SIENA, Italy – Melodious voices in both Italian and English joined together in one accord to sing praises to Almighty God. Dalton Patterson, 26, was in awe.
“We will never forget it,” said Patterson, member of Second Baptist Church, Springfield. “It was a solidifying experience that will forever remind us that the God we serve in our small communities is a mighty God who is performing works and development all over the world.”
Patterson and his wife, Dani, were part of a mission team made up of six couples from Second Baptist who travelled to Italy last month.
The church is in partnership with two Italian church plants, pastored by a father-son duo, Rocco Sardonne and his church in Siena, ACES Volontari per Cristo, and Giacomo Sardonne and his church in Perugia, Chesa Evangelica iL Perugino.
The team was intentionally put together to be part of a three-day marriage conference that the Pastor Rocco and Pastor Giacomo desired to host for their churches. Bob Roberts, minister of missions at Second Baptist, said he intentionally wanted to bring couples that are in different seasons of marriage to Italy. It ranged from Roberts and his wife who have been married 40 years to the Pattersons, who will celebrate their one-year anniversary in November.
“Pastor Rocco said their greatest need was guidance on Christian marriage so we brought a team that could model day-to-day married life; how it really is,” Roberts said. “You don’t have to have a PhD in counseling to be a missionary. It’s about breaking down the barrier and being willing to share self, both the successes and failures, so that others can see Jesus in you.”
During the marriage conference small group breakout sessions, Patterson said he and his wife were paired with a younger couple who were also new believers in Christ. The Italian couple didn’t know English and the Pattersons didn’t know Italian so they used a translator to communicate.
During their time together, Patterson found out that the lady had cancer in her brain and was given a small amount of time to live. Since she accepted Christ a month earlier, she was confident in knowing that she was going to spend eternity with Jesus, but she was confused and questioned why God was ‘killing her at a young age.”
“Nobody is ever truly prepared for that question,” Patterson said. “Especially a 26 and 22-year-old newly married couple that are still developing their abilities as teachers and disciples. We buckled down and really dove into scripture and shared tears at the end of the small group session as we basked in the presence of an incredible God who provides us comfort in all of our afflictions.”
While in Italy the team was also able to tour some of the breathtaking sights and architecture. They prayed over the cities they visited and learned some of the specifics about their culture and religious background.
“Everywhere you go there are beautiful Catholic structures laden in gold and you often see a portrait of Jesus putting a crown on Mary,” Roberts said. “Anywhere you go on mission you’ve got to honor their country and what they believe so that you can engage in conversation. “
Roberts said International Mission Board Missionary, Charlie Worthy, addressed the group about the needs in Italy. Worthy shared that there are 80 counties throughout central Italy that have no evangelical presence. The workers are few, but the harvest is plentiful.
“Italy is experiencing an economic crisis and a decline in family unity,” Roberts said. “This makes the people more open to the gospel and God is preparing hearts to receive Jesus. It’s imperative that we don’t miss those opportunities.”
For more information on international church planting partnerships and missions, visit mobaptist.org/partnership-missions.