Feb 1, 2021
MMO trips involve many people: patients, team members, MMO staff, the bus driver, missionary pastors, national pastors, and local church people. Each member has his own experiences and stories to share. One woman’s story often goes unheard during our busy week of clinic. She may be coordinating meals behind the scenes. She may be chasing down a few young children. Whatever she’s doing, she has powerful accounts of strength, stories of trials, and testimonies of God’s power. This week, her name is Angela.
Angela Portillo serves with her family in Nicaragua. Angela’s husband Ricardo grew up in a Spanish-speaking Christian family, and Angela grew up in a pastor's home in Australia. They both had a desire to serve God full-time with their lives, and during college the Lord directed Ricardo towards Central America. During a survey trip to Nicaragua, Angela and Ricardo noticed something that simply was not present in Australia or the U.S. Due to their great physical needs, the Nicaraguan people did not allow pride to hinder them from recognizing their need of the Lord. The Portillos were amazed at the humble openness of these people to the Word of God. Because of this openness, Angela and Ricardo have the privilege of seeing souls saved almost every time they shared the Gospel.
Moving to a new country with a unique culture could be terrifying. I asked Angela about her initial fears surrounding the move. How did she adjust to the language and culture? Were there concerns related to safety or health? Angela shares here how God specifically used language barriers and health concerns to grow her faith.
“At the time of moving to Nicaragua, my Spanish was very limited. I knew maybe a dozen words. My husband who had grown up in a Spanish-speaking family, was fluent in Spanish, so we were able to move to Nicaragua without going to language school. Because I didn’t have any children at that time, I had a tutor come to the house to teach me Spanish. But my learning was still slow.”
This grew especially frustrating for her as she attempted to serve in her Nicaraguan church.
“Even though I was being a help-meet to my husband, I wasn’t able to do anything to serve the Lord because nobody could understand me. Ministry is people, so it grieved my heart to have a hunger to see them saved and grow in the Lord, but not be able to do anything about it. Even though I knew the Gospel well, I felt I couldn’t explain it with confidence in Spanish.”
In 2018, MMO came to Nicaragua, and Angela confronted this challenge head-on. Angela shares, “when the medical missions team came, I had a newborn and didn’t really see how I could help. My Spanish wasn’t great, so I didn’t think I could translate for the doctors or be a soulwinner. After one clinic day, my husband told me that not as many soulwinners had turned up as he was hoping. One after another people were leaving without a clear Gospel presentation. I hardly slept that night. A team of doctors and nurses had given their time to come and set up this medical brigade, and people, although being treated physically, were leaving still on their way to hell without Christ. I asked my husband to teach me how to say certain phrases and how to ask certain questions, and I wrote them down. If I needed help, my husband would be right there. And I could help them find and read Gospel verses.
“That day the Lord humbled me. He reminded me it was not about my eloquence, how great my Spanish was, or if I said the right words. It was about Jesus and His Word going out. And that day I had the great privilege of leading 3 precious souls to Jesus.”
When it comes to trusting God with her family’s physical protection, God encouraged Angela with a verse:
Psalm 36:7-8 KJV
 How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.  They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures.
Angela shares, “disasters can happen anywhere. People can get hurt. Children can die anywhere in the world, but the safest place for my family and my children is in the center of God’s Will. This truth was further cemented into my heart with my pregnancy with Rebecca. Zika was being spread in our city. One Sunday, I developed a terrible headache. Then I came down with a fever and a rash - signs of Zika. We had been trying for a baby that month, and I was afraid. On my birthday, while still sick in bed with Zika, I finally took a pregnancy test.
“It was positive. I was pregnant and had Zika.
“There was nothing I could do. No prevention methods, avoidance of mosquitos, or repellant could help. Microcephaly or miscarriage was now on my mind. My baby was at risk because we lived in Nicaragua. But again, I was reminded that although the chances of having problems were high, God would still be God in my life. He would allow a painful situation for His glory and the good of others, or He would do something miraculous and my baby would be fine.”
Angela’s doctor stated during one appointment that her timing in contracting Zika couldn’t have been better. Her baby’s tiny cells were just beginning to multiply, and no head or brain had been formed yet. The baby’s body was too small to be damaged by the disease, yet both her and Angela were being protected from further danger from the virus in the future. The Lord had naturally immunized her baby in the womb, protecting her from further risk of microcephaly.
Angela says, “these stories all point to the fact that I can trust the Lord with my babies - and everything else I am and possess. He is teaching me to hold what He has given me with an open hand, in case He has other plans for them.”
Angela continues to serve faithfully with her husband Ricardo and their four children in Léon, Nicaragua.