Last week we traveled to Portugal for a kickstart weekend. We left with a full car (7 people). Thijs was also allowed to come along this time, it was quite an adventure for him!
Since it was quite a drive, we decided to spend the night somewhere halfway. We asked a new disciple Javier, who was baptized a few weeks ago, if we could stay with him for a night. We could then also encourage him, because he is still very much alone. The only Christian in the wide area, as far as we know.
We arrived there with a group of 9 people and had a good time together. Singing, talking about God and…. Swimming in His pool. Two people stayed behind with Javier to answer all kinds of questions and read the Bible together. The rest went on to Portugal.
There were very few people at the kickstart. We had seen that beforehand. A few years back I would have said: it’s not worth driving that far for 6 or 7 people. Then we’d better call it off. But now I know that it’s not about how many people come, but who comes. Or even to just go, not knowing what to expect. Because to God, every individual is important and a person with Jesus can really make a difference in his or her environment.
God is working!
We had a very good time. One lady came all the way from Austria and had a background in Islam. She had known for some time that she wanted to be baptized, but could not find anyone in her area who could do it. Her boyfriend had recently lived in Portugal and when she saw that a kickstart would be held there she knew she wanted to be baptized there. It was a beautiful moment and after the baptism she received the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. She was immensely happy and grateful to be able to experience this! We then paired her with a contact in Austria in the city where she lives.
Furthermore, there was another couple in Portugal who both needed the gospel. After a good conversation, they decided that they should be baptized. We also took people out into the streets and special things happened. For example, there was a lady who was walking with crutches and was in a lot of pain. After praying a few times, she was doing better and walked away without crutches.
Deliverance from demons
The way back we had an appointment at a friend in Cáceres. Here we had also been for a week last year. We could stay with her for a night, but she said a day might be too short, since so many people around her needed help. We decided to stay two nights and we were very busy. It was a coming and going of people at her house! Some had never heard the gospel, others had and needed deliverance. Several people were freed. The last day we wanted to leave on time, but there was another lady who needed help. When she came in she was very skeptical and wary. She had evil thoughts about us.
“This is the most powerful experience I’ve ever had.”
But as the conversation with her progressed, she saw that she needed to repent and needed deliverance. She had been involved in various occult things. We prayed for her and demons left her, after trying to intimidate us. As we were praying for her had she was hanging all limp forward as if she had no strength at all but. Then she got up with a jolt and looked straight at me with very menacing eyes. But soon after, the demons left her and she was calm. She wanted to stay with us and asked if she might attend the school. A total difference from two hours earlier. A day later, she said she really felt the fight inside of her and the deliverance was the most powerful experience she had ever had.
Our oldest son Thijs was along on the trip and experienced all of this up close. Thijs and I had talked about baptism many times in the weeks before. He often started talking about it himself and then I could explain the meaning to him.
I used to be told that baptism is something symbolic. Through which you show to the outside world what has changed inside you.
I used to be told that baptism is something symbolic. Through which you show to the outside world what has changed inside you. And that in doing so you are also added to the congregation (the church). This made baptism a kind of ‘plus package’. You can already be saved and belong to Jesus, but not yet be part of a church, because you are not yet baptized. But since that is only something symbolic, it could be postponed. But that’s not right! All the texts in the Bible about baptism into Jesus say something different:
When Naaman came to the prophet in the Old Testament and was eager to receive healing, he was instructed: immerse yourself 7 times in the Jordan River and you will be healed. He did it (reluctantly), but it worked! Why? Because he was obedient. He had faith in something that seemed nonsense. Likewise, there was a blind man who came to Jesus. Jesus made mud and stroked it on his eyes. Then Jesus said, “Go to the bathhouse and wash yourself there. The blind man did it and was healed! The same Jesus says, “Now go out and make all nations disciples of Me. Baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.“. Obedience to this command is necessary for your salvation. You also see that the first disciples in Acts preached a gospel to which the response was repentance and baptism (and receiving of the Holy Spirit). Those things have never been separate.
“I don’t want this anymore. But I can’t manage to stop. God must work a miracle.”
Thijs understood well. He recognized that he had a problem with God and longed to start a new life with Jesus. He’s only 12, but he’s already been through a lot. For example, from a young age he has suffered from severe anger attacks and showed very challenging behavior. This made it difficult at home, but also at the different schools he attended. He said, “I don’t want this anymore. But I can’t manage to stop. God must work a miracle.”
We are so happy that Thijs decided to live for Jesus! Long ago, I sometimes worried whether our children would learn enough of the faith if we stopped going to a regular church. Someone said to me at the time, “Do you really think one hour of Sunday school a week is going to make a difference? No, children look to their parents. You have to live the life with Jesus out as parents themselves. You need to be real. They easily pierce through hypocrisy, if you say something different than you live.’