Hello everyone it looks like we’re back for another Monday! I hope the sun is shining and you’ve had a great weekend wherever you happen to live. We had a wonderful time over the weekend of preaching and associating with our brothers and sisters. Let us tell you all about it.
We had been looking forward to this weekend for several weeks because we were invited to visit the Albufeira English congregation in Portugal. Albufeira is a coastal city in the southern Algarve region of Portugal. It’s a former fishing village that has become a major holiday destination, with sandy beaches and a busy nightlife strip. The congregation is located in a central spot in a newer building complex that is shared by some commercial space. Our weekend started off on Saturday morning since we decided to make the drive to be present for the field service meeting with the congregation in Albufeira. They have their service meeting at 10:00 on Saturday and since Portugal is one hour behind Spain we were able to leave our house around 9:00 Spanish time which was great. We took the motor way and made it there in a little over an hour. If you are ever visiting Portugal we recommend taking the motorway even if there are some tolls. You will get wherever you need to be much faster and the road will be a lot better. As you can imagine the Albufeira English congregation gets visitors on a weekly basis because of vacationers or those supporting the congregation on a short-term basis. After a brief service meeting we were paired up with a lovely pioneer couple from the UK.
We headed off to the center of Albufeira where all of the tourists were as well as the main attractions. To start off Kanicia stayed with the sister and did cart work in a beautiful location overlooking the beach and the ocean vista. It looked like it could be on the cover of a magazine! The brothers chose this spot to have the cart because it is a popular lookout point for visitors and you can’t help but see the cart when you are there. As the sisters stayed there and enjoyed their beautiful view myself and the brother went down into the center of town to do some street work and return visits on foot. It is not hard to find English speakers at all in Albufeira. They are everywhere! The majority of them are British but their are people from many different countries such as France and Germany to name a few. It was actually difficult to see a Portuguese person as we were walking around. We approached a few people as they were sitting and shared some scriptural points with them. As we preached I couldn’t help but think how incredibly different the territory is compared to what we have in the Huevla English congregation. It’s amazing how just over an hours drive away you can be transported to a mini England. There were British pubs and restaurants as far as the eye could see in the center of town. There was no mistake that we were in a tourist haven.
I really enjoyed working with my service partner and hearing about how things are in the congregation. If you are thinking of moving somewhere to support the congregation there is a lot that can be gained from working with the local publishers in the ministry and hearing about the joys and challenges that they face. This is why we love spending extra time by arranging our affairs to share in the ministry when we travel for talks. It adds a whole new dimension to how we see the congregation and what we come away with. Even though Albufeira is not super far from Huelva we are in different circuits so we don’t see each other at assemblies. It’s so nice though that we can still associate by visiting each other in this way though. After some time we headed back up the hill to meet with the sisters. We switched spots with them and got a chance to use the cart. It’s always such a privilege to do cart witnessing regardless of where it is. But being able to do it in Albufeira on such a beautiful 30+ degree day with people everywhere was really special. It was soon time for us to head back to the hall and meet up with our hosts. We thoroughly enjoyed our morning preaching and we are so happy that we made the effort to get up and make the drive.
As we arrived back at the hall we met up with our hosts and another couple. They invited us out for a coffee and some Portuguese pastries. This is where we learned about a galão coffee. It’s basically a coffee in a tall class which is not as strong as the typical coffee in Portugal. It’s more like a latte. We also ordered a couple of pastéis de nata which are available everywhere. The pastries were delicious and we had a great time with our new British friends as we shared encouraging things about our congregation and territory and we learned about theirs. After refreshments we went with our hosts to their home which is located outside of Albufeira by about 30 minutes in a quiet rural setting. Every time we come to Portugal even if it’s only for a few hours we always feel like we are on holiday. As we pulled up to our hosts home we couldn’t help but get that feeling because their place is in a beautiful location surrounded by mountains and nature. They moved to Portugal not too long ago with another couple and they live on the same property with two houses. Our hosts have a smaller house which has basically an apartment attached to it which is where we stayed. It is classic Portuguese styling and it is so inviting with white walls and a beautiful garden. We thanked Jehovah as we entered because we knew that we were going to have an encouraging and up building weekend as we got to know our hosts. We settled into our space and got ready for lunch. To be honest, we are not that familiar with British culture but as we have been living in Spain we have learned a lot more about it. Our hosts are from the UK and we learned a lot from them. We tried salad dressing, had proper tea and learned about what it is like to be in the truth in the UK from where they used to live near Devon. Even though the couple we stayed with are from a completely different culture than ours and could be our parents none of that really matters in the truth. After a little while we felt at home and we became their “adopted children.” As we chatted away and talked about the reasons why they chose to move to Portugal and why we came to Spain we couldn’t help but appreciate our brotherhood even more. During times like these we realize that it’s the individual brothers and sisters and our relationships with them that we truly cherish. Hearing someones story about how they may have overcome certain challenges to be where they are today is so faith-strengthening. After the meal we decided to head out and see some of the nearby sites. We decided to drive to a town called Silves since our hosts recommended it. We are more the type who enjoy a quiet relaxed setting as opposed to the hordes of tourists walking around near the beach and town center.
Silves was just what we needed. We drove through the beautiful Algarve countryside as we made our way up to Silves where we were welcomed with a step back into time. There is a castle in the center of the town and the whole town is just full of character and history. We walked around and just let the Algarve pace of life settle in before stopping for a coffee and enjoying it al fresco. After enjoying Silves we headed back to our hosts and got ready for dinner. We had a nice meal and were grateful that we made new friends that we really felt comfortable with and appreciated. Since the meeting on Sunday wasn’t until 13:00 we were able to have a leisurely morning as we prepared for the rest of the day. Once we arrived at the kingdom hall we were able to meet a few different ones. The makeup of the hall is very British which is quite different from ours. There are also some brothers from South Africa in the hall. We’ve been to several different halls over the years and it’s really interesting how each hall has its own personality and character. The Albufeira hall has many older ones likely because they have retired in the area. The nice thing about this is that they have a lot of experience in teaching and organizational matters. It may be more difficult to be able to cover more distant territory because of health reasons however. From many that I speak with Albufeira English is one of the halls that they receive on their list when they write the branch in Portugal. The next closest English congregation is in Portimão and then there is the pre-group in Faro. It was nice to be in a different environment around new brothers and sisters. When ever we visit new congregations we learn a lot. We usually find things that we want to imitate and things that we can improve on as we observe the brothers around us.
After the talk and the Watchtower study we noticed that there were some familiar faces in the audience. It was the couple that visited Huelva English the week before from Australia. They were on vacation and are now touring around Portugal. It was cool to see them in Albufeira and we made arrangements to get some food together after the meeting. It was great to spend time with them just the four of us. We were able to learn about the time they spent serving in Ecuador as well as a lot about Australia and the brothers there. It never ceases to amaze us how when you get out of your comfort zone and try new things it usually results in wonderful blessings. Now we have awesome friends in Australia. Throughout the weekend we were meeting many people for the first time or had only met them once before but we were able to draw close within a short period of time. This has taught us to always be open to others regardless of their age or cultural background. If we do this we are usually in for a pleasant surprise and find that we may have more in common than we thought. As we drove home after leaving our new found friends in Albufeira we couldn’t help but be joyful because the weekend was better than what we could’ve asked for. These are the reasons that we came to serve where the need is great among others and we so appreciate the many blessings that Jehovah gives to those who are willing to make themselves available. We hope that you enjoyed reading this post and that maybe you’ll visit the Albufeira English congregation some day as well. That’s all for now, until next time.
Antoine & Kanicia