Mission Partner

Joe and Rachel Clarke

Joe and Rachel Clarke are helping to lead a church plant in the centre of Coimbra.

Coimbra is a historical university city with tens of thousands of students, but the vast majority of people here are walking in darkness because they do not know the Lord Jesus. After much prayer, Comunidade da Graça officially launched in November 2023 and seeks to strengthen and equip followers of Jesus to know him better and live for him more as they seek to reach the lost for Christ.

They have also set up a charity called Associação Proclama, which strives to equip teachers and preachers in Portugal for gospel ministry. To support either the church plant or contribute to this training fund, click here.

Joe and Rachel have four children: Beth, Hannah, Josh and Tim.

Portugal

Population:

10,732,400

Evangelical Christians:

3%

Main religion:

Roman Catholic

Main Languages:

Portuguese

Recent Prayer Letters

What a joy it was to be at the inauguration service of Comunidade da Graça (CGC) just over a month ago. It had been a long time in the making, with much prayer and a lot of hard work by many people. But despite all sorts of challenges in the preceding weeks, with unexpected setbacks in the renovation works that caused a fair amount of stress and far too many late nights, the service went ahead smoothly, with many people coming from the local churches to witness and support the beginning of this little church plant.
This month marks a decided shift in our ministry, for as you know, we left the GBU (the Portuguese Christian student ministry) over the summer so that we could help lead a church plant in Coimbra city centre. It is both exciting and daunting as we step well outside of our comfort zone and seek to reach the lost in this city, and there are lots of uncertainties. Church plants are notoriously fragile in the first few years, and although we are blessed to have four families living in the area who are committed to this project already, we are aware that things can change very quickly. Moreover, we are under no illusions as to the challenge there is in reaching the Portuguese with the gospel. Over the past eight years, we have seen time and time again how family loyalties, religious scepticism, and individualistic follow-your-heart lifestyles have been barriers to the Christian faith, even though there continues to be an openness to spiritual things. However, all too often, the openness is to pick-and-mix religion that makes you feel good, rather than something that is objectively true. In such a context, it could be tempting to simply adapt the gospel message to make it more palatable to its 21st century Western European audience, or else give up trying altogether.
The past few months have flown by and there are so many encouraging stories to share. Earlier in the year, I was thankful for the opportunity to head to Eastern Europe to speak at a residential mission week for international students.
How quick we are to forget the blessings we have in Jesus and resort to grumbling, moaning and self-pity! This is something we have been thinking about a lot over the past few weeks, as we have studied Exodus together as a church. For though we have been shocked at how, within just three days of being rescued by the Lord in the most spectacular manner from slavery in Egypt, the Israelites started grumbling, when we consider our own lives, we see that our hearts are so often the same. Though we may not openly claim to prefer God’s judgement to salvation, all too often we forget everything that God has done for us – like choosing us from before the foundations of the world, adopting us into his family, and blessing us in with every spiritual blessing in Christ – and we instead allow ourselves to be guided by our present circumstances. But we mustn’t! God could have provided a drinks station every few miles in the desert, along with a Tesco Express, but he didn’t because he was teaching the Israelites about their necessity to depend on him daily for their needs. They needed to learn that he was trustworthy and would take care of them – their salvation was proof of that.
Dear Friends, The other day, I tried to speak to the president of Portugal on the phone but sadly they wouldn’t put me through. I was told that in order to speak with him, I either needed to be someone important or to have made an appointment months ago, having gone through a rigorous security check and having had the purpose of the meeting analysed and approved by his staff or him. Well, it sounded like far too much hard work, so I gave up.

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