with Him.

As we reflect on the wonderful weekend here in Montijo, we ask you to do two things:                1. Pray! Ask God to protect and strengthen this fledgling work.                                            2. Praise God! He is doing great things.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for helping make this day possible. Whether you prayed, sent money, visited us, or wrote us an encouraging note, you all had a part in starting Montijo’s Baptist Church.

Rejoicing with you,                                                                                                                David and Sarah

Click here to watch our special prayer video that we showed at our first service

In our last prayer letter, we asked for some of our churches to send us a video of them praying for us. Watching this brings tears to our eyes because it makes us realize how vast God’s work is. Your prayer matters! For our inaugural service, we captioned this into Portuguese so that everybody could understand the prayers. It was a deeply moving moment because the people began to see how many people care about what is going on here. To all of you who had a part in this, thank you!

What is missionary work?

Maybe you are wondering, “So what do you do all day long there on the mission field?” That is a great question, and I sometimes wonder that myself. A good portion of the week is filled with things that probably don’t make very interesting reading – things like replying to e-mail, waiting in line for a document we need for some reason, preparing messages, or cleaning the house in preparation for a Bible study. That being said, here is our highlight reel for the past several days. Our most exciting moments were…

1. On Monday afternoon, Sarah spent a couple of hours at our neighborhood café talking with our elderly deaf neighbors, Carlos and Maria. In the process, she was able to meet another deaf lady for the first time. 

2. Monday evening, I met with Fernando, a man who is a part of our church-plant, to discuss ideas for how to fix up our building. Since I know next to nothing about building and construction, I am deeply grateful for the wisdom and counsel of this friend and brother.

3. On Tuesday, Sarah had lunch with a friend with whom she has been doing Bible studies. 

4. Every Tuesday and Thursday evening, I have Portuguese Sign Language classes from  6 -8. After class on Tuesdays, I meet with a friend of mine, Luis, to study the Bible and talk about life. Most of the times, we finish our time together around 11 pm. 

5. On Wednesday, I met with a missionary colleague, Beau Moore, and we spent the morning doing evangelism in Montijo. We approach people and ask them if they would be willing to participate in a “spiritual life survey” that takes about 5 minutes to complete. It is a good tool to begin a spiritual conversation with a stranger on the street. This time, we had good conversations with a young man, an old man, and a group of four teenage girls. The old man and the teenage girls both heard a clear presentation of the gospel. Pray that they would be saved. 

On Wednesday afternoon, I met with the builder responsible for fixing up our building. It was exciting to imagine what our church building will look like in just a few short weeks. 

Thursday night at 9:30, Sarah left the house to go to a poetry reading/choir concert. Yes, it started at 9:30, and for that reason, I stayed home with Laura. One of the men in our church plant is the director of the town choir, so we wanted to support him by having at least one of us there. Besides that, we want to take advantage of opportunities like this to be more involved with our community and meet more people. 

So, there you have it. Missionary work is talking with people at cafés, going to classes, eating lunch with unsaved friends, doing street evangelism, attending choir concerts, having Bible studies, and doing many other things just like these. On one hand, I love being a missionary because every day is different. We can set our own schedule, and the work is rarely tedious or repetitious. On the other hand, it is sometimes hard to keep a consistent schedule and separate your “work life” from your “home life”. All in all, I wouldn’t trade what I am doing for anything. I thank God for the work He has given us to do.

March Prayer Letter

Hang on, folks! God has been working, and we have a lot to share with you. The biggest news of all? We signed on a church building! God provided the ground floor of an apartment building, with ample space for our current activities, at a reasonable price. The people in our Bible study have been asking how soon they can help paint, clean, replace bathroom fixtures, and install ceiling tiles. One of our members already built a beautiful wooden cross to go behind the pulpit. Excitement is mounting as we hope to have the building ready for a dedication service in April. Below, we have included some ways you can get involved with this exciting time.

In our last update, Sarah had just been admitted to the hospital. She was there for nine days fighting an infection and abscess in her kidney. Thank you for praying! After a month of treatment, Sarah just got the “all clear” from her doctor. We are thankful for the three Maria’s that God let her witness to during her hospitalization, and we are very thankful that she is home and back to full health.

Sarah is also happy to be back in the classroom as a teacher. This month, she started teaching Religion and Morality classes in a public high school in our town, and she will soon teach in the middle school as well.

After months of investing in people, you never know when you will get your chance to explain the gospel. As I tutored my students in English, one of them asked what the big deal was about Easter if it were only about a bunny. I told her that it was my favorite holiday because it was about FAR more than a rabbit, then was able to tell the whole group of students how Jesus died for their sins.

As you can see, God is doing His work in Montijo, Portugal. We are thrilled! Please pray for our group of believers to have unity, and strength as we proceed with each step.

Please pray for us as well. Each week is full of people work (meetings, Bible studies, visits, having families over for meals) and paper work (sermon preparation, practicing sign language, coordinating building renovations, correspondence). Most important is our own time in God’s Word and being the Christians, spouses, and parents we should be. As our calendars start to bulge, please pray for us to have wisdom and discretion as we manage the tasks that we are privileged to do.

 How can you help with our new building? Sometimes we wish we could get all of our supporting friends together with all of the people you pray for here in Portugal. How amazing would that be? While we may not be able to fly all of you here, we do have an idea, and we invite you to participate. In our first service we would like to show a video of some of our supporters in America praying for the work here in Portugal. If we could have 8-10 of our churches participate in this project that would be great. How would this work? It’s simple:

1. In one of your upcoming services or prayer meetings, pray for our work here in Montijo. While you are praying, have somebody record 30-45 seconds of your prayer. Then, send us the video file, and we will take care of the rest. Please e-mail me if you want instructions on how to do this.
2. I will make a video collage combining all of the prayers of all the churches that participate, and we will show it in our first service. It will be an incredible encouragement to the people here for them to see so many of you taking time to pray for us.
3. The week after our first service, I will upload a video containing highlights of our first Sunday. That way you can experience a little bit of this exciting moment for yourself.

Another way you can participate is by making a special gift to help as we renovate the building and buy some materials such as tables, chairs, a piano, etc. Know that there is a church being born in this town because of your prayer and support. Thank you!

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Little steps

During the past several months, Sarah has shared different Bible stories with her deaf sign language tutor, Patrícia. While she has listened respectfully to each account, she has never expressed any further spiritual interest. Yesterday, Sarah felt that it was the time to pull out all the stops and simply confront her with the gospel. And so, that’s exactly what she did. Carefully making connections with the other stories she had shared before (Creation, the Fall, the flood, Abraham, etc.), she presented Jesus Christ as the promised Savior who gave His life to save all who would believe. This was not a glossed over presentation of the gospel. It was careful, thoughtful, and loving. Finally, Sarah asked Patrícia what she thought about all of this. Her response was rather nonchalant, and it basically boiled down to, “I don’t really care.” While we understand people usually don’t accept the gospel the first time they hear it, we did hope for a better response than that. Even so, we will continue to love her, pray for her, and share the gospel with her. God can open blind eyes and penetrate hard hearts.

In the afternoon, I went to the community center where I tutor kids in English. As we were talking about the recent holiday of Carnaval, one of the girls announced, “I don’t like Carnaval at all, and I also don’t like Easter.” While I agree with her completely on the first count, I wondered about her strong opinion of Easter. I asked her, “Why don’t you like Easter?” “Well, I just don’t see the point. It’s just eggs and stuff,” she replied. I couldn’t hold back my enthusiasm as I said, “Easter this best day of the year because it’s when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” I continued briefly sharing the gospel story with her. She listened and the said, “I kind of knew that, but I just didn’t know how it had anything to do with Easter and eggs and everything.” Pray that this girl will soon have a heart understanding of what Jesus’ resurrection means.

We appreciate your prayers for our building search process. We have cleared several hurdles, and now all we need to do is sign the papers and begin to get the building ready for opening day. God willing, our first Sunday service will be April 7th. This is a huge step. We are thankful that God is opening this door, and we are prayerful that this building will be a powerful tool in our effort to reach Montijo with the gospel.

As I am typing this, Sarah is teaching her first lesson in “Religion and Morality” class at one of the high schools here in town. Pray that God that this ministry would be fruitful, and that Sarah would be able to connect with many students there.

Wherever you are reading this at, know that we are deeply grateful for your interest in what God is doing here in our corner of the world.