North Italy. July. Both bring to mind fun and smiles in their own unique way.
When joined together by the simple preposition “in”, North Italy in July takes on a whole new meaning. Let me tell you about what we discovered on a July 5-13 mission vision trip there.
The Missouri Baptist Convention began work in Northern Italy last year and wants churches to go partner with a church or church planter in that area. When we think of Italy, we automatically think of Rome, the Vatican, and the Roman Catholic Church. That is accurate, but while over 95% of the population in Italy claim to be Catholic, less than 10% are actually practicing their faith and attending church. That leaves a large number of people who are unsure of their faith. That is our target audience.
On July 5th, ten Missouri Baptists from across the state joined the trip organizer from the Missouri Baptist Convention, Rick Hedger and his wife Sandee, on a vision mission trip to North Italy. Four were from a Kansas City area church, and four of us were from Wentzville. Departing Lambert airport on Thursday morning, we made a connection, then flew overnight arriving in Venice on a bright, sunny Friday morning. Italian Customs was quick and easy, and we were soon on a bus, heading to our hotel in Mestre, a Venice suburb. The hotel we stayed in was across from the train station so we could get to the cities we were visiting easily and without the hassle of dragging luggage and checking in and out of hotels daily. That was a wise plan by Rick!
After checking in, we had lunch and met with Jesse Schreck, a young church planter there in Mestre. Jesse shared how the gospel is not viewed the same by everyone there. Instead of being the sound of salvation and freedom, it may be viewed as another burden they must work for. The need is for evangelists who can share the good news of God’s grace and mercy in the person of Jesus Christ. That is something we can do. Over the next five
Our mode of transportation was Trenitalia, the Italian train system. Initially confusing, it became very easy to use the more we used it. Treviso was a short 15 minutes away and we met Pastor Caio of Agape church and his wife, Astrid, who along with the interpreter told us about the work they had started and how it grew to five other cities,
We returned to Treviso on Sunday and visited their church, which had 100-150 people attending. The youth had just returned from camp that week and
On Monday we jumped on the train to visit and
By Tuesday we were becoming fluent in using the Trenitalia ticket kiosks and were ready to try the faster bullet train to Firenze, also known as Florence, the capital of Italy’s Tuscany region. Renowned for many masterpieces of Renaissance art and architecture, it is home to Michelangelo’s “David” sculpture and many buildings that you would recognize
Before returning from Florence that afternoon we met with the International Mission Board coordinator for all of Italy, Charlie Worthy. Charlie has been in
The next day we took the train to Trieste, northeast of Venice, over by the border of Slovenia and met with Tyler and Jessica Stewart and their two young sons, Antonio and Giacomo, good strong Italian names! They arrived in Trieste less than a year ago and are currently in language training with plans to plant a church within the next 18 months. We would like to revisit when they are ready.
Our final day was spent sightseeing and touring around Venice. It is an adventure just to get there. A bus or train will get you to the boat ferry and taxi terminal which is the public transportation around Venice. Upon arrival at the terminal, we caught the ferry to Saint Mark’s Square and joined thousands of my closest friends from around the world. Literally. While waiting for a team member at the Dukes Palace at Saint Mark’s, we met a group from New Zealand who
But, when we saw the thousands of people in Venice visiting the Basilica of St. Mark, we cannot help but wonder how many of them have heard the good news of Jesus? Sure, they know about the Jesus on the cross, but do they know the resurrected Savior who wants a relationship with each of them? We want to share that good news with them. It will take time, but we know how to do that. Are you ready to go and be a part? This was a vision trip, but we will return with a team next year. There is planning to be done and recruiting team members as well. Watch and listen, as details will be forthcoming in the bulletin and website.