Here are a few blogs that I find encouraging. Some of them are extremely helpful and educational for those of us who are new at it and those that want to get started but all of them are very uplifting.
“Bring the entire tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house; and test me out, please, in this regard,” Jehovah of armies says, “to see whether I will not open to you the floodgates of the heavens and pour out on you a blessing until there is nothing lacking.” – Malachi 3:10
If I put our experiences about how we arrived here, I might encourage another couple to serve where the need is greater too. I have received a few messages from others telling me that they have the same goal. I also read blogs of other needgreaters to stay encouraged. It’s amazing to learn how Jehovah is blessing their efforts. When we started this journey we got to see it first hand and it feels amazing. So this post is a list of how Jehovah has helped us, just so that you can see how he will help you too. We are aware that this is what Jehovah has done for all that make sacrifices in their lives to do his will. Prayer is at the forefront of every new step.
- Choosing Portugal
When we both decided that serving in another country would be our goal, we began to think about places we’ve already been and investigate places we’ve heard about. I’m the researcher of the two of us so I was writing people and asking lots of questions, etc. Jehovah was obviously guiding our search because I began chatting with my cousin who is a needgreater in Thailand and she told me to get in touch with Margarida, who then gave a load of information about Portugal. It was then we decided to come here. So without delay we put forth the effort to prepare, which allowed us to see and know if Jehovah was on board.
- Making steps to save money
After we decided that Portugal was the goal we needed to save money. Jehovah helped us find a large town home for about $200 less than what we were paying for a smaller apartment. It was very important to us to be able to continue to entertain, because we saw that as our way of encouraging the friends. Our prayers were answered. We knew that this was Jehovah’s answer because we were told that the owner of the town home was very picky and many before us were turned down. Also, when we spotted the home it was being priced $25 higher but when we were approved the price was lowered, putting the rate right at the price we desired and prayed about.
- A better paying job
I remember sitting at my desk and doing the math to figure out how many hours I needed to work to make ends meet for the both of us while in Portugal. The job I had was not paying much. I said a prayer to Jehovah about how I needed a better-paying job and as soon as I looked at my Instagram I saw a message from my friend sending my a post from two needgreaters mentioning that their company was hiring teachers. She had no clue that I was looking. I had just said a prayer and she almost didn’t send it because she knew I already had a job. She said something made her send it to me. The brother helped me get the job even after I messed up big time on my interview, I have been working with them since September. They pay double of what I was getting paid and they pay in Euros.
- Changing our leave date
We already knew that this was the correct move because of everything that had been happening. Our original date was set for September/October. When we spoke to the Velozes they gave us some food for thought, “If you start now, you can get here by April!” We arrived on April 22. But how did we manage that when we had a lease that wasn’t up till June, money that we still needed to save and planning to be made?
- More money
We were moving to Portugal no matter what. That was the goal with all trust in Jehovah. We needed to save money and we were working at it. Then suddenly my husband was offered a severance from his job if he chose not relocate with the company. We received what we needed to be able to start over in a new country.
- Transferring our lease
I began telling everyone that if we don’t find someone to take over the lease, we wouldn’t be leaving till June. Then I found out that Alfredo was telling people that We were definitely leaving in April no matter what, so I had to change my message. (just a small lack of communication… lol). This required us to trust fully that Jehovah would find someone for us or make it so that even if we have to pay the final three months it wouldn’t feel like we lost any money. We were all in, and we decided to buy our tickets even before we had our visas! (The tickets were super cheap). We were leaving anyway. Weeks and months went by. Some came to see the place and even said they liked it and then we never heard from them again. We were nervous, but we new it was going to be ok. Finally a sister came by with a workmate who loved it and got approved about a week before we left. A sigh of relief and many thanks to Jehovah, we were financially and legally freed from the lease. On top of all of this, our complete deposit was returned to us.
- Our visas
As I mentioned, We bought our tickets before we sent in our visa applications. They were so cheap that we needed to take advantage of the deals. The consulate on the website stated that if you live less than 2 hours away, you would need to present for an interview before approval or denial. We lived an hour and a half away. It took only 3 weeks to get approved with no interview. Our passports were stamped and returned to us in the mail. I even put the wrong visa request by accident and the consular corrected it and gave us the one we actually needed.
- Getting rid of everything
This was by far the hardest part–the attachment to things and the physical work involved. We had some wonderful friends that helped us and they are true blessings from Jehovah. If it were not for them, we could not have gotten it all done. One sister and her niece cleaned our entire apartment alone while I was out running errands. It was spotless. Those friends that helped and encouraged us were sent from Jehovah. We are sure of it.
- Finding an apartment
Our visas were approved in February and it gave us only 4 months to get here and present to immigration. We got here with one month to spare. We needed to find a place quickly and we did. Within a week we chose a place and in two weeks we were all moved in. We did not need a co-signer, as most places were asking for, and we did not need a financial number as is usually needed. Our landlords are sweethearts. Our place is spacious enough for company and within our budget.
- Our car
We realized sometime before we arrived that we could not rely very heavily on public transportation. So we decided that we would need a car. We had a budget set to buy a used car and we found one before one month was finished. It can take a group of 5 in the territory and it gets us from one place to another.
- Alfredo’s job
A few months before we came a brother reached out to me about a job online. My husband is now in training for that position. He’ll be working part-time on the same days as I am. Even if this gig doesn’t work for him, we know that financially Jehovah will care for us and he will provide something else.
- The Elders here in Portugal
I have to add them to this list of blessings because they have been so refreshing since we got here. Moving to another country can be extremely daunting, but they have given us the reassurance that we needed. They welcomed us immediately. I see that Jehovah provided us comfort and what we needed when we needed it.
We are not special or privileged, it’s just that Jehovah keeps his promises.
“All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you because you keep listening to the voice of Jehovah your God…” Deuteronomy 28:2
Wow! it’s been two months already!
We just finished our second month here in Portugal. It went by so quickly. Until recently, I was still telling people that we’ve only been here for a month. Alfredo and I both feel good in Portugal. He feels amazed with being in Portugal, while I feel as if I am nowhere in the world, as if I am only somewhere but not far away from anywhere. Things are noticeably different, but for some reason I don’t feel it. I feel like I am alive in the world. I haven’t felt that “wow!” feeling, but I also haven’t felt like I hate it here. It just feels like life. I see this as positive because I can say I feel at home. I don’t know if that makes sense , but what I mean is, I feel as normal here as I feel in Connecticut.
“So, how’s your Portuguese coming along?”
Question of the year… I knew that Portuguese wasn’t going to be easy but I think Alfredo was expecting it to be easier. I was in the Portuguese congregation for one year after being in Spanish for seven years, so I had some experience with the language. Although I was commenting, giving talks, and going out in service I never got to the point of fluency. I was still learning when I returned to Spanish and unfortunately I forgot everything! As soon as we got here my husband realized that learning this language was not going to be easy. We both have a desire to learn but the problem is we don’t have enough opportunity to practice. Our meetings are all in Spanish. We spend time with the Spanish group. We work in English and Spanish only and most people speak English or understand Spanish. This has made learning somewhat slow for us. I try to use what I know. I would like to give myself a year to get settled in and then maybe take a class of Portuguese. One thing that scares me is that I will begin to mix my Spanish with Portuguese. This was one of the main reasons I switched back to Spanish in the first place. My brain speaks Spanish as a second language, not as a first. So it doesn’t recognize that it is learning a new language. I began to mix Spanish with Portuguese and vise versa. Honestly, Spanish is very important to me and if I have to sacrifice a language it will have to be Portuguese. I am going to do my best to train my brain to separate the two. Often times, even the native Spanish speakers use Portuguese with Spanish and they are ending their words with sh sounds instead of a a normal s. I don’t want to start doing that. This is my biggest fear. We’ll see how it all goes.
Life has started
I am back to work after taking a 2 month hiatus. Alfredo is training to be a quality assurance agent online. Before we left a brother who’s serving in D.R. contacted us about a position he is hiring for. We didn’t contact him until we were set up here. The training ends next week so we’ll see how everything goes. It’s so encouraging to see how Jehovah has been helping us put the little pieces together. As long as we continue to put him first he will keep providing for us. We have so many stories to tell and I can’t wait to continue to grow together here. Jehovah’s hand is not short that is for sure.
Now that we’re mostly settled we’ve been able to have a normal service schedule. As I said in my last post we’re mostly doing search work. The list of Spanish speaking homes was made about 3 or 4 years ago so we need to update the list. It seems like finding them can be difficult since 1. they move and 2. they tend to blend in, learn Portuguese and living their lives. We know that we have Colombian, Cuban, Dominican, Chilean, and Venezuelan communities and a mix of others. There is an African, Spanish-speaking country and we know that there are a few of them here as well. So the search work is on. We’ve all infiltrated ourselves in these little groups on Facebook so we can keep track of events, etc. As I’ve stated several times: The Spanish group in Portugal needs help. We hope you can come out. We will help you with your plans and Jehovah will maneuver things for you. (By the way, we just lost a family of five who went back to Portuguese so we could really use your help!)
Because of everything We’ve had to do, we haven’t been in the ministry as much as needgreaters should be, but we are trying to do as much as we can as we handle our business. We were told by the Veloz family that this is normal. They had to do the same thing when they got here and it took longer for them because they are a family of four. This made me feel better but I am still anxious for us to go full force in the field. The good news is that everything so far has gone so smoothly so we don’t have much more to do.
Field service right now has been mostly driving around and verifying if the homes we have are Spanish-speaking. We are still a group and there are some challenges getting through the territory. Some advice that was given to us was to preach with the English congregation because they find lots of people who speak Spanish. We are thinking of making Friday the day for this. The bible studies that Margarida and Juan have were found by friends in English. Alfredo and I live in the municipality of Sintra and we were told that there are lots of Spanish speaking here. The supermarkets are in the mall so we are constantly there. I know now that I need to be ready with literature in Spanish because on the third or fourth day we were here we were in the mall and I heard two men having lunch and speaking Spanish and I couldn’t believe that we both left the house unprepared!!! I felt like a failure. So now I’m always ready and listening wherever we go.
The meetings are awesome. The elders are so great at teaching, and because we are a small group I feel like the interaction in the questions and answers are more personal. Juan’s bible study comes to all the meetings and he comments too. Tuesday he gave his first bible reading. All our meetings are in Spanish except for the small part before the Congregation Bible Study; for this part, we watch the Portuguese congregation on the monitor since the group is under its supervision and this is the area that sometimes deals with the local needs of the congregation. (One day I’m going to prepare an answer in Portuguese and leave the library to give a comment.)
There are about 25 publishers in our group, made up of mostly Venezuelans. If you’ve heard of everything that is going on over there then you may know that they are all fleeing their country. I found out that lots of Portuguese went over to Venezuela to live and start businesses and families. This is why a lot of Venezuelans are coming here; through their Portuguese roots they can legally come and live. There is also a large portion of Colombians in the country. Margarida and Juan have already infiltrated themselves in Latin Americans living in Portugal groups on Facebook. Juan got into a WhatsApp group of a community of Dominicans living here and around memorial time he sent out the invitation to the whole group and the consulate called him and asked him what it was all about. The consulate resent the invitation to more groups. One Dominican got a hold of it and was really excited. He was telling others to go and check it out. He went to the memorial and to a meeting. Juan is still trying to pin him down for a study but the man is still telling people that they all need to come and check out our group! I can’t wait to see what happens there.
The friends in the congregation do what they can but they are here to live and provide for their families so before we came, the Velozes were the ones that were really working the territory. The others go out on the weekends. The group really does need help. There is another family that moved to a campsite to live in a trailer so that they can be closer and support the group as much as they can. Seeing their sacrifice is very encouraging.
Besides our group in Cascais, there is a pre-group in Lisbon and we just found out about another pre-group up north in Porto. I can’t wait to see how Spanish grows in this country.
RACE TO S.E.F.
We arrived to Portugal on Saturday, April 22 so we’ve been in our new country for three weeks now. Our “Race to S.E.F” began that very Monday. S.E.F is a branch of immigration that is responsible for granting us our residency permits. The residency process starts in the United States at the consulate. We were approved for a residency visa which has a duration of four months. A residency visa is different than a permanent residency. This visa allows you to appear to S.E.F and receive a temporary, year-long residency permit which must be renewed. After five years with a residency permit we will be eligible to become permanent residences.
Before S.E.F can grant us our permits we have to show them that we live in the country and that we are contributing financially. This means that we need to have an address–a place to live–and a bank account in Portugal. That’s easy enough, right? Not quite. Important business transactions and contract agreements require us to have what is called a NIF. This is almost like a social security number but not always used in the same way. The good news for us was that it is not that hard to get. The bad news was that we had to find a permanent resident who would agree to go to the office and wait for hours with us to get the number. The brother who sponsored us with the consulate in the United States was not able to help us get our NIF numbers. So we had to wait for a sister who was able to help us but not until the following week. In the meantime, we decided to continue to look for apartments and put our trust in Jehovah that this would work out.
The challenges with getting an apartment in Portugal are several. 1. We need a NIF to sign a contract. 2. We need a bank account and we can’t open a bank account without a NIF. 3. Most landlords require a co-signer to sign the contract with foreigners. The other challenges have to do with the condition of the apartments and what the landlord is willing to do. For instance, in the first apartment we toured the kitchen was just awful. The agent told us that the landlord would not be doing any repairs to it, but he would allow us to repair the kitchen the way we wanted it. Hmmm… doesn’t that mean he gets a brand new kitchen for free, plus our rent money? Next! One landlord told us that he does not clean or paint; he leaves that up to his tenants to do because he does not know what color paint we prefer, but we must leave the apartment clean when we vacate. Who wants to clean up someone else’s mess? And in addition to all of that, most kitchens do not come equipped like they do in the United States.
We started our apartment hunt on our first Monday, day 3, in Portugal. We saw three apartments. Two we did not like but the last one we did. The last apartment was a little bigger than we expected with 3 bedrooms/2 bathrooms (yass!!!). It did not require a co-signer, but they did require a larger deposit as protection if we leave without completing the lease. We heard of this before we came so we did not find it strange. Day 4, Tuesday, we saw one apartment that we really liked, 2 bedrooms/1 bath, and it did not need a co-signer if we paid for a full year (Not ideal but possible). On Wednesday, day 5, we saw about three or four more apartments and then Alfredo and I decided to tell the agent that we were interested in taking the 3-bedroom apartment; so I sent the agent an email and he sent me a message telling me that the owner accepted our terms. Fast forward to now as I am sitting on my couch in my apartment writing this blog. A sister helped us by reviewing our contract and making sure everything was ok. The owners are a sweet, elderly, Portuguese couple. The wife gave me two European kisses when we met and when they left. We knew Jehovah was with us; it only took us a week and half to find a place. Proof of Jehovah’s hand was that they allowed us to sign the lease without a Portuguese bank account and NIF. Fortunately, we got our NIF 30 minutes before our meeting with the agent and the owner for the signing. This was on Wednesday, day 12.
On our 13th day, Thursday, we were able to open our bank account with our new NIF numbers. Now that these important things were finished we could “run to S.E.F.” Not exactly. I found out that we had to call and get an appointment. We needed to get in before the end of May when our visas expire. I finally got someone on the line at the S.E.F office and we were given an appointment for November 21st! I was very concerned but the agent told me that they are behind; however, since we called before our expiration date we would be ok. Phew!!! We received an email with our dates that we’ll have to carry with us all the time after this month.
All that’s left to do now is get a car and organize and furnish our apartment. Oh yes… and start to work because we’ve already spent a lot of money.
Patience… patience… patience
Everything in Portugal takes time. You have to make an appointment or take a number and wait or make an appointment and when you get there take a number and wait. So even though it seems that the tasks are few, they can take hours to finish. For example, getting our NIF took three hours; signing the lease took an hour and a half; getting a bank account took another three hours; getting internet took an hour, etc. Portugal does not do much business over the phone or online like in the states, where in 20 minutes you have a bank account open and utilities in your name and you’re good to go. This was the challenge in trying to get everything done as quickly as possible. Every country has it’s challenges but Jehovah keeps proving to us that he is behind this move. If you’re reading this blog because you are also looking to serve where the need is greater, don’t fear. Jehovah will help you. You won’t t be alone.
We left Alfredo’s aunt’s house in Florida and headed to NYC to meet Ingrid, Andrea and Lucero, who flew in from California. They wanted to visit Bethel, meet my family and friends in Connecticut and tour NYC. We had such a great time. It was Lucero’s first time traveling and I really enjoyed watching her excitement. I was glad I got to experience her first trip.
When I think of us serving in Portugal, one of the words that comes to my mind is ‘healing’. Being secularly immersed in this system of things is draining and it’s not healthy.
Alfredo’s job is draining him. His energy over the years has been depleted because of it. Recently, he told me that some of his workmates were talking about taking a medical leave for anxiety. They are experiencing difficulty breathing and other horrible symptoms. My husband told me that he is not experiencing anxiety on that level but he has little symptoms here and there at work. I know he has to leave it. Today he called me from work and asked me if there was any way that he could quit his job by January. At first I told him that he should try to wait at least until April but after I thought about it I told him to try to find a simple job at a grocery store or in a small office until we leave. He NEEDS to quit. I don’t think that he can handle it anymore. Everyday I see him breaking down.
One thing that I have always said to him was that if we serve where the need is greater he could take about 6 months to a year off to recuperate. I saw him stressed out and I knew that he needed this. Preaching the good news is emotionally and mentally healing. A new life of mostly focusing on the ministry and helping others will relax him and bring him to a calm place once again. It makes me feel good to know that because of my foresight I was able to prepare us for when my husband reached his breaking point. If it weren’t for me deciding to work online to serve where the need is greater I would have to start from the beginning and maybe we wouldn’t be at this point now. We wouldn’t have been ready for when he reached his limit.
Our leaving to serve where the need is greater is not only about the preaching work. The preaching work is life saving, for them and for us. We need relief and we need it badly. What better way to find relief is there than to engage fully in the service?
Jehovah will be with us and direct us. If my husband leaves his job early then his full time service can start here in the U.S.A. If you’re reading this blog, we need your prayers. We appreciate all of your support.
Here is what we’ve accomplished thus far:
Move to a cheaper place Find teaching job Apply for FBI background check Send off passports for renewal Gather documents for visa application
- Apply for Visa
- Interview with Portugal Consulate
- Receive visa stamp (with Jehovah’s help)
- sell everything
- buy ticket
We are half way there! We can’t apply for our visas until we get our FBI background checks and passports back. I received my Birth Certificate the other day (found out that I was 5.10 lbs and born at 11:40) which we need for our applications. It takes 2 months for the FBI background check to come in since we sent ours by mail. We found out after we sent it off that if we would have gone to a law enforcement office with Live Scan we could have gotten our finger prints sent directly to the FBI and our report would have been handed to us the same day. This means that the process does not have to take so long. If I had my passport with me now and Live Scan we could send our applications today. This would make it possible to actually leave within the next 3 months!
We are not leaving in 3 months due to our lease and a possible wedding but for anyone thinking of joining us, keep this in mind. I am excited and I hope the time just flies by.
Margarida and her family have already arrived in Portugal. The fact that they are finally there means that WE are now closer to our leaving date which was September 2017. We were so excited to finally speak to them on FaceTime a couple of weeks ago and we got great information.
The Spanish group needs so much support. When he arrived, Juan asked about how the territory was being worked and basically, it wasn’t, so he’ll be taking over the preaching work for this new field. I think the preaching work in Portugal is going to be perfect for me–preaching by the beaches, no door to door before 11 am, preaching in new territory. This matches who I am and I’m thrilled.
There was so much information that we got from that one conversation and once again, we were pumped. So Juan asked us when we think we’ll make it there and we told him September. His response was, “What?! You can get here sooner. Start now and you can make it by April.” I liked that idea but about a year ago I asked my husband if he wanted to leave earlier and he said that we should still go in September so I shrugged off the suggestion. A few days later my husband told me he liked the idea of going early and wanted to get the process started to get there by April.
Now there are some set backs. One of my friends just got engaged and they are planning to marry in March and my other friend has expressed the possibility of an engagement and an April wedding. I love weddings and I want to be there for both of them. Also, our lease is not up until June so we have to see if getting out of it is possible. One viable solution is to find someone to take over the lease so that the owner does not lose a month’s rent. Who can we find to do this?
When we originally moved out of our original place we moved into an apartment on a month-to-month lease. The idea was so that we could move whenever we needed to without any consequences. Regrettably, that didn’t work out and we had to move from there quickly. We were forced to take a lease to escape. The place we live in is really nice. It’s cheaper than the one bedroom we previously moved out of. It’s a townhouse with an upstairs and downstairs, two bedrooms, 1.5 baths, a back patio, balconies off each bedroom, spacious living room and kitchen and a washer and dryer. We think this place would be good for a small family or couple. Today, at the meeting, I decided to throw it out there to a couple with a small child. I told them what we pay for rent and the brother said that we pay less than they do and he was looking to cut down on expenses. He also said his lease was up sometime in March. Could this be perfect? We have to see. I told them that I will have them over for dinner and they can see if they like it. If they do, we’ll have to talk to the apartment manager to see if they will allow us to get out of the lease early if we provide them with a tenant. If they allow us to get out with our deposit the couple will need to apply and get approved. Jehovah may be providing us a way to leave earlier. We will keep praying about it.
We could be leaving California by March or April! We are ready when Jehovah is. In the meantime, the process has started–FBI background check was requested and our passports were sent off for renewal. I just put our other paperwork in order. When these documents comeback to us two months from now we will be ready to send out our visa applications. Will we be able to send it out or will we wait to leave in June? Praying, praying and praying.
Well my husband opened up his email and there it was! I am so excited. In one of my earlier posts I wrote about how one year feels so far away. That’s why this letter is so important. I needed something palpable from Portugal to bring the goal to reality. Prior to this we had only been making plans for finding ways to save money– moving to a cheaper apartment and me getting a new job–but we didn’t have anything that said “PORTUGAL”. This is the first thing we’ve received that actually states our goal. Awesome!
The letter is very encouraging. I love the scriptures that were referenced. My favorite is Deuteronomy 28:2:
“All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you, because you keep listening to the voice of Jehovah your God:”
Because of this special letter, I will always remember this scripture. I definitely know now that what we are doing is right and it will come with blessings. I can’t wait to learn what those blessings are.
The letter referred us to the Cascais, Spanish group. We’d heard that there was another Spanish group in Lisbon, but we are happy to be referred to Cascais since that is were Margarida and her family are assigned. It states that the Spanish group ‘needs all the help they can get’. Again this makes me want to work harder to get there. I just want to be used by Jehovah. When referring us to this group we were given the name of the brother in charge and his contact information. Our next step is to email or call for more information.
Margarida and her family are now living in Portugal. This is another step in our plans because they can give us more information now that they are part of the congregation. Maybe we will Skype them before we contact the brother. Jehovah is blessing our efforts and while he does that he continues to prep and teach us. What a blessing.