You are not my project.

Some weeks ago, I wrote a post describing how we respond when confronted with the question, "Are you trying to convert me?” (You can find that here.) That post was mostly addressed to our fellow Bible-believing friends, giving an explanation as to the how and why we are doing what we do. And while this post will echo some of that one, this I address directly to our friends who do not believe as we do. Our friends that we share life with day-in and day-out in Portugal. You know who you are, and this is what I have to say to you.

You are not my project.

I do not see you as someone to be won over by my persuasive arguments to believe in the Bible and in Jesus. I do not befriend you in order to trick you into believing in what I believe, and my goal is not to convert you. I do not sit at home thinking about ways that I can preach to you, and you will never find me shoving my beliefs down your throat.

The truth is, I consider myself incredibly blessed to know you and spend time with you. I fully believe that each person in my life has been brought to me for a reason. That reason may be to help you get to a point where you read the Bible as truth. It may be to teach you and help you understand what the Bible says. But the simplest and yet greatest reason that you have been brought into my life is so that I can love you. The way that Jesus loved the people that he encountered.

In the States, it is very common to hear the word “love” passed between friends. However, we have found that this same sentiment is not shared among the Portuguese. It seems that the word “love” is generally reserved for family members. So, when we first told a group of you that we love you, you laughed at us! We didn’t (and still don’t) understand why it is such a funny concept, but my friends, I want you to hear this because I mean it with everything that I am.

I love you.

I love that you have welcomed me into your country, despite me being a foreigner. I love that you are my friend, regardless of how horrible my Portuguese is. I love that you have helped us when we needed it. I love that you have challenged us in our own faith, as you bring questions and insights that we have never considered.

You are not my project, but you are so many things. You are an independent, intelligent, and unique person. You are kind, caring, and thoughtful. You are funny and incredibly fun to be around. You are worthy of joy, love, peace, and grace. It is my personal belief that the God who created this universe also created you to be all of these things, and my desire is to see you have a relationship with this God. But at the end of the day, you will still be my friend regardless of what you believe.

As I imagine the face of each of you that I have met in Portugal (and there are so many!), I am thankful for you. And I want you to know that I love you just the way that you are. I do not want to change you, but I do want to tell you about someone who has changed me.