From Northern Ireland to Northern Italy: The Journey
Mission is one of those things that changes you forever. Once you serve the Lord and see people’s lives transformed by the power of the Gospel, nothing else comes close to emulating that, and it leaves you wanting more.
In 2002, we were returned to Northern Ireland from Italy, one son and many memories to the good. The ensuing years have included many joys and tears, ups and downs and life events. Still, the call was there, and on various occasions we returned, either for holidays, or to stay in touch with the believers.
We had always believed in our hearts that we would return to Italy, but the years went by and it wasn’t until we set definite goals a couple of years ago, that things started to happen. We looked at what we had learned and what we could offer. We wanted to serve as resources, plugging into perhaps an already existing work, being a support couple in a church-planting team.
Most of 2016 was spent trying to identify where that opportunity might be. We explored the possibility of returning to Sicily where we had spent most of our time, but everything was pointing to breaking new ground and turning our focus to the North-East, which has been identified as having the least number of believers and churches.
In November of last year, we visited three church-plants in Venice and one in Imola, near Bologna. In March, we looked into a possible ministry in Genova, but Imola was the one that we wanted to explore further. Josh and Sarah Whitman have been planting a church in the city of Imola since 2009. They have five children, two boys and three girls. Josh is the son of career missionaries in Italy, growing up near Perugia, north of Rome. Sarah is Italian and grew up in Bologna, thirty kilometres west of Imola.
There is a group of about twenty-five people, many of whom are not yet believers. Praise the Lord for this group, but pray that they would all come to know the Lord as Saviour and Lord.
We returned to Imola in June to get to know Josh and Sarah better, to meet the church and to discern, together with the Whitmans, the Lord’s voice in this. We came away with a sense that the Lord was indeed confirming our move.
We are planning to move back to Italy next Easter. This gives us time to prepare and get all the practical things in place.
The plan is to be mostly self-supporting through teaching English. This is something Stan has been doing off and on for about twenty years, six of those years in an Italian context. Stan and Carol both plan to do a translation course and exam, so that they will be qualified to translate from Italian in English. This plan will give them flexibility to be involved in the church and support the Whitmans.
To pray for…