Opened Hearts in Lisbon
Connecting to the people through dialogue and prayer
- Craig Clayton, Maria Starchia - with edits from Adam Cole // July 6, 2009
Craig Clayton, Minister of Missions – First Baptist Church of Norfolk
One of the joys of missions work—considered to be the diverse set of avenues that leads way to imparting the message of hope in Jesus Christ—is waiting to see what seeds will germinate. Myself and 9 others from the Norfolk, Va-based church First Baptist Church of Norfolk recently spent 9 days with missionaries in Portugal’s largest city, Lisbon. In that short time, we all left confident that seeds were planted and lives changed through the time that we spent among the people there
Before arriving, we knew that we were entering a place that had little or no influence of the Gospel, the Good News that is eternal salvation through Jesus Christ. Lisbon is a region with millions of people but whose population has only 1% evangelical believers. Even with those numbers, our team was excited at the opportunity in front of us and knew God would put just the right people in our path for Him to speak through us into their hearts.
The emphasis of the week was connecting to the Portuguese people and working alongside the missionaries who have been called to bring His light there 365 days a year. Our interactions came in the form of prayer walking among the people, doing surveys directly with them, and other times of worship and Bible study. We meet with children, gang members, homeless, and other slices of life from the Lisbon population.
The interactions and intersections varied but each one was unique: • We assisted in the facilitation of a craft event in a large park called Quinta das Conchas. This was a wonderful time for us to interact with families and pray for them while the missionaries interacted with other adults/parents who brought their children to the park. • We helped to locate people of peace among the neighborhoods where we prayed. Connections such as the college student that our young women met and some of the gangs that we spoke with are valuable as our missionary host Mark seeks to follow up. • We shared the gospel with a drug dealing, gang member, Telmo, whose name was spray painted all over his neighborhood. • We spent time with a national believer named Felipe nearly every day. Felipe is young in his faith, but I believe that our time with him helped him to have a Christian worldview. I believe that someone will begin to disciple him very soon as well. • We interceded in prayer throughout the trip for the Portuguese people. Prayer accomplishes much when we are able to look the lost people of Lisbon in the face and cry out to God for them. Prayer lays the groundwork for future church planting in those areas that we visited as well. • We were able to partner with and uplift Young Life workers and students. • We encouraged the missionaries. Spending time with fellow believers and praying with one another makes a wonderful difference when families have forsaken everything to take the Good News to a lost culture. • We visited and encouraged a Christian surfers ministry in Lisbon.
There were many others who saw Jesus in us through our actions, words, and presence. Whether directly or indirectly, we shared with a great amount of people why we were in Lisbon and the difference that God has made in our lives, and we know through that process, so many of the seeds were planted.
Through intentional love for everyone we met, an open attitude to be used by God, but the All Mighty blessed our efforts in the brief time that we spent with the people of Portugal what did not bear fruit immediately, will now be harvested in His due time.
Mary Starchia, First Baptist Church of Norfolk member
The question people keep asking: How was Portugal? The answer: It was fun. It was amazing. It was eye-opening. It was tiring. It was beautiful.
There's a lot of words I can use to describe our mission trip…based on emotions of the heart, enchantment of the land there, and the way God moved while we were there.
Honestly I was a bit anxious about going on this mission trip, especially the week before, just about everything we planned to do fell through, and we were not really sure what to expect. The funny thing was the day before I found out about our cancelled plans I read Hebrews 11 (6) ["And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.]and prayed for more faith. Don't you just love when God does things like that? But the day before we left even though I was still a little anxious, I was really excited to see how God was gonna do something absolutely amazing in the midst of all the craziness—and He did.
We got to Lisbon, Portugal safely and we were basically helping missionaries with their current ministries and kinda helping them get a jump start. We spent the mornings doing survey work and prayer walking in different parts of the city to get information about the area and the churches there. It seems as though Catholicism is really big and the people's only hope is in the religion instead of the Savior.
Even though Lisbon seems to be a dark place, the light of Christ shines very brightly in the places where believers meet together and it was awesome to be a part of a few even if it was just for one night. I was encouraged by the surf church, a Wildlife group, and a Young Life group we went to. The surf church kinda helped me to see that any of the talents you are given whether it be surfing, dancing, football, singing, other sports, arts, etc. can be used for God's glory.
It was encouraging to be a part of the Wildlife (middle school) and Young Life (high school) groups too. It's awesome to see so many young people on fire for the Lord and I'm sure a lot of them will have a strong impact for Christ wherever they go. Even though many of the students were Portuguese, there were also a lot of students who came from many places and it's sweet to think that even though we come from so many places God is still the same everywhere and believers can come together as one under His great name.
I know we didn't get to see anyone come to know Christ as their Savior, but I believe a lot of seeds were planted, lives were changed for the better, and we gave the missionaries in Lisbon a head start in the work God has for them there. I feel like things are just getting started in Portugal and God is up to something great there... it was an honor and a blessing to have been a part of it. God also taught me to have more faith in what He wants to accomplish in every area of my life. It's going to be a lifelong process, but I thank Him for opening my eyes to see that I need to just trust Him to do amazing things in His perfect timing.