Working near lots of water is nothing new to Tracy Klein, activity director at Frey Village. After all, Middletown, Pennsylvania, is a Susquehanna River town.
Recently, however, Klein found herself close to a seaport, lagoon and network of canals.
And she wasn't sightseeing, but on a mission.
Supported by Diakon’s Love of the Neighbor Fund, she spent time doing service work in Aveiro, Portugal. Aveiro is located on the west coast of Portugal and is distinguished by canals navigated by colorful boats often used to harvest seaweed.
“My mission,” says Klein, “was to assist a missionary couple with community education through their ‘Sewing Smiles’ ministry to the sick and needy of the community, as well as with a weekly worship service. My church also had designated me to bring some relief and personal assistance to the missionaries themselves, who have ministered in this community for 17 years. My goal was to make a difference.”
Diakon's Love of the Neighbor Fund provides extra days of paid time off, as well as a travel-assistance stipend, for approved service trips, typically for other nonprofit organizations. Klein received five matching PTO days as well as a $50 daily stipend.
“Our Love of the Neighbor Fund is a way Diakon can extend our impact on society beyond our direct services,” says Mark Pile, Diakon president/CEO.
“I am grateful to Diakon for its support of my effort.”
Klein's housing was provided by the couple, Dave and Julie Loop, veteran missionaries in Aveiro.
“It was an amazing experience to observe and participate in their ministries as well as attend their church services at Igreja Baptista de Esgueira, a primary outreach into their community,” she says. “Although the church services were conducted in Portuguese, I was still able to participate by playing the piano and operating the computer with the audio/visual ministry. I had a lovely time helping with the Cha’ das Senhoras/Ladies Tea and enjoyed getting to know the women of the church.”
The church’s Costurar Sorrisos/Sewing Smiles ministry provides opportunity for members to make stuffed toys and deliver them to hospitalized children at Christmas time. “I was able to cut out fabric and start the process for many of these stuffed toys,” she says.
Klein enjoyed conversing with children the missionaries transported to church services. “My Portuguese and their English were limited but they loved talking about puppies, birdies and ice cream, as well as singing ‘Happy Birthday’ and ‘The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round.’”
Members of the church’s Sunday School children’s class are learning the books of the Bible and Klein was able to assist with painting and labeling wooden “books” of the Bible in Portuguese to be used as visual learning aids. She also provided 360-degree photographs of the church building to be used on social media.
“It was such a pleasure to worship in Portugal and to call members of the church friends!” she says. “I am grateful to Diakon for its support of my effort. The Lord has blessed me and I am very thankful for His provisions and safety on my trip.”
Top: A 360-degree view of the church; immediately above, the wooden Bible blocks Klein painted and labeled.