Here is the latest prayer letter from our mission partners, Joe & Rachel Clarke in Portugal
Prayer updates from Portugal May 2023
"And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God". (1 Corinthians 6:11)
I trust you are well and enjoying a lovely sunny bank holiday! We are all ok and, for once, have enjoyed a slightly slower weekend, for which we are thankful. By now, you should have received the official Crosslinks prayer letter, so I will keep this update brief...ish!
We are thankful for interest in a preachers conference that we are organising later this month. Lots of people have expressed interest and said how important it is to have these sorts of things. However...not many have actually signed up! Please pray they do, and we have a good time!
We have been encouraged by conversations with local churches about the church plant starting in September - they have all expressed their support for this sort of project, and are grateful for the clear communication thus far. Moreover, the core group continues to be excited and are looking forward to the official launch.
The GBU situation is now fully decided - sadly, there has been no flexibility in their approach and simply because we are involved in a church planting project, we will not be allowed to have anything to do with the GBU for the next couple of years. The reason given is that in the past (40 years ago), a GBU staff worker went and planted his own church and ended up persuading the students to join him, thereby taking them out of their own churches. This meant the local churches lost their trust in the GBU, and it took 10 years to recover. They recognise that our situation is completely different for a number of reasons, but they are not willing to budge.
One of the very sad consequences of this is that they have decided to stop doing mission weeks for at least the next 3 years! The reason they have given is that there are not enough staff to help organise it, but in the staff meetings, a number of staff have suggested that evangelism isn't that important and certainly isn't the main mission of the GBU. We are obviously very sad about this indeed - we continue to believe in the importance of the public proclamation of the gospel (since it is biblical!), and mission weeks have really helped galvanise the students for speaking to and inviting their friends to hear more about Jesus. I have offered to help coordinate the mission weeks over the next few years, pointing out that it would in no way be seen as a threat to any local churches (I have even offered to just help out with them in other cities except Coimbra, if they genuinely feel that helping out with a mission week in Coimbra could damage the reputation of the GBU). Sadly, they are not interested.
We are aware that none of this is personal - we haven't fallen out personally with the GBU. But it has been really very discouraging for us to see their focus on anything other than evangelism. Please do pray for them - especially the General Secretary, Manuel - and for us as we go forward.
With much love from us all
Joe, Rachel, Beth, Hannah, Josh, and Tim
Date specific activities: May
6th – Speaking at conference in Lisbon about sex and relationships (Joe)
7th – Joe preaching (Eiras)
14th – Joe preaching (Aveiro), Rachel leading Sunday school
20th – Celebration service for student finalists in Coimbra
21st – Joe preaching (Tovim)
26th-27th – Preaching conference
28th - Joe preaching (Rocha Nova)
29th – Mentoring young married couple
2nd – ECM Prayer Day
4th – Joe preaching (Eiras, and at Comunidade de Graça)
Tuesday evenings – Church housegroup (Joe and Rachel)
Wednesday morning – Women's bible study group (Rachel)
Wednesday morning – Church planting leadership meeting (Joe)
Wednesday evening – GBU Coimbra meeting (Joe)
Friday morning – GBU staff meetings
Saturday afternoon – Church youth group (Joe)
Rach – Isabela, Raquel, Diana
Joe – David, Duarte