Going Back to Italy
A few months ago I shared that God had told me He was getting ready to resurrect the dream that I buried when our family had to move back to the States after serving as missionaries in Italy. (You can read that post here.) I have been waiting to reveal more because things were still coming together, but finally it's time!
As many of you know, I have been serving with Beauty for Ashes for the last 5 years. God has used the ministry in my own life to bring so much healing and restoration. He has also given me a driving passion for seeing others find wholeness in Christ. I believe that this is a large part of the mission God has for my life.
When I first discovered Beauty for Ashes, the Lord gave me a vision of taking it back to Italy. At the time, I knocked on a few doors, but nothing opened. So I wrapped the idea up with the remnants of my dead dream of ministering in Italy and buried it in a deep place. And then I began to move on, walking through other doors that God was opening.
In doing that, I have been part of hosting retreats and trainings for hundreds of women over the last several years. I have personally witnessed the power of God in the lives of women from all walks of life. I have also been blessed to lead a total of 7 Beauty for Ashes short-term trips, in 4 different countries. I've seen the Lord cross language and cultural barriers to work through women's stories, bringing hope and restoration to others. Each and every time I lead Beauty for Ashes, God brings more healing to my own heart and I leave even more fired up to see every person healed and whole.
And now when I least expected it, God has opened a door that I could have never conceived of! In a series of events that can only be attributed to the Lord, He has forged a partnership between Beauty for Ashes and Alpha Italia. If you're not familiar with Alpha, they are an international organization offering courses all over the world that allow people to explore the Christian faith in a non-threatening environment. It is an amazing ministry that God is using to change lives! Alpha Italia has a network of about 300 churches all over the Italian boot.
As our two ministries learned more about each other, we realized that Beauty for Ashes would be a great follow-up experience for women who have come through an Alpha course. Back in the summer, we hosted an online informational meeting for Alpha Italia leaders to gauge interest in receiving training for Beauty for Ashes ministry. Over 60 people attended and the large majority said they would register for an in-person training if it was offered in their area! Since then our team has been working hard to figure out logistics, find venues, translate documents, navigate Covid requirements, etc. to see if we could make this a reality. And finally the time has come!
Next month I will be going back to Italy to co-lead two Beauty for Ashes trainings for about 30-40 Italian leaders. I am blown away by how God has orchestrated all of this!
And this is just the beginning. I have accepted a part-time role with Beauty for Ashes as the ministry coordinator for Italy. I will be responsible for ongoing coaching of the Italian leaders we will be training next month, as well as working to plan additional trainings in the future. (Just to be clear, this is in addition to my current role at Winder First Baptist. And no, Stephen and I won't be moving back to Italy. At least, not now. Only the Lord knows what the future holds and I’m content with that. 😊)
At long last, God has resurrected the dream that I buried in brokenness and defeat, but in a way that I could have never imagined! What I thought was the end of a journey was really just part of a much larger story that He is writing. Finally, I see how He has been preparing me for this through all the seasons I've weathered. I am in awe of my God and excited to start this new chapter with Him!
So many of you reading this have come alongside me at different points on this journey. Some of you have been here since the beginning when God first spoke Italy to our family. Many of you have heard my story through Beauty for Ashes and have become lifelong friends, even though distance often separates us. And now Stephen and I have a new church family where God has blessed us to serve alongside so many wonderful people. I’m so thankful for all of you!
In 30 days, Stephen and I will step on Italian soil for the first time in 5 and a half years. In many ways, it feels like going home, but at the same time like starting a brand new adventure. In the midst of it all, we are stepping out in faith and trusting that God is going to provide the means to make this happen.
If your heart has been stirred while reading this, there are several ways that you can get involved:
First and foremost is prayer! God has clearly ordained this opportunity and we want to be faithful to follow His leading every step of the way. Please pray with us for clarity and wisdom as we move forward. (I’ll share more specific prayer requests soon.)
We are currently raising funds to cover our travel expenses for this first ministry trip. Stephen will travel with me to provide audio-visual support for our trainings. While some of our lodging and food is being provided by host churches, we are responsible for airfare, train fares between cities, our remaining lodging and food, etc. We estimate that the total trip costs will be between $3,000 - $3,500 for both of us.
We are working to personally cover as much of the trip cost as we can, but we could use your help. If you feel led to support the trip financially, there are a couple of ways to do that:
Go Fund Me - https://www.gofundme.com/f/beauty-for-ashes-in-italy
Adventures in Missions - http://bit.ly/Give4BV
(I am able to receive tax-deductible donations for my ministry work through Adventures in Missions, which is the parent organization of Beauty for Ashes.)
In my new role with Beauty for Ashes, I am trusting the Lord to bring people alongside me who believe deeply in God’s ability to restore the broken and want to help make that happen in the lives of others. I am praying for about 15 people to partner with me on a monthly basis at $50-100 per month.
If you feel like the Lord may be tugging on your heart as you read this, I would love to share more about Beauty for Ashes in Italy! Please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are ready to go ahead and get started, you can set up a tax-deductible monthly donation through Beauty for Ashes’ parent organization, Adventures in Missions at this link: http://bit.ly/Give4BV
From the bottom of my heart, thank you for all the love and support of our family over the years! I can't wait to share more as God writes this next chapter of our story.