Portugal | August 24

Goats and Friends

Christof

Christof is 13 years old. He lives with his parents and two brothers in a rural valley in central Portugal. They moved to their new home in Portugal a few years ago so that their parents could homeschool the boys.  

Living in the remote countryside was a new experience for Christof and his brothers. They learned to work in the garden and grow their own food. They learned to raise chickens. They learned to drive a tractor along rocky paths.

One day Christof saw his elderly neighbor, Antonio Lopez, herding his goats. Christof was intrigued by the goats, and he decided that he wanted to raise goats too. But he didn’t know much about goats, so he asked Antonio Lopez, “What do goats eat? Do they need lots of care? How much milk do they produce? Is it hard to milk them? Are goats expensive to buy? Where can I get some goats?”

Antonio Lopez was very helpful and taught Christof what he needed to know about raising goats. Christof helped take care of Antonio Lopez’ goats until the boy was able to buy some goats of his own. Antonio Lopez offered Christof advice whenever Christof needed help with his little herd, and his goats thrived. The old man and young boy talked about goats almost every day and quickly became close friends. 

Beyond Goats

One day Christof asked Antonio, “Do you believe in God?” 

“Yes,” the old man said. “I guess I do believe.” When Christof realized that Antonio couldn’t read, the boy offered to bring his Bible and read to Antonio. “That would be good,” Antonio agreed. 

And from that day on, whenever Christof visited Antonio, he brought his Bible and read to his friend.  

“What religion do you belong to?” the old man asked one day.

“My family and I are Seventh-day Adventists,” the boy answered. “We worship God on the Sabbath.”

“Oh, I know about the Sabbath,” Antonio said. “My grandmother told me about it when I was a boy.”

Christof was surprised and pleased. Since the family had moved to Portugal, he hadn’t met anyone except Adventists who had heard of the church or knew about the Sabbath. Later that day Christof told his parents what Antonio had said. 

The next time Christof visited Antonio, Christof invited his friend to go to church with his family. But the church was far, and the road was rough—too far and too rough for an old man to travel. So on Sundays Christof and his brothers and his parents went to Antonio Lopez’ house to study the Bible with him there. Sometimes the pastor and his family joined them. Word soon spread through the tiny village that Christof was reading the Bible to Antonio. Marie-Elise, Antonio’s neighbor, couldn’t read either. She wanted Christof to read the Bible to her as well. In fact, most of the old villagers couldn’t read well and wanted the boy to read the Bible to them. 

When Christof was not doing his schoolwork or helping out at home or caring for his goats or reading to Antonio or Marie-Elise, he was meeting other neighbors and making new friends. Most of the people who lived in the community were seniors. Christof and his brothers were the only children who lived there.

The villagers loved the lively youngsters who were so polite and helpful. They offered to help work in people’s garden or care for the animals or do other chores the senior couldn’t manage well anymore. Christof and his brothers became the grandchildren of the village. 

Sharing the Word

Christof’s family wanted to do more than just read the Bible to the villagers. They offered to hold a weeklong series of Bible studies. Everyone—everyone—in the village attended. After the week of meetings, the family and sometimes the pastor held weekly meetings in a home in the village.

People in neighboring villages heard about the meetings, and they asked to hear the message too. Antonio’s brother, who lives across the mountain, invited the family to come to his village. Today three small villages have small groups meeting regularly to study the Bible and learn of God’s love. Some villagers have even begun worshipping on the Sabbath.

God’s love is spreading in the mountains of central Portugal. Although most people in this area are opposed to new ideas and new religions, they are accepting God’s message of love, a message that started with a young boy, an old man, and some goats.

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