Our Unexpected Expected Approval

Friday June 10th was Portugal Day, a national holiday. Sunday June 12th was a religious holiday that many Portuguese celebrate by staying up all night eating sardines. Each year the church here in Lisbon spends this extended weekend by holding a sort of prayer vigil. This year the prayer meeting lasted through Thursday and Friday nights. For about 36 hours we took turns praying in shifts and praying together as a church. (It’s hard to believe I’ve been in Portugal long enough to have participated in this event twice now.) Among the things that we prayed about was that our team would receive our visas for Angola. Our team intended to arrive in Angola in January, but it seems that neither the Angolan government nor God had the same timing in mind. So we have remained here in Portugal improving our language skills, working with the church, and preparing for our arrival in Angola so we can hit the ground running.

Last night I was exhausted after a long weekend of praying and very little sleep, yet I somehow found myself in downtown Lisbon with friends from church. We were surrounded by thousands of people, the smell of sardines cooking on the grill, and the sound of traditional Fado music blasting. Talk about sensory overload! As I was picking tiny little bones out of my teeth, my teammate Robert called. He said that our friend Júlia from the Consulate in Houston had called on Friday (note: this was during the prayer vigil), but he and his family had been in the Algarve in Southern Portugal so he did not get the message until they returned home late last night. Júlia had called to tell him that all of our visas were ready, except for his, and that his visa would be ready later this week.

With the news from Robert I didn’t really even know what to say. I’m still in a bit of a state of shock and I still smell like sardines. (The smell seems to last forever.) I have been so eager to get to Angola for so long now, but have constantly run into one obstacle after another. Progress has been one baby-step at a time. But now the clock is ticking. I have until a certain date to arrive in Angola or my visa will expire. The door is wide open all of a sudden and I honestly don’t know what to think or how I feel. God is starting a new chapter in my life which is both exciting and frightening at the same time. It also means another chapter in my life is about to close. My time in Portugal has been one of the most blessed times of my life and I will always remember it fondly. On top of that, every time I smell a sardine cooking I will remember how God is faithful and answers prayer.


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