Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference. — Robert Frost
Update #1, April 14-20
Travel Day-Tuesday April 14 – 15
I started my trip to Italy by cutting my finger while pitting an avocado on Saturday and got 6 stitches. I took them out when I arrived in Venice on day 7 of my trip. Thank you all for praying, I feel so supported and surrounded as I was away.
I’m sorry that I had limited time to send you all updates as nights were late, mornings early and internet and my free time limited. I’m doing this in a short Journal style this time, hope you enjoy coming along with me while I serve in Italy. It takes about 15 minutes to read the entire blog.
My travel day was so, so smooth which was a blessing when traveling alone. My first two connecting flights arrived early at each destination taking all the pressure off! I even had time for a French pastry in Paris. I arrived in Milan, Italy on time, Francesco Abortivi, our European Director of ACCI, was right there to greet me.
Day 1 in Italia – Wednesday, April 15
The days have been full and rich with learning and a first hand witness of God’s love for Italy and it’s people. It’s Spring in Italy, flowers blooming everywhere, flowering fruit trees trickled throughout the mountain hills-white-yellow-pink…just beautiful. It’s warm and the sunshine has been life-giving after a long winter at home.
Arriving at Francesco and Alessia’s home in Fornovo (a town near Parma), I was greeted first by Willie, their dog, then Alessia and daughter Francesca. So sweet to see their smiling faces. We talked together while Alessia and Francesco made pasta for our supper. We talked through supper catching up on life and what we’re all doing; work, choir, church, family, friends, laughing our way through several topics. I love Alessia’s humor and stories. She’s an amazing storyteller. Francesca was practicing her english. She’s such a sweet girl!
Today I spent the first half of the day adjusting to the time change. I slept 12 hours! My goodness! I felt like a new person, now I’m ready to go! In the afternoon, Francesco and I went to his office and worked together on some ACCI paperwork and planning discussing our developemnt of more partnerships for ACCI and time just flew by. We were able to accomplish a lot in a short amount of time.
Francesco surprised me with a short visit up the mountain near his home to meet a famous Photographer, Mauro Davoli. It was nice to slip away after several hours of work and take a little break. I didn’t feel it was appropriate to take any pictures but can only begin to describe this renovated 2-story stone house, hundreds of years old that he rents from a Catholic order. It’s quiet there where he does his creating behind the camera. Check out ihs work at www.maurodavoli.com. He sells high end pictures of still life shots that look like paintings with a black shadowed back ground and strategically placed lighting on objects in amazing creative ways. So impressive.
My time was closed by Mauro’s wife offering us afternoon espresso coffee, which they just call “cafe” in Italy. The dusk sun lit everything around us as we left. My favorite time of day (similar to Belize at dusk). I prayed for him as we walked the driveway back to our car.
Alessia and I started the day by stopping by the shopping center to buy a few presents for our missionaries in Assisi who are having a baby girl any hour. Alessia was helpful teaching me more Italian language parallels. She’s a good teacher, I wish I had her for my entire trip to gently correct and redirect me as I speak. I’m doing well, not perfect, but understanding WAY more than before, reading signs better, using verbs better and better one step at a time.
We left about 2pm and headed toward Assisi through La Spezia on to Assisi. The hills are ALL green, loaded with white blossomed trees, its was raining today but still so beautiful. I always enjoy seeing the homes and little churches peaking out of the hill tops, the ancient vineyards and buildings.
Francesco shared some interetsting things as we drove:
-Assisi is right in the center of Italy if i look at a map, heading to the sea side of Tuscany.
-All of the villages were built up on top of the hills because of all the pirates–the Normans, Saracens came for centuries and robbed Italians, so it was the only way for them to be safe and be able to fight back.
-We passed the Carrara Marble hills and the Quarries of the exact place where Michelangelo cut his own marble. This entire area was inhabited before the Romans came by the Etruschi (Etruscans).
-This area in Liguria was loaded with malaria in the time of Musollini so they built the roads up high to stay away from the disease by living on top the hills.
We headed right to a restaurant to meet a team here from Seymour, Tennessee who had been working with Federico this past week. They’re from Seymour Southern Baptist Church, along with Charlie a missionary serving in Arezzo! (Since our visit, they have welcomed little Pricilla into the world!)
The entire team was older and very impressive folks. It really was a great dinner conversation that we had together. We sat at 3 tables and I listened as those around me shared their stories from their time here in Assisi. Their one on one encounters with people, prayer opportunitities, breakthroughs, praying as they walked Assisi…I felt we were all happy to meet one another, exchanging resources, ideas, stories…this was a wonderful family of Christ experience. It was a great beginning to our time in Assisi.
I had that, “Here we go!” feeling of how this trip was going to be, full, a lot of learning, important relationsips and full of God’s presence! Thank you Jesus for such a great beginning to my time here!
Francesco and I got up early to help Federico drive the Tennessee team to the train station. We helped them get their train travel organized, validated their tickets, and then had a sweet time or prayer and thanksgiving together before saying our goodbyes. The Lord gave me a little vision last night while praying before bed and he reminded me of this as we prayed together this morning.
Each step this team took on the ground of Assisi, their feet were lit with beams of light with every step. When they leave others who live in Assisi, would step into their lit foot prints, and would begin to discover the love of Jesus. Change has begun and the spiritual climate has shifted as the spiritual ground has been prepared for breakthrough as the Francinis remain there to serve. It was as though there was a spiritual shift from their investment there. This team’s focus was prayer which is so powerful.
The 3 of us drove over to Francinis for a time of discussion and debriefing with them. We had a fantastic conversation we had together. We discussed their ministry vision, a typical week for them, encouraging things, discouraging things, the challenges, and prayer needs and really connected well and had a wonderful time together.
We continued talking as we took a lunch break and walked to a really cool place for lunch and had Tuscan bread/sandwich pizza-like thingys…really was fun to try something new in Italy that is local to the region.
When we walked back Dawn and Luke M., our ACCI ministry team partners, were arriving from Citta di Castello to join us. It was so great to see them again. We sat at Federico’s for about an hour getting acquainted then they wanted to walk us to the Church of S. Chiara’s to help us understand some of the history of the area (which is very important in order to know how to serve there effectively).
They showed us their posters they have up around the city on 40 advertising boards and how they put flyers in 1000 mailboxes when they have a public event. I really is touching to see how faifhfully and creatively this couple serves the community.
We witnessed a mass taking place with a full processional of nuns, friars and priests. The Church of S. Chiara’s is built over the original stone church (at the front of the church) that S. Francis built himself and used in his day which was then in the middle of a field at the base of the mountain that he used to walk up for prayer. The original path is now a street in the original shape as when he was alive, going up the hill to the top where another church now sits.
We decided to to give Federico & Elisabetta a break from visitors in the afternoon and so we sat out on the verada at our hotel to have another discussion together.
We took a short break and drove up to the top of the Old Town of Assisi for a couple of hours to see the old town of Assisi. It was impossible to take one picture of the breadth of Assisi as it spread so wide on the hill across the sky. Dating back to Roman and Gothic eras and beyond. The buildings, churches and streets were quiet in so many places you could only hear the wind, yet other places were packed with people and school children touring the history there. All the streets had the names of saints, historical or biblical names relating to S. Francis’ ministry.
We drove back to Federico & Elisabetta’s for dinner. They had made us a wonderful traditional Italian 4 course meal. We talked about ministry, culture, people, family, changes in our lives, fashion, the spiritual climate in Italy, our growth, concerns, discoveries…a fantastic conversation, much in Italian but caught what I could as we went along with help from Francesco and Dawn translating.
What a meaningful day. We 5 had breakfast together and then went back over to the Federico’s for church together. Federico started by sharing from Colossians 1 and after some discussion we began to pray. During prayer several of us shared from scripture and we had a chance to encourage Federico & Elisabetta and pray specifically for them and for Assisi. I felt I could do this kind of “church” more often.
I said my goodbyes and headed out with Luke and Dawn for Florence. They had rented a car for to do survey visits all around Italy and get reconnected with other ministries and leaders. It was fun to come in to Florence by car, I’d never done that before, I usually come in by train when I have meetings there. After checking in to our hotel, we headed out to walk and talk our way toward a place to sit and have coffee. I’m learning so much from them both, about people, culture and always enjoy drawing from their wisdom and experience as they serve in Italy.
We wandered toward our dinner destination at Angelos Restaurant. We talked our way through our meal and went a bit deeper in our conversation discussing their ministry and lives. I’m so proud of them and am always blessed to hear their hearts, how God is challenging them and raising them up as they serve in Italy. Please pray for them as they return to the US for 2 months for Luke to receive some medical treatment for Lyme’s disease. Please join us in prayer for his complete healing so he may return to Italy with more strength, energy and the ability to serve 100%.
I’m amazed how full and long the days have been. Most feel like two days in length because of all that’s taken place during the day.
I arrived safely in Bologna. The Bologna station has grown so HUGE! I was amazed. I felt like I was Jonah in the belly of the whale going up 3 levels too meet Giulio A. He was there to greet me out in front of the station. Giulio is attending the oldest University in the world, in Bologna while serving as an intern with Youth for Christ.
We walked toward his University to a coffee shop to meet with his internship supervisor, Ester, from Youth For Christ. YFC is collaborating with 3 other churches effectively through city-wide events. He has a very full schedule with serving–working with kids club on Wed., weekend events with YFC and church on Friday night for youth, Sunday service for all. Their church is really growing. The University has ancient buildings, and the buzz definitely feels like a university campus. Giulio is a linguistics major, studying Dutch and English right now, this fall he’s hoping to focus more on cross cultural studies.
We said goodbye to Ester and Giulio walked me most of the way back to the station past some land marks and through the middle of the university buildings. We prayed and said our goodbyes and I continued to walk to the station passing by some Roman aqueducts and ruins in the center of town. I’ve never been in Bologna so it was fun to see it a little bit today.
I boarded my train to Venice. I had a 1.5 hour ride to Venice and really enjoyed the silence. I was going to be able to have some Sabbath time today which is much needed.
I arrived safe and sound in Venice, bought a boat ticket to the Rialto Marcato stop and enjoyed the cool-breezy ride to my hotel. Our friend Roberto was there to greet me and I had the same room I normally have had when I’m traveling alone, on the 1st floor near the front desk. They always take great care of me at Gueratto.
I decided to go and wander a bit, kind of spinning with exhaustion and maybe take some pictures as it was dusk and the orange sun was highlighting everything in Venice. I love to worship behind the lens of my camera…seeing people, praying over Venice, looking into the center of new flowers I’ve never seen before…whatever the Lord puts in front of me. I was so grateful for these few hours of quiet and rest.
I made plans with Fosca to meet her tomorrow from 1-3pm and then all evening to go meet her church leaders in Mestre Venice. I’m looking forward to our time together and getting up to date about her investment in Venice.
Update #2, April 21-27
I had a morning to myself again before having to meet with Fosca and catch up on some much needed rest and paper work.
I headed out mid morning to have some coffee and write missionary reports to the ACCI staff back home. I decided to sit in San Marco Piazza where all the hustle and bustle was to do some journaling and spend some time praying. At one point, the man who sells seed to feed the pigeons in San Marco, shot off a pop gun and hundreds of pigeons took off flying all over the square filling the sky. The man next to me ducked with his arms around his family thinking it was real gun. I felt so badly for them, it really scared them. I sat by some live musicians playing many cultural forms of music, it was restful and beautiful.
I walked to meet Fosca on her afternoon work break at S. Stefano Piazza. Soon, there she was with her amazing smile greeting me with a 2 sided Italian kiss and a hug. We walked to her favorite sandwich shop to get, what she says, are the best sandwiches in Venice.
We took a stroll along the canal while eating our sandwiches, crossing the bridge by the Academia. We sat on some steps on the edge of the water in the sunshine with the cool breeze blowing from the canal. Fosca walked me through her weekly schedule and began to explain her new work with her church in the community of Mestre, Venice. I listened to her heart, her passion, her vision as she unfolded all that God had been recently been doing in her life.
This is a new church branching off from Milano’s Sabbot churches. Home cell groups are the “church services” and then they meet all together for training, worship and prayer. Their focus is prayer, intercession, reaching out to the needs of others one by one through relationships. I have no doubt God will use this young woman and take her far in his Kingdom work.
Fosca had to go back to work and her offices looked out over the S. Stefano Piazza. I later wandered to S. Roma to the bus station and parking lot to meet Fosca to go to her church meeting in the evening. I stopped along the way taking more “people” pictures. The Gondoliers were cracking me up as they teased tourists and laughed among themselves. They seemed to be everywhere today. There’s definitely no place on earth like Venice.
We bused to the Mestre area of Venice outside the canal. We arrived 2 blocks from her pastor’s home where their little 7 year old son was there to greet us and became my buddy within an hour. He was now learning his 3rd language at 7 years old, mamma mia!! So impressive. This family is Brazilian and Alisa and Onesimo lead the church. We sat over dinner discussion ACCI, their work and also all about how the Lord led them to Italy and Mestre specifically. Then we broke into a time of worship and prayer. This dear couple is very gifted prophetically and ministers encouragement and love in a powerful way.
Fosca and I said our goodbyes to everyone at about 10:30pm and walked back to the bus stop to catch the bus back to the Canal. She is so passionate, a truly gifted evangelist, and has a courageous spirit. We stopped to “take a gelato” on the way at Foscca’s favorite gelaterie. The streets were silent. She was commenting on how it felt like a movie set, fake almost. The canal water was’t moving at all. The thousands of people I saw all day evaporated and no boats humming, no chatter, and no footsteps, just silence and only the sound was our own voices echoing in the alleys as we talked our way back to my hotel. She didn’t even look as we twisted and turned our way back through the streets. I enjoyed this adventure and kind of didn’t want it to end. I prayed for Fosca at the hotel door and said goodbye. What a rich 24 hours with her. A time I’ll never forget.
I decided to take advantage of sleep and didn’t get up until 9am. I took the canal boat to the train station and absorbed the ride past all the inlet canals and the beautiful buildings, one last time.
My time on the trains was calm, quiet and reflective. I arrived in Trento about 3:30 pm and grabbed a fresh Kabab and a cold coke and decided to cross the street and sit in the park and wait for my next contact to pick me up.
Andrea and Simona picked me up to “take a coffee” and talk a bit and catch up. Pastor Pippo came to talk with me a bit as well. We talked for a solid hour about his vision for the Trento Church, family and the Italy relationships we have in common. We walked past his office where he works at the university to his car to take me to go meet Ovidiu and Andrea for supper at the “Roadhouse Grill”. I think I changed cars 4x in 4 hours, what a kind church family!
We talked our way through supper about service opportunities in Italy that we are excited about and just laughed a lot too. We headed to church for youth meeting. It was wonderful to worship together again, discuss Psalm 25-26 and spend time in prayer and more worship. Though it was a quick visit, it was meaningful and important.
I said goodbye to Andrea and Simona and headed to Ovidiu’s home to see Alena. They both had just returned from visiting Romania and still welcomed me into their home. I was so touched by this. It was midnight and we were ready to rest!
I began the day with getting up at 6:15 am to get ready to train to Milan and first have coffee with Ovidiu and Alena before I left Trento.
I boarded my train just in time, at 7:41am and headed to Verona, then on to Milano. God has graciously helped me in all this train travel to stay calm, prayerful, enjoy my surroundings and go with the flow. There’s always a way out if something goes wrong.
When I arrived in Milan I’d forgotten how huge that station was. Francesco was right outside waiting for me. He’s been such a gift. What a full, full day today and a blessed one as well. I’ve learned a lot about culture today and what God is doing here in Milano. I was overwhelmed with all the information I’ve received from our ministry partners through all the listening and conversations.
Milan meeting #1 was with Giorgio M. at his flat in Milan. Giorgio is the Vice President of UCBC, leads Child Evangelism Fellowship and is quite involved in CRC Christian Radio. We had a wonderful discussion to get to know one another and share about our service work in Italy. Giorgio was so kind. I truly appreciated his honesty, wisdom and passion for the scriptures. His heart was soft and he’s passionate about unity. And, he loves the gospel.
I’ve learned something good from Giorgio about Italy and Christian acceptance. He said, “There is either division or persecution with Christians. Persecution is from the outside of the church, division is from the inside. When division is happening among us, persecution is minimal but when unity is between us, persecution is heightened and that means something significant is happening.” Something to ponder. We spent about 1.5 hours together. I’m grateful to have met this dear brother and hope we can meet again in the near future.
Milan meeting #2 was with a wonderful young woman whose interested in possibly joining our ACCI team (who will remain nameless to respect the privacy of her process). We had a wonderful conversation with her. She’s passionate about evangelism, helping with the injustice of human trafficing in Italy and is currently receiving training to do this kind of work. She’s educated in linguistics and loves hospitality. I am always humbled by how God is raising up more and more workers to serve cross culturally.
We said our goodbyes to this dear woman and headed then to the airport to pick up our ACCI contractor, Brad F. joining us from London. We’d invited Brad to come and join us to meet several of our new ACCI contractors and meet other ministry partners hoping to bridge some opportunities for he and Julia to use their abilities of teaching and service in more places.
Milan Meeting #3 – We headed back now with Brad, in the other direction across Milan to meet with our ACCI contractor, Salvatore C.. I greatly respect Salvo. What a tremendous ministry and heart he has. He’s a man of great faith. He met us at the corner and we immediately walked to see the 2nd coffee/library bus they were preparing for the EXPO. He shared how the Lord’s provision is making all this possible. He explained about how he travels to an area and joins with the local churches, offers training to the church people in how to share their faith and really tries to work with the church leadership. He is a servant, focused and loving in his approach and walks humbly before his God. I was so fascinated by how he’s grown into this work and is functioning in this kind of mobile church ministry.
His vision for the buses:
1st to be a Mobile Church through the buses
2nd to be a Public Church through the March for Jesus events that he leads and began in Italy, by being visible and available.
-He has a smaller bus he borrows for getting through the smaller streets and villages.
-He has the 2 buses now and hopes to get another for serving in Sicily.
-He is a great trainer of the gospel and has written a booklet to help teach others to share their faith. He teaches formation and how to share the gospel first by understanding it.
-He finds that the buses draw those who are “ready” and already willing to hear about Christ or are in need of prayer and care.
Salvo said, “We can attract the right people with the buses, those who are ready to hear about Jesus, it’s not about the #’s”…”We are a church that moves toward people…”
We met his team of supporting partners inside the #2 bus where they were rushing and helping to get it ready for the EXPO. These 5 men were working tirelessly to remodel the inside of the bus and Salvo was excited. His vision, and passion are magnetic.
Milan Meeting #4 was with META – We hopped in the car again to head to the opposite side of Milan to meet with Monika and Francesco M. from META and talk over dinner at a local pizzeria. After our dinner, we went to their office and heard more about their work. Our conversations all evening long were valuable and enjoyable. I really like this couple and greatly respect what they are doing. Monika and I are partnering in mobilizing teams from the US and Canada to META for serving at the EXPO. We had a great conversation about details with the teams, she’s a joy to work with.
We saw the 600 usb pens and 1000 usb bracelets they will be handing out to those who would like resources for study and growth. Their passion for those searching for an understanding of Jesus’ love and creative ways to offer resources, was stunning. Francesco M. wrote a book, study guide, smaller version of the same book, flyers (that Francesco A. designed for them) and pamplets…so many resources loaded their shelving all around us for the EXPO. I was impressed mostly by their humility. A common theme among all those I’ve met so far who are serving in Italy. This has been very touching to me.
We arrived back home in Parma at 1am full, blessed, having learned today much about Italy, the people serving here and the challenges. This is the new website that people can go to for more resources and answers to their spiritual questions written in several in languages. Well done Francesco A.! www.expohope.org
Today was a rest day, laundry day, catch-up day and a day to spend time with Brad F. hearing about he and Julia’s work from their London location that spreads into other areas of the EU/UK and beyond.
After studying over coffee a bit in the morning for our Saturday workshops, Brad and I headed to Parma by train in the afternoon to wander, and talk together. We wandered the streets and park talking about family, ministry, vision, changes, possibilities, challenges conquered and discussed many topics of growth. I appreciate Brad greatly. He’s a gifted teacher, wise, discerning and passionate about training leadership and mentorship. He has a shepherding heart.
Saturday, we headed to Francesco’s church and set up for the Prayer and Worship workshops we were to teach in the afternoon under our ACCI leadership training branch (led by Francesco A.), called Projetto Archippo http://www.progettoarchippo.org. We were blessed with a wonderful turn out of 45 attendees.The interaction and discussion was plentiful and the passion for these topics was obvious.
After, we headed for a late pizza with our ACCI Contractors, and the pastors of the Gruppo Cristiano Church, Aldo and Mariela C., along with Francesco and Alessia A., their daughters and Giuseppe (from the worship team) and Brad and myself. What a wonderful day of growing and learning together. I am grateful to be part of this team of servants.
In the morning we all headed off to church in Parma. I love this church, Gruppo Cristiano Church. Every time I return to worship with them, I leave so blessed. This is a church that Pastor Aldo and his wife Mariela began in 2003 in their home focusing on the Latino immigrant community. It has grown into a multi cultural church inclusive of many Italians as well. Today I met someone from the Philippines, Nigeria, Columbia, Brazil, and more. Brad preached out of Psalm 51 and I sang 10,000 Reasons with the worship team. The 2+ hour service left me filled to the brim as we worshiped together.
We headed out to Levanto having a quick lunch at McDonald’s, Italian style, serving fresh and GOOD local food! We curled our way through the winding hills heading southeast by car to the seaside to meet our ACCI contractor, Giacomo L., his wife Mikaela and family. Our conversation was meaningful listening as Giacomo shared his heart’s desire to help meet needs in this area of Italy in such creative ways. Because they are new in the area and adjusting still, our conversation was private in nature and full of vision, hope and passion. Giacomo has growing opportunities to teach and is seeing God open up many avenues to use his gifts and passions in the months ahead. Please pray for this dear family as they adjust to a new life in another region of Italy, please pray for financial provision and wisdom as they make new decisions in direction for their work and family.
I was dropped at the train at 6:30pm to travel on to Lavagna for 2 nights with Imra & Emile D. I said my goodbyes to Brad and headed off by train, arriving safe and sound with Imra’s smiling face there to meet me. We drove to their home and had a wonderful family dinner together catching up on our lives.
Today was set aside to spend with Imra and Emile D. Luke and I serve in a supportive role on their Advisory Board for their Bethel Ministry work. Their retreat house in Arco, Italy is in the middle of being renovated and remodeled soon to sleep 20 and will be used as a stepping stone to a larger vision they have, after this is completed. After a morning or coffee, discussion and wonderful time of prayer together, Imra and I wandered the streets of Lavagna picking up the kids one by one and continuing our conversations over another coffee.
I love Imra’s unquenchable love for Jesus and prayerful approach to her minute by minute faith walk. Imra oversees the Mom’s in Prayer ministry of Italy. Emile works at the Cantieri Sangermani Boat yard http://www.cantierisangermani.it. They have a humble and deep desire to help Christian workers in Italy to rest well through their retreat house in Arco as well as expand and offer retreats, training and spiritual growth through Bethel. Exciting days are ahead for them. In the evening, Emile and I had a chance to talk more in detail about the retreat house and just life. I adore this couple. We consider them life-long friends and rare jewels in our lives. God has blessed us with their friendship and we care deeply for this dear family.
Update #3, April 28-May 1
Day 14-15 – Tuesday-Wednesday, April 28-29
I packed up quickly and Emile had a hot cappuccino and breakfast on the table for me and the family, what a kind friend. He dropped me at the train and I said my goodbyes to sweet Imra and Emile and their 5 children.
Today is committed to spending a period of 24 hours with our ACCI contractor, Izy H. currently serving in Torre Pelice as well as in Rimini. After 3 train rides into Pinerolo and a beautiful bus ride at the base of the alps, I arrived in Torre Pelice to her smiling face and open arms. Izy is a rare type of person to the Kingdom. She serves others with total joy and prayerful commitment. It was important to Izy to share with me the history of the area so after a coffee together, we boarded another bus taking a short ride to Bobbio Pelice. Because my member care conversations with Izy are private in nature, I instead wanted to share with you the important history of this area that she explained to me in detail as we walked and prayed together.
This is a shortened version of the martyred Christians (dating 1200’s-1800’s) of the Waldensians (pronounced Valdensians) led by their leader, Peter Waldo. They were called the “Invincibili”, invisable ones. Peter Waldo and Saint Francis (of Assisi) were both commanded at the time to resign to the pope’s leadership and Waldo said no and S. Francis did align himself with the pope’s request. Sadly, the pope sent armies from Citta di Castello to try to destroy the Waldensians. For 800 years armies were sent by the different popes who tried to wipe out and kill the Waldensian followers by throwing them from the cliffs above Bobbio Pelice, with their blood turning the river red, whose waters still flow into the towns to this day from these cliffs.
After hundreds of years of trying to kill off these people and the inability to eliminate these Christ-followers, the later pope said if they could live above a certain altitude up in the hills, then they wouldn’t be killed. They hid in the caves up behind and above the cliffs where many had died and built a Bible school up in those caves. They had one Bible and memorized it and read from one beam of light in the caves standing high on a rock, teaching. Many went out preaching the gospel below the caves, knowing they would die and not return. They lived in stone huts in the cliffs. They stored the animals below them so their warmth would rise in the winter helping keep them warm. They lived on chestnuts as their source of protein (and this is where the chestnut trees came from to this day in this area).
Today, many from this area may boast of having “Waldensian blood” in their family line. Yet from the late 1800’s until now the church had stopped reading their Bibles and witchcraft has now entered the church through all the magician’s influence and training in the area. Since the 1800’s they took their eyes off of Jesus and now the masons and (white and black magic) witches have a strong presence here and are embraced in this region as part of the leadership of the present Waldensian Church. (There is some history on the internet if you’d like to read deeper, here’s one http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/hcc5.ii.xii.vii.html.)
The current vision of the Christians in this region (Torino/Peimonte) is to grow it toward being a training area for the gospel again. The Salvation Army has a center in Torre Pelice, there is a Biblical training/retreat center in place (pictured here below the cliffs where many died), the dream of a community center, meeting spiritual and practical needs is done through sports camps & the arts, all with a desire to reclaim and rebuild the church for Christ in this area. There is a new revival movement called the Ancient Paths happening right now yet the rest of the Waldesians don’t really like it or embrace it. An amazing history to say the least.
Wednesday morning Izy and I sat in a coffee shop talking for a few hours more then I went to meet with a couple of dear missionaries from the area that wanted to have lunch together (again, confidential in nature). What a precious couple and discussion we had together. One of those god-appointments for sure, and a privilege to meet with them.
I headed southwest, making 4 train connections back to Parma and was picked up by Pastor Aldo to go to their home and have dinner with he and Mariela and their daughter Rebecca. We had rich conversation and discussion about their ministry. Aldo and Mariela also serve as ACCI contractors in Parma.
After arriving back to Francesco and Alessia’s we sat up and talked until 12:30. After some laughs and chatter then a well needed rest.
I slept in, packed, showered, and headed to the coffee shop in Fornovo to do some journaling and write some staff reports throughout the afternoon. Before I knew it, Francesco was there to pick me up to drive me to Milan to my hotel so I could overnight there as I had a very early flight out of Italy to Paris, on to NewYork and then home. We stopped by Alessia’s work to say goodbye to her and see her office. It was so fun to see her in her element of physical therapy. She’s one gifted woman and blessed so may with her talent and caring touch. Francesco and I talked our way to Milan about our time together, our ACCI team, what God is doing, how we can best care for each one…and much more.
I close this time in Italy with a grateful heart. I never got sick, I never missed a train, I rested well, I ate well (too much), and experienced your caring support and prayer every step. Thank you to each of you for your sincerity and care. Your prayer for Luke and I was the sustaining factor in our time apart and in the success of many conversations as we responded to the needs that came our way. We are privileged to serve our God together.
Ann and Luke
Italy Trip Introduction
Hello Friends and Family!
I’ll be posting updates on this blog page as I’m serving in Italy. Because I never know when I’ll have internet or breaks of time to share with you all, I’m expecting my updates could be a bit sporadic. But I’ll do my best to keep you informed.
As I always mention, due to the confidential nature of our staff visits, there will be things I can’t share with you as most of my time is spent processing both the victories and challenges our contractors are experiencing. I sure appreciate and value your prayer covering for both Luke and I as I am away and he remains home.
– Safe daily travel, protection, health, rest & endurance
– Wisdom, a Spirit-led sensitivity
– For Luke’s health, peace & rest as he’s home
– I’ll visit new & existing ACCI missionaries and ministry partners, along with ACCI staff. My schedule will be rather full with frequent in-country travel
– I’ll co-teach a worship workshop at the church, Gruppo Latino Cristiana in Parma
– We plan to promote ministry opportunities for the Expo 2015 held in Milan, May 1–Oct 31
I’d like to introduce you to the faces of our dear friends who I’ll have the privilege of meeting and serving with while I’m in Italy. Their faithful sacrifice and creative ways they each help meet the needs of both the Italians and immigrants around them, is both challenging and exciting. I always learn so much as I spend time listening and experiencing a first-hand snap shot of their work in Italy.
4/14 – 16 – Travel, rest and transition day
4/17-19 – Francinis – in Assisi – http://fedebetty.webnode.it
After a full day of travel, time change adjustment and a short rest, Francesco, his wife Alessia and myself will drive to Assisi to spend two days with the Francinis, one of our newest contractors whom I have never met other than by skype. Federico and Elisabetta are expecting their 3rd daughter that week, so I may have my first hospital visit in Italy as well. We’ll see! I’m looking forward to meeting this dear family and hearing about they’re vision for their work in Assisi.
Our European ACCI Director, Francesco Abortivi – http://www.progettoarchippo.
Luke and Dawn Mann, our contractors living in Citta di Castello, will join us on Saturday, who also will be meeting the Francine’s for the first time.
On Sunday, Francesco and Alessia will drop Luke, Dawn and myself in Florence to spend Sunday together to have some private time catching up and hearing more about what God is doing in their lives. I will overnight there and head out Monday on an early train for Venice.
While heading to Venice, I’ll stop in Bologna to visit for a couple of hours with our ACCI contractor, Giulio Abortivi who is attending University there and working with Youth for Christ in Bologna.
Upon my arrival in Venice, I’ll hit the ground running with Fosca Bottazzo! She is a dear and cherished ministry partner who has recently been called back to her home town of Venice and is now serving with a couple from Brazil who have begun a church and are reaching out to meet needs of the people in this community. I will get to meet them all and hear ore about what they are learning and how God is leading them. I will attend a worship rehearsal and prayer meeting with Focsa as well.
Then, it’s off to Trento just for one night. I’ll meet with our valued ministry partners there, some of the worship team, their leadership and have an evening dinner and discussion together. I can never have enough time with these dear brothers and sisters. I felt a one night visit was better than no time at all, so we’re all excited to see one another again and share some time together, though it will be short. http://www.evangelicitrento.it
I will train on from Trento to meet Francesco again in Milan for a day of back to back meetings. Brad Frey (he and his wife, Julia-along with their family, are living in London serving throughout the EU/UK) will be flying in to join us for a few days as well.https://bradnjulia.wordpress.
We will begin the day with meeting with Emily, a missionary who has some questions about ACCI Italy and get to know one another. We’ll then pick up Brad Frey from the airport and together meet our new ACCI contractor, Salvatore Capritti, who is in Milan with a very unique work that you need to take a quick look and learn about on line at http://www.missionerem.org/en/
We will head on to meet Monika and Francesco from META ministry that we are partnering with, helping send teams from the US/Canada to do one week commitments of outreach to immigrants during the EXPO 2015 from May 1-OCt. 31 of this year.
After a late Italian style dinner together, we’ll drive back to Parma for a good night’s sleep and morning of rest. Friday afternoon we will all go to meet with Jonathan Gilmore from Italian Ministries http://www.italianministries.
Saturday, Brad and I will teach two workshops on Biblical Worship/Hindrances to Worship (me) and Prayer (Brad). In the evening I’ll attend the Parma Church’s worship rehearsal and prepare a song with them which I’ll share in the service Sunday. Find them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/GCLA.
Pastor Aldo Cerasino
Aldo and his wife Mariela lead the ministry at Gruppo Cristiano Latino Americano church in Parma Italy. Pastor Aldo is also one of our ACCI contractors. I always look forward to seeing them again and catching up together.
Sunday, Brad will preach and I will share a song in the Gruppo Latino Cristiana church in Parma. After lunch, we’ll head out to Levanto to visit with another of our newest contractors with ACCI and his family–Giacomo and Monika Lirici. They are well on their way beginning a new small church there and offering care and love to all those around them in very creative ways through sports, meals, prayer, discipleship and opening their home. I am excited to see Giacomo again and meet his family for the first time.
I’ll remain in Levanto and be picked up Sunday evening by Imra and Emile Dills and head back over to Lavagna for a 1.5 day visit with them. Luke and I serve on the Dillis’ ministry advisory board and I look forward to hearing all about their work and growth. Imra oversees the Moms in Prayer in Italy and it is changing families and Italy in profound ways, beginning with families.
On Tuesday morning, I’ll head on a short train ride up to Turin to spend a full day with Izy Holidae, one of our Italy Contractors, and do some debriefing and just hang together. Izy has been serving in a precious way alongside a family that has recently lost both dad and husband. I look forward to listening and loving on Izy for a day.
I will train back to Parma at the end of the day on Wed. to spend Thurs. with the Abortivi’s processing, debriefing and preparing to head back to the US again from Milan.
As you can see, this is going to be a full schedule. I expect I will surely need some rest upon returning home, but more than anything I’m expecting God to do great things as his people gather together, pray, listen, learn and grow. I am praying for more of an understanding of the Lord’s love and presence to be released over Italy and a fresh anointing for his faithful servants there as they live the example of Jesus in the flesh.
My dear friend Donna gave me a scripture as we met for coffee recently. It’s from Matthew 7:17, “Every good tree bears good fruit.” She reminded me of the truth that in order to bear much fruit for God’s kingdom, there is a pruning process he takes us through for his finest fruits to be realized. And how we must go through this pruning process in his strength alone (Isaiah 41:10). Thank you Donna, I take this truth with me, humbly, dependently and anticipating what God will do in and through me for his glory alone.
Thank you everyone for taking this adventure with me.
Serving Christ Together,