As red and yellow and green and pink fireworks filled the sky around our house, we ran back and forth from the front terrace to the back terrace to see which direction had the most colorful display. After 20 minutes, having seen enough we all climbed into our beds and waited for the noise to stop.
It was fun to see how Italians celebrate Christmas and the New Year. We were surprised to see crèches everywhere. The day seems to have its Christian significance without so much of the commercialism we Americans throw in.
December was also special as we received our first American Baptist volunteer ever! A wonderful young woman from Colorado joined us for 8 days. One night she stayed with the boys while Jim and I went into Padova looking for the area where women in prostitution are working. (Being good Baptists, we did not find it.) She helped us prepare Christmas goodies to share with the immigrants in the International Baptist Church of Verona on the Sunday before Christmas. You should have seen their smiles when they received what, for some of them, may have been their only gift this Christmas! She also helped us get over some technology hurdles that will help us be more effective in our ministry and will help us stay in touch with friends and family. Many thanks, Brianna!
Women in the Verona Church
Jim and I are still in Italian classes, but opportunities to serve keep presenting themselves and vying for our time. We continue to travel to different immigrant churches in the Baptist Union to get to know them. Jim has begun some preliminary work with immigrant churches who have inquired about partnering with the Italian Baptist Union. One of our tasks is to help these prospective churches understand what it means to be Baptist.
Over the last several weeks, God has brought us in touch with Italian Baptists who are interested in ministering to women in the sex industry. In one church, Jim and I were invited to speak briefly about our task here. I shared a little bit about the situation with women in the sex industry -- particularly those who have been trafficked. After the service, a Brazilian woman who immigrated to Italy told me about a friend of hers who has been in and out of prostitution. She told me that she is interested in learning how to help women like her friend.
Another church invited me to speak last Sunday at their Communion Sunday luncheon. I talked about some of the women I met in Belgium in the Red Light District, and I told the group that I was interested in learning from them about the situation in Italy. After the talk, I met someone who has done outreach to women on the streets, and he offered to help in anyway possible. A woman told me how she comes in contact with people in the sex industry every week through her job as a tax investigator. Helping these women has been on her heart for a long time.
In February, I will have the opportunity to go back and share with the women’s group of the same church. Perhaps there will be a core group there who will be ready to put their faith into action. It is exciting to see how God is opening doors and bringing us in contact with the right people.
Please pray with us for:
-Jim’s mom, who has had complications following hip surgery in December, and his dad who cares for her.
-Verona International Baptist Church which needs to find a new meeting hall before April.
-Immigrants who need proper paperwork to be able to work here in Italy.
We praise God for:
-Bryan, an American Baptist volunteer who has come to work with the radio ministry of a church about 45 minutes from us.
-The joy of celebrating Christmas as a family.
Thanks to all of you for your love and support. We had many beautiful cards over the holidays, and those warmed our hearts.
We pray that God will bless you all with great joy in the New Year.
Your American Baptist missionaries in Italy,
Debbie (along with Jim, Luke and Ben) Kelsey