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Grace Baptist Mission CIO

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In the week after Easter we gathered all the missionaries serving in continental Europe for a conference in Padua, Italy. The first gathering of its kind, it proved to be a vital oasis of fellowship and teaching for those serving in evangelism and church-planting in isolated situations across Europe.

We were hosted in the IFED (Evangelical Training Institute and Library) conference centre, which is also home to the Evangelical Christian Church of Padua. Run by CERBI, an association of evangelical Reformed Baptist churches across Italy, IFED is a centre for training people for ministry, and we were impressed to hear of all they are doing, video-streaming their classes with two other groups in Rome and Sicily. These churches stand where we stand, and have a passion to reach every level of Italian society with the gospel.  

We were joined by one of their pastors, Leonardo De Chirico from Rome, who gave three conference talks on the Church’s prophetic, priestly and kingdom ministry in a generation that lives by a very different narrative. Whether it be the secular agenda that focuses on money and possessions or the religious agenda of the Catholic Church, Europe is characterised by worldviews that can never satisfy, and we must go to them with the prophetic ministry of proclaiming a new, gospel narrative to our generation. But we also need to combine this with a priestly ministry where we come alongside people to pray with them and love them, and a kingdom ministry where we work out the implications of the kingdom of God in every area of life.

Keith Johns, a member of GBM Council, brought us three more pastoral messages in the evenings that spoke into the missionaries’ situations. Often our work can seem scorned by the world, but we must see it in eternal terms, and not be swayed by public opinion, looking forward to the final victory of Jesus. All the missionaries were able to share the realities of their work and its pressures in open sessions together, and it was good to see those new to mission benefitting from the wisdom of those who have served a long time.

As well as an afternoon in nearby Venice, we enjoyed a tour of Padua, where Leonardo told us of the brief Reformation that came to Italy in the sixteenth century and how it was crushed by the Counter-Reformation. They are working to re-establish the memory of Italian reformers such as Peter Martyr Vermigli and to see their work commemorated in public life. Padua is a city with 65,000 students, yet the Italian GBU has no group working in the University. The ministry of the Evangelical Christian Church of Padua is vital. Pray for them and their pastor Pietro Bolognese as they seek to proclaim the gospel in this city. We returned home encouraged, refreshed and challenged by the many needs of Europe at such a significant time in Europe’s history.

Jim Sayers