Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
:: richieste :: inquiries :: domande :: questions ::
As you know, Campus Crusade’s main goal world wide is that our ministries would be handed over to nationals in that country so that they can completely take ownership of the ministry, and then partner with and expand the gospel to a new country. This year the Lord has blessed us not only with a large, but uniquely qualified team, and given this reality, our Italian leadership along with our U.S. leadership have challenged us to be the team who hands over this ministry to Italians. At first we were all a bit shocked and uncertain, but the Lord has provided in a big way, and we feel this is probably the best challenge we could possibly face. From the beginning of this year, one man has stood out in all of our minds. Pastor Antonio, whom I mentioned above, is has pastored a large local church for over 30 years and is dedicated to reaching the university students here. He is on campus at least once a week and has said that he will continue to do so “fino a morire” or “until I die”. He has traveled the country teaching families biblical principles with Campus Crusade’s Family Life ministry, was the first person to ask us to consider Salerno as a priority 8 years ago, and is a close friend of our Italian National Director. Beyond all this, he has become a great friend of ours has been an invaluable source of wisdom for our team. While nothing is finalized yet, this plan is worth throwing everything we have at. Our prayer is to resource him well in what God has already called him to do in reaching Italian university students.
Given the potential to see the full realization of our original goal this year, our Italian leadership has decided to not send any more Americans here and to reallocate the ones we have. The thinking is that having Americans here would only hinder the transition process. Last week our Salerno leadership met with our Italian national leadership and our Italian National Director, Franco Bozio, is going to take the lead in this transition. We have entered a very high risk, high reward situation here and want to ask you to please pray for God’s guidance for all of us. I completely trust that the Lord loves and cares for the Italians here in Salerno far more than we do, and He wants them as a part of His Kingdom far more than we can even imagine, so we can easily loosen our grip on these ministry reigns, and rely on the Lord to raise up the right leaders that will to continue to pursue the Great Commission here in southern Italy.
Thank you so much for your faithful prayers and support! I appreciate you all more than you know! God bless!
On Tuesday morning we are hosting an open forum for discussion call “Ask Anything,” where skeptics can pose challenging questions about the Bible, Christianity, and God as a safe place for discussion to be had and truth to be shared. Jim Davis and Kevin Shoemaker (our directors here) respond to these questions alongside Pastor Antonio, a local pastor who has been an incredible resource for our team since arriving in September. We have had questions like, “How can we know the Bible is completely credible and true?” and also, “HOw can we be sure that God hears our prayers?” and many other insightful inquiries. Pray that the Lord will continue to bring students to this time, and for God to continue to speak through Jim, Kevin, and Pastor Antonio.
Thursday mornings we are hosting “English Club” as a way for us to serve the University by providing something most Italian really want to learn… ENGLISH! Also, hopefully as an entry point for new students to meet our team. Pray that the Lord will use this time to bring us into contact with Italians that are spiritually interested.
Wednesday Night Bible Discussion
Thank you so much for continuing to pray for these discussion groups as well! We have had faithful attendance and have seen real growth in the students who have been coming consistently. We are starting John 9 next week, so pray that God will continue to reveal Himself to them through His Word.
Salve! I hope you are all well and enjoying beautiful SPRING! It was finally gorgeous over here again a few weeks ago after a rainy cold winter in Italy, but now the weather has sadly slipped back into it’s old dreary habits. I realized the other day I never updates this blog on all of the great things that happened this past winter, from conferences to bible studies to friends and family visiting from home. Soooo, here is the first post to catch you up to speed!
In my last letter I asked for prayers for our big Mid-Year conference in Spain and Bible class in Florence, both of which were incredibly encouraging for our team. Mid-year was re-energizing and refueling for all of the European STINT teams. We were reminded that as missionaries we are just temporary scaffolding as the Lord builds these movements all over His earth, and as soon as the building can stand on its own, the scaffolding should and will be removed, and moved to another location, where another building is in progress. Basically, our roles are to launch movements in our respective cites and then hand over the ministry to natives as soon as their is enough momentum and leadership to carry it. Another talk that really impacted me personally was about John 21:15-17, which says, “When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’He said to him a second time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.’” This really blew my mind for so many reasons. Jesus didn’t ask, “Do you love my sheep?” No, He asked if Peter loved HIM, and if so, Peter is to care for His sheep. That is what God asks of us still…. If we love Him, then we are asked to tend His sheep. It’s not at all about how much we love and care for the sheep, no, it is about how much we love Jesus. Peter was far from perfect, but he did love Jesus, and that is what compelled him to follow and care for His sheep. My love for Jesus is what compels me to care for Italians here, not just my love for them. After Mid-Year conference we went back to Italy and started a weeklong Bible Class led by Gary Runn and Scott Ketro in Florence all about 1st John. The Lord worked in my own heart and in our team in tremendous ways through 1st John (check the blog for details), and I am now attempting to study and memorize parts of it in Italian.
Ministry is steadily moving forward here through the Lord’s incredible provision. God has been so gracious to bring us so many students in which we can invest, but often we have felt overwhelmed, as if there are not enough of us to go around. We constantly have to remind ourselves that the Lord is completely sovereign, and our students’ salvation and growth in no way depends on us. Philippians 1:6 reminds us that “…He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Thankfully the Lord uses us in their lives, but at the end of the day, their soul is always in His hands, and His hands only. As I mentioned in my last update, our ministry is still transitioning to Phase II, focusing on discipleship and developing deeper and more intentional friendships with the contacts we have here. We have been blessed to see God moving in entire friend groups and social circles, and we are hoping to see the Word really take hold in the hearts, so that they can process and learn how to apply the gospel to their lives together.
One of the most exciting new aspects of our ministry in the next few months will be working alongside the Acts 29 church plant in a more tangible way. Justin and Abbey Valiquette stinted here years ago, led summer projects here with Campus Crusade, and have now moved here with their four precious kids to plant a church here in the center of Salerno. They have done an incredible job of engaging with and assimilating into the culture here in Italy. Justin has an amazing vision of starting this church from the ground up, centered around the gospel, and introduced in areas of life that the Italians already hold so dear, like food and family. This semester we are starting to have regular dinners at the families’ houses to which we can invite our Italian friends, and to which they can invite the families they meet while doing life here as well. Jutty (Justin) wants to establish this church as the body of christ, not just a building or an event. That is a completely new and radical idea for most Italians coming from Catholic background. Please pray that these home groups will become a safe place where new Italian believers can grow together and see the amazing blessing Christian community and sound teaching can be.
How else can you pray?
First, please continue to pray for the hearts of these Italian students to be softened and for the Holy Spirit to continue to work in their lives in big ways. Our friends have made great progress in their understanding of the gospel and the character of God, but there is still a long way to go, and still so many misconceptions and false assumptions to be set straight according to the Word. The reality of grace has been difficult for these students (as it is for everyone) to understand and apply to their lives, but it has been so encouraging to see light bulbs come on as Italians wrap their minds and heart around this truth. We cling to verses like Ephesians 2:8-9, which so clearly explain, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.” Pray that we will preach the gospel with boldness and clarity, fully trusting that the Lord will move in their hearts. It has been so amazing to see God pull these students to Himself, but God’s timing is not our own. Patience on our part is a must!
Second, pray that God will lead us in making the wisest use of our time here. We all feel driven to spend ample time with students, really commit to language learning, and obviously investment in personal development and training is important too. There are nine girls that I have LOVED getting to know here, all of which are interested in learning more about Jesus, so pray that I will be able to find time with each of them to sit down and study the Bible together. I tend to over-extend myself and let sleep and other essentials suffer when the day fills up with ministry, but please pray that I, along with our whole team, will learn how to balance all of the great things God has set before us in a healthy way. We are so grateful for this opportunity, so please pray that we will invest ourselves well.
Third, our team members have been praying through where God is leading us for next year, either to stay in Italy or return to the States. We have all seen the Lord doing so much here, and we know that Agape Salerno needs consistency in order to continue having an impact on this campus and city. Please pray for discernment as we seek the Lord’s will and prepare for what God has in store. I think the holidays and early January has been the hardest time for us emotionally, so my hope is that we will all be able to see through our emotions and listen to the Lord as He leads us towards what He has in store.
Lastly, we have our big Mid-year conference in Spain at the end of this month. The conference will be for all European (and surrounding areas) stint teams to come together, rejuvenate, refuel, and celebrate what God has done so far in our cities. Immediately following the conference we will have five days of an intensive Bible class in Florence, which we are all really excited about as well. Pray that this will be a time of good teaching and training for all of the Stinters as we prepare for 6 more months of ministry, but also a time of JOY. I feel I can speak for all of us when I say we are SO excited to be around the body of Christ again, engaging in corporate worship and teaching (in English!!) after months of missing it.
I will be praying for you all as well! I would love to do so more specifically, so please let me know if there is anything particular that I can take to the Lord! God bless!