We have now been back working in Italy for the past four and a half years and are at a point of reflecting on the past years and looking also to the future and how the work of the gospel can be extended in Italy, a nation where 32,000 out of 33,500 communities still have no established evangelical witness.
"Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets." Luke 5:5
At times, like Simon Peter, we have felt that we have worked hard all night with no visible result, feeling tired and with no more to give. Yet, like Simon Peter, we have had to learn to keep trusting in the Lord of the harvest, saying: “At your word we will go”. So, one thing that has been of immense support and encouragement to us during these years has been the knowledge that there have been Christians back in the UK faithfully praying for us and caring for us. In the initial stages of our ministry where everything was new, still fragile and in many ways a whirlwind as things were still coming together, we often felt that we didn’t have enough time for the people who were faithfully sustaining us from the UK. They knew a lot about us through prayer letters, but we didn’t always know much about them and how their churches were really doing.
Four and a half years on we feel that in the grace of God we are passing through a more established period. In the beginning we often felt isolated and alone in the fragmented Italian evangelical community. Now, through the work of good men who are trying to overcome this problem in Italy, things are getting better. Italian Ministries was established in 2006 to network together missionaries and missions working in Italy. We now feel part of a wider network of Christian workers passionate about the cause of the Gospel in Italy.
“They signalled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats.” Luke 5:7
Having a more settled, consolidated ministry here has led us in recent months to desire also to consolidate things more with friends and churches back in the UK. We therefore asked EMF if we could have time to visit some of the churches that support us, spending a slightly longer time than usual in them, so as to be able to visit people from the church and speak with the church leaders to update them on our work here in a much more personal way. So in October we had three weeks in the UK, renting a car and doing lots of travelling!
We returned to Italy at the end of October much encouraged, having had opportunity to spend time with many old friends and make new friends too. We had been able to update people and also be updated ourselves on how our friends and churches are that support us. We were able to consolidate relationships and establish new ones. At the end of that unusual deputation we felt that both the boats have been blessed and filled. We thank God for the people in the UK who are partnering with us for the ministry here and without whose help it might not be possible. Thank you for your partnership in the cause of the Gospel in Italy and we would like to mutually partner in prayers and in practice with you in what the Lord is doing through you in the UK.
Stefano & Jennifer Mariotti