Drew and Francine are two Southerners in southern Italy.Their team, while following up a number of new believers from this summer, have seen seven more students in Salerno trust their lives to Christ this fall! (I think this number is right. Francine had said four in her last letter and I read on Drew's blog where they saw three new believers this week.)
Drew and Francine attended a National Leader's Forum where they met with leaders in our ministry as well as leaders from churches that want to partner in reaching their country for Christ. Francine said that tears sprang to her eyes as she listened to one pastor testify that he has prayed for God to do something in his country for many years, but he always felt as though he was driving through the fog. But now, the fog is lifting and God is allowing him to throw the car into fifth gear and speed on ahead to claim this country for Christ.
Francine's own grandfather would spend hours on his knees, crying out to God for “the old country,” and always regretted never having the opportunity to return to Sicily to share the Christ with his relatives that were left behind when he came to the States. To think that God sent his granddaughter to live and see and taste and breathe the answers to his prayers is pretty awesome!
In the midst riding this supernatural wave of God, their team has learned that will need to leave Italy within the week!! Both their team and the Rome team need to go back to US for at least until January 10th to get proper visas. Crazy!
Reading their story and honesty about how they are feeling, I don’t know that my heart is as quick to run to Jesus in stressful times as precious is. I can’t help but think of Paul and Silas in Acts 16. Here they were in southern Europe too as an answer to cries. They had just seen the first Europeans come to faith. And while they were going back for a follow-up appointment they get sidetracked by a demon-possessed girl. (Not sure of her name but I think it was Claire Voyant.)Now publicly beaten and throw into prison, feet fastened in stocks, its spanking midnight and they… hold a prayer and praise service.
I don’t know about you but I would not be singing hymns! (And I am certain that if I did, the other prisoners would not be listening but telling me to knock it off!) What joy they had transcends understanding. We get to read the rest of the story - an earthquake happens and a church is planted from their captive audience. But, they still had their visas revoked and had to leave these young believers behind.
Paul later wrote to this same church from another prison found in Phil 4:4-7. We need to read it slowly. "Rejoice in Lord... Do not be anxious about anything In everything ... with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. The peace of God,which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."
Here are some things I know I need to remember as I seek to rejoice always…
~ God is in-control.
~ Joy is not circumstantial.
~ Often He causes these things to work for the expanse of the kingdom.
~ Always He causes them to work for my good.
~ My worship (not necessarily my work) is what He desires.
~ It’s about Him and not me.
This American Thanksgiving, let’s lift up Drew,Francine, as well as Dan and Lauren in Rome, as they lead their teams through these trials. Let’s thank God by faith that He will use this for His glory in Italy and their lives.