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I mentioned in the previous blog post about Alyssa's mission trip to Italy to work with Russian and Ukrainian families that have migrated there for various reasons. Here is a follow-up from Alyssa:
I am thrilled to report that the mission trip to Italy went extremely well, and the one to Prague had a great turnout. I want to share a little bit with you about how God placed just the right people on our team, our journey to Italy, and our experiences there.
One of the key members of our missions team was a young teacher named Nastya. Nastya accepted Christ two years ago and was baptized last year. Shortly after, she lost her father who was not a believer. This took a huge toll on her, her mother, and brother (also non-believers.) Nastya deeply felt called to go on this mission trip with us, but with a teacher’s salary of $1,400 a year, she was stuck. She had to make the choice between buying her mom and brother a washing machine, or going on the mission trip to serve the many non-believing Slavic children and families in Europe. So, Nastya began praying that God would make a way for her.
Another girl on our team, Anya, is one of the most godly and joyful women that I know. She has her bachelors in finance, masters in missions, has lived in Nepal as a missionary, and will be the director of admissions at a Baptist seminary in Ukraine, and is only 25! This same girl’s mom, and three siblings got ran over by a car and all passed away years prior. Now she takes care of her dad who is an alcoholic, works in a movie theatre two days a week (making $20 in a week), but spends most of her time doing ministry. She also felt called to go on this mission, but has very little money, and has debt from her braces. Anya felt called to go, but had no way.
All of the people in our team have similar financial situations because of the unbelievably low salaries in Ukraine. Many had the money to go, but that was ALL they had. God had called them and they knew that He would make a way for them. A sad truth regarding several skilled, godly people in our community, is that when they heard how much of a financial burden it was to go, they were no longer willing. God specifically chose those who were willing to go minister to those who have NO missionaries or churches, and who were willing to spend every last dime they had to get there.
God was familiar with their stories, and heard their prayers and concerns. He knew their willing hearts, and answered their cries through YOU, my brothers and sisters in Christ! God provided them, through Northside, what we needed for the trip and more! And someone had heard of Nastya’s need of a washing machine and provided her with a new, free one!
When we met with our team, preparing for the trip, I told them that they didn’t need to pay out of their own pockets to get there. This brought tears to everyone’s eyes because the Lord had heard their prayers. They all said “Слава Богу” simultaneously, meaning “Glory to God”!
On June 20th, we began our journey to Italy. We drove through Hungary, and Slovenia. We probably stopped every 30 minutes (or so it seemed)! We stopped in Naples Italy, to do 2 church services for the Slavic people there. It took a full 48 hours from Ukraine, one car breakdown, and many, many bathroom breaks later, but on the 23rd we finally arrived in Eboli, Italy. We spent one day setting up the camp before everyone came.
On the 24th about 200 Slavic/Russian speaking people came to our small campground. There were families from Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Germany, and America. The age range was newborn to late 70’s. There were some very strong Christian families, and then there were those who had never stepped foot in a church in their entire lives. Some would even step out of a sermon to take a smoke break.
There were several people that came to the camp that had cancer and were getting healthcare in Italy. Of those, one 18-year-old girl didn’t have much longer to live. There was a family of 4 girls from Ukraine whose mom had died in Italy of cancer. The oldest girl was 15 and having to take the role of “mom”. I was personally able to guide her and give her some wisdom from the Bible. Other moms were able to care for the girls for the week and they were able to hear of the love that their Heavenly Father has for them. They, along with others, learned of the wisdom and simple instructions in the Bible that are there for them. Others were impacted by hearing of the amazing grace that God has for them, and that they don’t have to work for their salvation (like Russian Orthodox believes).
Among our camp were people that had been in jail and alcoholics who learned of the mercy and forgiveness that our loving God has for them. Many of these people have had no access to the gospel in their language for many years. Some had lived in Italy for 20 years and, because they hadn’t learned Italian, had no church or Godly community.
We were able to teach the children songs and a share with them the message that they have a loving, perfect father in heaven who loves them and will never leave them. Because so many Slavic men and fathers are affected by alcoholism, the kids really took to, and related with the messages we shared. We taught them the story of Daniel, played with them, and just held and loved them. The teen, young adult, and several adult groups also studied the book of Daniel more in depth.
In conclusion, I can’t give you a number of how many people accepted Christ as their Savior, or if someone’s relationship with the Lord grew stronger, because only God sees their hearts. I do know that thanks to your prayers and support, we were able to serve this forgotten people group for the Glory of God. I know that they had an opportunity to hear the Gospel, many for the first time. I know that lives were changed by God’s love for these people.
I’m thankful for the serving hearts of my team members and those of you who were willing to give. God bless each and every one of you! My team says a big “Дякую” too!
Click here to view video highlights from the trip.