They Never Gave Up ‘Hope’
Portugal is Ready for the Gospel Nearly 40 Years After Crusade Was Canceled
January 24, 2011 - On December 8, 2010 at Lisbon, Portugal’s Radisson Blue Hotel, a room full of Christians representing different denominations joined together to sing, praise God and pray. Although many were meeting for the first time, they lingered long after the gathering ended, talking and laughing.
This is the timing of God for Portugal! A great harvest is waiting for us.—Paulo Pascoal, National Coordinator for My Hope Portugal
by Joy Allmond
Several years ago, no one would have predicted a scene like this in the Portuguese church, but these people were united for two reasons: to bring glory to God and to launch My Hope World Evangelism Through Television in their country.
My Hope uses a continuation of television, churches, and relationships to present simple Gospel messages to entire countries. Months of preparation are put toward this program. Since 2002, BGEA has brought the Gospel to 53 countries through My Hope. Here is how it works:
- My Hope coordinators train pastors in every region of each country about the My Hope project.
- Pastors train Christians in their churches to pray for others, then host them in their homes, inviting unsaved friends and family for refreshments and to watch the evangelistic national telecasts.
- At the conclusion of the My Hope broadcasts, hosts share their personal testimonies and invite their guests to receive Jesus Christ as Savior.
The broadcasts are planned for December 8-10, 2011.
Portugal and the Church
With a population of about 10 million, the density of Portugal’s population is at its greatest in the capital city of Lisbon, and its suburbs, where about 1.9 million people live.The second largest city in Portugal is Porto, in the north. There are generally more people living in Portugal’s coastal regions than in the inland areas.
Portugal is a nation of assimilated origins, including Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans and northern Europeans. It is one of the oldest nations in Europe.
BGEA’s history with Portugal dates back over decades through BGEA film evangelism projects. In 1974, Billy Graham received an invitation to hold an evangelistic crusade in Lisbon. There had been heavy interest in ministering to continental Europe since the 1940’s—the conclusion of World War II.
From that point, Europe had been spiritually difficult. Churches became politically driven and have been overcome with rationalistic philosophy and communism. As a result, the spiritual vitality of the Portuguese church dwindled. There has been little interest in spiritual things, and it’s been difficult to evangelize there.
The Lisbon Crusade of 1974 never happened. It was canceled due to political turmoil and economic collapse. However, some of the people involved in planning the Crusade continued to minister in Portugal over the decades. They even attended the Amsterdam conferences of 1983, 1986 and 2000 out of continued interest in bringing an evangelistic event to their country. And they prayed.
The persistence and prayers of these people resulted in the launch of My Hope Portugal.
My Hope Portugal
“At the My Hope Portugal launch, there were five or six people who were on the committee to bring Billy Graham to Lisbon back in 1974,” recalls Bill Conard, Director of My Hope for BGEA. “This launch was an answer to many prayers of years ago.”
This My Hope launch has been in the making since 2007, when Preston Parrish, Executive Vice President of Ministries paid a visit to Portugal and met Reverend Paulo Pascoal. The next year, Conard met with Reverend Pascoal based on Parrish’s recommendation and then visited Lisbon a month later. Since then, the relationship between BGEA and Portuguese Christians has grown, thus allowing movement toward reaching millions of Portuguese with the Gospel in living rooms across their land.
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Conard says there is more openness to the Gospel in Portugal than anyone has seen in decades. Like much of the world, this country has seen a progressive economic decline, yet a spiritual awakening is beginning to dawn.
Also—unlike the past, the pastors are more willing to work together despite differences. Until recently, the pastors were more focused on maintaining their own churches than on reaching their communities for Christ.
“Leadership from all evangelical denominations and organizations are conscious that we need to recover the passion for the lost,” said Pascoal, now the national coordinator for My Hope Portugal. “Portugal is under a severe economic crisis which is also a social crisis and a crisis of values. This opens up unique opportunities that we cannot afford to lose. This is the timing of God for Portugal! A great harvest is waiting for us.”
Conard also believes Portugal is ready for My Hope.
“Two things have to happen for My Hope to be successful in any country,” he explained. “First, the Christians must feel a passion for the Lord. Second, there must be a spiritual awakening. Both of those are happening on the Iberian Peninsula of Portugal.”
The next step in preparation for My Hope Portugal will take place in late February. Master Vision will be an event wherein Pascoal, as the national coordinator for My Hope Portugal, and Conard, along with Pablo Sanchez, BGEA’s experienced country director, will spend a day and a half explaining the vision of My Hope to regional coordinators in Portugal. In March, those coordinators, in turn, will rally pastors to get their churches involved with the project as “Matthew” hosts.
While there is much to be done this year to prepare for the project, Conard is encouraged by the cooperative tone that was set at December’s launch meeting in Lisbon.
“The people not only prayed and worshipped together willingly; they did it joyfully,” he said. “That was definitely a movement of the Holy Spirit. We didn’t do that. We just came away feeling that God is at work here in wonderful way.”