The Assemblies of God movement in Portugal began in the year 1913 with the arrival of missionary José Plácido da Costa, a Portuguese citizen who had emigrated to Brazil. There he accepted the Pentecostal message through contact with the first Pentecostal missionaries to Brazil, Daniel Berg and Gunar Vingren, both from Sweden, and became heavily involved with them in the spread of the Gospel.
Following this time José Plácido da Costa decided to move back to Portugal, and first developed his missionary activity in Valezim-Seia where he baptized Maria dos Prazeres Mendes Corveira. Later he ministered in the city of Porto, as part of the Baptist Church. In 1927 he went to Argentina and later to Brazil, and finally returned to Portugal in 1932 or 1933, to help Swedish missionary Daniel Berg who had arrived in Porto in 1932 to establish the Assemblies of God. (According to some sources there have been Pentecostal believers in Porto since 1925.)
In 1921 the evangelical work, specifically of a Pentecostal nature, began to become visible, and was established solidly and definitely in Portugal through the work of missionary José de Matos Caravela. He also was a Portuguese citizen who had emigrated to Brazil, returning to his native country in the year of 1921.
The missionary work of José de Matos began in the regions of Beira Alta and Beira Litoral, with some fruit, and an Assembly was founded in Tondela which later gave led to beginning the work in Carvalhal Redondo – Nelas. Later, toward the end of 1923, he moved to the Algarve where he founded several AG churches, specifically in Portimão in 1924, and later in Lagos and Silves. Later, this pastor began churches in other regions, including Santarém, Alcanhões and Rio Maior.
After this year, the Assemblies of God established churches in several Portuguese cities with the help of Swedish missionaries and the dedicated efforts of Portuguese pastors. They had been prepared by the pioneer missionaries, who gave their lives to the cause of the work of the Lord and contributed greatly to its growth.
As a result of the involvement of these men and women, bearers of the Pentecostal message, the Assembly of God of Évora was founded in 1932, through the work of evangelist Isabel Guerreiro. The Assembly of God of Lisbon was founded in 1934, with the help of missionary Jack Hardstedt, followed by Samuel Nystrom, Tage Stahlberg, Alfredo Machado, João S. Hipólito as well as others. Besides these churches, in several other places in Portugal, in different districts and cities, from the north to the south of the country, Assemblies of God churches were springing up, bringing the Pentecostal message.
Besides the above mentioned missionaries and pioneers of God’s work in Portugal in the beginning of the 20th century, other ministers of the Gospel also deserve mention as worthy pioneers: Holger Backstrom, Isabel Guerra, Manuel Ribeiro Fernandes, Beatriz da Ribeira, Lurdes Campos, Rogério Ramos Pereira, Horácio Gomes de Sousa, José Lopes Quedas, Durval Correia, Artur Rodrigues, Conde, Jaime Figueiredo, Augusto Henriques, Dr. Colin Bowker, Dra Margaret Bowker, José de Oliveira Pessoa, João Chasqueira, Virgílio Condeço, Manuel Cartaxo, Joaquim Cartaxo, Israel Coias Pires, Miguel Coias, José Augusto Pina, Joaquim Cerro Guerreiro, José Neves Ramos, António Dias Gonçalves, etc.
In the development of its missionary endeavors the movement gave special attention to the work in its overseas holdings (for example: Angola, Guine Bissau, S. Tomé/ Principe Islands, Mozambique and Timor). There, even after becoming independent countries, Assemblies of God churches continued and flourished, and strong relationships of Christian fellowship were maintained with them. Specific areas of support include: training of Christian workers, missionary support, teaching visits, as well as the distribution of food, clothing, medicine and other items.
In the same way, missions work was carried out through Portuguese immigrants scattered throughout the world. The following list mentions some of the work of several pastor-missionaries, members of the AG movement in Portugal, who took the Pentecostal message to many parts of our country and world.
From 1941 to 1947, José Lopes Quedas was a missionary in São Miguel (Azore Islands) and in the year 1947 José Augusto Pina and Joaquim Cerro Guerreiro went to Mozambique. Joaquim Cartaxo Martins left for Angola em 1949, where he began the AG work; José Oliveira Pessoa went to Guine Bissau as a missionary in 1952 and in the same year Joaquim do Cerro began to work among the Portuguese residents in South Africa. The next year João Chasqueira and his family began missions work on the Island of Terceira (Azore Islands), and in 1959 Miguel Coias and his family arrived on the Island of Pico (Azore Islands). The Coias family went as AG missionaries to Timor in 1969. The Pentecostal work began on the Island of Faial (Azore Islands) with the arrival of missionary Albino Duarte de Sousa and family in 1964. In the next year AG missionary Manuel Gonçalves Costa and family arrived in São Tomé and in 1966 Artur da Silva Rodrigues laid the groundwork for the work in France, which later spread to other European countries. In 1970 Manuel Joaquim Fernandes and family arrived in the country of São Tomé/ Príncipe, while in 1972 the AG work began on the Madeira Island through the work of Dinis Pereira and his wife Lurdes. In 1974 Virgílio Condeço and his family arrived in Timor, and Delfim Cordeiro and his family arrived in São Tomé/ Príncipe. Israel Pires
In 1969 Israel Pires arrived in Luanda, Angola, to help continue with the Pentecostal work there, which again was designated “Assembly of God”; other missionaries followed him to Angola, including Manuel Gonçalves Costa, Joaquim Castilho, João Chasqueira, and Eusébio Tomás.
In 1981 Juvenal Clemente arrived in Macau where he later (1987) began the work of Teen Challenge. Also in 1981 Paulo Branco left for Spain, where he ministered until 1994. In 1992 Abel Tomé and his family went to Macau, and then on to Mozambique in 1999. In 1999 Josefa Rodrigues arrived in Guine Bissau.
The National Department of Missions was created in January 1994, and has as its objective the supervision of the work of foreign missions based in Portugal, or that intend to integrate into the Portuguese immigrant churches, mobilize future missionaries, and coordinate the missionary call and financial resources. Besides this, the Department has as its objective to maintain relationships with similar departments of foreign missions in order to share information for the common good and, eventually, take part in joint missionary endeavors.
Within the movement various associations have been created, including orphanages, nursing homes, drug and alcohol treatment centers (as well as support groups for families of those in the centers); these associations are committed to deal with church members as well as the general population. In relation to substance abuse and addition, which has been a 20th century plague that has also touched Portugal, in the summer of 1977 the Convention of the Assemblies of God in Portugal invited Rev. Howard Foltz, who at the time served as director of Teen Challenge in Europe, to explain the work that had been begun by Rev. David Wilkerson in the US in 1959. Due to the need to help in this area, the Assemblies of God decided to move ahead and as a result, purchased property in Fanhões, Loures. They appointed an Executive Committee to lead the work, a team made up of Pastor José Oliveira Pessoa (President), Pastor José António Lourenço (Vice President), Pastor António Costa Barata (Secretary), Pastor Domingos Barradas (Treasurer), and Evangelist Lucas da Silva was named as National Director. In 1981 construction was completed for the first phase of the Treatment Center, and the center was opened. A “coffee house” was also opened in Lisbon on the street Rua Marques da Silva, to give support to the work. As the work progressed, Teen Challenge Portugal became an autonomous institution, no longer a department of the Assemblies of God in Portugal. Today it works in cooperation with any churches who so desire.
ORPHANAGE – LAR DE BETÂNIA
The orphanage designated as “Lar de Betânia” (Bethany Home) was born on April 18, 1965, in Monte do Pintainho, during a time of great tribulation in the family of Pastor Mário Coias who was pastoring the AG church in Estremoz. His wife was gravely ill, and the attending physician said that there was no hope for recovery. In the face of this difficulty there seemed to be only one solution, and that was to pray for God’s intervention. In the pastor’s prayer he said, “Lord, don’t let me see my children’s mother taken from them, as has happened to so many others; if You heal my wife I will build an orphanage to take care of children in need.” The great “Doctor of doctors” heard his prayers, and responded with the miracle he had asked for. Obviously there was only one thing for him to do, and that was to fulfill his promise. So the work began in his own home, in Monte do Pintainho. Later, in the year 1970, with five years of experience, Bethany Home was moved to the Quinta das Sequeiras (Sequeira Farm), property that was donated by an English Christian. Since that time it has remained there; many construction and remodelling projects have taken place in order to continue with the work. In 1985 the Home expanded its horizons and opened a satellite home in Vendas Novas, located in Bairro Marconi, with the purpose of sheltering adolescent girls. After 1993 it was moved to Bairro 20 de Maio in the same town, and with more construction work (began three years before the move), today it is able to care for younger girls as well.
Now the orphanages have become officially designated as a private institution of social solidarity (I.P.S.S.) and they continue to receive young people of both sexes, coming from many different places.
Today the orphanages have a capacity of more than 100 residents. Ongoing maintenance is assured with the help of associated churches, individuals and an agreement with Social Security. Recently the facilities in Vendas Novas were enlarged as a recreation center was built for the young people.
Bible Teaching in the Assemblies of God
The first Bible School for the Pentecostal church was located in the city of Lisbon in 1942. In order to enroll, from all over the country came young people, Sunday School teachers, evangelists as well as credentialed ministers. This Bible school was directed by Swedish missionary Tage Stahlberg. On January 13, 1966 the National Bible Institute was created, with the goal of preparing credentialed ministers to serve the churches and meet the needs of evangelism.
In 1972 the Convention of the Assemblies of God in Portugal invited Pastor Samuel Johnson, AG missionary from the USA, to open and direct a new Bible institute. This became a reality in October of 1975, date of the opening of Mount Hope Bible Institute in Fanhões, Loures, located on the outskirts of the city of Lisbon.
In January 1989 the National Bible School was opened, and was named Bible Institute of the Convention of the Assemblies of God in Portugal, with the same objective as established in 1966: to prepare Christian workers to meet the needs of the work of the Lord in relation to evangelism and the teaching of God’s Word.
In 2007 this Bible Institute and Mount Hope Bible Institute joined together to form MEIBAD (Mount Hope Bible Institute of the Assemblies of God), located in Fanhões-Loures. Currently it is a school which prepares men and women who desire to serve God.
The History of the Publications of the Assemblies of God
The printed page has always been used by the movement, promoting evangelism and teaching, and establishing the relationship of unity among the churches and its pastors. Besides the magazines, books by national and foreign authors have been published, as well as hymnals, calendars, tracts, etc.
In 1940 the magazine “Estrela do Natal” (Christmas Star) was published, printing 800 copies. The next year, 1200 copies of “Salvé Natal” were published.
In October of 1942 the magazine Novas de Alegria (News of Joy) was published, as the official voice of the Assemblies of God movement in Portugal. Its first director was missionary Tage Stahlberg and it has been published monthly without interruption up until today (in existence for 63 years). Other publications include o Expositor Dominical (Sunday School curriculum), whose first edition came out in 1965; Boa Semente (Good Seed) for children, which began to be published in 1948 and continues today, with one part directed toward children and the other for adolescents; finally, o Caminho (The Way), publication for teens which was published from 1965 to 1979.
The Publishing House was born in the year 1943, naturally in a very simple manner, as almost everything is born. As it grew it changed its location several times, until it came to its present location in Lisbon (Portugal), on the avenue Av. Almirante Gago Coutinho, nº 158. Currently it produces two monthly publications: the magazine Novas de Alegria (founded in 1943), printing 10,000 copies with 36 pages and an excellent graphic presentation; and 4,300 copies of the children’s magazine Boa Semente. Once a year 6,500 copies of the calendar Maná do Céu (Manna from Heaven) are published. It is very much appreciated, and includes a removable page with a Bible text for each day of the year. The hymnal Cânticos de Alegria (Songs of Joy), a collection of 526 hymns, is also printed. The Publishing house is the exclusive representative of some seven Brazilian editors, through which it distributes books that come from its “brother” country.
General Director of MEIBAD-Mount Hope Bible Institute of the Convention of the Assemblies of God in Portugal, Pastor of the AG of Almada; Professor and Researcher for the Universidade Lusófona de Humanidades e Tecnologias- Lisboa.