“Have a backup plan.”
Pastor Álvaro Ladeira had driven these words home to the 15 trained Matthew hosts of his Assembly of God church in Serra Da Luz.
Over and over.
But little did the humorous and well-spoken 35-year-old realize how many “backup plans” he would need in his own apartment on the night in December.
Álvaro’s wife, Carla, had the couple’s third-floor Lisbon apartment in perfect shape, spotless, with a magnificent spread on the dining room table. The baby-sitter had settled in the bedroom.
Two nights earlier, Álvaro helped host many Matthews using round tables at his church via projector showings.
“Most of them are trembling, but they are doing it,” said Álvaro, who witnessed 22 decisions for Christ in one night. And to date, more than 2,600 have prayed to receive Christ in their lives since My Hope Portugal began on Dec. 6.
But this night was personal. This was his home. And these were his neighbors.
At one point, Álvaro even slipped away to iron his navy blue long-sleeve shirt. He wanted everything to go perfect.
For Álvaro had a specific burden—the married couple from the first floor, who had separated and even subleased their apartment in February 2011, but had reconciled in October and were working on their marriage.
Álvaro had previewed all three My Hope programs and knew the third one included a testimony of a nearly divorced couple whose marriage was saved by their new life in Christ.
This was it, Álvaro thought.This was the night to show the third program.
But that “backup plan?” Yeah.
First, the on-demand function on his cable system was glitchy and wouldn’t show My Hope.
No problem, he thought: I’ll just use the DVD.
Perfect. Except his remote would only let him toggle between the first and second programs. Errr.
Running out of time, he ran to the church and back in a record 17 minutes, returning with his laptop, which would play the My Hope DVD through his TV.
Exhale. Disaster averted. Until he realized the computer needed speakers.
He shuffled through his box of electronics only to have his frustrations rise with every passing minute. Finally, the first-floor couple he had been praying for offered up the speakers from their apartment.
Twenty minutes later, My Hope started and that delay allowed the last guest to arrive just in time to catch most of the program.
“What I know,” Álvaro said with a knowing smile, “is technical problems don’t stop God’s work.”
No decisions were made that night, but the spiritual conversations ran well past midnight and several agreed to go to church two days later.
And the once-separated couple? “They said they have more questions. And they asked me to keep pursuing them.”
Stories Around Portugal
- The Acção Bíblica Church in Lisbon reported Matthew homes from four congregations (Lisbon, Margem Sul, Guia, Póvoa de Santa Iria) received 439 guests and 45 accepted Jesus with seven others rededicating their lives to the Lord. “Actually having 439 people who were evangelized and so many who made a decision toward the Gospel was fantastic,” pastor Paulo Chaveiro said. “Some of them are already being followed up and others are attending the Sunday service.”
- In the Evangelical Church of Sintra, 25 Matthew homes were opened up and 27 people accepted Christ into their hearts. One ministry that works with the disabled gathered 20 people for one of the TV broadcasts, with four making decisions to accept Christ. “It should be noted,” the area coordinator said, “that for the majority of the Matthew homes it was their first evangelistic experience of the kind.”
- In Leiria, one family took advantage of the last-minute extra My Hope broadcast days. “Great,” the 12-year-old middle daughter said. “This way I can have a day just for my friends. “She invited a handful of classmates over, and when she gave the invitation one prayed to receive Christ and another expressed a desire to know more and come to church.