An Alcoholic and a Missionary Get on Plane …

salvation in spain
When Marti got on a plane to flee his problems, he couldn't have imagined the series of events that would unfold when his seatmate "just happened" to be a missionary. Photo by TEAM

If TEAM missionaries hadn’t seen it themselves, Marti’s* story would almost be too much like a Hallmark movie to believe:

A broken marriage. A soul-searching trip to South America. An encounter with a wise, older man. And a fight to rebuild Marti’s life before it’s too late!

It’s not just the set-up, though. From beginning to end, the coincidences are absurd, too frequent — and perfect proof of God’s hand. That’s why we had to share it with you.

Coincidence 1: Alcoholic Marti Gets a Seat Next to Missionary Steve

In 2013, Marti had driven his wife to the edge with his drinking. Celia* never knew when Marti was going to come back at night. And he only caused trouble when he found his way home.

The couple separated, and Marti got on a plane from their home in Spain to his parents’ home in Venezuela. He just happened to sit next to Steve Albrecht, a TEAM missionary.

Steve and his wife, Cheryl, worked in Spain, but before that, they had spent seven years planting churches in Venezuela. One of those churches had asked them to come back for a missions conference.

The church even bought the couple’s tickets, which is why they were on Marti’s flight.

Coincidence 2: Steve is Starting a Church Where Marti Lives

The conversation started with books. Marti was reading a self-help book, and Steve had packed a New Testament. It was an easy opening for the gospel, and Marti began to share about some of his problems.

“He wasn’t really searching. He was more running,” Steve says.

As Marti and Steve talked, they realized Marti lived in the same town where the Albrechts were praying about starting a church: Adeje, Spain.

Coincidence 3: Steve and Marti Have the Same Basketball Friends

The Albrechts didn’t live in Adeje yet, but their team had held a basketball camp there in 2012. It just so happened that Marti played basketball, and he knew some of the Albrechts’ friends from the camp.

Marti didn’t receive Christ that day, but he wanted to stay in touch. From then on, whenever Steve and Cheryl visited Adeje — for basketball camp or otherwise — they gave Marti a call, too.

Meanwhile, Marti got back together with Celia. He was eager to have Celia meet Steve and Cheryl, to attend a Christian marriage conference, to go to church!

Celia was less enthused.

Marti’s drinking buddies were bad enough. She didn’t want to meet any of his other friends. But when she finally did, she realized what Marti saw in them.

In January, she agreed to go to church.

Coincidence 4: Christians Move from Venezuela to Marti’s Building

After Marti and Celia started going to church, Steve got a call from two married couples. They had moved from Venezuela to Spain, and their home churches had told them about the Albrechts’ church planting team.

When the couples both found work in Adeje, they called Steve for leads in their apartment hunt.

It just happened that Marti and Celia had an empty apartment to rent next to their own. One couple moved in there, and the other found an apartment around the corner.

“These other two couples are already believers, so we want to get them involved in a small group. And they invite [Marti and Celia],” Steve says. “They took off. They hit the ground running,”

In addition to the small group, the Albrechts met with Marti and Celia for personal discipleship.

And one day, Marti and Celia realized they believed the gospel.

Two Lives Changed by God’s Hand

Three months after Marti and Celia confessed faith in Christ, Marti went to a co-worker’s birthday party. Celia waited at home, not knowing what to expect.

When Marti came back in the wee morning hours, Celia leaned in to sniff his breath and was astonished.

She smelled… nothing.

“They’ve changed like night and day,” Cheryl says. “Both of them.”

Of course, we don’t really believe any of that is a coincidence. It’s clear God is working powerfully in their lives, just as he has every day before and since Marti sat with Steve on that plane.

And if you’ve prayed with us or given to TEAM this year, we want to thank you for being a part of that. Thank you for your compassionate care for people around the world. And thanks for giving Marti that better-than-Hallmark ending.


You can help change lives next year by giving a gift to TEAM today! Send the gospel to couples like Marti and Celia so they can embrace the life-transforming hope of Jesus Christ.

Give-now
*Names changed for privacy

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About the author

Bethany DuVal
Bethany DuVal

Bethany DuVal is a copywriter and editor who served with two mission agencies in Texas before settling at TEAM. She has a passion for equipping Christian missionaries, telling the stories of how God uses them and showing the church how they can do both.

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