My Hope Portugal: Thinking Outside the Box
Serving Up the Gospel in Restaurants, Cafés
March 30, 2011 - In a culture of small apartments and flats, the My Hope project in Lisbon, Portugal is finding that in some cases meeting in a restaurant or café is a better strategy than a cramped living room.
We want to take advantage of those opportunities in order to compensate for the lack of real homes. At the same time, we are asking pastors to encourage people to open their homes.
By Trevor Freeze
The living room has long been a critical place for the My Hope project.
This is where friends invite friends over. Neighbors connect with neighbors. Family visit with family.
The living room is where the hope of Jesus Christ shows up through the magic of television.
But what if there isn’t a living room? Or what if it’s too small to accommodate a My Hope gathering?
Such is the case in Lisbon, Portugal, where apartment and loft living is common and large meeting spaces inside the home is not.
Add in a European culture that is less open with a subculture of young people meeting out more than in and you get an unconventional My Hope dilemma.
“They’re not as open to invite people to their home,” said Pablo Sanchez, Portugal country director for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. “And for good reason – most homes are small apartments.”
Thinking outside the box
With fewer available homes to meet in, figuring out how to maximize the My Hope project in Portugal has taken some brainstorming and creative thinking.
Maybe, we should go somewhere to talk about alternative places to show the three-day program. Maybe a local restaurant or coffee shop?
Oh, wait a minute. Look around. There’s young people. Old people. Businessmen. Families. Rich people. Poor people.And plenty of televisions.
“Having a meeting in a restaurant or café is a new idea,” Sanchez said.
Normally, 95 to 98 percent of the My Hope project takes place inside the home, Sanchez estimates, and while a majority of the Portugal ministry will still happen in living rooms on the Dec. 8-10 weekend, this event will also be in the public eye.
My Hope will be hitting restaurants, cafés, coffee shops and even some community centers.
“A place that you can have a special meeting,” Sanchez explains. “Maybe a restaurant or a public place that would be especially good for young people to invite their peers in college or high school.
“There’s a new generation of leaders and pastors that are very, very committed to the mission. It’s something new and we’re seeing a lot of enthusiasm.”
In some cases, the My Hope program will air in the public venues on live TV, while in others My Hope DVD will be used, possibly at another time that weekend or the week after, depending on logistics.
Wherever possible, a small room or private area in the restaurant or café would be reserved in advance.
“We want to take advantage of those opportunities in order to compensate for the lack of real homes,” Sanchez said. “At the same time, we are asking pastors to encourage people to open their homes.”
‘The World Flows on Relationships’
What’s not lost in this Portugal My Hope adventure is the critical role that individual relationships play.
“The world flows on relationships,” said Bill Conard, Vice President of International Ministries for BGEA.
And whether that’s inviting friends or family into your home, or inviting them to a restaurant or community center to watch a 30-minute program on TV, without that relationship component My Hope would never get off the ground.
“We are encouraging them to get close with their friends,” Sanchez said. “To make a special effort to get closer to them in the coming months.”
And even though it’s counter-cultural, the My Hope team in Portugal is encouraging the host families – called “Matthews” – to start inviting people over for special occasions to soften the awkwardness of a December My Hope invitation.
“To invite your neighbor to watch a TV program in your home, that would be strange,” Sanchez said about the Portugal culture. “The idea is to strengthen relationships.”
But Sanchez knows that all the outside-the-box – or even outside-the-living-room – thinking in the world will be rendered meaningless without months of continuous prayer.
“When Matthews begin to pray for families, friends and neighbors the Holy Spirit begins to answer those prayers,” he said. “In this case, they are starting very early to pray for this.”