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A Christian Journey

PAUSE for THOUGHT in PORTUGAL

Author: Ellgy

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Basílica de la Sagrada Familia, Barcelon

Week 19

March 10

Week 25

April 21

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Week 20

March 17

Week 26

April 28

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Week 21

March 24

Week 27

May 5

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Week 22

March 31

Week 28

May 12

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Week 23

April 7

Week 29

May 19

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Week 18

March 3

Week 24

April 14

Week 30

May 26

WEEK 1

4 November 2020

I knew exactly where I was and where I wanted to go!

I went out one night to buy a television, but I had trouble with the Portuguese road system. I couldn’t get myself onto the road I wanted to go to; the roads wouldn’t let me get there. I could see the shopping centre from my front window but seeing it was not going to get me there. It was a ten-minute walk from my home.

 

For 39 years I had driven on the left-hand side of the road, and now I was confronted with driving on the right-hand side.  

 

I have to admit that early on in my life in Portugal, there was one time when I turned into a freeway on the left-hand side of the road. My secretary was sitting in the passenger seat and he not only screamed, but I thought he was going to have a heart attack. Fortunately, this was not near a built-up area and there were no other cars about, so I just did a U turn and got back on track. I soon got used to driving on the right-hand side of the road.

 

The book of Proverbs has signposts to help us beware of wrong turns on the road of life.

Proverbs 3:6 

In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 4:27

Do not turn to the right nor to the left; turn your foot from evil.

 

WEEK 2

11 November 2020

I was in a bit of a pickle. I couldn’t go to the doctor without proof of my citizenship.

 

To get my visa, I needed to get a doctor’s certificate to say I did not have an infectious disease. I didn’t have any infectious diseases, but I needed my visa to get a driver’s licence. I also needed a certificate from the local council to say that the house I was living in was suitable. It sounded like some sort of mystery tour. My secretary tried everything to get this done.

 

I had to go to Seville in Spain to get my visa, and I made three visits over several months. The day arrived to pick up my visa, but that day in Seville my passport was stolen. 

All’s well that ends well and when I arrived back in Portugal, I went to the Australian Embassy and told them the sorry story. They contacted the office in Seville, and the next day I got a phone call to say the passport had been found.

 

Was I pleased? You bet.

 

Back to Seville for the fourth and, fortunately, last time in the visa saga to pick it up.

 

Thank goodness it does not need all this effort to be a citizen of heaven.

John 3:16 says:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

 

WEEK 3

18 November 2020

One Sunday I was watching the National Geographic Channel on TV, which I could only get in the Portuguese language, and suddenly there was a programme about cricket. The Portuguese, on the whole, do not know much about the game of cricket.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next thing I knew is that the interviewer was talking to my favourite wicket keeper, Rod Marsh, and I discovered that he spoke Portuguese. Well, the words he was speaking were coming out to me as being in Portuguese. 

 

Then, the next thing I knew, they were talking to Steve Waugh, our captain at the time – he also suddenly spoke Portuguese! I felt betrayed.  

 

This was one of the annoying things about my TV in Portugal. I knew the actual film or programme was in English and could faintly hear that they were speaking English, but the dubbing was so loud it was of no use to me.

 

Sometimes we say one thing and mean another. At other times, people misinterpret what is being said. We have to be careful that what we say is edifying to the other person. The name of Christian, ‘Follower of Christ’ or ‘Christ’s One’, is to be cherished. 

 

As Ecclesiastes 7:1a says:

A good name is better than precious ointment.  

 

Ephesians 4:29

Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

WEEK 3

18 November 2020

One Sunday I was watching the National Geographic Channel on TV, which I could only get in the Portuguese language, and suddenly there was a programme about cricket. The Portuguese, on the whole, do not know much about the game of cricket.

The next thing I knew was that the interviewer was talking to my favourite wicket keeper, Rod Marsh, and I discovered that he spoke Portuguese. Well, the words he was speaking were coming out to me as being in Portuguese. 

 

Then, the next thing I knew, they were talking to Steve Waugh, our captain at the time – he also suddenly spoke Portuguese! I felt betrayed.  

 

This was one of the annoying things about my TV in Portugal. I knew the actual film or programme was in English and could faintly hear that they were speaking English, but the dubbing was so loud it was of no use to me.

 

Sometimes we say one thing and mean another. At other times, people misinterpret what is being said. We have to be careful that what we say is edifying to the other person. The name of Christian, ‘Follower of Christ’ or ‘Christ’s One’, is to be cherished. 

 

As Ecclesiastes 7:1a says:

A good name is better than precious ointment.  

 

Ephesians 4:29

Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

 

WEEK 4

25 November 2020

One of our ministers in Portugal was Swiss and he married his Portuguese sweetheart. They had lived in Portugal for years. When they had children, the husband went to register the first one, a boy, who they called Markus. This was not on the list of recognised Portuguese names, so he had to go to the Swiss Embassy and get a letter from them to say that this name was recognised in Switzerland. The second child was a girl, Erika, and the same thing happened again. (The Portuguese are absolutely strangled in red tape and yet they also love to break the rules.)

Since Shakespeare first posed the question, we continue to ask: ‘What’s in a name?’

 

Our name identifies us to others. Some parents give names to their children that indicate the character they would like their child to have, others choose family names and yet others make up a name which, quite frankly, may end up being a burden to the child as they grow up.

 

Here in Australia, in the founding of our national capital city, a competition was organised to choose a name for this city and people were invited to suggest names. In Parliament House there is a room with a display of many of the suggested names. I am glad they chose Canberra; it is derived from a word from the Ngunnawal nation meaning a ‘meeting place’.

 

Names in the Bible that have strong meanings are Timothy: ‘One who honours God’; Jonathon: ‘Given of God’; and for girls, Joanna: ‘God is gracious’; and Hannah means ‘Merciful’. There are many others that reflect character, destiny, grace and so on.

 

WEEK 5

2 December 2020

Portugal is a fascinating place to visit. There are many fantastic historic buildings from the days before modern machinery was available to create these huge cathedrals and palaces.

A visit to Mafra, 40.3 km from Lisbon, will blow you away with the vision of the summer palace of the King and the enormous Basilica there. The palace is amazing and particularly the library. It holds 36,000 leather-bound books attesting to the extent of western knowledge from the 14th to the 19th centuries. The room itself is huge but is built in such a way that the temperature is controlled all year round. The walls are so thick that it is warm in winter and cool in summer because it takes so long for the room to reach the outside temperature.

 

The wooden bookshelves in the Rococo style are situated on the side walls in two rows, separated by a balcony with a wooden railing. These beautiful, finished volumes were bound in the local workshop of the library (Livraria) in the rocaille style. The library is known for homing bats which protect the books from insect damage. 

The Bible has been called a library or a book of books because it comprises 66 books that were written about the history, law, prophets, biographies, poetry, life and work of God’s people and His Son, Jesus, as well as the establishment of the Christian church throughout the ancient world.

 

All that and more is found in the Bible. It’s well worth a read.

 

2 Timothy 3:16–17

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

 

WEEK 6

9 December 2020

The Franciscan Convent of the Capuchos in Sintra is fondly called the Cork Convent, and it was established in 1560. The structure is cut out of the rocks surrounding it, and inside they used cork from the surrounding cork trees to line the rooms and seats etc. as that gives them warmth. It is in a beautiful, rugged setting in the mountains and often, even in the summer, this mountain is covered by mist. The monks had tiny cells and only eight monks lived there. They grew herbs and plants around the grounds and these were famous for miles around. Some of the plants have survived. 

There was a little dispensary and a two-room sick bay. They also had a library with books that contained the recipes for the medicines they made. In the early 1800s the convent was abandoned, and this enforced closure meant that it was empty for many years. A wealthy family bought it, but after a while they gave it to the State and it was left to fall into ruin.

 

Unfortunately, vandals got in and graffitied some of the walls. Later, the State made an effort at restoring it as much as possible and researching exactly what would have happened there, and since 2001 there have been tours of the site. I went there many times with my visitors.

 

It reminds me that if something is left and not looked after, it will eventually lose its lustre and purpose. Our Christian life has to be stimulated, nourished and tended to be kept active, relevant and useful, not only to ourselves but also to others. 

Colossians 1:9–14

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

[Incidentally, Capuchos means hooded and is where the word capuchino comes from i.e. hooded coffee.]

 

WEEK 7

16 December 2020

At Christmas time in Portugal, you will see lines of people outside quality bakeries waiting to purchase their Bolo Rei. It is their delicious Christmas Kings' Cake bread.  

Bolo Rei, or Kings' Cake, is a traditional Portuguese cake that is typically eaten during Christmas until the Dia de Reis on January 6 (Day of Kings or Epiphany in the Western tradition). It is a staple dessert in any Portuguese home during these holidays, and it originated with the confeitarias (confectioners) of Portugal who adapted the recipe from French dessert making.

 

Bolo Rei has a hole in the centre and is baked from a soft, white dough with raisins, various nuts, and crystallized fruit inside. It is a bit complicated to make and has quite a few ingredients, but the end product is totally worth the effort. I did enjoy Bolo Rei.

 

The fresh bread in Portugal is really fresh as the bakers have two bakings a day – in the morning for breakfast (pequeno almoço) and in the afternoon for dinner (jantar). I bought a fresh, crunchy, crusty bread roll on my way to work most days.

 

Beautiful bread makes us feel good inside. How much more the presence of Jesus in our hearts.

Jesus likened Himself to bread when He said:

      ‘I am the Bread of Life, whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’

(John 6:35)

 

WEEK 8

23 December 2020

I need to tell you about Christmas. When we think about the festive season, we think of food and parties and so on. I don’t think I could have Christmas without a massive roast meat and vegetable dinner followed by plum pudding and custard. In Portugal, the main Christmas fare is boiled, dried codfish (complete with all the bones), which is called bacalhau, and boiled potatoes, boiled carrots and boiled cabbage! No sauce or gravy. That’s it. I sat through several of these dinners during the season as I was visiting Homes for the Elderly and Centres for the Homeless.

When I went to the north of Portugal for a Christmas dinner for the elderly of Porto, the entertainment there was one of the really wonderful experiences I had in Portugal. It is usual for this type of event to have a nativity play of some sort. This was one with a difference. The characters in the play were the elderly. One of the shepherds was an 86-year-old man. King Herod was an 82-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s who had to be helped up to the stage, and the rest of them were near that range in age. They were all dressed up appropriately and took their parts very seriously. It was one of the best nativity plays I have seen.

 

Another exciting thing to see was the fact that the young people of the church, aged between ten to late teens, all enthusiastically helped out with the whole occasion. There were about 200 people in attendance and when guests arrived at the check-in desk their names were ticked off, and then a young person would take their arm and lead them to the right position at the table.

          Young and old need each other.

          Young and old can help each other. 

          Young and old are better for mixing with each other.

 

1 Chronicles 25:8

Young and old alike, teacher as well as student, cast lots for their duties.

 

WEEK 9

30 December 2020

You may think of Portugal and Spain as being exotic places to eat Mediterranean food, and this is true, but the food is not always what you would think it is. I have told you already about the much-loved Christmas fare.

 

At one officers’ (ministers’) retreat we stayed at a Quinta, which is like a country hotel with its own garden. It was at a town called Elvas. The Celts are regarded as its first inhabitants and in 155 BC the Romans moved in, but I digress.

The restaurant at the hotel was very ‘up market’. One day the starter course was pigs’ ears. Now, you might wonder what this tastes like. I can tell you it is just as you would imagine. It is like biting into hard gristle. Why anyone thought of this idea in the first place is beyond me. Another day we had soup that was water, bread, parsley, garlic, olive oil and tiny birds’ eggs poached whole.

A strange dessert I enjoyed was eaten at another hotel. It was called Camel's Dribble (adjacent), which is condensed milk with caramel flavouring. 

I also had some other fancy food, some of which was quite tasty. I never went hungry. There was plenty of fish and chicken and salads on offer and, of course, fantastic bread and olives. 

Reflect on Matthew 5:6

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled.

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Image of Camel's Dribble by Melsj

Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International Licence

 

WEEK 10

6 January 2021

At one time, we had a two-week visit from a YES (Youth Experiencing Service) Team from Australia. On their first Saturday they had engagements, but one of the boys read in a tourist brochure that there was to be a festival and a bull run. We found out the bull run was at 6.00 pm and a parade at 8.00 pm. The Team was due to finish their engagements by 4.00 pm so we had time to get to Tomar, 135 kms away.

 

They didn’t finish until 4.45 pm, so we tore up the highway like things possessed and got to Tomar at 6.30 pm. No sign of any bull run, or parade. There were none of those things happening in Tomar that night. There was, however, a bull fight in which none of us were interested.

 

There was a festival of sorts. We did have a look around the town, which was highly decorated, and saw a bit of a concert that was held outdoors and a choir sang some African American Spirituals. We bought some of the best hamburgers I have ever tasted and set off for home. We had a good time and laughed quite a bit on the way home.

Disappointment, waste of time, irresponsible, tiring — there are probably many descriptive words about this trip. It did, however, provide the young people from Australia a visit to a country village. 

 

The Team had many happy hours and learnt much from their time in Portugal, including turning a disappointment into a triumph.

 

1 Peter 1:8–9

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

 

WEEK 11

13 January 2021

The view from the top is magnificent. One of the experiences I gave my visitors, whenever possible, was a tram ride to Castel de St Jorge in Lisbon.

   

The tram climbs up narrow streets and the authorities allow not only traffic there, but parking as well. This means that if a car (or van or truck) is even an inch out of place, the tram cannot pass. The driver of the tram dings his bell and the owner of the car comes out and shifts it. It’s all part of the culture of this tram route which, I might add, is a normal commuter tram and not a tourist vehicle.

Well, one day I was on the tram with visitors and a car was parked too close to the tram line. The dinging of the bell went on for a while. As luck would have it, there were two policemen near the scene and they sprang forward and booked the car. Well, it was some sort of action wasn’t it? 

 

More dinging. Nothing. The policemen used their mobile phones. Forty-five minutes later we were able to move because the police tow truck came and towed the car away.

 

Everyone on the tram had an opinion and they were all talking away sharing their opinion with others. It didn’t move the car, though.

 

Talk doesn’t necessarily bring action.

 

1 Corinthians 4:20

For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power.

Which do you choose?

 

Image by Jarek500przez900 from Pixabay

 

WEEK 12

20 January 2021

It was very embarrassing travelling to England by plane with Portuguese colleagues. These people didn’t even know what cricket was and they got let into Great Britain willy-nilly. Whilst I, who not only knows what cricket is, love it with a passion and I speak English, had to answer all the questions at the immigration desk:  

Where have you come from?

How long will you be in England?

Where are you going to from here?

Where are you staying?

What are you here for?

Do you know people here?

etcetera.

Because the three officers with me were all Portuguese and part of the European Union, they just walked through. It was unbelievable! To add insult to injury, when we got to the radar check-in, I was the only one of the four of us who had to take their shoes off. So, there was I, hat off, uniform jacket off, shoes off, really!

 

It was so tedious to get into Britain – and embarrassing. My colleagues were all smiling as they were waiting for me to get through. Just as well the check-in desk in Heaven is streamlined. Know Jesus, know the Father, God. Go straight through.

John 14:6

Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’

 

WEEK 13

27 January 2021

Since I left the Portugal Command, they have joined it to another command, Spain, and that pleased me no end. Before I left, the Spain and Portugal Commands were going to do an interchange of officers for a Sunday service as a test.

On a weekend in the summer, I was to be the guest for the Sunday service at the Barcelona Salvation Army in Spain. I was picked up from the airport and taken to my hotel, but nothing else seemed to be arranged even though Dora from my office had rung to see that everything was OK.

 

On the Sunday, when it came time for the sermon, they called on a young man to come out and translate. The sermon was preached three times that morning: twice by me and once by the translator and friends!

 

I would say a sentence and he would go quiet, and then look at me. After a few seconds he would say, ‘Would you mind repeating that sentence?’

 

When he got really stuck some of his friends would call out what they thought the phrase was. I honestly don’t know if they knew what I was talking about. Some of their responses told me that they didn’t!

 

It went for 45 minutes, so I cut great chunks out as I wanted to get home before the next millennium.

Reading the Bible can be a bit like my need for a translator. Although our Bible may be written in our mother tongue, we often need to have someone or a commentary book to explain the who and the why to us. It’s good to join a Bible study group for discussion on what you are reading.

Image: Basílica de la Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

 

WEEK 14

3 February 2021

When I first went to Portugal, I didn’t have a local bank account. I got paid by cheque, then went to the bank with my passport to get it cashed. 

One day I got there at 2.30 pm and was attended to at 3.10 pm. While the teller was processing my cheque the computers went down, so he explained that to me in Portuguese. Fortunately, the Portuguese people use their hands a lot, and although I had no idea what he was saying by mouth, I got the message by the waving of his hands etc. There were 34 people in line waiting to be served. 

 

There was usually no waiting to be served in the Continente Supermarket near my home. It had 96 checkouts which, if they were all or mostly all open, meant quick service. The catch to this is that usually only at Christmas or Easter were all the checkouts open. Trying to imagine the crowd at Christmas time will do your head in.

 

John 6:2 tells us that a huge crowd kept following him (Jesus) wherever he went, because they saw his miraculous signs as he healed the sick. Following this, the crowd needed food and the famous ‘Feeding of the Five Thousand’ episode took place. 

My supermarket had nothing on that crowd!

 

WEEK 15

10 February 2021

One Saturday I rang up one of the officer families and asked if their girls would like to ‘come and play’. They were aged 12 and 9 years old. They came in the afternoon, and we made tomato sauce and some handcraft, played Rummykub and Scrabble, and also made some scones for afternoon tea. It was then time to take them home.  

 

They didn’t speak English, so it was an interesting afternoon. Scrabble was particularly interesting as they had never played it before, and I was trying to teach them how to do it. They did words in Portuguese and I did words in English. It was fun even if it wasn’t up to tournament level. 

 

The daughter of other officers was 7. We were sitting in a coffee shop, and while we were sitting there Miss 7 came rushing in to her mother and said, ‘Wash me and put some perfume on me, quick.’ 

 

Her mother was astounded and asked what the problem was.

 

‘Vincente has just arrived and I want to look nice for him.’  Boy they start early these days.

Children are a delight and are precious. We have a solemn duty and pleasure to love them, however their behaviour may be.

Jesus called the children to Him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’ (Matthew 19:14)

 

WEEK 16

17 February 2021

The Sanctuary of Fatima is known all over the world as a special place of pilgrimage for the Catholic Church and its followers. Fatima is a town and parish located 142 km (88 miles) north of Lisbon.

 

I have visited this holy place several times taking my visitors to see this remarkable area. One of the big days of pilgrimage is on 13 May. It is estimated that 400,000 pilgrims visit the Sanctuary over the week of commemoration.

 

Many of the pilgrims walk, and there was a piece in the papers about an 86-year-old woman who had been healed and had walked from Porto to Fatima, about 120 kms. By the look of her feet, she needed healing again after walking that distance.  

 

The layout of the Sanctuary is similar to St Peter’s, Rome, but twice the size (capable of holding a million pilgrims), and many of the pilgrims cross the square on their knees. It is incredibly moving.

Figures of 2 of the 3 children alleged to have seen the Virgin Mary appear at Fatima in 1917.

A conviction of faith is important to the people of Portugal, they are very religious. In Australia there are thousands of people who pray and attend Christian churches each week and many more who profess a faith in God, but who do not attend a place of worship.

 

If you love and respect someone, isn’t it important to talk to them and visit them?  

 

WEEK 17

24 February 2021

Portugal is strangling in red tape. One morning I experienced all the ‘humbug’ and enormous waste of time associated with going to the Ministry of Justice.

You see, the Power of Attorney given to me by The Salvation Army said that I was Lynette Green (are you with me so far?). My passport said I was Lynette Joan Green.

 

I had to send copious copies of my passport, as well as one of my staff to find out that I had to make a statement that I was one and the same person. I had to take two witnesses and one translator (no, one of the witnesses could not be the translator) to the Justice office.

 

So, four of us spent two hours fronting up and paying for the privilege of verifying that I was Lynette Green and Lynette Joan Green.

 

They gave me a bulky lot of official papers, which I had to carry in my passport to show that I was both these people in one. What a menace. Eight hours of work lost because of it.

The four of us did enjoy coffee and cakes in one of the large avenues on the way back to the office. That beats work any day. 

 

Blessed are those who enjoy the simple things in life and don’t try to tie everything up in red tape.  

 

God knows not only our names but everything about us — and He still loves us!