We sent Lois Belch, Daniel Dougherty, Rylee Atha, Jen and Natalie Widman to Faenza, Italy last month. They partnered with Carmen Chugg, Lois’ sister, who is planting a church along with a couple named Mario and Annagret. The following is a report from the members of the team.
Carmen’s (and Mario and Annagret’s) ministry in Faenza and Ravena is extremely strategic. She has activities on a weekly basis with some ladies doing sewing classes, practicing English and doing other community activities. She said that in the beginning the people are guarded with new comers but warm and loving to anyone who is family or an established friend. The Spirit has so obviously used her connections and love for the people in Faenza to bring the 160 plus who attended the dinners. That was the result of long, slow and often arduous work to love people and show them Christ. She has been and is continuing to take full advantage of the place God has her and we could evidently see that.
We were able to go into the public schools in Faenza, Italy and share the history of thanksgiving and why we are thankful to God for the Thanksgiving holiday. We were convicted that even though we couldn’t explicitly share the gospel through our words, we could make gospel noise through our love, actions, and attitudes to the teachers and students. Carmen has been able to make connections with the teachers, and about 20 of them actually came to our Thanksgiving dinners on Thursday and Friday night where they heard the gospel and our testimonies! We are so thankful to God that we got the opportunity to go alongside Carmen and to serve the people of Italy for the great commission.
For many years, Carmen and Mario have put on American Thanksgiving meals for the community around them. They have used this outreach to bring people in to be able to build relationships with them and to share the gospel with them.
This year, we put on three Thanksgiving meals. For each meal, we prepared an authentic meal with about 12 different types of food.
The first meal of 50 people was put on as an outreach for a church in a neighboring city Ravenna. At this dinner, we had a mixture of believers and non-believers. Here, I (Rylee) was able to share by testimony and how thankful I was for what God has done in my life and for my salvation. Later in the week, we had two more thanksgiving meals.
At the second meal, we had 90 community members from Faenza with only 1 believer in attendance. It was so sweet for Jennifer to share her testimony with all of these non-believers. As she shared what God had done in her life, I could see how it was affecting the people there.
The third dinner was for 100 people, and there were only about 10 believers. This night, Daniel shared his testimony and his thankfulness! For this night, Carmen and Mario had invited a youth group from a city about 2 hours away to help serve. It was so sweet to be able to talk and connect with some youth in Italy.
At all of these dinners, the gospel was clearly shared through Mario, and through our testimonies!
Daniel, Rylee and Jen did an outstanding job of serving! I was very proud of them. There were at least 160 Italians that are not followers of Jesus who heard the Gospel through the testimonies of these three.
Daniel, Rylee and Jen showed initiative, kept with it until the work was done, understood the vision/purpose of what we were doing, were brave to face all those Italian students, went out of their way to mix with the students at the schools, were courageous in sharing their testimonies, were faithful in their devotions, were respectful and able to relate to adults and were fun and funny, and thankful. I’m ready to adopt all 3.
Thanks for praying for the team. Please continue to pray for Carmen and her team as they seek to make Christ known in Faenza, Italy!
We will be sending teams to the Czech Republic to work with Marcus and Amie Denny in early July of 2019 and to Tenerife to work with Natalie Widman and Alcides and Zulema Velasquez in mid August of 2019. Applications will be available soon!