It became another opportunity to feel God’s heart in another country this trip to Italy. I am home now and feeling quite undone as I process and think through all that God has done in me. I can’t shake the aching, gnawing feeling that comes when I leave a place that captures my heart. Italy was one of those places. So as I weep over the people I met and wake early in the morning with them in my heart, I begin my days praying and asking God, “What else would you like me to do? There must be more.”
I was one of three from Alaska representing Oikeo Music headed to Rome and Naples to help facilitate and document conferences for songwriting, worship, recording, and concerts. We were joining up with Bob Kilpatrick’s ministry there bringing instruments, recording gear, and hearts ready to serve the churches there. We met up with eight other very talented and anointed musicians and worship leaders from California and Washington, and added to this mix two very gifted musicians from Italy. We were a diverse group of 14 people from 10 denominations and churches, working together to show the power of unity and purpose in the Kingdom of God. This alone was the hand of God as he brought together some of the most precious people I have ever had the opportunity to meet. So much talent was represented, so many leaders, and so much grace, as we deferred to one another, encouraged each other, and stretched ourselves to accomplish the tasks at hand.
So we began in Rome. David Cubitz from a ministry called “Christ is the Answer” met us at our hotel to be our guide and help us adjust to the new culture and language of Italy. We spent a day sightseeing and getting to know one another. It was an invaluable day for beginning to build relationships with each other and the culture. We sampled some Gelatto (an incredibly delicious type of ice cream), took photo after photo of the statues, columns, fountains, and ancient ruins of Rome. I was completely unprepared for the feeling of smallness next to the columns and ruins of Rome. There is this sense of God’s story being played out through the ages, and I am just now walking in upon part of it in Italy. It is a feeling that will transcend this entire trip as I see God has a tapestry and I am one thread being woven through it. I am small…but God is great!
We recollect our belongings and head out to a church outside of Rome that will providing our housing for the next several days. We have dorm rooms in the third floor of this massive building designed to host two sanctuaries, and provide housing for the elderly. While they wait on their permits to house the aged of their communities, they offer these rooms to us as a ministry to us. Every morning we are greeted with espresso and pastries before we start the day.
I come to Italy with preconceived ideas about the people and the culture. I expect to find large Catholic families, overweight people who create and cook these fantastic Italian dishes of pasta, a good mix of Christians to Catholics, and a culture easy to identify with. I am soon confronted with many facts that astound me. The first being that Italy is less than 1/2 of 1% Christian–that’s less than in China, and to make the change from Catholicism to Christianity involves being disowned by your family. The largest evangelical church in Rome has 150 people…although it is still growing. Despite the pasta and huge meals of five courses we were served while there, Italians are slim people. They walk alot and have their main caloric intake at lunch. And those large families are not to be found. In fact the abortion rate in Italy is high. I spoke to missionaries who have ministered to women who have had over 30 abortions in their lifetime….amazing.
Of course I can’t take it all in on just this one two-week trip to four cities, but I am being made aware of the fact that Italy is a wounded country–wounded by the extortions of religion, and wounded by the corrupt influnece and control of the Maffia. Materialism has been a comfortable haven for them as it has been in America, but the hits in the economy are bringing that security down too. There is a large vacuum being created there as the need increases. The pastors have their work cut out for them. The missionaries almost feel forgotten by the Body of Christ at large and are tired but continuing on doing anything they know to do.
I was invited to be a part of the musical ministry part of the trip headed up by Manuel Luz, and so I joined in with musicians who have multiplied their talents, honed their craft, and learned to serve musically. We performed concerts on the streets and sidewalks of Rome and Naples. We sang everything from the Doobie Brothers “Jesus is Just Alright” to a song I wrote called “You Paid It All”. Bob Kilpatrick would join in for the worship sets and he would passionately lead people to God in music.
I don’t speak any Italian and this was frustrating to me as I so wished to communicate beyond the music there in that country, but for awhile the music was our only language. I was able to share small portions of my testimony while in Rome with the help of an interpreter. This was my one chance to connect on a personal level and even though it was just a few minutes, it was precious to me.
It wasn’t until Naples when I learned a few worship songs in Italian that I felt the connect of worship. We were able to sing with the church there…together…somewhat like heaven. It makes me long to hear those voices of every tribe, tongue and language singing around the throne.
Again, I am one person, I feel small in the grand scheme of things. I am ministering alongside musicians and leaders with more talent than I could produce if I started now and practiced daily until I die. I am singing in a language that is not mine with a people that are God’s on the other side of the world. My heart is breaking for women there, and I feel that I am there as a result of the prayers of God’s people in Italy. I’m not there because I am a musician, or a worship leader, or a writer, or a speaker. I am there because God wanted me to see His Bride in Italy, to love on her, to encourage her to hold on and remind them that God is faithful in keeping His promises.
I realize that God is great and that He has a purpose for all the nations of the world. I realize that I am part of the blessing he gave through Abraham when He called out a people to Himself…the Jewish nation, and then He opened His arms to me a Gentile that I could be adopted into His promises. He is calling people out of every nation to Himself and so many are answering His call. But we come to God broken, bleeding, dissallusioned, and need of help. He takes us as we are and puts us in relationship with others to become His beautiful Bride. We are not an island, we are His. I am not His favorite, but God so loved the whole world that He gave His one and only Son that ANYONE who would believe on Him would have everlasting life….John 3:16 (my paraphrase). We need each other and above all we need Him.
I left Italy with an invitation to return in January or February of 2010 with Oikeo music. We are planning that return to facilitate another worship conference and help with publishing and translations of worship music. But what else does God have in store?……