May 17 Prayer Requests

As I mentioned last month, I’d like to be involving others more frequently in request for prayer for myself, for the Rome City Team, for our ministries there, for Italy, and for Europe in general.

This month, I’ve been in touch with our current intern (already in Rome) as well as three more future interns who are hoping to arrive this fall. As we’ve begun to be more frequently in touch, it’s our hope that the Lord will begin to knit us together in unity and prepare us to be working together in Rome.

For our intern already in Rome, please pray for her process of transitions and ongoing language learning.

For our future interns, please pray for their training and readiness activities, as well as the process of raising support and developing a ministry team to encourage and surround them in prayer.

For the Rome City Team as a whole, please pray that our hearts are drawn ever-closer to the heart of our Savior so that, through resting in Him, we might gain clarity and wisdom for what He is calling us to do.

Would you spend some time in prayer today for these requests, for the ministries being carried out in Rome, and for the hearts of people who we will interact with to begin to be softened toward the Good News? Thank you for joining us!

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
-Romans 12:1-2 (ESV)

 

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Follow Up and Going Forward

It’s follow up time! Honestly, I’ve been putting off this post. But when you make your goals known to the general public, you have to let everyone know how things go, even if the goals weren’t met. So this is that post…

Last month, I threw out a challenge. I wanted to find 25 new supporters to join my financial support team at $25 per month within 25 days. That was a big goal, but if you don’t try something, you’ll never know if you can do it. In those 25 days, I got 3 new supporters. At the end of this challenge, I’ll admit, I was disappointed. But I soon realized that instead of focusing on what didn’t happen, I should be celebrating what DID happen! I got 3 new partners in ministry! What a blessing!

At this point, after some other appointments and a couple other new partners joining my team, my budget is now 65% funded. I still have to reach 100% of my monthly budget before I can buy my plane ticket, get my visa, and head back to Rome. I would really like to reach this goal this summer. There are a lot of plans that the Rome City Team already have planned for the fall, and it is important that I am present for these conferences and activities. I know this will all happen in the Lord’s timeline, and I’m sure that this is absolutely a reasonable and doable goal.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about prayer, and realizing how much MORE I need it in my life, both personally and corporately. I’ve also been thinking about how I can involve others more often in praying for me, for the support raising that I’m doing during this season, for the ministry that I’m a part of in Rome, for city of Rome, for Italy, and for Europe. This past Sunday, April 17th, was my birthday, and in honor of that, I’d like to make a request for prayer. Would you be willing to commit to pray for me and the work that God has called me to on the 17th of each month? I want to be cultivating this habit of prayer with others in community, and sharing specific requests that we can bring before the Lord together. Let me know how I can be praying for you as well!

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
-Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV)

25/25/25

I’ve been in a bit of a rut lately. For a good chunk of February I was actually pretty discouraged with the (lack of) progress I have been making in getting back to Rome. Through lots of prayer and talks with friends and colleagues, I’m feeling much more encouraged and I’m leaning on the Lord’s timing and plan. I’ve also had lots of new ideas, and with this new month, I want to mix things up a bit…

25/25/25

Introducing the 25/25/25 campaign! In the first 25 days of March, I want to try to get 25 new partners to come on board my ministry support team for at least $25 per month. Right now, my budget is almost 63% funded. If we are able to get these 25 new partnership commitments, my budget will be over 75% funded and I will be that much closer to returning to the Rome City Team. (It’s also my last full month of being 25, so it feels like an apt farewell to a pretty great year!)

Would you consider being one of the 25? Here’s how you can sign up:

ONLINE
Go to the giving form: https://www.efca.org/give
Click “Give Now”
In the amount box, type “25.00”
In the Designation – Other box, type “Creamer #1488”
In the comments box, type “Process this gift monthly”
Fill out the Billing and Payment information
Click “Donate Now”

If you’re interested in giving by check or by automatic account withdrawal, shoot me a message and I’ll get you the info.

Whether or not you’re able to give, will you help spread the word? As we say in Italian, “Passaparola!”

A Heart of Gratitude

How are you growing? Has anyone asked you that lately? What has God been teaching you?

I have been learning to walk through this season that God has me in with a heart of gratitude, not with a bubbling-over of frothy giddiness, but a steady, restful peace in the assurance that He has me right where He wants me. It took a while to get here. There has been not a small amount of bitterness in my heart toward the things that the Lord has tried to teach me in the past. Sometimes I didn’t even notice this negativity creeping into my thinking, but looking back I can see it crystal clear. I think the simple answer to this shift in attitude is due to a development in maturity that comes with time. Though the more complex reason comes through a surrender of my own desires and the working of the Holy Spirit on my heart.

I have been learning to fight the negativity. I have been learning not to react in irritation when people do or say hurtful things out of ignorance and to realize that their intention was probably to help, not harm. I have been learning not to be so quick to become angry. I have been learning not to judge and condemn my fellow Christians when they do and say things that do not convey the truth, grace, and love of Jesus Christ. I have been learning to speak gently, with wisdom. This isn’t easy and I fail in some aspect everyday. But it is a process of slow but steady progress. I have been learning that self-control (being a gift of the Spirit) comes through relying on the power of the Spirit. It sounds counterintuitive since self is part of the word. However, it is somehow freeing to come to the realization that I am not in control of anything external to myself, and I can’t even bend my will toward the will of God without the aid of the Holy Spirit. It is only by His work in my life that my desires and passions can begin to reflect His. I long to live not with self-righteousness, but in humility with grace and love toward others so that my words and actions might point them toward the One who has given me newness of life.

“Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.”
-Proverbs 16:32 (ESV)

“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
-Colossians 4:4-6 (ESV)

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly.”
-Proverbs 15:1-2 (ESV)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
-Galatians 5:22-26 (ESV)

God Called Me Slowly

The first week of August I attended a training at the EFCA national office. As part of our time together, we were each asked to share our testimony of how the Lord has called us to our ministries. I thought I would share what I wrote. This is my story:

For some, the calling to ministry happened in a moment in time that can be recalled as a single event. That was not the case for me. I think that, knowing my heart, God knew that a more clearly displayed message would have scared me and sent me running the other way. Instead, He strategically placed hints of this message in my life piece by piece over time. God called me slowly.

Growing up in the church, I got involved in ministry activities from a very young age. As I grew in my relationship with the Lord, my passion for missions grew as well. I also had a fascination with all things Italy. But I didn’t ever connect these two loves until I spent a semester of Bible college in northern Italy. As we studied and served, my eyes were opened to the need for the light of the Gospel to bring hope to dark, post-Christian Europe, and specifically Italy. It was then that a spark began to glow.

After this semester, I was working and looking for another job, but door after door kept closing. When sharing my frustration in my situation with one of my church elders, he asked me, “What do you really WANT to do?” And I answered semi-jokingly, “Well, I’d really like to go back to Italy.” We laughed, but then he told me that he thought I should pray and actually consider going back in a ministry role. So I did. And as I thought and prayed and sought guidance, the Lord opened the door to ReachGlobal. I applied and was accepted to serve on the Rome City Team for a one-year term.

When I eventually got to the field, it was wonderful and terrible and beautiful and hard and I loved it. But I thought, “Surely this life isn’t for me in the long-term.” When considering my next steps toward the end of that year, I knew I wasn’t ready to make a long-term commitment. But at just the right moment, I was told that I could finish out the short-term assignment and come back for one more year. I hadn’t even realized this was an option, but I knew immediately it was the answer I didn’t even know I was looking for. I committed to return for a second year.

Year two was so much more rewarding. My language improved exponentially. I became more deeply involved in the life of the local church. I was able to see ministries expand. It assuredly was not without it’s difficulties, but the growth I was seeing was beautiful. Reaching the end of this second year, I began to make arrangements for returning home, and I became incredibly sad at the idea of leaving this ministry, these friends, this life behind. But I wasn’t considering returning to Rome long-term at all. Then one night at dinner with my team leaders, they told me how much they would love for me to come back, and asked me to really consider it. So I said I would. As I began to explore this possibility, I realized that I was still operating in the same mindset that I had had at the end of year one. I was still thinking, “Long-term is a long time. As a single woman, there are so many obstacles in this context. It would be too hard.” I hadn’t let myself re-process everything, and I realized, “I have already been here for two years, God has been faithful to provide for all of my needs and He will continue to be faithful.” Once I overcame that mental roadblock, the decision to return long-term was almost as immediate as the decision to return for my second year. If the Lord has shown favor and grace, if I love what I do, if there is a purpose and place for me, and if people desire my return, how can I not come back to a place that has become so dear to my heart? The Lord paved the way. He has used my whole life to lead me to this place. My favorite verse is Romans 8:28 which says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Last year was hard, but it was the best year of my life. I know that following God’s leading to long-term ministry is the best decision I could make, and I can’t imagine doing anything else.

The Harvest is Plentiful

Last week I was at the ReachGlobal national office in Minneapolis to interview to transition from short-term to long-term service on the Rome City Team. There were 13 of us interviewing in total: 5 “Change of Status” [transitioning], and 8 Candidates [new to the organization]. Those of us transitioning had a time of debriefing, before the others arrived, in which we had the opportunity to talk with organization staff, get counsel from Pastoral Care about transitioning, and have discussion with one another about how our short-term experience had been.

The other days were spent discussing ReachGlobal distinctives and particulars, sharing our stories of how God has called us to full-time ministry, spending time with a counselor, and interviewing with several organization staff about various areas of health. ReachGlobal has a strong commitment to health [spiritual, relational, mental, physical, etc.], so all the staff want to insure that each candidate is a good fit for ReachGlobal and that ReachGlobal is a good fit for each candidate.

It was great to spend time at the national office getting to know the staff better, catching up with friends, and meeting other amazing people who have a passion to see hearts come to know Jesus all over the world.

Yesterday, I received my invitation to become a long-term ReachGlobal staff member! Going forward, I will continue with more training to better equip me for this new position, starting with another event at the national office in August. I will also continue to build on my ministry partnership team. If you are interested in joining my team and supporting financially, either monthly or with a special gift, please visit the EFCA website, click “Give Now,” and put “Account #1488 – Creamer” in the Designation field.  Or you can contact me for information about other methods of giving.

I am so excited about this next leg of the journey. It’s so encouraging to see so many of our personnel transitioning to long-term staff, and I’m thrilled to be one of them.

And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

– Matthew 9:35-38

Big News

The last few months have contained so much activity. I finished my online Teaching English as a Foreign Language [TEFL] certification course and started tutoring and helping with some English classes. For about a month and a half, we increased our street outings with Schiavitù Mai Più [Slavery No More] to every weekend instead of every other week. We wanted to have a greater presence and witness to the Treasures, so we decided to do a trial run of this expanded schedule. There are a lot of changes happening and the vibe in the zone feels tumultuous. We here rumors of higher and more frequent fines for the girls, and we feel an urgency for a breakthrough with them. Right now, we are taking a break from our outings to evaluate the situation and pray for guidance on how to proceed. We have had awareness raising events and have seen growing interest from the public and among the Church to put an end to trafficking. I have also started a project to use photography and art to create some graphics in Italian to use to spread the word about the mission of SMP.

The Lord is near to the broken hearted. -Psalm 34:18

 

I’m so encouraged by all the growth I have seen over the past year. Growth in our anti-trafficking ministry, growth in the local church [the church plant that I am a part of in my neighborhood just celebrated its 3rd anniversary in January], and growth in myself.

My second year of short-term service on the Rome City Team is coming to an end in just under 1 month, and after much prayer, discussion, and evaluation, I have decided to transition to a long-term position! I have really wrestled with this over the last couple of months. I wanted to make sure to make the right decision for the right reasons. When I started to plan my return to the States, I realized that if I love a place and its people so much, and if I love what I do, and if my team leaders and friends really want me to come back, then maybe I should really consider transitioning to long-term. Here is what my team leader, Sarah, has to say about it:

Heather has served thus far on the Rome City Team for 2 one-year terms. We have seen her grow and develop as a Gospel worker and as a person. She has shown diligence, adaptive skills, and integrity in the face of the many and various challenges of missionary life in a foreign, urban culture. With each phase, she has progressed and even come to flourish as an integrated and respected member of the local church, the mission team, and in this city as an ambassador for Christ.

As team leader, I value her service, her character, her support and contribution to ministry. My husband (Brian, Europe Area Leader) and I have envisioned team ministry goals, which include a continued role and responsibilities for Heather. Because we are confident that Heather can play a part in strategic local ministry projects, my hope is to have Heather return as soon as possible to the Rome City Team in the capacity of long-term staff.

Respectfully,

Sarah Bennetch, Rome City Team Leader

This is going to be a long process. I’m working on documents to change my status with ReachGlobal, and when I get home, I’ll have interviews, training, and more partnership development to do before I come back to Rome. I am really looking forward to the time that I will have back in the States. It’s going to be a wonderful time to reconnect with family, friends, supporters, and churches. This is a journey, and I’m so glad that I’m not on it alone.

It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. -Deuteronomy 31:8