Background: most foreigners in Algeria need to leave every three months to renew their visas. Last “visa exit,” I went to Barcelona to meet up with my sister, which you can read about here and here. For the last couple of weeks, Sarah and I took our visa exits together on the island of Madeira, Portugal.
When we left for Madeira we knew we would be staying with and seeing some fellow believers along the way. What we weren’t expecting was the bond of caring brothers and sisters who treated us like their own family, the encouragement and mentoring we found in these wise friends, and the welcome into tight communities and daily lives that we received. The biggest blessing of an otherwise amazing trip was definitely the time we had with this loving, generous body of Christ. It was a huge reminder of how the fellowship of believers transcends borders and cultures.
Even though we kept fairly busy during our week and a half on Madeira, it turned out to be surprisingly restful because of how much we were being loved by the people we were with. I’ll tell you more about the exploring side of our trip in another post, but here I want to focus on the experiences we had being with our hosts and enjoying their fellowship.
We spent most of the trip at Anabela and Joe’s beautiful house in the little town of Porto Moniz. Anabela is the mother of one of our Appleton friends, so Sarah reached out to her when we were thinking of places to go for this visa exit. We enjoyed jumping into their daily routines and seeing some of their community life be played out. Long car rides across the island for various meetings or errands afforded us some great conversation time – conversations that helped strengthen and encourage us in our faith while we enjoyed this week of physical rest. Overall, we felt like we were part of the family, living in the most beautiful place in the world with our Portuguese parents and our German grandparents! I’ll let the pictures (and captions) tell you the rest.
For the last weekend of our stay, we moved to the main island city, Funchal. Janet (our organization’s founder) knows a Portuguese couple that is doing ministry on Madeira, so she put us in touch with them.
César and Dina spent their entire weekend showing us around their end of the island and taking such good care of us, but the best part was learning from their wisdom and strength in Christ! They had so many amazing experiences to tell us about and were insightful into our own lives and faith journeys as well. After each meal we would sit for a long time just talking about God and the work He is doing. I left feeling so refreshed and ready to dig even deeper into my relationship with God!
Our journey back to the camps continued to be a testament to the body of Christ. Sarah and I were planning on spending the night of our long layover in the Lisbon airport, but when César and Dina heard that, they made plans for us to stay with people they knew in Lisbon. We ended up being welcomed into a Teen Challenge center (a ministry that reaches out to young people who struggle with drugs) for the night. The brief time we spent with some of the Teen Challenge employees – which was literally just the car rides to and from the airport – encouraged me as I heard about their hearts for God and for people.
I left Portugal after ten days of being blown away by hospitality and generosity. The various people we were with really reminded me of what the body of Christ should be like, and it was amazing to fellowship with all of them during such a short time. Yes, we rested and had fun, but it was better to rest and be filled with God’s love from brothers and sisters than just to rest on our own!
Look out for part 2 of this visa exit, which will hopefully come tomorrow if the internet allows!