Ruth and her Proud Parents
On Sunday I continued my sermon series from Isaiah chapters 40-55 in our Nigerian church in Verona. We investigated further the similarities between the experience of the Hebrew exiles in Babylon, to whom Isaiah wrote, and the experience of African immigrants living in Italy. They both live lives of conflicted feelings.
For example, on Friday Debbie and I went to visit Kingsley and Margaret and their new daughter Ruth at the hospital. Ruth was born two months premature and has had to spend her first 3 weeks in the hospital; after 3 weeks she is up to 4½ lbs. As Kingsley was walking us to the exit of the large, new hospital, he said: “In a country the size of Nigeria, with all those people, there is not a single hospital like this one in the whole country.” We all expressed gratitude that Ruth, given her frail condition at birth, was born in Italy. Several minutes later, Kingsley commented that he wanted to return to Nigeria some day. He said that Italy would never feel like “home” to him. And this is his conflict. He feels blessed to be in Italy, able to feed his family, get care for his baby, and send money to his family back home. Yet, Italy is not “home” to him. He longs for the comfort and familiarity of his own land, his extended family, and his native tongue.
My sermon on Sunday came for Isaiah 43:1-7. It says that when we pass through the waters of hardship and loss, God is still with us. We are blessed and treasured in God’s eyes; at home or in a foreign land, God is with us. Church is a place where our African brothers and sisters find the encouragement and hope they need to go on living conflicted lives—grateful for opportunity but longing to be “home.” Your faithfulness makes our ministry among them possible.
Many of you have prayed with us for Emma, who was trafficked into Italy under false pretenses and then pressured to work the streets to pay off a debt. Last year, she made the brave decision not to go back to the streets after was arrested and held for 60 days for not having documents. Last week, her meeting with an Italian Baptist family went well, and they have agreed to sponsor her into a temporary government program through which she can get residency and work documents. She will live with the family, care for their elderly mother and help in the family’s bed & breakfast. A grant from the American Baptist Women’s Ministries “Break the Chains” project is providing financing to help this family help Emma, a slave set free. Loving American women and a kind Italian family are changing the life of a dear daughter of God. To God be the glory!
As you pray:
-Remember Emma as she moves to her new home on Saturday and begins work.
-Remember the many immigrants in our churches who are waiting for someone to sponsor them-in particular Moses, Hosea, and Monday.
-Remember Italian Baptists pastors as they serve faithfully in a country that places little or no value on what they are doing.
-Remember Ben & Luke as they return to school. Their closest friends all moved away this summer.
May God bless you!