Pastor Todd Stricklin is the pastor of Narragansett Bay Baptist Church, in Warwick, RI. He is more than just our pastor, he is a close friend. Pr. Stricklin, his family, and church love Portugal. They have invested their time, energy and resources in reaching Portugal with the Gospel of Christ. He has generously agreed to write this guest post.
I guess I, to some degree, was the great hope and prayer of local church missions programs. There was nothing unique about my situation, growing up in the independent Baptist churches of the 1970’s. The particular fellowship of Midwest churches that we attended was recognized for a singular focus on World missions. There was a regular and steady flow of missionary visits, pictures, and stories. It made a lasting impression on the heart of a young kid trying to figure out what life was all about…what life was supposed to be all about. Sometime in my early teens our church in Kansas took a missions trip down into Mexico on a church bus without air conditioning. I remember that being a minor inconvenience in comparison to the introduction we had to the poverty and struggle for life in a rural village in Latin America. The images never left me, and the cultural exposure would eventually have significant impact in my life. The seed had been planted.
Fast forward through a move to the east coast, still attending churches with a high priority for missions. There were the years of Christian education, both high school and college, finding a call to ministry and the constant awareness of the need on so many mission fields. A move to New England, marriage, and the opportunity to lead a church group on a mission trip to Costa Rica brought a family focus to the possibility of God’s intention for us. Ultimately there was the surrender, our own time on deputation, nearly a year of language and cultural training, and finally a term in the country of Nicaragua where a church was established that thrives today under national leadership.
It would be no secret to those closest to our family of my evident wanderlust. There is even the romantic draw of experiencing the unique people, culture, and life experience of any country to which we have been blessed to travel. I’ve yet to have visited a new country that has not inspired a love and the ever present acknowledgement that “I would serve here if God would allow it.” Have I painted the picture effectively? I love anything and everything about missions and missionaries.
The question was framed to me: “What is the interest and motivation that has caused our specific partnering in the ministry of Reach Portugal with Mark and Aura Pereira?” With all of the aforementioned background, the single greatest factor that contributed to our commitment to reaching Portugal with the gospel was having been in the country on two separate occasions. True, I have been blessed to have visited in a number of countries with broad and observable differences of every imaginable type. Each of these opportunities stirred our hearts as we were challenged by the clear need for laborers and resources to reach the lost with the gospel and establish authentic Bible-centered churches. Similarly, Portugal demonstrated this same need with the scenario of driving through town after town after town, asking if there were a gospel preaching church ministry in each, only to be answered repeatedly that, “No, there is no Bible believing, Bible preaching church here.”
An additional, obvious, factor in our intentional partnering with the Pereiras, for anyone who has gotten to know them, is the unique packaging of gifting, preparation, and calling they possess to oversee a cooperative, gospel-centered ministry effort. The story of the extent to which God worked to bring the gospel to a young boy in the Azores that has resulted in giving us the person that we today know as Mark Pereira is, in my opinion, one of the great mission’s stories of our generation. Couple this with a singular focus and burden that the Pereiras have for reaching the Portuguese people with the gospel, and our willingness to partner with them would almost have to be assumed.
The final significant motivation that challenged us was the desire to have Portugal impacted with the gospel for the first time in history. Yes, you read that correctly: Portugal has never in history experienced a major spiritual awakening. Over these few years since our acquaintance with Aura’s parents, missionaries Allen and Barb Newton, introduction to the Pereiras, and growing familiarity with Portugal, we have begun to witness an ever-increasing evidence of a genuine movement of God. Churches have been established, men have been ordained to the gospel ministry, the number and frequency of souls being saved and those believers following in baptism is growing, and there is a demonstrated challenge being placed before the next generation toward the goal of surrender to ministry. That God is working in a special way at this time in Portugal is clear.
Why would we partner so definitively with the Pereiras in the ministry of Reach Portugal? Why, how, could we not?