Corona Virus and Covid-19
Portugal has a very weak health system in terms of installed capacity. The main problem with this particular disease that sets it apart from the flu, for example, is the fact that a considerable percentage of the people that get it will need to be put on a ventilator and there are only so many ventilators.
Before the virus got to Portugal, in the beginning of March, we were already hearing of its devastating effects in countries like Italy and Spain that have better prepared and equipped health systems than Portugal. In Italy, they had to make the decision to take older people off ventilators as they were needed for younger patients and there were no more available.
Because of all of this, the whole of Portugal has shut down and people have been told to stay home as much as possible. You are only allowed to leave your neighborhood for groceries, medicine, work (some occupations), or if you are going to help someone. So far this seems to have helped the number of people in need of hospital care to stay lower than in Spain and Italy and the health system so far seems to be able to respond. As I write these words, there has been 375 people dead, and 271 are in intensive care units. These numbers are growing by 6-10% every day, which is also lower than in other countries. The authorities’ goal is to have a flatter curve, which has the effect of prolonging the situation in time, but of possibly saving the health system from collapsing. The economic aftermath of something like this for an already struggling country like Portugal is unpredictable and we would ask you to pray for this nation and that they can get through all of this.
We are also praying that we and our people could be used during this time to reach as many people as possible with the gospel of Christ as, being forced to pause, might give some people a vital opportunity to consider eternity and the free gift of salvation available in Christ.
All gatherings are outlawed in Portugal at least until April 17th. We have been live streaming songs and a sermon on Sundays and using Zoom to have our weekly Prayer Meeting and Bible Study. Our people have been sharing these online materials and some have had conversations with loved ones about spiritual matters because of it. Our children’s ministry team have produced some videos for our church children as well. I’ve met at least one person, who has never been to our church, that told me he has been watching the online sermons. Please pray that the Lord would enlarge our vision and outreach during this time.
As Aura has breathing problems, that puts her at greater risk if she gets the corona virus, so she has been staying mostly at home, getting out only to walk our dog around the village. We are thankful, though, for getting a good report back from the doctor after Aura had to get a biopsy of a thyroid nodule and it came back as benign. We now only have to have a yearly check-up on it.
We continue to have the goal to go back to the US in September for an extended furlough. Understandably, our booking of meetings has not advanced as churches in the US have been dealing with the Corona virus restrictions and focusing on how to minister to their people through this time. Nevertheless, if you would like to book us between September 2020 and April 2021, let us know and we will arrange the best date for that. We are available to come to your church, tell you about what the Lord is doing in Portugal and encourage your people to get even more involved with your ongoing missions’ program. We have the opportunity, I believe through evangelism and church planting, to see in our generation, Portugal change their missions status from “unreached” to “reached”, and you could be a part of that.
It is a joy to see how the Lord has been forming a youth group in the church in Castelo Branco. A year ago, we were happy when we could get 5 or 6 young people for an activity and now, we have close to 20 sometimes. We have had one young man saved in this age-group, a young lady baptized, and several others join the church. These, in turn, are now very involved inviting their friends to the youth activities. Please pray for more saved and discipled.
In February we had our teen winter camp and it was a huge blessing. We had a larger group then last year and good spirit throughout the camp. Apart from our teens, we had a good number of teens from other churches in the country. The theme of the camp was about the need to not conform to the culture around us, but how we can be transformed by the Gospel of Christ. Apart from the teens that attended, we had a great team from the church in Castelo Branco and from a missionary friend that was a huge blessing as well. Please pray for the impact of God’s Word in raising an army of Portuguese Christians that will reach Portugal with the gospel in our generation.
We are in the middle of the New Testament Survey class of our Bible Institute. We have also had recently a dear brother come from Brazil to teach a New Testament Greek Seminar. We have about 10 local people attend our classes and probably the same number watch the classes via live stream from other places in the country.
We have incorporated a project approach to our Bible Institute. Each class, the students are encouraged to develop a class related project that can be developed in their local church. They can also use what they have learned in other courses they have already completed. We are still in the early stages of this approach, but it goes hand-in-hand with our Institute’s philosophy of training people for the ministry while involving them in the ministry.
As part of our Bible Institute, we have started to organize our book collection to become our Bible Institute’s library. Aura has adopted this ministry as her own and is now a full-fledged librarian and doing a great job. We still have a long way to go, but it is exciting to see the long-term potential of organized study, training and publishing of good quality Christian materials for the Lord’s work in Portugal.
The new church-plant in Fundão is going well and we have about 30 people attending. Some of them don’t have a clear testimony of salvation so we are praying that there would be souls saved and assurance given even in the group that is currently attending. We are also praying for this city of about 35 thousand people and that we can reach the whole city.
The group we have come from Fundão and from the neighbor city of Covilhã. On Wednesday nights we have Bible studies in both cities, 7 pm in Fundão and 8:30 in Covilhã (meeting at someone’s home). The Covilhã group has started talking about the possibility of (1) finding a meeting place as this would make it easier to invite people to attend; (2) holding Sunday afternoon services. If the Lord opens this door, our Sundays would be: morning service in Castelo Branco, afternoon service in Covilhã and evening service in Fundão.
As soon as we can, we will start a membership class for this church-plant. This will allow us to have more intentional discipleship sessions and, if enough people “graduate”, to have a core group of like-minded believers that would hopefully get us closer to organize the plant in Fundão as an autonomous church.
About 40 minutes South from where we live there is the city of Proença-a-Nova. We have two Christian families there (one of them are members of the church in Castelo Branco), and maybe a few more interested people. We are ready to start a Tuesday night Bible Study there as soon as there are no more Corona virus restrictions in place.
In February we had the baptism for Denilson. This dear brother, with his wife and oldest son, did our membership class. During the membership interview we realized that he had gotten “baptized” as a young boy, impressed by the example of his godly grandfather, but in reality he only got saved as an adult, when he understood the Gospel for the first time, repented and trusted in Christ as his personal Savior. During the interview, I asked him about what we had studied about baptism, that it should be a testimony of one’s salvation, and I asked him what he thought he should do. He took a minute to think and then he said, “I don’t think I have been biblically baptized and when I give my testimony before the church, I’m going to ask to be baptized.”
It was a wonderful privilege to witness Denilson’s baptism and his whole family is now members of the church in Castelo Branco. We have a new membership class scheduled to start as soon as the church starts meeting again.
Thank you for your involvement in our ministry. If you would like to know more, or know about other ways to get involved, feel free to contact us through the contacts on this page.
Yours to reach Portugal with the gospel of Christ,
Mark and Aura Pereira