Portugal | August 10

The Stubborn Pilgrim

Elena

Elena knocked loudly on the church door. When her knuckles hurt, she used her fist.  Frustration rose inside her. I’ve come all the way across Paris to worship, and the church is closed! she thought. She stepped back and looked for a sign identifying the church, but she saw nothing. The building looked a bit tattered. Maybe she didn’t have the right address. 

Slowly Elena made her way back to the subway to return to the apartment she shared with relatives. Maybe next week they’ll be back from wherever they’ve gone, she thought. 

Mystery of the Empty Church

Elena had recently moved to Paris to take a job nearer to her husband, who had come to France to work. 

When she returned to her apartment, she checked on the Internet and verified the church’s address. The next Sabbath Elena again got up early and made her way by bus and subway to the same run-down building. Again she knocked, and again no one responded. Frustrated and angry, she muttered to herself. “I can’t believe this. What’s wrong?” 

Elena slowly walked back to the bus stop to await the next bus. From there she took the subway into the center of Paris. She fumed to herself over not finding anyone at the church. But her Russian temperament made her all the more determined to find an Adventist church in this city. The Adventist church was the only church she had ever attended, and she longed for the fellowship and warmth that she and her husband had found in the little congregation back in Portugal. 

Elena wandered through the plaza, passing businesspeople, shoppers, and couples. She missed her husband, whose work kept him in another city in France. Disappointment welled up inside her. She thought about Pastor Agosto [ah-GOHS-toh], her husband’s cousin, who had first invited the couple to visit the church. At first they had refused. Then they had gone just to be polite. But soon they’d felt a part of the little group of worshippers. 

“You Can’t Come In”

Suddenly Elena stopped. A sign above her head caught her attention. “Seventh-day Adventist Church,” it read. Joy bubbled inside her as she realized that the office-looking building was actually a church. She hurried up the steps and pulled at the door. A man opened the door a few inches and said something to her in French. She couldn’t understand what he had said, but she understood his gesture: You can’t come in. 

Elena frowned. How could he tell her to go away? Elena watched people inside walk by carrying large jugs of water and towels. All she wanted was to worship, even if she couldn’t understand what they were saying. Weary and saddened, Elena backed away from the door and made her way down the steps. She returned to the subway and made her way home. 

Later that week Elena called Pastor Agusto in Portugal. When he answered the telephone, Elena felt her anger surface again. “I tried to go to the Adventist church here in Paris, but they won’t let me inside!” she said. 

Finding a Family

Pastor Agusto spoke calmly and promised to find out what was happening. He called her back to tell her that the first church was permanently closed, and the second church was having Communion. “They had more people inside than the safety codes permit,” he said. “They couldn’t let anyone else in.” Then Pastor Agosto gave her the phone number of a Portuguese-speaking pastor in Paris. “Call him,” Pastor Agosto said. “He will welcome you.”

Elena called the pastor and was immediately invited to worship with the congregation the following Sabbath. Elena went to the Portuguese church and was warmly welcomed. Sliding into a seat, she felt at home at last. A few months later Elena and her husband prepared for baptism. 

Eventually the couple moved back to Portugal. Once more they could attend the little church with a big heart near their home. There Elena and her husband were baptized.

“That time of loneliness was when I realized I needed God,” Elena says. Elena and her husband are again separated because of work. But she finds comfort in She is a pilgrim finally at peace.

The little congregation has outgrown its rented storefront sanctuary. They need to move to a larger place, a place they can buy. Part of this quarter’s Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help provide Elena’s largely immigrant congregation with a permanent church home.

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