With Portugal facing increasing desperation and lean economic times, Centro Evangélico «O Caminho» in Ermesinde, Portugal, is becoming a place of refuge and hope to the community. People are disillusioned with the status quo religion of the society and looking elsewhere for answers. Although many are looking for solutions in the occult, there are many others who are willing for the first time to explore an evangelical church, hitherto a taboo. Since the church inaugurated its new building, the number of visitors has been overwhelming, and many decide to stay. Several have already become believers. Others are involved in small group Bible studies that were recently started in 16 homes. Twenty-seven families receive needed monthly food baskets along with a smile and often a hug. Currently, the church celebrates two worship services averaging around 100 people in the first service and between 40-60 people in the evening.
Wrapping the community with the arms of God’s love is the vision of the believers ministering to these many families coming for help. The church is training a team to enlarge and deepen the scope and effectiveness of this ministry in partnership with the local social services. They are developing a three-pronged social services program, composed of the food basket ministry, training seminars, and support groups. The new church building has the space and ambience for further development of this ministry. Portugal has a high incidence of depression and anxiety that the church hopes to address with these means.
Already under Portuguese leadership, Pastor Samuel Paulo Santos and his wife, Jacinta, and Pastor Ismael de Carmo, the church still needs to develop leaders within the church. One of the goals of the small groups is to raise up these leaders. In contrast with many small struggling churches in Portugal, the Ermesinde church has focused a lot on personal discipleship so that life transformation occurs. The small groups provide the safe place where this transformation can be developed and encouraged…together loving and following Jesus.
Pastor Samuel Paulo Santos, the senior pastor, has networking as part of his DNA and is committed to seeing a healthy church develop with a vision for ministry and missions both locally and worldwide. The Ermesinde church has been a host to new missionaries to help them adapt and learn the Portuguese culture before moving on to start new churches either in Portugal or in other Portuguese speaking countries. Still in the dream phase is the idea of hosting new TEAM missionaries who will then go into neighboring towns to start new churches in partnership with the Ermesinde church. There are still 45 entire counties in Portugal without any evangelical church.