Carla Taela dreamed of ministering in England. Now that she is serving in Birmingham, the reality is different from the way she imagined it, but she sees God in it.
Originally from Portugal, Carla and her husband, Flavio, were involved with the district’s Con Café coffee shop ministry in Lisbon when they first heard about the Eurasia Region’s M+Power initiative and an upcoming mission training in the Netherlands.
The couple had already been considering cross-cultural service, so they flew to Dordrecht for the training. While Carla dreamed of being sent to England, Flavio was focused on the broader question of where God wanted them both to serve. They prayed an answer would become clear at the training.
Throughout the Eurasia Mission Orientation training weekend in Dordrecht, Flavio and Carla kept hearing references to the United Kingdom. Within the group was a couple from England. A skit the group was supposed to perform also theoretically took place in England. They learned there was an M+Power placement available in England.
“Three times, God showed me about the U.K., U.K., U.K.,” Flavio said. “I had joy and I had peace in my heart when we returned to Lisbon.”
They spoke with their district superintendent about their desire to serve the Church of the Nazarene in England as volunteers.
Two churches in Portugal, and the district as a whole, decided to partially support and send out the couple to their volunteer mission assignment.
For the past six months they have been based in Birmingham to support a local, multicultural Nazarene church there. The congregation includes people from India, Brazil, China, and Africa. Throughout the week, they lead a Nazarene youth club, they support a ministry at a Nazarene church in Oxford on Saturdays, and the couple also became involved in a Christian program in Birmingham that is teaching English to immigrants.
Although their original assignment was for six months, they’ve extended their assignment to serve for another six months.
Carla found life in England different than she expected. Cultural behaviors and attitudes surprised her, such as the more reserved and private temperaments of the British in comparison with the more open Portuguese. They were also surprised to see so much addiction and homelessness in Birmingham.
“We used to work with homeless in Portugal,” Carla said. “We know that everywhere we will find the homeless. In Portugal, they are older. But here they are so young. Too many young people on the street here in Birmingham. They are mostly young people — young boys and girls in the street.”
Despite this initial culture shock, they have been adapting to the cultural differences, the language, and the ways of doing ministry in England.
Where Carla has found the most joy and fulfillment is in working with youth.
“British Christians, and some of the immigrants here, told me when we came that here in England, you cannot preach too much to the youth,” Carla said. “It has to be maybe 15 minutes, but you have to entertain them. I was very sad in my heart. For me, it’s the Word of God that changed my life. If the Word of God doesn’t have the power to change people, it’s not entertainment that is going to do it.”
As she began to work with the youth and teach them from the Bible, she was thrilled when some of the youth came and told her they wanted her to preach more of the Word of God to them.
“For me, it was the best moment,” Carla said.
Flavio appreciated that even the parents could tell that the youth were being impacted by their ministry.
“For me, it was when the parents came to me and said, ‘Thank you for coming to the U.K, because our children share with us that you and your wife are supporting them to grow spiritually,’” Flavio said.
In another instance, Carla connected with a group of Pakistani women while teaching them English.
“The women there started opening their hearts to me,” Carla said. “Now I started being with them in their homes, having a lunch with them, even though they don’t speak English very well — a word here or there — and I started learning some Pakistani language.”
Flavio has become close to some young men from Sudan through the English classes. Sometimes they text Flavio, asking if he is available to talk.
“I can share with them the gospel, and this is great,” Flavio said. “Despite the challenge of a new culture, above this whole thing we can say God is with us and we have a joy to do this.”