The most wonderful aspect of my recent trip to Portugal was the people. Starting with my team of John Kelso, Scott Wilkins and Jackson Crate; I could not have picked a better group of men to go on a mission trip with. Each one has a genuine love for people and a true heart to see people develop their own relationship with Christ.
Our host church, Alta Christa, is blessed with some truly incredible people, with each of them having the special gift of serving! Pastor Rui, Carol, Tatiana, Ester, Jun, Isabella, Joni, Hannah and Julia work tirelessly to take care of everyone and always with a smile! They are the type of people that you instantly feel lighter, happier when you’re around them.
For John, this was his 10th trip to Portugal and he has established some great friendships during his visits. The one thing he told me going into this was that his friends in Portugal were all incredible and he knew that they would all embrace me, as if I had been their friends for years as well. He was absolutely correct.
Creating these new friendships came easy and natural thanks to all of them. They accepted me as one of their own almost immediately. The rest of this incredible group of people I now call friends include: Ana Margarida (she took care of us at Hillsong Portugal), Bernardo (who graciously served as chauffeur for us), Claudio, Ze, Luis, Rita, Bruno, and Maria.
The thing I loved about all of these folks is that they made a special effort to come and spend time with us, whether it was at the camp, lunch after camp and in some cases, they would spend the whole day with us. By Monday, we were all just friends trying to spend some quality time together whenever possible. That’s an incredibly cool thing to experience!
Two names I have left out thus far are Rodrigo and Teresa! Rodrigo is 23 and is mature beyond his years. He has an infectious nature about him. His spirit is light, joyous and you can’t help but to smile when you see him approaching. He is kind and humble with a natural, caring spirit; especially with children. I developed a quick bond with him and established a framework of friendship that I know will last a lifetime!
As for Teresa, a 22 year old medical student, who by week’s end I had adopted as my Portuguese daughter. Like Rodrigo, she is blessed with a gentle, kind spirit and the rare gift of simply making you feel better whenever you are in her presence. I enjoyed watching her and Rodrigo spend time with the little kids that attended the camp. Like my daughters, she is an independent young woman with strong beliefs, view points and she can debate those things in a very articulate and sometimes, stubborn manner. Our conversations included a myriad of topics including abortion, euthanasia and healthcare in general. I look forward to our future debates, I mean, discussions.
This collective group of people is what made my time in Portugal so special! My life has been enriched as a result of meeting all of these incredible people. I was reminded again of what the world could look like, if we would just make the effort and take the time to get to know each other on a personal, intimate level.
A dream I now have is to somehow figure out a way for all of my friends here in the states, be able to hang out with all of my new Portuguese friends!
Peace and thanks for reading!