Nigerian Fellowship

One of the members of the Mission i6:8 team, Nico Pugliese, is a trained nurse who has worked in Africa for the last few years. He is home in Italy now and has taken a job as a nurse at a refugee camp here in Bari. The camp currently hosts a large population of Nigerian peoples. Gianluca will be helping Nico to host a weekly Bible study for all the refugees who are interested.

Today, Monday September 29, was the first meeting. Gianluca had to return to borrow the church’s van because there were more people interested in attending than could fit in our van! We are excited for this opportunity to love on people and help them to find the Lord here in Italy. We are hopeful to help Nico build a solid ministry and we would like to see Mission i6:8 members involved in a local project.

Whether super-spiritual or mundane…

5 Years ago I packed up our few belongings to come to be a “missionary” in Italy. At that point we did not know how long our stay here would be, but I was convinced (as was praying that God would convince Gianluca) that we were called to serve here as full-time missionaries. I didn’t really know what to expect from the adventure which lay before me. Everything was exciting and new.

Our years here have been a roller coaster- filled with lows, moments when you feel everything is dropping out from under you; and highs, moments when you are at the very peak able to see clearly what lies ahead and the beauty that lies all around you. I became a mother (in the sense of becoming pregnant) just 3 months after our arrival here- It was a surprise, but I had wanted to have children at the beginning of our career as missionaries in order to be able to dediate myself fully to the family while they were young and I was still learning and language and culture here. Yet, God has catapulted me onto the roller coaster ride from the first week we arrived. After one week I had already began counseling one young lady and after a couple months God had brought several others onto my path. I have often felt in conflict, knowing that the role of parent is an important one, but desiring to be more directly involved in the ministry as well. The partnership as a ministry team that I desired to have with my husband was difficult once our first child arrived, and nearly impossible after the quick arrival of our second. I saw how God was faithful to provide Gianluca many other resources to encourage and bless him as he saught to carry forward the ministry that God had entrusted us with, and I was thankful and yet it was difficult to not be a part of it.

And then I began to see the ministry that God had given me. So many families here are afraid to become parents, and the ones who have chosen to have kids often shrink away from the responsibility of parenthood. I began to talk with young mothers, and mothers-to-be. They shared with me how I was an example for them and asked advice on how to raise, discipline and educate their children. They began to ask questions about why I do things certain ways and to share how much they admire me for having the courage to have three children. These incidents allowed me to realize the tremendous responsability I have as a mother. I realized that people were observing me and how I relate to and care for my family and they are learning from me!

Yet, this is the least of my responsabilities. The role of parent is so important and not to be underestimated. God is helping me to shape the life of two (soon to be three) young persons. I am teaching them how to interact with other people, how to show respect, how to love each other, others, and their future spouses, how to speak, how to love and obey Jesus, what is the Bible, prayer and worship. When I live my responsibility with impatience and irritation my kids notice. They know if I am joyful to be their parent or if I am tired and would rather be doing something else- And so I began to challenge myself (and not just as a parent, but also as a wife). I challenged myself to do every task, mundane or super-spiritual, as if I was doing it for the Lord.

Philippians 2 says, “Do everything without complaining or arguing.”, Galations 5:13 says, “…rather serve one another in love.” and 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” I challenge myself to cook, clean the house, do the dishes, pray for my husband and our ministry, do our accounting and correspondence, iron Gianluca’s shirts, as if I was doing it unto the Lord- with sheer joy and passionate love. Realizing that these tasks contribute to his kingdom- these tasks that seem so mundane to so many people help Gianluca to be able to successfully accomplish all that God has called him to do. I challenge to myself to care for the kids, wash their clothes and their hair, cook their meals, teach them right from wrong, discipline them with love and patience, read them devotions, be silly and laugh with them, cuddle them and hug them, and tell them how much I love them, that they are special and that I am proud of them as if I was serving the Lord himself- with consistent, unwavering patience, and overflowing joy. Because I am doing these things for the Lord. Because how I live my life as a wife and a mother has a direct influence on our ministry here. Because if I am a success as a mother and wife, I am also more of a success in our couples ministry. Because more than all the courses I can prepare and teach to the young people who come to them, if I am not a living example of a devoted and loving wife and mother, than nothing I say will matter much.

It is hard sometimes to do everything we do as if we were doing it unto the Lord (1 Co 10:31). When we are cleaning up our daughter’s poop from the bed rails, blankets, stuffed animals, clothes, hair floor, etc, or when we are tired at 10 o’clock at night and don’t have the energy to cook our husband dinner when he has just walked in the door from a meeting…It is hard when you are a bus driver and all the kids are screaming and throwing things to understand how you can do what you do for HIS glory; it is challenging when you are a parent who is discipling his child for doing wrong to understand how you can handle the situation in a way that brings HIM glory; it is exasperating when you are a wife who is picking up her husbands socks from the floor how the task you are undertaking could be for HIS glory; it is hard to imagine as a youth worker how your endless, seemingly unheard speeches can be making a difference in the life of that adolesence…And yet it is! And yet you are! Your attitude, my behavior, give the Lord glory if we choose for them to. Your patience and love draw your kids to Christ and teach them how to live their lives or repel them away from you and God. Your service to your husband and family allow him to go to work and provide for you family with peace and joy. Your interactions with those around you at work, at school, at home, on the bus, in the store, and everywhere else you go can bring God glory. You are a tool to show God’s love to those who most need it. I am a tool to show God’s love to my family and to the body of Christ and to the lost here in Italy, and around the world who need it.

You are making a difference! . . . . .What kind of difference are you making?

In Celebration of our 5 year anniversary…

Dearest friends, loved ones, partners in the gospel,

Happy Autumn! As the leaves begin to change colors and a new season begins, we hope that the Lord is blessing you and yours richly. On September 23, 2008, we will celebrate the 5th anniversary of being missionaries in southern Italy. We are thrilled to have had the privilege to serve the Lord here and hope He will allow us to serve Him for many years to come.

As we reflect over the last five years, we have experienced joys, triumphs, heartaches and defeats, along with much personal and ministerial growth.  We have often struggled to make ends meet, always seeing, in the end, God’s faithfulness and provisions. When we thought that we would not have enough money to pay the bills or to carry the ministry forward, God would step in and provide. This has always been one of the confirmations to us that He wants us here.

We are once again coming before the Lord asking for resources to meet our family’s and ministry needs in order to continue in Italy.  With the closing of one key church sponsor last year, we are currently $1300/mo below budget and unfortunately at risk of not being able to remain here on the mission field.  If we could secure 20 individuals/families willing to invest just $65 a month, we could cover expenses and continue our service.  Would you consider making an investment in sharing Christ with the many young people who are touched by our ministry?

As we have shared on the website and in previous communications, we will be coming home Nov ‘08 through Jan ‘09 in order to be with our family for the birth of our third gift and to visit churches and supporters and to raise support.  If your family, church and/or business would be willing to hear more about supporting our ministry, please contact us so we can set up a time to meet while we are in the States.  If you are already giving faithfully to the ministry, perhaps you could put us in touch with other contacts you know who might be interested in the work here.  Maybe an informal dessert function or something might be planned to present to them what it is that we are doing.  Let’s get something on the calendar!  If you are currently not giving but would like to join the team – Welcome!

One of the best lessons we’ve learned with regard to stewardship comes from my great aunt who has given faithfully to our ministry from Day 1.  In the beginning, she gave $10 a month.  I knew that she had no income and that she really could not really afford $1.  I recall telling her that she really didn’t need to give and it was then that she reminded me that it was her privilege and her way of serving the Lord’s kingdom. She said, “I may not be able (or chosen) to be on the mission field myself, but I can further the Lord’s work by giving this small gift to you.  Please do not take that away from me.”  I was reminded that every gift is not “for us” but given as unto the Lord.  You are making possible the advancement of the gospel- it is only through your partnership that everything we accomplish here is possible.

We don’t want to celebrate 5 years of ministry by reflecting solely on the present need, but also by briefly remembering what God has done during our service here:
• February 2004: Mission i6:8 is founded
• 2003-2004: Carli is blessed with the opportunity to serve the local church through providing counseling services.
• December 2004: Mission i6:8 takes its first short term missions trip.
• November 1, 2005: Gianluca has his first opportunity to preach at a National youth conference here in Italy hosted by GENS.
• 2004-2006: Gianluca and Carli have the honor to serve the Lord at il Rifugio (the multi-purpose center owned by the local churches), hosting missions teams, working at retreats and camps, hosting classes, leading work projects and realizing endless improvements to the center itself.
• Summer 2006-Present: Carli and Gianluca have the blessing (and fun) to start running a couples ministry at the Modugno church, beginning with a premarital course.
• 2007: Mission i6:8 takes three trips in one year for the first time and hosts its first preparation and training retreat for those going on the short term trip.
• 2004-Present: Mission i6:8 has hosted 10 short term trips and sent three young people out for longer term experiences!

We are convinced that God is not finished with us yet and that He has so much more in store for Mission i6:8 and for us. We look forward to seeing God work miracles! We look forward to:

• welcoming many new partners to our support team
• getting as many ministry partners as possible over here to see firsthand the work that God is doing
• walking hand-in-hand with new pastors and churches and seeing how we can bless one another in our respective ministries
• a new phase in our ministry when we can dedicate 100% of our energy to the ministry
• another five years of service

Happy Anniversary! It is our anniversary together with every person who has given financially, prayed faithfully, written words of encouragement regularly, visited us to bring joy, comfort and support, and who has stood by us. What we have accomplished has been completely possible through an amazing heavenly Father and through the support of innumerable people like you who have sacrificially given of your time, talent and treasure.

Thank you!

Many of God’s richest blessings,

Gianluca, Carli, EJ, Rory and Baby Ronchi