October 17 Prayer Requests

Happy October! Fall is officially here, as are cooler temps and “change of season” colds. Before I share my prayer requests for the month, here are a couple praises!

The Lord has graciously given me peace during this time of transition. As I continue to fit back into life in Rome, the transition is getting easier and easier. I am feeling more settled and that is partly because…

I found an apartment! It was an intense month of searching and appointments, then God dropped this gift in my lap. It’s spacious, has everything I was looking for, is in a central area of the city, and fits the budget! We signed the contract 2 weeks ago, and I’m so grateful to have a place to call home, a space that’s my own. I’m currently working on this post from the coffee bar/restaurant that is literally under my apartment. Counting all the little blessings!

And some requests:

  • Tomorrow (October 18th) is the 10th annual EU Anti Trafficking Day. Please pray for continued reform across Europe (and the world), for God to move in people’s hearts, for the victims, and for all the movements that are taking a stand against trafficking in human beings. In Rome, we are beginning to ramp up activities with our anti-trafficking ministry Schiavitù Mai Più (Slavery No More). This Saturday (October 22nd) we will be having an informational meeting for those who are interested in learning more about the problem of modern day slavery and how they can get involved in combatting it. We are praying for more local Italians to be moved to action. We also have the second annual gathering for the Associazione Tesori Raggianti (Radiant Treasures Alliance) on October 29th, which will bring together individuals and ministries fighting trafficking from all across Italy. This event will take place in Bologna, instead of Florence like originally planned, because there are so many people interested in coming that a large space was need!
  • This week (Thursday, October 20th), our church has an event in which our pastor will dialogue with a local Muslim leader, answering the question: Can religion contribute to world peace? We had a similar event a couple years ago with a Buddhist leader. It was done very well, everyone was very respectful, it brought in a lot of people who were intrigued, and it gave people the chance to start conversations and ask good questions. We are praying that this event will be just as impactful.
  • Please continue to pray for adjustments and transitions. Esther just arrived a few weeks ago, is in the middle of a huge transition, and starts language school this week. Josh has his visa appointment this week, still needs a bit of support, and is planning to depart on November 7th. Lauren K has made amazing progress toward her start-up costs, is still needing partners in ongoing support, and is hoping to join us SOON! Pray for these interns as they transition, and pray for the rest of us on the Rome City Team as we come alongside them and seek to help them adjust well.
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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

Celebrating Freedom

Freedom is a beautiful thing. This month, we are celebrating freedom and also raising awareness of those who don’t have it. October 18th is the European Union Anti-Trafficking Day. Our anti-trafficking initiative Schiavitù Mai Più [Slavery No More], along with partners across Europe and all over the world, is campaigning for freedom with the project “18 Days of Freedom.” During these Freedom Days, we are posting pictures with captions like this: “This is what freedom means to me. What does it mean to you?” We are sharing these pictures along with the hashtag #18DaysOfFreedom in order to promote freedom and justice and to create awareness of those who are still being exploited. It has been so encouraging to see the involvement and movement grow from day to day.

The campaign will culminate on the 18th with freedom events in the cities of participating organizations. Here in Rome, we will be having some dramatic performances in piazzas and a showing of the film Nefarious at a church in the city center. We are hopeful that this initiative will not only put the issue of trafficking on peoples’ radar, but stir them to take action in the fight against these injustices. One of our constant prayers is for the Lord to bring more locals into involvement in justice ministry.

Here are some of the images that we have shared so far:

If you’d like to join us for the remainder of the project, add your photos to the #18DaysOfFreedom hashtag and share with your friends!

Summer in Review

It seems almost impossible that we’ve already wrapped up summer activities. With all the goings on, the time flew by. Here are some highlights:

Outreach English Course

Outreach English Course 2014

Our OEC was such a joy. We had a wonderful team from Ohio come to help us teach our classes. They served willingly and were a great help to our team. Although our class sizes ended up being smaller than we had hoped, our students participated with enthusiasm and showed progress through the classes. There was a good mix of ages and cultural backgrounds which seemed to encourage discussion and learning. Hearts were opened and we could see the Lord was working as attitudes toward reading the Bible as a method of studying English softened over the course of the week. Several people even took home Bibles that we offered at the end of the week, and several indicated interest in continuing to study English this fall when classes start up at a church in the city center. All in all, it was a success!

 

YWAM

YWAM Team at Work

YWAM Art

We were blessed and encouraged to work with an amazing group of young people from the Youth With A Mission team in Leeds, England. This team faithfully prayed for our ministry here in Rome, interceded for the Treasures while on a prayer walk in the area of the city that we go to with our Angel Squad for our ministry Schiavitù Mai Più [Slavery No More], and prayed over different areas of the city before deciding where to set up some art installations. They worked hard, shared their creativity, and created opportunities to interact with locals in the piazza where they engineered their artwork. Their time with us gave us ideas for future projects and opened discussion for our team about making use of more evangelistic tools.

 

Personally, I was blessed with the opportunity to visit Austria and stay with my friend Wally [an Austrian girl who was my roommate until she moved back to Vienna in mid-July]. And a few weeks ago, my parents came to visit for 10 days. I was so glad that it worked out for them to make the trip this year and that I got to show them some of this country that I love so much.

Summer in the City

Well, it is summer in Roma yet again, and as it goes, the warm weather brings visiting teams, special event opportunities, and a few extra trips to the gelateria. So grab some sunscreen and let’s take a look at what the heat has in store for the Rome City Team for the next couple months:

-OEC-
This week we have our Summer Outreach English Course. It’s a week long intensive course that we are putting on Monday through Friday [July 7-11]. We have a team from the States that arrived yesterday [July 5th] that has come to help us teach these classes. We are praying that the Lord will bring open hearts and open minds. The classes will be taking place in the Salvation Army facility that is in my neighborhood and would be an excellent opportunity to begin to develop relationships with people in the community. We still don’t know how many will be in attendance, but we will be thrilled even with a handful of new acquaintances.

-YWAM Team & Vision Trip-
We will be working with a visiting Youth With A Mission team from Leeds, England the last two weeks of July. We are prayfully considering what kind of activities to include in the schedule for their time with us. During the time they are here with us, we will also have a family visiting us for a vision trip. This means that they have been seriously considering joining the Rome City Team and now want to visit our team to get a feel for how ministry and life function in Rome. We hope that this time will be fruitful and insightful and that the Lord will give clarity to help their decision.

-Freedom Days Planning-
With temperatures climbing higher and higher, October seems like an eternity away, however we are already beginning to plan a schedule and events in advance. October 18th is the European Anti-Trafficking Day, and leading up to the 18th, our team will be participating in an “18 Days of Freedom” awareness-raising campaign. We are hoping that this campaign will shed light on the issue of human trafficking and will stir people’s hearts to join the fight to end modern day slavery.

-Personally-
In June, I was thrilled to have one my dearest friends come to visit for a couple of weeks. Now, my parents are planning a trip for September. Living overseas has its upsides and I’m thrilled to be working here as the Lord has called me to for this time, but being away from family and friends can be difficult at times. It makes it all the sweeter when loved ones are able to make the trip and come for a visit. I am tremendously grateful for these blessings.

Come and make my heart Your home
Come and be everything I am and all I know
Search me through and through
‘Til my heart becomes a home for You

-My Heart, Your Home//Watermark

Waiting and Stillness

Ciao, everyone!

I hope you had a peaceful holiday season. I hope you had time to meditate on the strange beauty of our Savior, come to dwell among us, as you celebrated His birth at Christmastime, and that you had time to reflect on the way the Lord has worked in your life over the past year as this new one has begun.

For me, like many of you I’m sure, this past year contained many ups and downs. But I treasure the reminder that each New Year brings of the REnewing, REfreshing, and REfilling that Christ gives us.

They who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

-Isaiah 40:31

Being back home during this time has been such a blessing. I’ve really enjoyed spending time with family, catching up with friends, and remembering how to truly rest in the Lord. But it has also been a period of transitions with its share of discomforts, and this past month especially, He has been reminding me to wait on Him, which has always been a difficult concept for me to follow. And though I may not understand His timing, He does have a plan and I know that there is a purpose. There will always be opportunities to wait on the Lord, and during this season He has been bringing me to meditate on Philippians 4 in the stillness.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

-Philippians 4:8

In the quiet of waiting, the Lord has encouraged me with many of these “things above.” One such instance was my Skype check-in this past week with my team leader Sarah. She updated me on the continuing work of the Rome City Team, particularly of the Slavery No More ministry’s on-going outreach to the “treasures” on the street and the growing interest of the community in this effort. There will even be an informational meeting and basic training session on Saturday the 18th for those who want to get involved in the anti-trafficking ministry. Sarah also let me know that they are eager for me to return to Rome and to take on more responsibilities in the team, such as managing and updating our team’s “web presence” and heading up our English teaching ministry. There are already plans in the works for two week-long outreach English courses this summer. In preparation for further teaching opportunities, I plan to enroll this week in an online Teaching English as a Foreign Language [TEFL] certification course.

At this point, my goal is to return to Italy in April for one more year with the Rome City Team. The Lord has been faithfully providing during my time in the States and I am beginning to look into options for applying for another visa and to search for low-cost airfare. As always though, I must be fully funded before I can depart for the field. I am so looking forward to rejoining my team-family and diving into another journey of following Jesus with open hands and an open heart.

Beautiful Things

Summer! It is hot in Rome, and life is moving quickly. Here’s what’s going on:

-The Bennetches-
My team leaders, Sarah and Brian, left the first week of August for a two-month Home Assignment. They will be visiting supporting churches, seeing family and friends, and hopefully getting some rest. Please, pray for them as they travel, and for their time Stateside to be fruitful.

-New Team Mates-
The Rome City Team has two new long-term team members on the field! Scott and Elaine Wyler arrived mid-July, after 3 years of developing ministry partnerships and support raising. We are so glad that they are here! Please, pray for their adjustment to life in Rome, for reliance on the Lord for strength, and for new beginnings as they search for an apartment and start language school.

-TREK7-
In July, we had a short-term team come through Rome. These 5 twenty-somethings were part of ReachGlobal’s TREK7 program which sends teams on 7 week missions trips across the world. The team that came to Rome was unique in that they were the only team whose time was split between multiple locations [Madrid, Spain; Lisbon, Portugal; Rome, Italy]. They came to do ministry projects, to meet the missionaries on the field, and to learn about the cultures and how ministry works in each context. I was so blessed to be able to spend time working with them, getting to know them, and showing them around this beautiful, complicated city. We had an outreach English course for 5 days while they were here, and they were also able to participate in refugee ministries, food service, sports outreach to kids in one of Rome’s poorest neighborhoods, and prayer walking the streets where we have our Slavery No More ministry.

-RGEC-
Scott and Elaine made it here just in time to join us at the biannual ReachGlobal Europe Conference. The day after our TREK7 team headed back to the states, the 5 of us on the Rome City Team took a train trip to Trieste, Italy where a shuttle picked us up and took us to the hotel in Portorož, Slovenia where we spent a week hearing great messages, meeting other staff and learning about their ministries in other parts of Europe, praying, worshipping, and relaxing by the Adriatic Sea. It was a wonderful time of resting and hearing from the Lord, just what I needed! And after the conference was over, we took a little team retreat to Lake Bled, Slovenia, just the 5 of us. It was lovely to have that time to spend together before Sarah and Brian would leave, and Lake Bled was unbelievably beautiful! A place right out of a fairytale.

-Anti-Trafficking-
Our Slavery No More team has been doing street outreach ministry every other Friday for the past few months. In the area of the city we are focused on right now, most of the Treasures we encounter are Romanian. I have been going out with the team, but while the Angel Squad goes to chat with the girls and bring them our gifts [snacks, iced tea, personal care items, cards with Bible verses and information, etc.], I have been staying in the van with Brian to watch and pray. When they return from each conversation, I always send out a text message to our groups in the city who are praying for us as we go out to let them know who we’ve talked to, where they’re from or other personal information they share with us, as well as the atmosphere on the street and other ways they can be praying. We took off the month of August as the Bennetches are gone and other team members have been out of town here and there [Rome pretty much shuts down in the summer as people go on holiday]. I’m hoping we will be able to start going out again in September as things return to their normal routine.

Rome City Team [Me, Brian, Sarah, Elaine, and Scott]

img_4215

TREK7 visiting the Trevi [Emily, Tim, Leah, Christine, and John]

Lake Bled

Lake Bled

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us
-Gungor