However this is not true for their cities. These growing ethnically diverse metropoli are changing, morphing from local into international. Huge stadia, modern airports and road systems, so like any other across the world, you could be in London or New York.
Beneath all this beauty and change there lies a lot of pain. The dark religious legalism of a past generation is still visible in the black clad women visiting the shrines and statues of the nation. But on a national scale their religion is being rejected by a young ambitious generation eager to know the ways of material prosperity and licentiousness found in other parts of Europe. Sadly, as we have read in our newspapers, the god mammon has abandoned both nations to a frightening emptiness with around 60% of a younger generation unable to find work. It feels desperate; your heart breaks at the hopelessness of this generation.
But with these changes comes hope from unexpected quarters. The church is growing; the gospel is bearing fruit and joy experienced in new outpourings of God, and not least at our latest Iberian Conference in Penafiel.
A weekend given over to God with 250 people from Spain, Portugal, UK, Guinea Bissau, and Mexico packed into the splendid new building, A Fonte. English was the third language and I cannot explain how joyous it was to be given headphones for English translation of the messages. Our theme for the conference was ‘Authentic’, believing what these nations most need to experience is the genuine gospel, authentic Holy Spirit outpourings and the release of authentic apostolic ministry planting and building authentic churches. The worship was so colourful, Oscar from Mexico leading parts, Peter leading the international band and even the Guineans gave us a taste of their vibrant body moving style! It was brilliant and the fragrance of God filled the house.
One of my highlights was the Sunday morning where we felt God break in to minister to the leaders who then formed a prayer tunnel to pray for every person there. It was powerful, unifying and prophetic in how we move forward to strengthen existing churches but also plant new ones. I am also thrilled by our new involvement with the Guinea churches in Portugal and Spain. Our mission field continues to enlarge and others are joining hands with us in the battle.
Mike and Jessica Shore are two of my heroes, releasing each of their children into whole hearted missionary involvement, as they themselves continue to care for the growing number of churches across Iberia. God is doing something amazing in these nations and next year we are planning another conference in May 2014 as well as two evangelistic teams into major cities. Why not experience this unique moment for Iberia?
I can promise you a life changing time that will challenge your spiritual appetites, it is like walking on lemons!