Recently, Michel Duarte (Pastor of Somos Church, a church that we planted in March 2020), and I had a ministry trip to Rome. This trip was long overdue, because we were supposed to visit a couple years ago—but it was postponed, due to the global pandem. The purpose of this adventure was to discover if there could be a relational partnership with a church in Rome. In addition, there was opportunity to pray together, serve their neighborhood/community by doing a food drive, and preach/teach in their weekly services, among other things.
I’d say it was worth the wait, for several reasons—so I want to share with you some highlights from this trip and things I learned along the way. But first, here are some important things you should know about Roosevelt. We are committed to engage all people with all of Jesus. The “all people” includes “all types” of people (different ethnicities, people groups, cultures, etc.). The marching orders of the Church is to make disciples (Matt. 28:18-20). Our desire is to expand our support of overseas missions work, in particular to find churches with similar vision and values that we can support—especially those among the margins of society in poor neighborhoods. By God’s grace, we want to position ourselves to partner with other brothers and sisters around the globe.
Italy is a country that is unique, diverse, and has rich history when it comes to biblical Christianity. (Oh, they have great food by the way!) I must admit that it was surreal that our church was in our sermon series in the book of Romans while we traveled to Rome; that was a seedbed for Christianity.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Jews and Gentiles in Rome to encourage them in the faith and to raise missionary support for his travels elsewhere to proclaim the gospel. Rome, Italy was much different back then. According to Operationworld.org, about 1.1% of its people are Evangelical Christians. It is a “post-Christian,” and postmodern society that has a lot of division (even among those Christians there). Simply put, there is a huge need for men and women to be raised up to go to Rome (and other places) to make disciples!
Here are five snapshots from the trip with the church (Hesed Community) that we were connected to:
- Family and Hospitality Culture is on a 1000% — The people in Rome are big on family! There is an amazing familial vibe that is unique. At lunch and dinner (which are two full course meals), everybody is gathered around the table for at least a minimum of two hours, and you talk, laugh, pray, and just relax as a family. No one is in a hurry. No one is concerned about stupid theological debates. There is just a robust time at which even,the children are welcome. In fact, everyone is! I was integrated into their family like I was one their own.
- Service is a Given — Twice a month, Hesed Community provides food boxes for the community in which they live. These people in this neighborhood are lower-income and the church is a major part in fulfilling not only the spiritual, but also the physical needs of their community. They were hit hard with Covid, so some people come to this church because they are the only ones who help them. I saw all types of people grabbing their children to stand in line to get their basic necessities to make it through the week. It was humbling! In America, we have so much abundance and we can lose sight of other people’s needs around the world. There, over 70 people came to get food boxes. One thing that I will remember from this is a Muslim family coming to this Christian church for help. It struck me because I never saw that before. Hesed didn’t turn them away. They served them despite their differences.
- The Culture of Prayer — There is an ethos of prayer that is attractive. Praying without ceasing is not just cool Bible verse for them, but a lived action that you can’t fake. It is a genuine posture that comes from the Holy Spirit. When these people prayed, I was convinced that they truly believed in the God to whom they were praying. It wasn’t robotic. It wasn’t stale. It wasn’t super structured. It was just real and authentic. It’s kind of hard to explain, but they weren’t overly concerned with the problems we all face. They just prayed and trusted God. I can’t tell you how many times people asked me, “How can I pray for you”? From time to time, they open the church house, and anyone can come in and pray. No agenda, no major updates, no excuses, but, yes, literally just prayer!
- Crazy Diversity — Diversity is a sexy thing in our culture. Everybody wants it! Or, they “say” they want it. Typically, the diversity coversation is centered around black and white in America. But the diverse groups of people I saw and talked to encompassed more than just ethnicity. It included cultures, language, and so on. There were at least 12 nations represented: Romania, Chile, Brazil, Chad, Ecuador, Moldova, Wales, Columbia, Philippines, El Salvador, Italy, and America.
- So Much Ancient History — If you’re a history buff, then this would be good trip for you. There’s so much ancient history that you’d consider pursuing a Ph.D. in Ancient History. We got to visit the Vatican (which is huge and historic), St. Paul’s Basilica, one of Rome’s four major papal basilicas (along with St. John in the Lateran, St. Peter’s, and St. Mary Major). We went to the catacombs, the tombs in which Christian martyrs’ corpse were placed. Certain Roman emperors wouldn’t allow martyrs to be buried inside the city, so if you visit then you have to take a bus ride about 30 minutes outside of the city to experience all of the various emotions that I experienced. There are different catacombs that thousands upon thousands of martyrs were placed at. We went to St. Gregory’s. It’s about 50 feet underground, seven miles wide, with four levels! The third level is where they keep the bones of the Christians who died for their uncompromising allegiance to Christ.
Overall, the trip was phenomenal! These are just a few snapshots from the adventure. Rome was a memorable experience. I’m excited to see what partnership with churches internationally can look like for Roosevelt.