By Paula Banza*
I still remember how it all started seven years ago… We heard the trucks going down to the eastern marsh and saw the smoke rising. Somehow, we knew this was going to be a long battle, but we didn’t know how it was going to end.
From the beginning it was clear that we needed a ‘big miracle’, for this was a very uneven fight, it was a David and Goliath encounter. The first sign of God´s faithfulness came from the proposal of a local group to come and pray for us once a month. These good people of God live in the Algarve most of the year and come from different churches and different Christian backgrounds. They meet regularly to pray. What an example! While my kitchen table disappeared under piles of documents, and yet more documents, because of new attempts to destroy the marshes, and through all the long waiting: days, weeks, months and years, they were with us, asking God to save the Alvor Estuary. Their voices were joined with many more from our big and wonderful A Rocha family and others around the world; even friends who don’t claim any faith joined us in some form of prayer! We could feel the care and love of God amidst our distress and that gave us courage to carry on.
When the first court hearings took place, there were some signs of hope. Long working hours proved to be indispensable to create a very good case. Only a corrupt judge could not prove us right (unfortunately that could be the case…). But still we had to wait, and wait and wait… Somehow, there was always some paper missing or lost by the court clerk. Again we were supported with prayers.
One night Marcial came upstairs in a rush (he didn’t want to shout because we were not allowed to say anything until the result was published) and gave me a big hug and said, “We won”. I couldn’t believe my ears! We started jumping (quietly) in our living room with tears coming down. What a marvelous feeling! It was not just about winning − we also sensed God’s justice. It was not our victory, but the victory of God and of those praying voices, more effective than human devices.
Next time the prayer group met, we celebrated in Cruzinha’s common room with a glass of champagne and some strawberries (after all it was during Wimbledon!) and we raised our glasses in gratitude to God, the Creator and Protector of Alvor Estuary (and all the world).
*Paula has been working with A Rocha Portugal for the last 11 years on environmental education and in the management of the A Rocha Field Study Centre – Cruzinha – in the Algarve. Biology and Geology Teacher with a Masters in Conservation Biology. She is married to Marcial Felgueiras and they have two children, Beatriz (16) and Zé (14).