Prossimi passi

Our trip to Italy was extremely clarifying. We certainly felt God’s presence and direction at every turn. We spent time with pastors, missionaries, and neighbors throughout Pescara, Perugia and Rome. We have come away from this trip with a deeper sense of call, a clearer sense of the way forward, and a renewed sense of urgency. We saw time and time again that God is doing an incredible work in this country. We are thrilled to be a part of what He’s already doing.  As we walked the streets of these cities we began to see that Perugia was the best landing spot for our family. We are committed to doing everything we can to get back as soon as possible! And we look forward with great anticipation for what God has in store for our family there. Until then, here are a couple of highlights from our trip.

Pescara:

Pescara, Abruzzo, Italy

Exploring Pescara with two of our incredible CRM leaders.

Pescara is an ancient fishing village on the Adriatic Sea.

Pescara is an ancient fishing village on the Adriatic Sea.

The Ciccone Family. We had the privilege of staying with this incredible family in Pescara. Giacomo serves as the President of the Italian Evangelical Alliance and is committed to seeing churches expand their reach in this gospel starved country.

The Ciccone Family. We had the privilege of staying with this incredible family in Pescara. Giacomo serves as the President of the Italian Evangelical Alliance and is committed to seeing churches expand their reach in this gospel starved country.

Abruzzi Rooftops

Abruzzi Rooftops

This is the "Christian Bookstore" owned by the Italian Evangelical Alliance in Pescara. It's called Controcorrente - "Against the current."

This is the “Christian Bookstore” owned by the Italian Evangelical Alliance in Pescara. It’s called Controcorrente – “Against the current.”


Perugia:

The Seal of Perugia - The Griffin

The Seal of Perugia – The Griffin

Basilica of San Francesco d'Assisi

Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi

The Streets of Perugia

Università per Stranieri di Perugia - This is the school that we will attend for language.

Università per Stranieri di Perugia – This is the school that we will attend for language.

Sunset in Perugia

Sunset in Perugia


Rome:

This small hill - The Palatine Hill - is said to be the birthplace of Rome.

This small hill – The Palatine Hill – is said to be the birthplace of Rome.

General Audience with Pope Francis

General Audience with Pope Francis


Italian missionaries often say to us, “Italy is an incredible place to visit, but a hard place to live.” What we’re finding is that that statement sums Italy up well. Italy is an extremely complex country. We love its beauty, its charm, its people; but we know the road ahead is going to be challenging and we’re grateful for the many ways you’ve walked with us already on this journey. God’s doing a new work in us, and we pray that He’s also working through us. We’re so excited for what lies ahead. Andiamo.

5 Lessons I Learned in the Desert

5 Lessons I Learned in the Desert

God actually brings people through the desert. On purpose. Because He loves them.

Let that sit for a bit.

The desert.

You know, that place where you’re all alone. That place where there’s absolutely nothing around for miles. That place where wild animals are looking for their next meal. That place where your deepest fears and insecurities seep up from the depths of your soul because you’re left alone with them.

That place where no matter what you do, you don’t feel God’s presence and nothing turns out the way you thought it would. That place where you’ve done everything you’ve been told to do in the past: pray, read your Bible, listen to hymns about God, go to church and it just doesn’t work.

That place is where I’ve found myself wandering throughout this past year. To say that it’s been exhausting, emotional, and just plain hard would be an understatement.

And yet, being led into the desert was God’s purposeful and loving path for me to be formed in the ways of Jesus. And through it, I’ve learned a lot.

1) God cares more about my heart than He does about the results of my “ministry”

God used the desert to show me the places in my life where I didn’t love Him. He began to strip away any semblance of productivity and success. God made it clear: more than the number of people I lead to Jesus, more than the leaders I’ve trained and developed, more than the partnerships I’ve forged, He cares about my heart being surrendered to Him.

2) Often times I live like I’m a Christian Moralist

When I didn’t see the results and “fruit” of all my hard work I felt guilty and shameful. In order to cover those feelings up, I worked harder. But what God began to show me was that it’s not my job to take away guilty and shame. That’s Jesus’ job. That’s why He died. God began to show me what was in my heart. Spiritual pride. “I can do it myself.” Instead God pointed me to a place of love and humility; the way of Jesus.

3) You can’t read and pray your way out of the desert

Scripture is full of verses that talk about “waiting on the Lord.” We often think that that the longer we’ve been walking with Jesus, the more “experiences” we’d have with Him. We’re often told that we’re supposed to “feel” God’s presence all the time. And so it’s confusing, we often think that the more character/maturity we have in Christ, the deeper the experience of God we should have. When we stop having the “feeling,” often our response is to go back to what we know. “But, I’ve read my Bible, I’ve prayed, I’ve gone to church…why does God still seem so distant?” What I began to understand is that God’s desire is to take us to real places of growth. Thats the purpose of the desert, to expose one’s heart. God strips us of what’s worked before to draw us into deeper relationship with Him. God brings us to places where all we can do is pull up a chair and sit down while we wait for Him to form us, grow us, and lead us out of the desert.

4) God desires for us to be vulnerable with Him

I was raised as a good Baptist.  I could never imagine telling God I was angry at Him. I mean, I probably told God I didn’t like something once or twice, but never dared to express my anger towards Him for putting me in a specific situation. And yet, this past year I’ve spent more time reading Psalms and Lamentations than ever before. Let’s be very clear: David and the writer of Lamentations were extremely honest with how they felt about their subsequent situations. They held nothing back. As I began to share the anger, frustration, sadness, and brokenness that was in the depths of my heart, I in turn experienced the invitation of God to draw near to Him in love and comfort. He loved me despite the smorgasbord of genuinely negative feelings I had towards Him. Allowing yourself to feel emotions in the midst of your situations and offering them up to God who in turn responds with love is a recipe for heart change. And that’s what began to happen.

5) We need community to point us to Jesus when we can’t find the way ourselves

The desert is disorienting, exhausting, and grueling. When you’re in the middle of the desert it’s hard to tell which way is up. I’m grateful that in the middle of one the hardest seasons of my life, God graciously surrounded me with people who knew which way was up. When I couldn’t hear God’s voice, they listened on my behalf. When I couldn’t “feel” God’s love for me, they showed me the love of God. When I couldn’t see God’s faithfulness they pointed out God’s gracious provision. They prayed faithfully for me, listened intently to the cries of my heart, and sat with me when I needed friendship and comfort. They pointed me to Jesus when I couldn’t find my way through the desert. A community that reflects the person and work of Jesus transforms neighborhoods and lives. That’s why community is so important.

 

God’s At Work in Italy

Thank you for your prayers and support through this exciting time of transition. As you know, I (Jeff) had the privilege of spending over a week in Italy with two other :Beta: leaders. As we spent time on the ground, we met with so many incredible leaders who have a heart to see Italy transformed by the Gospel of Christ. What we experienced and saw was that the need is HUGE. Very few cities have much of an evangelical presence. While the country is overshadowed by the power and influence of the Vatican, and most are at least culturally Catholic, there is very little knowledge of and interaction with Jesus. And yet, we clearly saw God at work; we heard the stories of those who have faithfully served and are praying for a movement of God to sweep the land. We desire to be a part of this movement and are thrilled to see how God may use us in the months and years ahead in this incredibly complicated ministry context. Below are a few pictures from the trip.

Rome’s city center is an intersection between ancient history and modern.

Italy’s history is rife with war and violence. Many people lost their lives in the wake of Rome’s continued desire to expand it’s empire.

The Vatican’s power and influence both politically and economically in Italy is far reaching. In Rome alone, the church owns over 50% of the real estate. In Italy, due to the Vatican’s power, evangelicals are still fighting for religious freedom, something most of the West takes for granted.

In Rome there are over 900 churches, sadly today most are nothing more than museums.

We had the privilege of praying for Giosue, an Italian in Florence using film as a medium to bring the gospel to light in a dark city.

We had the privilege of meeting with and praying for Giosue, an Italian in Florence using film as a medium to bring the gospel to light in a dark city.

This incredible group of young people is led by one woman who has a deep heart for her city. In Manfredonia there is no evangelical church and yet Angela disciples, teaches, and leads these young people by faithfully living out and proclaiming the Gospel of Christ.

This incredible group of young people is led by one woman who has a deep heart for her city. In Manfredonia there is no evangelical church and yet Angela disciples, teaches, and leads these young people by faithfully living out and proclaiming the Gospel of Christ.

Sharing a meal in Italy is a sacred time. Food in Italy is something special and taken so seriously. We were grateful to be invited by our dear friend's family to their home for dinner. It was incredible.

Sharing a meal in Italy is a sacred time. Food in Italy is something special and taken so seriously. We were grateful to be invited by our dear friend’s family to their home for dinner. It was incredible.

An unexpected excursion took us to a city called Pescara on the Adriatic Sea. This city was incredible. All three of us sensed God's purposeful redirection to take us through this city - excited to see what could come of our connections there.

An unexpected excursion took us to a city called Pescara on the Adriatic Sea. This city was incredible. All three of us sensed God’s purposeful redirection to take us through this city – we’re excited to see what could come of our connections there.

Please continue to pray for us in this exciting season. God continues to connect us with more and more people in this country. We absolutely feel God’s hand leading us to pioneer something new in this incredible country. May we continue to step as God directs our path.