While his daughter Lauren was in Greece at a refugee camp, Kent Graham traveled with a team of high school students and adults to Bologna, Italy, to serve with College Church missionaries, Mark and Ruth Brucato at the Exchange 2016 summer camp. Watch Mark's video and read Kent's report.
We had the opportunity to help run the sports camp, Exchange, for five days. The 14 high school students from College Church did an incredible job building relationships with 20 Italian teens from the neighborhood surrounding Nuova Vita Church. We had a great time serving together and being Jesus' hands and feet to these 20 campers and their families.
After breakfast each morning, we would walk over to the church for Bible study. We studied Luke 10 the entire week. This is the chapter where Jesus sends out the 72, two by two, ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.” (Luke 10:2-3) The chapter speaks of how the kingdom of God has drawn near and how our joy should be rooted in the reality that our names are written in heaven because of our position in Christ. It continues, helping us understand what it means to sit at the feet of Jesus.
These lessons were a great way to start our day as it equipped us as a group to understand why we are doing ministry. It was for teenagers like Gabriele (Gabe).
Markino, an intern with Nuova Vita, recently sent this update on Gabe.
“Gabriele is a guy we met last year through Exchange, but after the summer camp we lost track of him, although we have tried to involve him in so many ways. In the meantime, we have continued to pray for him. This year it is by the grace of God that Gabriele desired to return again to Exchange summer camp. This year was different for him. God has used much of the Wheaton team to speak into his life. After the summer camp, he began attending Nuova Vita church constantly, and he has recently also started to read the Bible with me. There are many difficulties with his mother, who does not have a good relationship with Gabriel. We must also address the hatred of Gabriel for his father that he has never known. Another fact is that soon he will be moving away from Bologna. This will make it more difficult for him to attend Nuova Vita. Monday, I spoke with Gabrielle's mother clarifying for her that we want to help Gabriel improve their relationship and not hinder it as was his mother's initial concern. I thank God she understood and invited me in September to lunch at their house to discuss also the possibility of hosting him two times a month at my house with other leaders so they can continue to attend the church and our programs. Pray for him, for his mother and for us; we are closely following this story for wisdom, love and patience.”
This paints a perfect picture of the struggles the church faces daily in Bologna. Believers like Markino know that they must reach out to the entire family to gain its trust in order to share the gospel. The College Church team did a fantastic job at Exchange camp, sharing the gospel in both word and deed. Camp ended with a BBQ, where parents came and saw what Exchange was all about. As a result, a number of parents returned with their children to attend Sunday morning church at Nuova Vita for the first time. We praise God that the Lord of the harvest went before us, and we remain at the feet of Jesus, depending on him for these newly built relationships.