August 17 Prayer Requests

It’s that time again! My 17th of the month prayer requests. First off, let’s start with praise!

In my last post, I mentioned my sticky visa situation. On Thursday, I checked for available appointments again out of curiosity, and a spot had opened up for THE NEXT DAY. So I dropped everything else I was doing, got my paperwork in order, and headed to Houston bright and early on Friday morning. My friend and teammate Josh came with me to see where to go and what to do when he has to apply for his visa, and to make the drive more fun. We even got to skype with our teammate Esther on the way there and have a virtual roadtrip with her!

Houston Visa Trip

Friends don’t let friends roadtrip alone.

There were no complications, and on Monday morning I picked up my passport with my new visa in it from the post office! Praise the Lord!

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I am so grateful and in awe of the ways that the Lord has provided. He just keeps reaching down and quieting my heart, reminding me to trust Him, and wrapping me up in His presence.

So my prayer requests for this month mostly revolve around my forthcoming transitions. TWENTY-TWO DAYS from now, I will be on an airplane headed back to my heartland. Here are a few of the things that I am praying about in regards to returning to Rome:

  • Saying Goodbye See You Later – Pray that my last few weeks in the States are spent well, enjoying every moment I can with family and friends.
  • Safe Travels – Pray for uneventful flights and zero complications with layovers, luggage, etc.
  • Language Learning – Pray for easy transition back into using Italian everyday. I’m so looking forward to being immersed in this language again, but I’m sure that I am going to be a little rusty after being in the States for nearly a year and a half.
  • Apartment Hunting – Pray for the place that I will call home! I have been searching online for apartments and I can’t wait to check out listings in person once I arrive. I really want to find a place that is accessible that I can use in the ministry of hospitality.
  • New Roles – Pray for the new responsibilities I will take on as our Team’s English Outreach Coordinator and for the roles that I will have in helping our interns adjust well to life on the Rome City Team.

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
– Psalm 103:1-5 (ESV)

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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

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

Living and Active

I’ve been back in Italy for just over one month now, and it feels so good to be in Rome, my second home, once again. April was wonderful. Here’s an update on what readjusting and diving back into ministry has looked like:

After smooth and uneventful flights, I arrived safely in Rome and stayed a few days with my team leaders. I am now living in the San Lorenzo neighborhood, an area that has a lot of students because of its proximity to one of the universities in the city. My current housemates include four other girls: two Albanians, an Austrian, and a Brazilian. They’re all such treasures and I’m so blessed to be able to live in fellowship with all of them. We are all a part of Chiesa Evangelica San Lorenzo, which meets just around the corner from our apartment. This is the church that I started attending regularly before I came home in October, but this time around, I wanted to be much more involved in church life, helping the body, and seeing it grow. Right away, I got plugged into a mid-week Bible study [that often meets at our apartment], and last week I began helping with the worship ministry. I’m so excited to start getting to know people and to have a place where I “fit” and know that I’m being helpful.

I am still working on my online Teaching English as a Foreign Language [TEFL] course, and plan to finish before we have an Outreach English Course this summer. In the meantime, I hope to help one of my roommates study for an English exam next month. It’s the last exam she needs to take to finish her studies, but she has been postponing it because she doesn’t feel prepared. Hopefully we will be able to get a lot of practice in and she will be confident enough to take it and pass! She is helping me with my Italian too. I am also going to start getting Italian tutoring from one of the girls from church. She is super sweet and I’m really looking forward to beginning our lessons.

Spiritually, this month has been tremendously refreshing. About a week after I arrived, we had a 3-day team retreat in the mountains in Umbria. It was gorgeous, and so wonderful to spend time all together after being apart from my team for almost 6 months. I’ve been catching up on my Bible reading plan that I started at the beginning of the year. I was nearly a month behind, so I started reading multiple passages everyday. Right now, I’m almost finished reading through the book of John, and every day I fall more and more in love with Jesus. How beautiful it is that the Word is living and active and transformative, and that God reveals new truths through it with each reading. Yesterday, I also began reading Augustine’s Confessions. In reading his words, I am gripped by the magnitude of who God is. I am so small, and yet, God knows me, and I too can know Him.

One of my roommates, who just accepted Christ as her Savior last November, told me that she has tried to read John several times, but hasn’t been able to make it through. I told her I would love to read it with her, and I can’t wait to start it over again and to see what the Spirit will reveal through the Word this time.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

-John 14:27

Team Retreat

Team Retreat!

Sunset SG

Sunset over San Giovanni

But Wait, There’s More!

October is here and as hard as it is to believe, I have been serving on the Rome City Team for almost one whole year. But as this year comes to a close… wait, there’s more! During August, I was asked by my team leaders to seek where God was leading me in relation to the end of my one year assignment in Italy. After much prayer and many discussions, I have decided to come back to serve in Rome for another year! I have such a heart for all the ministries going on here, I’m plugged into a local church, and I’ve come so far in my language learning. These things mean less adjusting and more allowing the Lord to work through me. How could I say no to that?!

I’m still coming home as planned, in fact, two weeks from today I’ll be getting back home to Texas! Please, be praying for me as I travel from Rome to London to Chicago to San Antonio. I’m really looking forward to spending time with family and friends and getting my fill of things I’ve missed while abroad [read: Mexican food]. But I’ll also be looking for opportunities to share about what the Lord has been doing in Italy over the past year and finding more partners to join in supporting this ministry. My goal right now is to be back here in Rome by February, but that will depend on how support raising goes and on God’s timing. I will have to be fully funded again before I can return to the field. If you’re interested in joining my monthly support team, or in giving a one-time gift you can click here, select Designation: Other and type Creamer 1488 in the given field. To those of you who have been regular prayer warriors on my behalf, thank you so much. I will continue to rely on your support through intercession.

While I am home, I am considering taking a TEFL [Teaching English as a Foreign Language] certification course. If this works out, please pray that I find a good program, that I study well, and that I am able to earn my certificate. I think this would really help me in our English teaching ministries here and could present even more opportunities to develop relationships and share the Good News with others.

The Lord has been so faithful and provided so much over the past year. I can’t wait to see how He will work through the next! If you’d like to hear more about it when I get home, let me know. I’d love to share my stories with you!

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Watching the sunset from the terrace on the roof of my building. This is my favorite place to spend time with the Lord and to bring friends who come over to my apartment.

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]

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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

Meraviglioso Marzo

Marvelous March!

Another month here in Roma and we here on the Rome City Team have some seriously exciting items in the works.

In just over a week [March 23], our Slavery No More movement has the Nefarious film event that I mentioned in my last blog. The Lord has been incredibly faithful and provided not only a cinema for the event [Nuovo Cinema Aquila, where we will have THREE showtimes], but also the patrocinio of the Comune di Roma [official patronage or sponsorship of the City of Rome]! Also, these connections give us further possibilities for future events and the opportunity to grow our relationship and witness with city officials. We have been truly blessed!

  • Please pray that this event touches lives and opens hearts and minds, and that it will spark a fire of change that burns long after the event is over.

In February, while my team leaders were out of town, I had the opportunity to assist teach once and lead teach twice at Tuesday night English class. I was nervous, but it went really well. We have a really enthusiastic group of students who are always ready to talk and ask plenty of good questions. I’m excited to start building friendships with them and to meet outside of class for language exchange and even cooking lessons!

  • Please pray that these lessons continue to open doors for us to show God’s love to our students.

I finished my fourth month of language classes at the end of February and passed my B2 level exam! After 4 months of lessons consisting mostly of grammar, I decided to switch to a different school to put what I’ve learned into practice. I’m now taking a conversation course 2 hours a day Monday through Friday. This has been a challenge so far, but I’m already feeling a little more comfortable speaking and listening.

  • Please pray that I am able to maintain friendships that I made in my old class and for new ones to begin in my new class.

I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

-Philippians 1:6