James and Heather Cochrane have been serving in Portugal since 2008. Initially they were involved in leadership training, Bible teaching and discipleship (with the Portuguese Bible Institute), but in July 2013 they moved from the Algarve to Porto in northern Portugal to begin a church-planting project in collaboration with the Christian Presbyterian Church of Portugal (ICPP) called ‘Comunidade Pedras Vivas’ (CPV) which translates as “Living Stones’ Community”. CPV is based in Senhora da Hora in Porto and is led by James and Heather. In March 2019 Chris & Rachel Humphries joined the church planting team.
Church planting is a broad term that encompasses many varied tasks: prayer, planning, team building, evangelism, discipling, pastoring, building relationships and training future leaders. The building of relationships is very important to gain the respect of the Portuguese and break down many prejudices and misconceptions about what it means to be a Bible-based church. Together with their colleagues, James and Heather reach out to all age groups (children, young people, men and women) through one to one contact on the streets, formation of small groups to explore faith and Christianity, youth activities and ministry to couples. The shaping of the church to have a missional vision occurs through preaching and teaching and short courses to equip the members to live as disciples and share their faith with others.
They write, “Portugal is a religious nation with symbols of Christianity on every corner. However, only 0.5% of the population would claim to have a personal relationship with Jesus. In this context of religious fervor, the task of church planting is steeped in prayer as we seek to live out our lives before those who do not know Jesus seeking opportunities to explain who Jesus really is, why he came and what this expression of God's love, grace and hope actually means here and now for the people of Portugal.”
During the Covid-19 pandemic, James and Heather have continued to serve in Portugal and adapted their work and witness to comply with local restrictions. At times, when in-person meetings couldn't take place, church services, Bible studies and other church meetings moved online.
From 1996 to 2003 James and Heather served as church planters in north-east Brazil with the Independent Presbyterian Church in Brazil (IPIB). They returned to Ireland and both completed degrees in theology, with James continuing to study as a ministerial student at Union Theological College, Belfast. He was ordained, after two years as assistant minister in Second Comber Presbyterian Church before leaving for Portugal in 2008. James later studied for an MA in Aspects and Implications of Biblical Interpretation with the London School of Theology. James and Heather have two daughters: Alana will complete her Masters degree at QUB in September 2022 and at the same time Lucy will begin her second year at QUB.
- Pray for the people of Portugal who are surrounded by symbols of Christianity but with little or no knowledge of Jesus.
- Making contacts and building relationships is crucial to the ongoing work of church planting. Give thanks for contacts already made and pray that members of CPV would be good witnesses to their friends and colleagues.
- As CPV prepares to return to normal activities following lockdown, pray that there will be a tangible cohesion and sense of community among the church members and a desire to be actively involved in building relationships with the wider community.
- Continue to pray for the witness of ICPP in Portugal. Pray for the many challenges this small denomination faces (approx. 250 members in Portugal).
James and Heather have recorded a short and long film clip which can be downloaded and used in church services, prayer meetings or events to raise awareness and prayer for what God is doing across the world, as we seek to go deep and wide in global mission involvement.
Digital Dispatches // Cochranes // Summer 2022 from Presbyterian Church in Ireland on Vimeo.
(For previous Digital Dispatches video clips click here)
On Sunday 19 February we had much to celebrate in Comunidade Pedras Vivas (CPV). Our first elders and deacons were ordained and CPV was organised as a church of the Christian Presbyterian Church of Portugal (ICPP). Previously our status was church plant of ICPP. It was an exciting moment in our history. Three men were ordained and installed as elders and two as deacons. To see CPV reach the stage of having its own local leadership was very encouraging and emotional! CPV currently has 83 members (65 communicant and 18 non-communicant (children of members).
A commission from Presbytery was sent to carry out the act of ordination and installation. It was good for the church to meet some of the other pasters of ICPP and to feel more connected to the denomination. After the service we enjoyed a community lunch together.
Over the next few weeks and months James will be meeting regularly with the elders and deacons to help them grow into their new roles. Pray that these men will seek to serve God and the church with dedication and enthusiasm.
Our normal ministries continue. In the next month the young people will meet to continue youth Alpha. Heather will be having a planning meeting with the leaders of "Graudos e midis", our family outreach ministry, to make plans for the next 3-4 monthly get togethers.
Heather is also hoping to start a women's ministry and hopes to kick this off in the month of March. Pray for the small team of women who will be involved. And finally, our small group ministry meets fortnightly and has just started studying Judges.
We thank you for your prayers and support. We are so encouraged to know that so many are showing an interest in gospel mission in Portugal. If you haven't already, check out CPV's website and social media.
- Give thanks to God for his faithfulness, since we began CPV almost 10 years ago.
- Pray for the elders and deacons as they take up their new roles in CPV.
- Pray for the young people of CPV, that they would grow together in Christ.
- Pray for the new women's ministry to begin in March.
- Pray for the members of CPV, that they would be active participants and be able to use their gifts in the various ministries and outreach activities of CPV.
To download a printable PDF version of this bulletin or for a previous bulletin visit the Mission Reports listing at the top or the Global Mission monthly bulletin archive.