Final Entry 5 __________________
Thank you for supporting and praying for me and our staff team these past months as we prepared for our Missionary Gathering Retreat. It was a huge blessing to spend this valuable time together. The Lord is so faithful. Though this was just a portion of our ACCI family, we celebrated being able to come together on this side of the world, grow, pray and learn from one another. We had 17 of our mission ministry partners join us on the weekend as well. I was honored to meet so many humble, committed servants. I pray they left full, rested, renewed and encouraged.
The captions on this video will help walk you through our retreat. Join in celebrating God’s goodness with me.
Lauren, Wendy and I were all scheduled to fly out of Venice so we were blessed with being able to share a day and a half wandering, resting and reflecting on our time in Italy while in Venice together. We were also able to schedule a lunch with our dear sister, Fosca, who lives in Venice, and listen to a wonderful update about her life and ministry. What a joy to see her again.
I love taking pictures of Venician-Italian life, the ancient history and the artists and musicians passionately at work. Here is a little slide show of a few pictures for you to enjoy as you reflect back with me and see some of the beauty of Venice.
Just click on the first picture if you’d like to see the pictures larger, using the arrow key to advance.
May the Lord bless you all, 10-fold, for the blessing you have brought to Luke and I in making it possible for me to serve in Italy for an entire month while also covering us in prayer as we were apart. You are invaluable to our lives. Grazie mille!
Serving Christ Together,
Entry 4 __________________
I’m sitting on the floor of the train station waiting for my train from Bologna to Ferrara, reflecting on the past week. I’ve had the privilege to experience many new things and meet with dear friends.
In Florence, I was able to finally meet up with my former language school mate, Jean Michale after 2.5 years! We were excited to see one another and literally shook as we greeted one another at the Florence train station.
Jean Michele is an amazing person. He is from Benin, Africa originally and came to Italy to study. He is a linguistics major and is passionate about language. With French being his heart language (along with his village dialect), he speaks some English, Italian and is now studying Chinese!
He is working with a non profit agency serving refugees, tutoring and counseling them in their process of acclimation into Italy while being a full time student. He loves his work and I love what God is doing in his life. He is a humble young 23 year old and gives all of himself, head to toe, to others needs and toward his faith-walk with God. I was able to have an entire lunch speaking 80% in Italian, so my lessons have paid off Lorenzo! Thank you Lorenzo, for your investment in my language study, you’re the best teacher and God knew you would be a blessing to my life!
One of my meetings fell through in Florence, but it was also very important to me to reconnect with our hosts of our hotel again and have some conversations about life and what they are living through during this time with losing their mother and the pain of that loss. I love this dear couple and its a blessing to always see them when I stay in Florence.
Sara, Emma and I headed to Parma on Thursday and met up with Wendy Mills in the afternoon. What a joy to see her and have her with us now. We checked into our hotel in Fornovo and were able to rest in the afternoon to catch up on some well needed rest. It was fun to join Sara and Emma on some wandering in Florence, but it did make us rather tired too.
Thursday evening we were able to have supper with Francesco, Alessia and Francesca in their home. It was a joy to reconnect with them again and catch up together.
Friday, we had a lovely time meeting at Mariela and Aldo’s home with Mariela for some coffee, lunch and fruitful conversation together. We talked for a few hours about ministry in Italy and the possibility of beginning AWANA in Parma and the steps needed to help make that happen in Italy. It was a time of discovering and collaboration together. Thank you Mariela for a tremendous lunch! Were were do blessed by you setting aside time with us.
In the afternoon we were able to pop into Parma and Wendy and I were able to share a bit of Parma history with Emma and Sara. We visited a museum, an ancient preserved theater as well as the Parma Duomo and St. Giovanni Chiesa. I think Emma is getting a huge dose of “art” and history. Parma is a unique place and I believe it’s important for each new person we bring here to understand some of Parma’s history in order to understand more about it’s people too.
Sara amazes me. She just blended right in, passionately sharing from the Word, her heart and love for families and children was evident as she carefully and effectively laid out all the portions of her teaching while Francesco translated in perfect rhythm as she taught. A GREAT team!
Saturday Francesco and Alessia wanted to show us the Castle near Parma, so we “stormed a castle” and then had some lunch together after at Francesco and Alessia’s. We headed back to our hotel to quickly change and drove on to the church for the afternoon and evening sessions. Sara blessed this attending group with her tools, insights and helping us understand ourselves better and what we each have to offer families and others based on our passions and abilities and God’s empowerment.
Sunday, we all attended the Parma Church for their service. Worship was alive, passionate and joyful and Sara shared the sermon time as well. We all were welcomed as part of the “family” and enjoyed every minute. It’s always a joy to reunite with our church family in Parma, and, bring new Christ-family along to add to the blessing and growth of one another’s faith growth and discovery.
We all headed to lunch after church then on to do some shopping for the Gathering. After, we rested, packed and prepared to all leave on Monday.
Going 3 different directions, we said our goodbyes to Sara and Emma as Francesco drove them to their hotel in Milan. Wendy took a train north to visit 2 ministry partners and I headed east to meet up with the rest of our staff team all flying in today from the states. We will spend Monday night and Tuesday resting up and preparing together for the Gathering before everyone arrives on Wed. fternoon.
Thank you for carrying us in prayer this last week as we traveled a lot in trains and cars and met with many people in our paths. We are so blessed by what God is doing here in Italy and are humbled by him choosing us to help and serve in his Kingdom plans here.
Please enjoy more pictures from last week
Entry 3 ____________________
For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, Now I will arise, says the Lord, I will set him in the safety for which he yearns.” Psalm 12:5
My time in Rome has been a valuable and an important opportunity to meet fellow ministry partners and even help build some personal bridges to possible future ministry opportunites together in Italy. After leaving Lampedusa, I flew to the Rome airport and picked up Sara and Emma Sosa. Rome is absolutely massive! I was grateful we were able to navigate our way around quite easily between buses, taxis and the subway.
In our 4 days here, I was able to have 3 meetings with staff from IL Soggiorno (The Living room) ministry as well as take in some of Rome’s history with Sara and Emma between meetings.
Pastor Ivano – “Preaching the gospel means living the gospel.”
My first meeting was with Pastor Ivano. I met up with him at the IL Soggiorno location near the Piazza Venezia area. I walked as they were closing a language tutoring time with several dear people who were displaced in some way. Most are refugees, people living on the streets trying to find jobs or immigrants. They do a wonderful job offering language study, helping bring friendship, dignity, kindness and love to those in need as well as, “helping people find peace and reach goals they could not otherwise do,” said Pastor Ivano. I appreciate how this groups thinks outside the box to help the “least of these” improve their daily quality life.
We walked to a nearby park along with Pastor Ivan’s friend, Rudy. A young man he is mentoring and investing in at his church. Rudy is a wonderful brother in the Lord and is an incredible musician. He hopes to use his rapper gift to point people to Jesus! His vision and creativity was captivating for me to listen to.
It was also encouraging to hear about the Christian Church history of Rome and in Pastor Ivano’s own church, how God is growing and stretching them throughout this area of Italy. He is involved in several ministries in area and is sent from his church as an evangelist. He leads evangelism teams all around southern Italy to reach out to those with the greatest needs.
It was privilege to listen to Pastor Ivano’s life story (which would not be appropriate to share here in my blog), his vision and his passion for evangelism which the Lord gave him at a very young age, in a supernatural way. To witness his obedience and how he is living this out day by day was both humbling and inspiring. The Lord gives him tremendous creative ways to come alongside other’s needs and also point them to hope in Christ.
Brian B. – Reach Global
My next meeting was with Brian B who serves with Reach Global Missions (which is actually based out of Minneapolis) and oversees 5 team leaders serving in the EU from their organization. His wife Sarah serves as the Rome city team leader. They have 5 interns right now all serving on different tracks such as refugees, trafficking, English teaching and more. They partner with “Go Corp” short term missions agency, also based in Minneapolis. Half of their STM members go thru Go Corp. They are part of a young, growing church in Rome which is very focused on evangelism and the gospel.
Their vision is to develop, empower and release thru mentoring, coaching and discipling. Brian and Sarah served 16 years in Brussels as church planters then the Lord led them to Rome where they have been serving for the past 8 years. They have a passion for partnering with local churches and raising up Italian leadership.
I believe Brian and Sarah bring a healthy approach to the IL Soggiorno work in Rome by helping bring restoration, dignity, conversation and interaction with those in need as well as helping meet practical needs. They walk with integrity and are passionate about coming alongside needs, and of course, eventually spiritual needs as well.
I truly respect and appreciated Brian sharing his heart with me and also taking time out of a very full day to have coffee and talk together.
We walked to IL Soggiorno which was already in full swing. The room was PACKED with men. They were playing cards, dominos, and studying language. It was vibrating with laughter and a high volume of chatter. Brian invited me to jump in, so I did. I met some of the workers (missionaries) first and then gravitated over to a table with 4 young men.
I immediately began a conversation with Arman. Arman was from Iraq and had his papers in place to live and work in Italy but couldn’t find a job. Anywhere. He had been in the Iraq army for 4 years (working with the US Army) on borders and then headed into the EU after that. His story was heartbreaking in many ways. He lives on the streets until he can find work. So, he has to learn Italian. And wow, was he passionate about that. I corrected his homework in his exercise book and then began to help make some charts for him to memorize as building blocks, that I’d learned from language school in Italy and from my dear language tutor, Lorenzo. We worked hard for a couple of hours. We loaded some helpful aps on his phone. He was excited, he was coming out of his skin. He already speaks 3 languages, Arabic, French and some English which he’d learned from soldiers from the US while he was in the service. We parted ways, taking a selfie to remember one another in the future. What a blast this was! I learned many things just from this short time with these dear young men.
-My wrong perceptions were redirected
-All people on the streets are “bad” because they are on the streets
-Similar desires and dreams as I have
-Missing family and home
-Tremendous sacrifice to be able to work and have a normal life
-Deep pain in the eyes of these men
-Hope-filled in the midst of great loss and difficulty
We cleaned up the chairs and tables and Brian walked me to the bus stop to head back to my Airbnb home.
Josh R – Reach Global 2 year intern
Josh was kind enough to come and meet at the Spanish Steps and walked me to a nearby cucina for some lunch and conversation.
Josh is from San Antonio, Texas. What a faith-filled, obedient, worshipper of Jesus. Josh was kind to entrust me with his life-story of how God led him into missions. As we discussed his path, his growth, his challenges, his vision, his desire to follow the Lord’s leading, I felt myself absorbing every work he spoke. Josh spoke from a place of faith and obedience that was with total commitment and humility. We discussed similarities in our passions and I appreciated his openness. Our conversation is private of course, but I do want you to meet Josh so you can consider joining me in supporting him in prayer as he invests in the local church, the Roman community, his small group meetings, IL Soggiorno, and considers some pretty amazing opportunities the Lord is laying before him for the months ahead.
I’ll leave you with a quote that Josh shared with me that the Lord spoke to him as he was going deeper in his walk when being called to missions; “If you’re going to call yourself by My name, you need to live as I’ve called you to live.” Amen!!
Of course, in between meetings I was able to join Sarah and Emma in exploring some of Rome. One thing were able to do together was a personalized tour taking us to the places that the Apostle Paul was be-headed, believed to have been imprisoned and his actual grave. Our guide gave us tremendous Biblical and Roman knowledge all around those 3 places and on every train and bus ride, it was simply awe-inspiring, faith-building and overwhelming to say the least. In a good way!
We are now in Siena for our Sabboth day, on our way to Florence for a couple of days. Again, I’ll be having a couple of meetings while Sara and Emma explore and learn about what Florence has to offer. One fun thing that happened for Emma is that our Paul tour guide, James, has lined up a meeting with a friend of his in Florence for Emma to talk about curating, which is part of Emma’s goal in her collegec studies. She’s very excited. Then We will head to Parma for the conference that Sara will be teaching and where Emma will be connecting with the church youth.
At every turn reveals a “picture” perfect opportunity. So, here are some pictures for you to enjoy from the sights around Rome.
Thank you again for your prayer covering and incredible support.
“If we behold Jesus Christ going on before, step by step, we shall not go astray. But if we sorry about the dangers that beset us, if we gaze at the rod instead of at him who goes before, we are already straying from the path. For he is himself the way, the narrow way and the strait gate. He, and he alone, is our journey’s end.” – D. Bonhoeffer
Entry 2 __________________
Lampedusa is a Sicilian territory, west of it’s island, closest to Tunisia, Africa. It is about 12 miles long and 3 miles wide.
While we were here, a small tsunami hit the bay and sadly sunk many boats and flooded businesses. We didn’t even know it happened until the next morning. Lampedusa is a fishing island and they host tourism in the summer months. So this grieved families greatly who lost their boats due to this phenomenon that comes only every 20 years or so when the hot and cold water collides and the sea floor lifts from the river that runs underneath the sea floor.
Lampedusa is known for its “sweet-water” that stays encapsulated under the island itself where many boats stopped for water on their way to other places over the centuries. It’s likely that the apostle Paul could have joined in this rare gift on his way to Malta. Lampedusa was first an island where they used to bring prisoners to work making charcoal to sell and from this trees became scarce bringing the land to wash away over time and become barren. As well as the rain fall decreasing over time in this Mediterranean climate area of the world. We were told that the start of the island as a town began in the 18
We also experienced the yellow dust and sand the blew over the island from the Sahara dessert our first couple of days.
Why visit Lampedusa?
I was invited by my friend Imra Volders to join her and her friend, Christa Furlow from Tennessee, to come alongside the church in Lampedusa in prayer and support. Imra leads the Moms in Prayer ministry throughout Italy and connects regularly with her contact in Lampedusa, Mariana, Angelo and their son Samuele -our hosts. Our primary reason in coming to Lampedusa was with the hope to encourage our fellow-followers of Christ in some small way, serving here so faithfully.
We enjoyed many meals together which often led to hours of conversation and listening, opening of God’s Word, learning and growing together and also praying for one another and the needs and people of Lampedusa. We met with 2 women from Mom’s in Prayer and spent an entire morning together praying, reading the Word, encouraging one another as we focused on the Lord together. This was a precious time together. We met Catarina and her husband Alessandro (children Lizza and Daniele). Listening to their hearts, their passions, their struggles, was a honor and privilege that they would entrust your life stories to us and allow us to share in their needs and lives. I learned a lot about island life and truly the sacrifice made to live on an island an invest in others, so far from Doctors, a hospital, many resources that just don’t come to Lampedusa. It is very much a life of faith and trust in God for everything!
We believe God changes things through prayer; spiritual climate, He breaks generational strongholds and can bring renewal to a place that is dry of his presence and salvation.
The island is very, very dry, mostly a terrine of rocks and dusty clay-like sand. The small beaches are beautiful, the Mediterranean Sea, breathtaking. A refuge for the dear inhabitants of this place for sure.
We spent quite a bit of time walking together, praying over the city, the land, homes and businesses, the school and…for people we encountered that seemed alone, lonely or even discouraged.
We met dear Harold, a former resident of Lampedusa who had previously worked for the Coast Guard years ago and had come for a few weeks of rest after many personal losses in his life and in need of peace and renewal. We learned a lot from Harold. We appreciated his knowledge of the history of the island, his has warm heart and had a kindness about him that was rare. Please pray for Harold as he continues to rest and seek God for what’s next in his life. We also met an amazing journalist and writer, Pamela, and she was doing in depth study on the history of the refugees, the island life and it’s impact for her thesis. She sat with us during Aportivo one day and we loved listening to her story and what she was learning. What a sweet woman.
Of course, many of our encounters walking were with store owners, passers by and of course refugees. We just simply talked to those we felt led to. We were compelled to acknowledge them, giving words of encouragement and treat the refugees with dignity and respect as we passed by greeting them, shaking hands, chatting a bit, and giving a blessing. We asked God to lead us to those whom we should actually interact with and have more conversation. We had 2 groups of young men, one group from Nigeria (Catholic Christians) and the other from Pakistan (Muslims-fleeing from Libya where they were working) who we interacted and talked with several times in our wandering. We were able to invite both groups to Mariana and Angelo’s church who offer counseling for refugees. Trust began to grow between us and stories began to unfold. Every story is very different as well as the facts different in their reasons for fleeing and risking their lives, coming across the sea in hope of a better life.
The boats already leave in a fragile state, filled with holes as these dear people cross these waters.
“I knew I would die in Libya, so I thought it was better to risk my life on the sea than stay and die in Libya”
“I have no one, my parents were killed, my sisters were killed, my whole family, gone…”
“We have no farm left, no work to go to, our entire village, gone, so we were invited by 2 women we know in Italy who are Nigerian to come and they would help us work here.”
“We have no idea what will happen to us here, but we just couldn’t go on anymore at home…we knew we would die.”
“Wouldn’t you want to return home, of course we would to, but there is no home to go to now…”
Chosen by God:
We first met 3 young men sitting on a bench chatting. Most all the refugees are given a black running suit with white stripes, deck shoes and one pair of under ware. They are easy to spot in the mix of the islanders. They sit on the benches, along the water, in the piazza and all look exhausted, worn, and most are quiet. They are allowed out of the Center if they are older than 18, until 5pm.
These dear men ended up being Catholic Christians from Nigeria and they immediately began to talk to us. We were greeted with big smiles, hand shakes and we had the opportunity to pray for them at the end of our conversation. They were on the island only 10 days and said they were to leave any day now to be transferred to the camp in Sicily. This is very common in Lampedusa. After refugees are registered and accounted for, they are processed and sent to Sicily where eventually they are divided up in other camps and begin the process of immigration, if they are truly able to receive asylum.
These men did arrive at church Sunday evening and we introduced them to the Pastor. He gave them some great resources on a SIM card and his business card and phone number so they can be in touch with him as they go through this process so he can help them stay close to the Church and receive healthy help along the way. I was very touched by his care. He also took a picture, I wrote down their names for him to match the picture so he can keep track of whose who in his process of giving and care from the church. I wrote a phrase in Italian for them that they can use if they call the pastor describing who they are to remind him. We all went outside and formed a circle. I asked them, “how can we specifically pray for you, right now, what is your greatest need, if you’d like to share this?” They all gasped and let out deep breaths, overwhelmed, and began to slowly tell us more about home…no family, parents being killed, their passion and trust in the Lord, they they believe God has given them “dominion” over their circumstances and they trust Him, and Him alone, no family left, no farms in their village, no jobs, fear of being sent back…” So we began to just pray. We wrote down verses for them to take, prayed them over each person, held hands and agreed in prayer together. We felt like 3 moms with our 3 sons. I felt I was able to let go knowing they had “some” kind of connection through this church. I as grateful. God was in control. He has to be, this was so greatly beyond me and us.
About the Regugee Center (Camp):
This camp is now for men only and any women and children are immediately transferred to Sicily and no longer stay in Lampedusa as it is much safer for them, they are told. (This is the memorial placed on the lowest area of the island where many refugees have arrived, some have lost their lives due to the dangers of the sea.
There are tremendous difficulties as you can imagine, in these camps, and each one differs from the next. They would not let us or anyone else inside the camp. It takes 3 months to get clearance through paperwork in Rome and Sicily, and, they just simply don’t allow anyone in, other than police and Dr’s for many reasons including the men’s privacy as some don’t have clothing when they arrive and the conditions are difficult.
We received a very detailed education and information from a local volunteer a the Comune Association office who said they are the only ones on the island offering language tutoring, a computer to call home, and some supplies as they are able to give, beyond what the camp supplies. Nino leads the charge and is a tremendously kind person and said in Italian, “I can help one drop in the ocean at a time and do only what I can, I just do the best I can”, quoting Mother Theresa’s famous words. He works with one volunteer at a time. Offers films to educate the refugees on what’s next. And for fun, because they have nothing to do, shows a film out the window of his office each night for the men to gather and watch at the end of town.
There are many important facts and details we learned about and are now able to carry with us, yet wouldn’t be appropriate to put on a blog, but we are grateful for all we learned, though we realize we have only scratched the surface of our understanding.
I’ve taken pages of notes and will be handing those details over to those who are waiting for more information on our ACCI team and other Ministry Partners. Thank you for praying for me and helping lift my arms during this very challenging experience. It is a lot to absorb, but I am forever changed and hope to return to Lampedusa in the future and continue investing in our new relationships there with these dear Christ-family members! I love and cherish the body of Chris there.
Isaiah 61 – I encourage you to read this passage in light of the few things I’ve share. It was ignited for me in a new way in light of my experiences on Lampedusa.
Here’s a portion that spoke to us as we served and prayed over the church there: “1The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives, And freedom to prisoners; 2To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, 3To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified. 4 Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins, They will raise up the former devastations, And they will repair the ruined cities, The desolations of many generations.”
PS Emma and Sara Sosa have arrived safely in Rome today. We will be here throughout the week and I will be meeting with 2 ministries that are serving Refugees here while they enjoy Rome (and myself as well as able). Please pray I continue to grow, learn and expand my understanding of God’s heart for those in need of him.
Entry 1 ___________________
As my first blog entry, I’d like to give you my travel schedule and prayer needs so you can refer back to them when needed. I’ll be adding new entries on this post as I’m able while traveling in May. I humbly ask you to consider choosing one day from my travel schedule to add to your personal calendar as a helpful reminder to pray for Luke and me and those I’ll be serving with in Italy.
- “Less than 2% born again christians are in Italy. Many Churches are small and weak. Many believers focus on “protecting themselves” from the world by isolating themselves rather than reaching out and being a light.” — ACCI missionary Eliseo Guadagno Please pray for the faithful Christ-followers in Italy, that they may have the Lord’s strength to reach out and press on, as they faithfully serve.
Travel day to Italy
Lampedusa service work
Rest day/Ministry Meetings & Service work in Rome
Ministry Meetings in Florence
Projetto Archippo Conference-Parma
Staff Meeting Day
May 31-June 5
ACCI Missionary Gathering Retreat
Travel day home
Please Pray With Me For
- A teachable spirit & listen well, to be “salt & light”
- Our ACCI missionary-gathering retreat
- Wisdom & deepening of relationships
- Communication in the Italian language
- Safe travel, good health, endurance
- Unity among ministry leaders
- Covering & safety for Luke as I am away
The Lord has been using the words of this song to help prepare me for serving in Italy. The Lord gripped my heart one day when I reheard the familiar phrase, “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders” as this is my prayer while I live moment by moment during my time in Italy. I pray for the ability to listen, serve and love others in a way that points them to Christ Jesus.
Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) – Hillsong United
You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand
And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine
Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now
So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
For I am Yours and You are mine