In September 1985 the Dutch pastor Peter Sluimer and his Swiss wife Marianne came to the Algarve to start the first English-speaking evangelical church in the south of Portugal. They rented an apartment at the small hotel "Casa Branca" in Vale Judeu off the EN125. A month later, on Sunday 27 October, "The International Evangelical Church of the Algarve" was born in the living room of the Portuguese owners of this family hotel, Ezequiel and Antônia Ferreira. Present were eleven adults and ten children. Among them were Portuguese, Americans, Englishmen, a Scotsman and the pastor's family which already consisted of three nationalities (including their adopted Brazilian son). So, right from birth the church displayed its international character.
In May 1986 the church moved its Sunday services to a restaurant on the way from Quarteira to Loulé, called "O Carcavai". For a year the growing congregation welcomed ex pats and tourists to this small and intimate place. Soon the church outgrew its surroundings.
In the Spring of 1987 the Swiss "Algarve Mission" with which the Sluimers have worked in the Algarve, was able to buy an old farm - with stables and 7000sq m of land attached to it - in Vale Judeu. The beautiful setting of these hundred years old run-down premises lent itself exquisitely for the establishment of an international church centre.
Already in the week before Whit Sunday 1987 the congregation celebrated its first service within the dilapidated walls of the farm. That was an unforgettable experience for this small church community. From then on many memorable events rapidly followed each other. In December 1987 the pastor's family moved into a restored part of the farm and set up their home there. They opened up their renovated living-room to the Sunday services which often spilled over into the garden as the available space inside soon became too small. Then Pastor Peter conducted the services from the door into the garden so that he could speak to those sitting inside and outside. A covering awning protected the "outsiders" against the heat of the sun. Many present day visitors still speak nostalgically of these early days.
Of course, such kind of half in-/half outside services had no real future. Since July 1990 the congregation met in a marquee behind the farm and in October 1993 they were able to move into the lovely purpose-built church building, erected on the premises with the financial help of the congregation and its many friends from all over the world.
After retiring from the ministry in Portugal Peter & Marianne moved to the the village of Montgaugh in the French Pyrenees where they lived for 7 years. In 2014 they moved back to Marianne's homeland in Switzerland and now live in the town of Beatenberg near Interlaken.
In August 2008, Mark and Judith Loney and their two daughters moved to Vale Judeu from V.N. Milfontes in the Alentejo, where they had been pastoring a Portuguese church for over 13 years, and in October, Mark was inducted as the new pastor of IECA. Both Mark and Judith are natural of Northern Ireland (UK), although Mark, of missionary parents, was brought up in Brazil. Judith, a musician, has her own ministry in the church and in supporting Mark in his pastoral ministry. We look to the past with gratitude for all that God has accomplished through Peter and Marianne, and our prayer is that through the leadership of our new pastor, God will do many more great things for His glory in the days to come.