Through a miraculous series of events, the story of how YATOL was introduced into the United States is an inspiring one. In 2001, several members of the Sousa family of Turlock, CA were visiting Portugal. Included in this group were Jorge and Noélia Sousa and their two children, Gabriel and Veronica. The family toured the Portuguese mainland after visiting friends and family in the Açores. On the last day of their time in Portugal, the Sousa family arrived at the airport in Lisbon and and as Noélia looked for her family’s tickets, she realized that she had left them in the taxi inside their camera bag. Unfortunately, after many failed attempts to contact the taxi driver,
With tears in their eyes, the family had to part ways. Jorge and Noélia were to stay in Lisbon for a day or two while they waited for new tickets printed. It was a very sad departure for them as the rest of the Sousa family waved goodbye to Jorge, Noélia, and their children as everyone else boarded the plane. Although their children were very upset, Noélia, also sad and concerned, answered, “All things happen for a reason...we just don’t always know what God’s will is. We need to be calm and trust God.” Little did she know that only one day later, God’s loving will for them would show itself in an unimaginably wonderful way.
While in Lisbon, waiting for passports to be confirmed and tickets to be reprinted, they decided to tour the the ancient town of Evora for the first time. As they were walking in Evora, Gabriel and Veronica saw an Italian restaurant that they wanted to try. Jorge and Noélia were reluctant to eat there, as they would much rather eat at a Portuguese restaurant, but decided that they would eat at the Italian restaurant the following day. As they were waiting for their meals, they heard singing coming from a table full of young people. Jorge and Noélia became very curious when they recognized a few of the songs they were singing. As one of the young adults walked by, Jorge asked who they were and what the joyful singing was all about. She (Maria de Noronha e Andrade) explained that they were part of a Catholic youth movement called Equipas de Jovens de Nossa Senhora and that this week was their international meeting, being held in Evora. Both the Sousa family and the group of singing youth became absolutely overjoyed when they found out that the family was Catholic, of Portuguese descent, members of TOL, from the USA, and were making plans to start a spiritual group for youth.
The YATOL members realized that this was a direct answer to their prayers, since one of the prayer topics for that meeting in Evora was for teams to somehow spread to the USA. They invited the Sousa family to attend the meeting that same evening. They accepted the invitation, went, and were absolutely inspired. Upon their arrival back home, plans were immediately made to start YATOL in the USA. Finally, a little over a year after that exciting encounter in Portugal, contact had been made to the YATOL of Canada, and three members came out to California to help hold the first YATOL retreat. From there, YATOL in the USA began!