Saturday, October 17, 2015

October Prayer Letter

October 2015

Dear Praying Friends,

I remember starting our church with just two boys attending every Sunday.  When my wife took the boys to the Sunday School class room, I would sit in the empty auditorium and pray for their salvations and for the thousands of people in our city of Lagos that rejected Christ and His gospel.  It was a discouraging time and we labored for years with occasional visitors but only a few adults who came and went. We tried everything that had worked in the past but with no success.  We knew God had called us here and were determined to stay until He said it was enough.  All during this time, you faithfully kept praying and giving to keep us laboring here.

Until a year ago, space was not a problem.  Our small auditorium had plenty of seats to spare.  Now, with so many coming to services and four families taking our new members class, it has become a challenge to fit everyone in.  For two years, we have been praying for the storefront next to ours that is used as a paint warehouse.  It would make a great auditorium with enough room to triple our attendance and still have the original rooms for the children’s classes, for church fellowships and for activities.

During our VBS we got acquainted with the owner of this store front.  Please pray with us that we will be able to win him to Christ and if it is the will of God, that we will be able to purchase his store front to handle our expanding church.  Our Father knows our needs before we do and we are confident He will supply the need just as He always has.  But we also know that when you folks pray, God listens to your prayers; so we are asking that you join us in prayer for this situation. 

Thankful for space problems,

Mark Hale

Thursday, October 8, 2015

September Prayer Letter

September 2015

Dear Praying Friends,

We were in the middle of our Vacation Bible School when the mailman showed up at the door of our church.  “I have a delivery” he announced while a shy 7 year old girl peeked out from behind his leg.  Visions of abandoned children being left on church doorsteps raced through my mind but then he announced, “Her father asked me to drop her off; she has been wanting to come all week but was too shy to come earlier.”  I breathed a sigh of relief and we welcomed her in.

Our Vacation Bible School ended last week and it was amazing what God did!  We had a total of 19 children attend during the week, many of them first time visitors!  We have many new contacts with families and children and are very excited by this level of interest from so many families here in Lagos.

We want to thank each one of you who prayed for this ministry and let you know that God is working as a result of your faithful labors in prayer.  Two children, G. and N., expressed interest in being saved, but neither wanted to take the final step and pray.  Please continue to pray for these two children and all the others who heard the gospel last week.  15 out of the 19 children confessed that they did not have Jesus as their Savior.  Our hearts are burdened that these precious children and their families would soon come to know Christ as their Savior and Lord. 

Bringing children to Jesus,

Mark Hale

Friday, August 28, 2015

August 2015

Dear Praying Friends,

I had been sick all week with fevers, chills, muscle aches, and a racking cough that wouldn’t go away.  I crawled out of bed that Sunday morning with great difficulty and got dressed.   I felt even worse by the time we arrived at church.  Desperately,  I prayed, “Father, take over, I can’t do this…”  

God powerfully answered that prayer.  Four first time visitors arrived among our regular folks and we had our largest attendance ever!  God gave me the strength to lead the service and preach His word.  The presence of the Holy Spirit was evident.  It was one of those services where there was no doubt that God was in control. 

In the last two months, we have had more visitors than during the entire history of our church and most of them are continuing to attend services!  God is showing us that in spite of our weaknesses, in spite of the hardness of people’s hearts, He is still in control and has a remnant that desires to know Him and His Word in this ancient and wicked city. 

We now have six adults studying with us in our new converts/ new member’s class.  Please pray for A, J, M, J, I, and G that each one would faithfully attend, study and learn the basic doctrines that the Word of God teaches and become members of our growing church.

Praising God for our weakness and His strength,

Mark Hale

July Prayer Letter

July 2015

Dear Praying Friends,

The enemy’s attacks began weeks ago and continued until the last day of camp.  Every missionary that participated in our youth camp endured car problems, health issues, financial difficulties and last minute cancellations by lost parents suddenly filled with anxiety over their children coming to camp. 

The enemy was at work among the campers as well.  Every lesson and sermon was hindered by distractions too numerous to mention.  For the first three days, not one soul was saved, not one life brought closer to the Lord.  Yet we continued to pray and you, our prayer warriors, remained faithful in holding us up before the throne of God. 

Finally, near the end of the week, the walls of resistance and rebellion were broken.  The hardness of hearts and the distractions of the enemy came crumbling down.  Five precious souls were saved this week at youth camp!!  In spite of Satan’s attempts to discourage, distract and destroy, God won the victory!!

Thank you for your faithful prayers!  Thank you for laboring together with us to see this harvest of souls!

Working for the night is coming,
Mark Hale

Monday, July 20, 2015

June Prayer Letter

June 2015

Dear Praying Friends,

This month we reached three important milestones:

1.  We celebrated 30 years since I left the United States to begin my life as a missionary.  We looked back with profound gratitude and amazement at the almost 1,000 precious souls saved and the 9 Baptist churches that we have been blessed to establish. Each of those churches is self supporting and pastored by national pastors.  We have established three Bible institutes that each year teach and prepare over 120 in house students and another 30 to 40 online international students for the gospel ministry.  This is because we have the most faithful prayer warriors and financial supporters a missionary could ever have!  You have stuck with us through thick and thin and these results are fruit to your account!  We are honored to be your representatives here in Europe!
2.  We celebrated 28 wonderful and blessed years of marriage.
3.  We also celebrated the five year anniversary of the Windward Side Baptist Church in Lagos, Portugal.  This is our tenth church plant and is by far the most difficult we have ever attempted.  Recently, our attendance has doubled.  We have had more visitors these past four weeks than in any other month of the church’s brief history.  What is amazing with these visitors is that although every one of them is lost, they continue to attend services and listen carefully to the gospel messages and lessons!

PLEASE PRAY for J (an adult), J (a boy), B, D and her son, L, C and her daughter B, P, C, J and his family.  We know that miracles happen when you folks pray!  We are begging God for their salvations and for the continual growth of our church.  Also, please pray for many souls to be saved in our upcoming youth camp July 7-11. 

We are humbled by your faithfulness and thank God we are blessed to labor together with you to reap the harvest here in Europe. 

Mark Hale

May Prayer Letter

May 2015

Dear Praying Friends,

The pastor had been having abdominal pain for the last week but the doctor misdiagnosed those warning signs as an ulcer.  Three days later, the pastor’s appendix ruptured, yet this dedicated man continued to minister to his people in spite of the agony because he thought it was just an ulcer.  After two days, he passed out from the pain while teaching a new members’ class at church.

Rushed to the hospital he was only given a 5% chance of survival.  On the operating table the doctor said, “It is a miracle you are still alive, you must have some influence with the Man upstairs.”  The pastor smiled through his pain and said, “No, I am simply a servant of the Almighty God and my life is in His hands.  I am ready to go to meet him, are you sir?”  The doctor mumbled uncomfortably and administered the anesthetic. 

Pastor Lenildo Monteiro pulled through and is recuperating well, praise the Lord.  He pastors our sister church an hour and a half away. Praise the Lord for pastors who are faithful, even to the point of death!  Please pray for his complete recovery and for me as I pastor both of our churches in his absence.  He was able to attend a service recently and thank the church for their prayers, but his recovery will take a while. 

So much work here in Portugal, yet so few workers….

Working for the night is coming,

Mark Hale

April Prayer Letter

April 2015

Dear Praying Friends,

Many of you have asked recently about Michele’s hospital outreach ministry.   She is still sewing 20 stuffed animals every month and donating them to the Lagos city hospital.  So far she has made and given away 277.  Each stuffed animal comes with a tag identifying our church and giving contact information.  Through this ministry, we are getting to know the hospital staff and several of them have asked why we do this.  As a result, praise the Lord, we have had opportunities to share the Gospel and invite them to church!  

Recently, a lady called Michele out of the blue.  Cristina works at a local daycare and saw a stuffed doggy one of the little boys in her class had received in his stay at the hospital.  She looked up the website on the tag sewn on the toy, found our phone number, and called my wife.  Cristina was participating in a charity event and wanted the dog pattern so she could make some for the event.  Michele shared the pattern but also sewed 10 dogs to help.  My wife was able to meet Cristina when she delivered the stuffed toys to her.  They had a good conversation and Michele was able to answer her many questions about our church and why she would help total strangers.  

We just never know the eternal impact of one stuffed animal, one kind word, one Christ - like action.  May God help each one of us to not only talk like Christ, but to act like Him, to love like Him and seek to reach the lost like Him.  Thank you for your prayers for us, for our ministries and for Cristina.

Seeking to reflect Him,

Mark Hale

Friday, April 10, 2015

March Prayer Letter

March 2015

Dear Praying Friends,

The entire process started a year ago.  Last March we journeyed up to the capitol, Lisbon, to take the mandatory Portuguese language exams which lasted all day.  When we received the results three months later, we had all passed with flying colors!

Then we had to gather all the required documents and information the Portuguese government required.  In October, it was time to turn in our applications, all the gathered documents and pay the required “processing fees”.  They informed us we would hear from them within two weeks. 

Three months later we still hadn’t heard from them in spite of our phone calls and emails requesting information.  We went in to the immigration office yet again only to be told that they needed one more document.  My wife pulled out the original and asked, “This letter, the one you made copies of three months ago?”  The sheepish bureaucrat looked at her computer and admitted that they did have that letter.  She left to talk with her boss who decreed the letter had to be notarized and given official seals not only by the U.S. government but by the Portuguese embassy in Washington, D.C.  They promised that if we were able to obtain this, then we would receive the desired residencies. 

Finally, one year after we started the process, they accepted our final document with all its official seals and stamps; we paid the exorbitant fees and received our PERMANENT RESIDENCIES!!!  Praise the Lord for this great victory!!  We want to thank those who gave financially to help cover the costs and those who prayed for God to intervene! 

Praising God and thanking you,

Mark Hale

February Prayer Letter

February 2015

Dear Praying Friends,

He came into the auditorium that Thursday evening with wide eyes and wonderment all over his face.  He spotted me at the pulpit and made a bee line to me with his hand outstretched.  “It is so good to finally get to meet you, Pastor Mark!” he said enthusiastically pumping my hand.  “After all these classes, I finally get to meet you in person!”  I had never met this man before and was a bit confused that he seemed to know me on sight.  Looking around he saw the video camera hooked up to the computer and rushed over to look through the viewfinder.  “Yep, this is where it all takes place!” he said with a wide smile. “I never thought I would get to take these classes in person!”  It finally began to dawn on me what he was talking about.

We have students from Portugal, Brazil, the Czech Republic and Spain meeting with us each week in our two Bible Institutes here, but many more tune in on line in their respective countries to take our classes via the Internet.  At last count we have between 20 and 30 on line students from Angola, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau, Brazil and other parts of Portugal.  Each one of these Portuguese speaking countries needs the gospel and we are thrilled to have an international influence upon the lives and ministries of people we may never meet while here on earth. 

This was the first on line student to move to Portugal and begin taking classes in person.  Only God knows the eternal impact these Bible Institute classes will have!  Thank you for making it possible for us to minister in southern Portugal and in other countries as a result of this vital ministry!

Teaching “all” nations,

Mark Hale

Saturday, February 21, 2015

January Prayer Letter

January 2015

Dear Praying Friends,

It was just a Christmas card, delayed in transit, but it arrived at just the right time.  

We had received an email from a church that had supported our ministries for 23 years.  They told us that their missions giving was down, so they would no longer support our ministries.  We have been through this too many times to count, but it always hurts.  It is a personal rejection, a slap in the face.  I was hurting, discouraged and a bit concerned about how we would make do without their support.

Then I read the delayed Christmas card.  It said, “May you have the gift of faith, the blessing of hope and the peace of His love at Christmas and always.”  The pastor signed it, “May the Lord greatly bless you, keep up the good work.”  Enclosed was a love offering.  It said exactly what I needed to hear, in spite of falling missions giving in so many churches, we can still trust God, we can still hope in His provision and have His peace always.  That dear pastor and his church never knew when they mailed that card, what a blessing and encouragement it would be! 

No matter what challenges come this year, I want to focus on our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  He is faithful and true and we can count on Him no matter what comes in our world.  I also want to thank each and every one of you who, in spite of financial crises and lower wages, sacrifice faithfully to keep us on the field to minister on your behalf. 

May God richly bless you for your sacrifices!

Mark Hale

December Prayer Letter

December 2014

Dear Praying Friends,

This month we have had three challenges for our family in which the Lord has increased our faith and grown us spiritually to be more like His Son. 

Our 15 year old Volkswagen is a good, reliable car which we are very thankful for since we drive tens of thousands of miles each year ministering in our church in Lagos and in our sister church in Albufeira (an hour and a half away).  But those miles take a toll and this month we paid over $2000 to make necessary repairs.  God knew this was going to happen and gave us some extra Christmas offerings which helped to meet the need!  May God RICHLY bless all of you who sacrificed over and above your regular giving, to send us an extra Christmas offering.  Thank you so very much!!

After weeks of slowdowns, crashes and glitches, our computer quit working and spent almost a week at the technician’s shop.  Thankfully our work horse is once again helping us get caught up on prayer letters and ministry materials! 

On Dec. 10th, our son, Joshua stepped onto a train only to have the doors malfunction and slam shut on him, trapping his arm and leg outside.  The driver, trying to get back on schedule, began pulling out of the station, accelerating quickly.  Joshua could not reach the emergency stop button located just six inches from his free hand and realized if he couldn’t get loose, his leg would be crushed by the concrete electric pillars next to the track.  With the poles rapidly approaching, the conductor entered the car, saw what was happening and hit the emergency stop button.  He pried the doors open and Joshua collapsed in his seat, relieved and unhurt.  PRAISE GOD for His protection!!  We were five hours away, waiting at the train station and unable to help him.  But, our Heavenly Father took care of His son when we could not.  God is SO good!!

May you have a blessed Christmas,

Mark Hale

November Prayer Letter

November 2014

Dear Praying Friends,

She survived the Normandy landings as a child and has fond memories of Americans rescuing them from the Nazis.  That is why over two years ago, G. began taking the free English classes our church offered.  She also began attending our church services as well and has been faithfully coming and listening to God’s word ever since. 

She is a committed Roman Catholic as was her family.  There are times when she sees “similarities” in our doctrines but recently, she has been seeing the differences.  After Sunday services, she was talking with a couple of our folks and one man mentioned his lost uncle saying, “If my uncle continues in his rejection of Christ, he will die and go to hell.”  G.became agitated and loudly said, “You cannot say that, no one knows where people go after they die, only God!”  The man continued, “Yes, that is true, but if my uncle dies still rejecting Christ as his Savior, he will go to hell.” G. became silent for a moment and then said, “If  I believed that, then I would have to say that all of my family is in hell.”

There are times when the truth of the gospel is so painful that some turn away in a blind attempt to avoid the eternal destiny of their departed love ones.  Only God knows for certain the eternal destiny of every person who has died, so we continue to warn the living that there are no second chances after death.  The Bible declares:  Now is the day of salvation, now is the accepted time.  Please pray that G. will see past the possibility of her family being in hell and embrace the love of Christ and accept His salvation before she faces eternity without Christ.

A light on a hill,

Mark Hale