"A minister of the gospel is appointed by God to teach and help those who are engaged in ordinary occupations of life to find sufficient time and use it correctly for the preservation of his spiritual life. Of course, the minister cannot do this unless he has a living experience of a life of prayer. His highest calling is not preaching, or speaking, or church visitation, but it is to cultivate the life of God in himself daily, and to be a witness of what the Lord teaches him and accomplishes in him."
-Andrew Murray, Living a Prayerful Life
We arrived in Italy the 21st of July. Since then we have been running, running, running. Learning to live in a new city and country with a new language, culture, government has been stressful on so many fronts. Getting a house set up, figuring out how to live in Rome legally, pastoring a new church plant, getting kids enrolled in Italian public school, finding medical attention for the deliver of a new baby, welcoming our teammates and helping them transition. The tidal wave of transition has been overwhelming. Like a mosquito on the back of an elephant, I quickly reached my capacity though my monstrous list remained unfazed. But rather than seek rest, I've maintained busyness. As if being busy will magically satisfy my longing to make this new place my home.
Truth be told, this adult missionary kids has felt really homesick lately, but I can't go home. The most settled, peaceful place I can think of is on the streets of the tiny jungle town where my early prayer life first took shape. Walking home late at night in the pouring rain, I would encounter the Lord as I prayed the Word that I was discovering for the first time. That's what I want for this new location of ministry. I want to find my home in the Lord anew, here in Rome. I want my kids to encounter the hand of God here as we seek him daily. He is the same God I first met on those rainy streets. One of my prayers upon our arrival in Rome was that God would help us sow the seeds needed to see fruit later. Those seeds are formed when I encounter the Lord in daily prayer and meditation on the Word. No busyness can replace the rewards that come from time in prayer and in the Word.
Our desire is to see transient people find their lasting purpose in Jesus. This can only happen if these who are far from their earthly origins find their eternal home through a real encounter with Jesus. You can pray for our refugees who are awaiting permission to make Italy their new home. Since we've been here, we have rejoiced with three who have been granted permission to stay!
Several new families have arrived in Italy this semester and have chosen to make Rome International their home. Pray that they will will be established well and find much needed community through the body of Christ.
As our new team members have arrived, please pray for their transition. We want to see them established for long-term ministry here in Rome.
The attacks of the enemy are real and felt regularly. Would you pray for protection and our continued faithfulness to share the message of hope with all those we encounter.
120 people from 26 different nationalities gathered together at the end of January to celebrate the 2nd anniversary of Rome International. By the hand of God, this church continues to grow and impact the lives of transient people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ! This body spent time praying for the future of the church. We were humbled to hear of their prayers for our arrival before the current pastor's departure this summer.
When God calls us, he calls us out of safety, security and stability. As we step out in faith to do what he has called us to do, we will always find that he is all we need. God has given us so many friends and family who have encouraged us in our journey! We wanted to recount this story for those who are interested as well as to thank those who ministered to our needs in such a powerful way.
In route back to Texas, our transmission began to slip. Knowing that this was a potentially serious issue, we decided to change our route and stop in Demming, New Mexico. If you haven't been to Demming, it is beautiful, but remote. The following morning, we discovered that the truck transmission needed major repairs that we could not afford. The only thing we could do was pray...so we did. Before we had time to ponder what employment opportunities in Demming may afford us a new transmission, the Lord had begun to work. The same day we received a quote for the repairs, we decided to attend a Bible study at the RV park where we were staying. The small group of participants were excited to get to know us and hear about our calling to missions and hear stories about missionary life overseas. We were encouraged that night to be surrounded by God's people, but continued to wonder if we would be living in Demming for several months.
The next morning, I hitched a ride back into town to check on the truck. But before we left the RV park, I was ushered into the park's office where I was handed an envelope full of money. God had answered our prayers! Several individuals in the park heard about our situation and calling and wanted to help. Through the sweet people at that RV park, along with others, the cost of the transmission repairs were completely covered within 24 hours! On top of that, the park owners would not let us pay for our lodging! This is just one way God has begun to provide for and confirm his leading on our life. THANK YOU LORD! Thank you all who are choosing to join us!
Are we the only ones?
Planting International Churches is not common. While most mission agencies focus on specific geographical areas, people groups, needs, etc., the international church plant sees the transient experience as fertile soil for the Gospel to take root and flourish into a transformed community. Where the discouragement of isolation and the realities of sin brought only struggle and chaos to the immigrant, instead, they find hope, peace and community in a church that cared to share with them the transforming power of the Gospel.
Jeff Christopherson has been teaching me about church planting through his book, Kingdom First. Although written for church planting in North America, the idea of God's Kingdom reigning over every place and people remains true. Deep into the book, I was profoundly encouraged to come across this paragraph where Jeff is recognizing the needs of multiple nationalities living in neighborhoods that are no longer homogenous.
The world is coming to the cities of North America at an unprecedented rate. Communities that have been historically homogenous are now a mosaic of cultures and nationalities. But coming with this immigration is often a deep and overwhelming sense of disappointment. The dream of a new life is often replaced with the cold reality of repeating a similar life to the one they left, but this time they are living it all alone. Transplanted into a new context, often with out any familial ties or cultural skill, immigrants are forced to navigate a plan of survival alone and unaided. Disappointed and lonely, hundreds of thousands of people are experiencing tremendous loss associated with relocating and would be extremely receptive to a relationship with you and your new church. By ministering to internationals, you fulfill a biblical mandate, you have the joy of meeting a great need, you discover an audience often ready for the gospel, you plant a church that reflects the multicultural reality of heaven, and you position your new church in a way that is attractive to other Kingdom seekers. Jeff Christopherson, Kingdom First, p. 172.
Thank you Jeff for articulating it so well! This is the heart-beat of our calling. Although we are called to cities abroad that are facing massive movements of peoples through their city limits, we recognize the desperate need for North American churches to WAKE UP to the realities of their neighborhoods and begin thinking about how to engage the world just outside of their church walls. If we can be a resource of encouragement to the pastor or layman, we want to urge you to carry the Gospel to every tribe, tongue and nation across your street. One day, that neighbor from a different corner of the earth may stand next to you before the throne in eternal worship of our great God.
Can you guess from these photos below??
The Hollands are headed to Rome, Italy!
Rome International Church has invited us to be their next pastor!
Rome International was planted a little over a year ago. They have been on a search for a new pastor and asked us over a year ago to consider taking over this plant. We visited this church during our vision trip last June. The church focuses on the expat, transient people in Rome using English as a means to reach the widest demographic of Internationals. This includes Italians, foreign diplomats, & refugees.
The Lord has been faithful to reveal each step in our journey. During the months to come, we will be inviting others to partner with us in this calling both through prayer and financial giving. Please pray for us as we prepare for pastoring this church. Our desire is to make disciples by introducing the transient people of Rome to the Gospel Jesus Christ.
4.3 million people living in the metropolitan area of Rome.
The city of Rome hosts people from around the world from a variety of backgrounds.
The city has a population of approximately 4.5 million living in the metropolitan area with an average density of 5,781 people per square mile.
Rome hosts individuals from around the world that work for international organizations and multiple embassies.
Rome is a major port for receiving refugees from Africa or Central Asia, many of whom speak English. These refugees comprise a major portion of the 8,000+ homeless residing in Rome.
Rome ranked third highest in Europe for most tourists visiting in 2015.
About 9.5% of Rome's population is non-Italian.
If our family had a theme song in our current stage of life, THIS IS IT! We started singing this song together as a family at the end of Seminary days when we knew God was calling us to be radical and trust HIM with our life even in the unconventional. So we jumped heart first in TRUST in an all-knowing God. We don't see all of the answers, and we don't have the traditional stability, but we we do have God as our portion and all we need.
Ironically our RV is currently parked in the desert of California, yet God is our spring of living water. We hope to find out the confirmed location of where we might be church planting in the next couple of weeks. Pray that God would raise up partners for us in this ministry.
God will make a way.
Our boys like to jam to this song when we have family worship time and they get to make as much noise as they like to Jesus. :)