Apart, Yet Together
“So, how was your quarantine?” After 7 weeks of “sheltering at home”, Portugal has entered Stage 1 of resuming a new normal. Churches can reopen with restrictions starting May 31, so our church will have spent at least 12 weeks in isolation. Though the long-term effects of Coronavirus are yet to be seen, we are happy to report short-term spiritual effects have been positive here in Montijo, Portugal.
All of our church services have continued through livestream, and both hearing and deaf people in other parts of the country have been able to watch the services in Portuguese and Portuguese Sign Language. Besides our regular-attending members, we have many more watching at least part of the service each week.
Through Zoom, we have had interactive Bible studies for women and teens. The men have “prayer breakfast” online; they just bring their own breakfast to the computer. David continues teaching his seminary classes online. For deaf services, our coworkers, Amanda, Joyce and Cal, have helped make videos. Each person contributes the drama, Bible reading, or special music, which we add to the sermon to make a complete service. In the past, our attendance at deaf church was very low. But now that we are putting the church service videos online, more deaf people from various cities are seeing the services. Afterward, we do an interactive Zoom call, where we discuss what they learned, share prayer requests, and pray together. Between the video and the call, we are reaching deaf people who couldn’t or wouldn’t attend services before, and interest is picking up.
Various church members are stepping up to serve as well. Some are helping David serve at a local food bank. Others provide food, furniture, or help with bills during these months of unexpected unemployment. One member is leading an online ladies’ Bible study. Some of us have made Bible story videos for the children in our church, and we made a video thanking frontline workers for their contribution to our community. Many people from our church have shared Bible verses that God has used to help them trust Him these past two months.
We are also thankful for these days we have had at home. Most Portuguese families used to leave early for their commute to work, and only saw their families late at night. Now, we see our neighbors spending more time at home with their children. Our family has appreciated more time together as well, and our kids are THRILLED that school is at home for the rest of the year. We have loved the extra time together to work on projects, to do more reading, and to start memorizing Psalm 103 each night after supper.
Please pray that we will continue to grow. We need great wisdom for each step of society reopening, and what that looks like for our church. Pray that the positive effects over the past few months will remain, that our priorities will stay right, and that we won’t run back to the distractions that used to vie for our affections. May God guide you and each of us as we seek His will over these next few months of reentry.
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