In the first two weeks of January, I was able to travel to visit some of the works HeartCry supports on the island of Sicily. International travel is accompanied by unusual difficulty and plaguing uncertainty, but upon reflecting on the fruit of this trip, I am confident the extra effort required to visit such places is a worthwhile investment. Before I could make it out of the US, my plans were changed: one brother I was planning to visit in the north of Italy became sick and was unable to host. Additionally, the trip was supposed to end with a visit to Hungary, but that was thwarted as well due to more unexpected illness. These changes resulted in more time in Sicily, which turned out to be a great blessing and encouragement.
A few years ago, Paul Washer visited Sicily and a short film about the work there was produced. You can find that by clicking here.
Established Works Continuing
Pastor Nazzareno Ulfo has been laboring on the island of Sicily for many decades. His current church is located in the heart of Sicily: nearly in the exact geographic center. He, along with Giovanni Marino, and the church they serve hosted us for the majority of our time on the island. The church building itself is a wonderful testimony of God’s grace and favor to this assembly of believers. The Lord provided in miraculous ways through eager laborers, unexpected funds, and numerous providential aids to help produce the church building as it stands today.
I spent one Lord’s Day here and was invited to preach. I preached on Romans 5:1-5, encouraging the saints to consider what God has done for them in Christ and keep their eyes fixed on Him. One man who was visiting the church came up to me afterward and said until that day, he had lived in almost constant fear of death and illness. However, he was leaving the service encouraged to look to Christ instead. Another man, I found out after the service, was visiting a church for the first time in his life. Please pray for these two men, that the Lord would work in both of their lives. Pray that this church would be salt and light in the community around it, as a reformed Baptist congregation with its own building is highly unusual, especially in that country!
Young Works Growing
There is one younger man, Francesco, whom HeartCry supports partially, that is pastoring a small but growing church on another part of the island. While in Sicily, I had the chance to spend an evening service with this church, and have dinner in one of the member’s homes. I was greatly encouraged by this congregation. They have had a number of difficult trials in the past few years. Francesco was installed as pastor at the beginning of 2020, and by God’s grace has led the church through each difficulty. It is evident the church loves its pastor and trusts his leadership and teaching. As they grow, they are considering buying a permanent facility to meet in as a church. Please pray that the Lord would continue to add to their number and that He would provide a place for them to purchase.
New Works Beginning
I had the privilege of meeting a group of men, all of whom came to faith by sharing the gospel one to another, who are now pastoring a church together in the northeast of Sicily. Three of these men are from a nearby island where no gospel-preaching church exists. Lord willing, two years from now, two of these brothers plan to return to their home island to plant a church there. Would you pray that the Lord would raise up laborers who are willing to undertake such an endeavor? Would you also ask the Lord to bring many to faith through the ministry of these men?
One of the most encouraging things to see in spending time with Reno is the number of younger men who look to him for spiritual encouragement and advice. One of those men is named Marco. Marco is studying at a reformed Baptist seminary in the US and leads a small bible study in his parent’s home. I had the chance to speak briefly to this small gathering and to spend time on several occasions with Marco. It seems like the Lord has blessed Marco with a keen understanding of the scriptures, desire and ability to teach, and love for the people in his large, lost city. Please pray for Marco and his small gathering as they begin to meet more regularly on Sunday evenings. Pray for wisdom and direction as he considers his own calling and the possibility of planting a church. Pray the Lord would raise up more laborers like Marco.
Hunter came to Virginia to begin serving with HeartCry in 2019 with a desire to see local churches established and flourishing all around the world. He oversees works across Southern and Eastern Europe and Eurasia. He and his wife welcomed their first child in 2020.More By Hunter Gately