The scene was exactly what you would expect in any Portugese home on a Saturday night.
The dining room table was crowded with friends and neighbors sharing a meal, talking with their hands, mostly over one another.
Lucas, a 22-month-old pleasant boy, played endlessly with the living room door knob, laughing as if it was his favorite toy of all time. Portugal’s Sporting and National soccer teams were locked in a key 1-0 match on the 42-inch flat screen in the corner.
But 30 minutes earlier, this room in the northern town of Porto was anything but ordinary.
“Supernatural,” is how Filipe Costa described it. “Indescribable joy.”
This was a holy place. God had moved in ways most Portuguese could not have imagined — especially in a living room.
Most, except perhaps, Teresa Fernandes.
“I saw the tears in their eyes and I knew this was the moment,” Fernandes, 37, said.
Saturday started out as a prototypical page out of the My Hope World Evangelism book. Invite friends over to your house for dinner, show them a 30-minute My Hope program—filled with music, testimonies and Billy Graham preaching—then share your story before inviting your guests to pray and receive Christ.
A dozen packed into the living room, five believers and seven non-believers.
Filipe, 27, and Danuza Costa, 29, hosts on this night at Philipe’s father’s fourth-floor apartment, were first up, sharing their testimonies.
Five of the seven listening intently had come simply in response to hand-written invitations Danuza handed out. Nobody had showed up the night before and the “stubborn” Danuza took to “knocking on doors and ringing bells,” handing out 40 hand-made My Hope invitations. Each artistic invite included a verse from Proverbs and a colorful sticker.
Another couple were the godparents to Lucas, good friends of the Costas.
But after their testimonies about God’s redeeming power, including Danuza, who shared about overcoming “deep depression” through the power of Jesus, no decisions were made.
“I was in an abyss,” she said. “I thought about suicide and didn’t have anyone to help.”
Fernandes, looking at the faces of those who were experiencing a real touch of God, had to speak up.
She talked about her own bout with depression. “All my life, I was in a bad situation,” she said. “I had pills every day for extreme anxiety and depression. But when I met Jesus, I had peace. I had a hope for tomorrow.”
By now, tears were flowing.Hearts were broken. The Holy Spirit was swirling.
One by one, Fernandes went around and asked each of the seven non-believers if they wanted to make a decision to accept Christ as their savior.
All seven said yes and in unison prayed to receive Jesus into their lives.
The room erupted with clapping, cheering, hugging and laughter.
“I knew they had to accept Christ,” Fernandes said. “God talked to me and told me to testify.”
Lena Flores, who heads up the small group ministry at her church, Igreja Videira do Porto, was elated, but not shocked by how God worked.
“I was not surprised because God is powerful,” Flores said. “We had been praying and fasting for 40 days (only 1 meal) and the pastors and church leadership were praying and fasting for seven days (just liquids).”
But in a country like Portugal, reportedly made up of just 1 percent evangelical Christians, to have all seven non-believers make commitments to follow Christ?
In one night?
“It’s hard to explain,” Flores said of her faith. “It’s the love of Christ. We can only go so far before the Holy Spirit does His job.”
And on this night, on the fourth floor, with the soccer match on, food being shared and kids playing joyfully with the door knobs, Flores knows there was another party happening in the Kingdom.
“Lives are being saved,” she said, “and we are taking them out of Hell.”
The culmination of the My Hope program is Harvest Sunday, where churches nationwide recognize Matthews and celebrate what God has done.
At O Caminho (The Way) Centro Evangelico in the northeast Porto suburb of Ermesinde, a My Hope celebration with new believers was led by pastor Samuel Santos.
Around two dozen Matthew hosts were recognized, Santos prayed for the new believers, and the theme song, “Minha Esperanca,” was sung to close the service.
With results of only a third of the 27 Matthew homes reported, Santos said nine new believers had made commitments, potentially growing the 60-member church.
“We had two new people for the first time today,” said Evan Malone, one of O Caminho’s members. “That is really remarkable. They are afraid to step in the church. It’s like pulling teeth.”
“I think the biggest contribution is the tools that we can use not just now, but in the future,” he said. “We put our faith not just in this program, but in God that He can make real change.”
My Hope Memories
One story Santos couldn’t wait to share was of a non-believing couple who agreed to host My Hope in their home as the Matthew’s apartment wasn’t big enough to have guests over. The couple not only made a decision to accept Christ at their own home on Thursday afternoon, but that evening they were sharing the Gospel at a family dinner.
“They had just received Christ two hours ago,” Santos said, so excited as he recounted the story he could hardly speak, “and they were testifying to other people—’If you want to go to heaven, you have to give your life to Christ.'”
In another My Hope conversion, a woman in her mid-30s tried three times to pray to receive Christ, but couldn’t get the words “Savior and Lord” out of her mouth. On the third try, she finally said “Savior,” but then hesitated and her young daughter came in from the other room and interrupted. She collected her thoughts and on the fourth try, she finally prayed to receive Jesus as “Savior and Lord,” as confident in her decision as ever.
“God can work in irregular ways,” Santos said.
Pray for My Hope
Pray for the new Christians in Portugal and for the upcoming My Hope broadcasts in Spain, Dec. 15-17. Please consider supporting these effort with a financial gift too.