José Oliveira tells his own, unfinished, story. Part 1 of 4 episodes

The mirage

Born in Portugal in 1968, with only one sister 13 years older than me, I grew up pretty much alone until going to school. I was raised in Lisbon, Portugal.

My first contact with school, a Roman Catholic private school, was a terrible one, and it helped me to stay away from God. Plus, I am what they call in Portugal, a son of the (‘crimsons’) revolution. Politics was everywhere, and a new bright future of freedom was to be the way forward. God wasn’t needed at all ……

Social reforms and science, what many call ‘progress’, would improve us, and we could perceive positive changes around us. Utopia in a distant future could be a real thing.

I believed in that for almost four decades…

Life was complicated

Still faithless, I got married with Susy in 2004 , a very kind woman who is a Christian. Mutual respect was in our lives, and we were a happy couple.

I was about to become a father when I lost my first job. Now, that’s what I call a good start!

Our income shrank, Susy was bullied at work, a second child (daughter) was on her way, the 2008 financial crisis came and the IT company I worked for when bankrupt. Life was complicated!

Job search became a priority with no opportunities around… But I still thought I had everything under control … Both Susy and I started our own projects but, for different reasons, things didn’t go well, and I was facing fraud and bankruptcy in my IT company and Susy left her work project.

At that time, things were so bad in Portugal, that politicians were telling people to look for jobs elsewhere…

About the same time a couple of Brazilian missionaries who Susy knew for a long, long time (over twenty years) contacted us. They were about to return to Brazil, and knowing about our problems, invited us to come to Brazil and to work in a big church. The pastor would be the 2nd Vice President of that church.

Big step forward

Desperate for a lifebuoy, we decided to take the big step and move to Brazil. We rented half of a container and shipped everything we had to Brazil.

In the process we tried to contact the Brazilian consulate – without success – but our friends told us that it wouldn’t be a problem to go there as tourists. Everything could be sorted there. I went to Brazil ahead of Susy and the children.

When I arrived, I felt that something was wrong with our friends… I still remember one morning, with wife and children thousands of miles away, that morning, when I was still on the bed, listening to the birds in Campo Grande,  I looked through the ceiling to speak to God asking for forgiveness and for help…

The rest of the family came a couple of weeks later and then we realised that all the promises were pure fiction. The couple of missionaries were only interested in our furniture and electronics.

When we raised our doubts, they initially denied it, but they finally threatened to go to the Federal Police and expose us.

By that time, one couple from that church was helping us by keeping our belongings, without an evident plan in our lives, Susy was determined to find a real church.

On the second attempt, we went to the 1st Baptist Church (Primeira Igreja Batista) of Campo Grande, the moment we set foot on that church our lives changed.

Finding family

We were kindly invited to be part of a “small group” – of over 40 people… That small group became our family. Instead of having fingers pointing at us and long speeches about responsibility, we spent good times, praying and receiving assistance.

Caught by surprise, I began wondering what made these people tick so differently… In the meantime, we had a problem. Our visas were about to expire, and we didn’t have a job.

Knowing all the details of our situation, the small group leader suggested doing something I would normally consider far too risky. He told us that the Devil works among lies and deception, and our best defence would be to stay on the way of the Truth. So, he told me to go the Federal Policies Office and let them know about our situation, and he would accompany me as a witness.

We went there, days before our visas expiration and told the police the whole story. A report was written, and we received a signed copy. The Federal Police now knew all about us, but they couldn’t help us because this was considered a local police issue and our problem was out of their jurisdiction.

We still had a big problem; we soon would become illegal with no jobs. It looked like a dead end. I felt totally depressed, and a great sense of oppression and hopelessness took over. Still, I started reading the Bible, searching for a solution – when slowly, something happened.

We had a computer which I used to record and play videos for our children, which we had brought from Portugal. The computer was working fine, when one morning, I pushed the button, and nothing happened! Well, as an ICT engineer (building computers since 1992), I checked for a problem but couldn’t find any… Frustrated, I told Susy about the problem. She approached the computer, prayed, and pushed the button and the computer started to work without a problem! I couldn’t believe what I just saw. For the first time, I realised that there was “something” beyond this thing we call “reality”…

Very straightforward

For months I kept on going to Church and to the small group, reading the Bible but I was missing the big picture. One day, the small group leader asked me if I would like to join a Church course about Jesus and I accepted the invitation. Honestly, I was expecting to be among fellow unbelievers attending some lecture given by a Pastor. I had, somehow, some doubts about the outcome.

To my surprise, a Church member came in and said that it was very straightforward to be a Christian… Everything can be reduced to “God loves us so much that sent His son to this world. To die, in loving sacrifice for our redemption. For the cleansing of our sins.” That was it.

I immediately thought that idea, that concept, was out of this world! Still in shock, I tried to understand how God loves us… I did something like Einstein did, the “gedankenexperiment”… Why? I don’t know. Perhaps, at that time, science was the thing for me… I closed my eyes and I tried to see my son nailed on the cross… but I couldn’t! I couldn’t even bear the thought of that!

To me everything stopped there. Only God could have this kind of idea! Only God could see His son die on the cross for our redemption! That was it! Now things started to make sense…

But I wanted to be honest with myself… There was still one doubt left… In the end of the first session, I approached the Church member who was leading the course, and I asked him, “what about the Evolution?” He looked at me, smiled, and said you are a clever guy, you will figure that out… To me, it looked like something out of the Monty Python sketch “… no one expects the Spanish Inquisition!” What? I had the freedom to figure this out for myself?…

Making sense of a broken world

So alongside, salvation, love, grace and pardon I was also receiving freedom… If I used that freedom wisely, I would be able to understand… After several searches, I couldn’t find any showstopper… In fact, science was in many ways pointing to God’s creation…

Jesus made sense living in a broken world, with broken people and having Jesus as your saviour, your teacher, and your master. Pieces of the puzzle were fitting in. After the course I decided to baptise and to change my life’s trajectory…

On the day of my baptism, the service preaching was about forgiveness. After all the injustices we suffered, I realised that I still had a long path ahead of me… Forgiveness wasn’t (and still isn’t) one of my strong points…

But if I wanted forgiveness, it was absolutely necessary for me to forgive. Life, as follower of Jesus, is a two-lane road. You receive, and you need to give as well. That’s why we have a relationship with Jesus. And a relationship must work things both ways…

I realised that this sermon, on my baptism day, like other things, didn’t happen by accident…

José’s story continues next month …….


Besides his professional life, Jose produces some punchy Christian videos and hopes to develop this ministry further. Here is some of his work:


Why was Jesus hated – to death?


Who is this Man born at Christmas-time, 200 years ago?

Please pray this ministry will ‘go’ where Jesus wants it to go ………..