I have visited sixty-five countries in my life to date. I am sometimes asked if I have a favourite. I have several favourites, but it is Portugal that holds a special place in my heart. Why? Quite simply because I have found Portugal to be home to the friendliest people in the world. I may only have visited Portugal on business, but the people I have met in Portugal have become friends rather than mere business acquaintances.
This week I visited the Portuguese island of Madeira for the first time to carry out a review of the local branch of a company I work with regularly. One of my contacts flew over from mainland Portugal to meet me and introduce me to the local manager. The next morning his boss, the Portuguese managing director, arrived in the island. He didn’t have to come, but he came because I was visiting and because we are old friends. He came because he wanted not just to assist me in my review, but also because he wanted to share some of the beautiful island of Madeira with me.
After finishing work at 4:30 pm on Tuesday we took a quick trip back to the hotel to change into casual clothes, and then spent the next six hours being tourists, concluding the evening with a rather splendid meal. The next morning a Spanish colleague had to be dropped at the airport for 10:00. My flight wasn’t until 12:40 but I was quite happy to be left at the airport. That was never going to happen given that my Portuguese friends saw an opportunity to show me more of Madeira and enjoy a final cup of coffee together before parting company.
So I have been overwhelmed by kindness this week. How many people go to work and are thoroughly blessed by the kindness of colleagues? The kindness I was shown was given out of friendship rather than Christian or any other form of duty. I can’t tell you how that makes me feel, but it also makes me wonder how good a friend I am? And I have a special reason to be a good and trustworthy friend. The reason is my friend Jesus. If only I was as keen to share Jesus with other people as the Portuguese were to share Madeira with me. If only my friends were as keen to find out about Jesus as I was to find out about Madeira. If only.
“You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavour? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.
“You are the light of the world – like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5:13-16 NLT)