It is Sunday here in beautiful Portimao, Portugal, and Douglas and I have found a church to attend! It is the International Christian Fellowship Church, and it is about a 4-minute ride by car to services. We arrived and were greeted by some wonderful people, all speaking English, for the most part, British English. As a fanatic of British mysteries in books and on television, it was refreshing to hear the lovely sound of English being spoken so elegantly. Attending church today and knowing I have a place to go each week where I connect with English speakers who were so helpful with advice will thwart my descent into loneliness.
The two pastors of the church are an American-born male and his England-born wife. She preached the sermon, which was very well done, and I felt connected immediately. As a woman preacher, seeing another woman speak was eye-opening and delicious to watch and hear. That doesn’t happen a lot in America, especially not in the South where I live and where many people still are hesitant for women to be in the pulpit.
She really knew her Scriptures, and I so enjoyed myself. On top of that (Yes, I am somewhat excited!), the hymns sung were ones I knew from my childhood, many of which are not popular today in the churches in America that are more geared toward a younger crowd who often do not want to hear “those old songs.” To sing How Great Thou Art, Just a Closer Walk with Thee, and Rise, Shine, and Give God the Glory, was absolutely glorious, and I felt right at home. There was an English woman behind me with such a clear and beautiful soprano voice, and as she sung along, I often found myself silently listening as her sweet voice drove the words deep into my spirit. How amazingly lovely!
When it was time to shake hands afterwards, people were concerned that my hands were so cold, but I have Reynaud’s Symdrome, an auto-immune disorder that keeps my hands and feet colder than most, as I don’t get enough blood circulation in my fingers and toes. I told them that we have no heat in the apartment we are renting, and you will never guess what happened.
Pastor Joy, who preached, went to her house and got us a heater to have while we are here! Douglas has gone out to find an adapter so we can plug it up, and then, oh, hallelujah, there will be sweet heat. Portugal is experiencing unusual coldness for April, and they tell us that certainly in a few weeks, it will be warm here. We have been going to bed early, piling on every blanket we could find in this place, in attempts to stay warm. Of course, you cannot beat snuggling with your sweet love as a silver lining.
As an American, I could not believe that there are no vents for heat or air, and I have vowed that if we come here to live, we must find a more modern place for living, with heat and air possible, no matter the extra costs. My poor Arthur, as in arthritis, is playing up here big time. Douglas went to the pharmacy and found me what we believe is like Ben Gay and some aspirin for the pain in my hands and back. But, the beauty that we see every day makes it somewhat worth it.
It is actually warmer outside than in the apartment, so we have been spending a lot of time at the beach, with the sun shining down on us, as you can see in the picture above, but we are also experiencing unusual rain, so we are often stuck in the coldness. As much as I wish the rain to go away, the rain is needed. But, what amazes me is that when the rain starts, while we run for cover, other people keep sitting on the beach or playing volleyball, as though it is just as clear as before. Again, people may be trying to get their money’s worth, I think, or maybe the rain just does not bother people who are from England and are used to it.
There are many British people here, with nearly everyone at the church being from England. Nearly all of the people I spoke with at church today tell me that they come every year for anywhere from two weeks to six months, so many will be leaving in a few weeks. The male pastor was born in Chicago, and he is already encouraging us to come live here full-time, meaning that he would not be the only American at the church. Douglas and him hit it off so great that it took his wife and me to get him and Douglas separated long enough to leave for home today!
When I told Pastor Joy that I was an ordained minister, she asked me to write something up to share with the Women’s Bible Study on Wednesdays at 2:00PM, and I am delighted to be able to use my God-given talents here. So, with giving my number out to people who gave me some great advice that will help us cope here and whom I will be in fellowship with at least twice a week, loneliness has been thwarted, as I plan to participate in church programs and missions here.
Hebrews 10:23-25 states, “Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” I thank God for hearing and answering my prayer to find a way to be useful to Him here and to locate a community of believers, for this church has some wonderful ministries to the poor and for evangelism that will help Douglas and me feel right at home with God’s people.