Merry Christmas 

2016 End of Year Update


Saturday Night Cleanup Crew at Il Soggiorno (Photo courtesy of Val Edens)

I would like to share some of my story with you in this update.

Myth: When a person gives their life over to God and becomes involved in full time ministry, they somehow become a gifted writer and orator. 

When I began full time ministry in 2013 I had plans to go to Rome, learn the language and culture and to spread the gospel through street discipleship. My mission agency at the time, wanted me to concentrate on language and culture until I was proficient in both. Reality proven to be much different. Some of you know and some of you my not know, I am dyslexic. I have struggled with my native language, English, all of my life and learning Italian proved to be a slow and difficult task. My inability to quickly learn Italian became a stumbling block in my relationship with my mission agency and their plans for me in Rome.

During this difficult time I sought direction and guidance from my Lord and Savior and through the Holy Spirit I was guided in directions where my gifts of faithfulness, perseverance, love, and compassion for human suffering could be used in service to the Father. 

I learned the most important lesson of life. Trust and follow Jesus.

By the end of 2013 I had transitioned to International Teams and I was fully involved in ministry services to refugees and victims of human trafficking. I have evolved to where I am today by remaining faithful to God’s plan.

Where am I at today and where am I going tomorrow. 

Since January of 2014 I have been serving with International Teams. ITeams worldwide commitment and the declaration…”Therefore, we choose to stand against the status quo. We choose to see the invisible, give a voice to the voiceless, create beauty from ashes, rediscover dignity, restore hope…” has opened up opportunities for me to serve both in Europe and in the US.

In Rome I serve at the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center and at Il Soggiorno. Both offer food, clothing, personal hygiene, rest, and daytime shelter to refugees. Opportunities to pray and study the Bible are also provided. Classes are offered to learn both Italian and English. And yes I have taken the Italian classes. I have formed many lasting and meaningful relationships at both of these centers. 

I have also served with Schiavitù Mai Piu (Slavery No More) a cooperative group of missional organizations in Rome involved in street level outreach to those sexually exploited through human trafficking. 

In the US I am primarily involved in anti human trafficking ministry. I have been actively serving through ITeams with two Atlanta based organizations Out of Darkness and The City of Refuge. Both organizations are dedicated to serving sexually exploited and trafficked women, children and men. Since June of 2014 I have been involved in street outreach, prayer teams, clothing drives, serving meals and rescues. The street outreach and rescues have been my primary focus.

It is difficult to relate to you impact this ministry has had on the lives of those I have encountered. The range of emotions is as broad as I have ever experienced. I am constantly reminding myself and those I serve with, that God does not measure our success, He measures our faithfulness. Sometimes everything goes smooth and you know what you’re doing is having an effect on those you are reaching out to. Other times nothing goes right and you are left to wonder why. The only constant is trusting that God is in control and praying that His will prevails. 

The sensitivity to privacy of this ministry precludes providing details of any actual activities. There is one case in which I have been involved that has made the news in Atlanta, so I can share a link to the story without violating any privacy protocol. I rescued this young woman twice, on the first occasion she fled after we made a requested restroom stopped at a QT. On the second she was safely transported to a safe house. She was rescued a third time by Out of Darkness, before her final demise. You can read about her at http://www.wsbtv.com/news/2-investigates/from-cheerleader-to-addict-the-heroin-lifestyle-that-killed-a-mother-of-four/450662210

I don’t want to beat my own drum with statistics and numbers, but I will say this, I say yes whenever asked to go on a rescue. I have done rescues all over Georgia, and in Tennessee and Alabama. I have been on rush hour recuses, all night rescues and days with multiple rescues. Whenever asked I remember Matthew 25:40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.

Going forward I am scheduled to return to Europe for another three month term on January 17, 2017. When not in Europe I will continue my Atlanta and Middle Georgia ministry. 

As I have said in the past, I am not in this alone, nor could I continue to do this alone. All of you that have supported me with prayers, love, and financial support are deeply embedded in the DNA of this ministry. I humbly request your continued partnership. If you are currently providing financial support please continue to allow me to serve on your behalf. If you have given in the past please consider giving again. If you have never given, please consider this ministry as part of your Christian giving.  

I am not a gifted wordsmith, but I do hope that on some level I have related to you my passion for the oppressed and exploited. 

With love and a grateful heart I wish all of you a Merry Christmas and best wishes in the New Year.

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Looking Back and Looking Forward 

Not a having and a resting, but a growing and a becoming.  M Arnold

Looking Back:

2015 Was a year like no other. In December I lost my brother Don. The effect this event has had and will have on me has yet to be fully realized. Thank you to all of my faithful brothers and sisters in prayer, our prayers were answered. 

My son Paul was married to Brittany in October. A lovely and welcome addition to our family, the wedding made it official, however she has been in our hearts for a long time. 

My time in Rome during 2015 was blessed with many signs and that clearly indicated God’s hand was shaping the events and using me as His willingly available servant. 

The first seven months were spent serving those being trafficked in Middle Georgia and Atlanta. I serve with and through Out of Darkness and the City of Refuge. The plight of those being trafficked is finally becoming part of the social conversation in America. I know you are hearing and reading about the extent of this sin and understand the need to continue with prayer, out-reach and rescue to the oppressed. 

Looking Forward:
What does 2016 look like? That’s a good question. I’ll try to answer the best I can. 

Looking at my life since I accepted the call to missions, I can say it has been challenging, educational, and fulfilling.

I began the journey thinking how I could serve God, what could I do. I have grown to, I am yours Father, guide me, use me. 

When Jesus Christ says “Follow Me,” He never says to where, the consequences must be left entirely to Him. We come in with our “buts,” and “supposings,” and “what will happen if I do?” (cf. Luke 9:57– 62). We have nothing to do with what will happen if we obey, we have to abandon to God’s call in unconditional surrender and smilingly wash our hands of the consequences. Oswald Chambers, from Not Knowing Whither

I believe that God’s work in me continues and that I have learned to be a servant. 

I will say thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of you that have supported me financially. Your support is an integral part of this story. Your support has affected the lives of many. Without support I could not afford the travel expenses incurred nor could I provide relief for those in need. 

Val and I often have this conversation when we discuss the hardships of being separated by my service and using our money in support of myself and other missionaries. “Which one would you choose to go without shoes?” And it’s not just shoes, it’s time and presence, meals, clothes, medicine, and more. 

As you know I am serving in both Atlanta and Rome. My financial needs here in Atlanta are not as great as in Rome which allows me to save so I can return to Rome. I began this update in the US and thanks to my faithful supporters I am sending it to you from Rome. 

Your prayers, love, and support have changed my life and the lives of others. For that I will be eternally grateful. 

I was a Stanger, and I was Welcome.

I want to share this story with you, I could never tell it as well as Rakin. As you know the JNRC is one of the two refugee centers I serve in Rome. 

My name is Rakin and I am a refugee.It is difficult for me to share my story, but I feel it’s important because I want others to understand the reality of my country and people.  We are not secure and there is no peace for millions of people like me.

Before I left Afghanistan, I was appreciated by my family, friends, and community. I had a comfortable life with a beautiful house. I had hopes of becoming a psychologist, I had published books condemning the acts of the Taliban, and I was interviewed on the radio and television about my writings. Then my life changed drastically.

I was kidnapped for money. The kidnappers called my family and threatened to kill me if my family didn’t pay them. More than ten times, the kidnappers sent pictures and videos of them beating and torturing me, to my family.  After four months, I escaped.  I was badly hurt and went to the police station. They knew I had been kidnapped because my father had reported it. The police asked me to take them to the place where I was kept. They arrested and killed many of the kidnappers. 

 
When my kidnappers heard that I reported this to the police, they threatened me by phone. My mother was so panicked she had a heart attack, and while I was visiting her in the hospital, my kidnappers sought revenge. They found my home and killed my father, brothers, and sisters. My mother and I tried to move to a friend’s house outside of Kabul where we would be safe. We stayed there for a long time, and then my mother asked me to leave Afghanistan. We couldn’t continue to hide in the house out of fear of being attacked.  The plan was that once I was settled in Europe, I would invite her so she could also be safe.

I never imagined that I would face such problems in Europe. I always thought of Europe as supporting human rights and equality. When I first arrived to Rome, I had to sleep in a tent outside in the park for three months during the winter. There was not good food to eat and it was cold. Now I share a room with eight other people at a reception center with other refugees. I don’t sleep well. There is no hot water. I can only wash myself every couple of days. Because of the cold water I am always sick. It is inhumane.

It is well known that money allocated for providing services to asylum seekers is being siphoned off for other purposes. Recently, a transcript released from wiretapping the Mafia Capitale revealed one member saying, “Do you have any idea how much I can make on these immigrants?  It’s a lot more profitable than drug trafficking.”  I am one of these immigrants.  So, I take cold showers as others profit from my misfortune.

“DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW MUCH I CAN MAKE ON THESE IMMIGRANTS?

IT’S A LOT MORE PROFITABLE THAN DRUG TRAFFICKING.”

Like many, before I arrived here I perceived Rome as a holy city. When I arrived as an asylum seeker, I discovered a reality that was inconsistent with my perception of being a holy or sacred place. Keep in mind that I arrived as a foreigner who was not here to vacation, but rather to save my life.  As a stranger to this city, I am misunderstood and mistreated.  Now I wonder if this a holy city.

Instead of asking about my education, about my skills, or questions to get to know me, people only ask, “Where are you from?” This is what defines me. This is what creates a barrier in my ability to form friendships and feel welcome in the community.

Fortunately, when I arrived to the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center (JNRC), I met some wonderful people. Their kindness lessened my suffering. They tried to feel what I am feeling…not having any family.  I know that this center is my home and these people are my family. I no longer feel alone. People listen to me. They helped me solve my problems with documents. They invited me into their homes and cooked delicious food for me.  They even celebrated my birthday for the first time in 8 years – and since the death of my family – that I had a birthday celebration.  They were with me during my formal interview for protection (or commission as it is called here in Italy) and when my mother died alone, and in a faraway land. The JNRC is supporting me in every possible way.

Before coming to the JNRC, I was like a dead person. I used to sit in the park alone. Psychologically I was dead. Working with the JNRC psychologists and listening to their advice brought me brought me back to life.  All refugees that experience this kind of trauma need to be welcomed, especially when they don’t have any family to support or protect them. No one can go through life without family and supporters to lead us out of the darkness and toward our goals and dreams.  The circumstances of my own trauma have changed my life plans in ways that I never imagined possible.  Still, I am hopeful that one day I will start my writings again, continue with a psychology career and feel like a respected human being.

This is why I am very thankful for this center; for what they are doing for me and for others. In this center, Muslims and Christians eat, play and work together. Everyone welcomes newcomers as human beings, not according to religion, race, or ethnicity. The situation in this center feels very different from the situation out on the streets of Rome.

Outside, I feel looked upon as an unwelcome stranger. When I’m on the bus the people next to me secure their wallets and close their purses. I don’t know how to behave to prove that I am not a thief. The refugees that I know are good people from good families.  Even if they don’t have money or beg on the street, they would never steal. This is what we face as refugees everyday in Rome.

Now, I am part of the JNRC’s Artisans Together project.  We produce handicrafts, for a suggested donation, in order to heal from our trauma and rebuild our lives in Rome. We advocate and educate about the reality of refugees. As artisans, we share profits amongst us and donate 10 percent back to the JNRC in order to help the guests who depend on the center for daily assistance, sanctuary, and support.

My work with this group has restored my sense of belonging.  We practice respect for humanity and equality amongst brothers even though we are from different countries and continents.  In this group, I am learning new skills.  I am surrounded by a community of support that gives back by welcoming other strangers who make their way to this center.

As Muslims we believe that Jesus gave life to the dead by God’s permission.  The Christians that I found at the JNRC helped make me alive when I was dead person.  Still a practicing Muslim, I underwent nothing short of a miracle, to find myself again.  I was dead, but when I found this church and center that welcomed me as a stranger, I was given life again. Alhamdulillah! Or, as you might say in English, All praise is due to God alone!

“STILL A PRACTICING MUSLIM, I UNDERWENT NOTHING SHORT OF A MIRACLE, TO FIND MYSELF AGAIN. I WAS DEAD, BUT WHEN I FOUND THIS CHURCH AND CENTER THAT WELCOMED ME AS A STRANGER, I WAS GIVEN LIFE AGAIN.”

I don’t want to be identified as a refugee forever.  I hope that someday I will be treated in Italy as I was treated before the living nightmare of losing my family, my country, and my life.  I never wanted to be a refugee.  The human spirit is strong and I am learning to dream again – and this is the gift that I have been given, because I was a stranger, and I was welcomed.

ABOUT RAKIN

Rakin, who prefers not to share his last name, is originally from Kabul, Afghanistan. He fled his country in 2010. After being denied political asylum in Norway after four years, he came to Italy where he has been granted full refugee status according to the Geneva Convention (1951).  It is rumored in the JNRC and beyond that he is an unbeatable chess player.

This story first appeared in the JNRC blog. You can read this and other stories at http://jnrc.it/stranger-welcomed/#

Heading Back to Rome

Your Prayers, Love, and Support Make it all Possible.
Back in January of 2014 the North American team leader at ITeams asked if I would commit to spending the first quarter of 2015 serving in Atlanta. The goal was to make relationships for future team building in Atlanta. Out of Darkness, part of the Atlanta Dream Center and City of Refuge, seemed like good places to start. The first quarter turned into seven months and the results have been amazing.

At the City of Refuge we have been involved in a weekly Bible study, collected donations of clothing, furniture, and bedding for the residents. And served in the “180° Kitchen”, doing everything from preparing vegetables to scrubbing pots and pans, and serving meals to hundreds of women and children.

At Out of Darkness I am involved with the Prayer Team, Princess Night out-reach and Rescue Teams in Atlanta and Middle Georgia (Macon/Warner Robins), and the Cherokee County Jail Ministry. I have participated in rescues of both women and men, in Georgia and Alabama.

I have had opportunities to share my experiences at ITeam and both the City of Refuge and Out of Darkness with many others that have expressed an interest in participating in these wonderful ministries. Some of these are from my First United Methodist Dublin Family. Planting seeds…

I am returning to Rome on 4 August for another 90 day mission (90 Days means no Visa or Permesso di Soggiorno requirements which equals savings). I will be serving refugees a the JNRC at St. Paul’s Within the Walls and Il Soggiorno. I will also be serving with Schiavitù Mai Più (Slavery Never Again).

Your continued prayers, love, and financial support not only bless me, they bless you and all those you allow me to serve. Believe me it is working.

I am making a special request in this posting. While I will be in Rome the weather will be changing and winter will be arriving. The refugees will be in desperate need of shoes, socks, and coats. Please consider a donation to help me in procuring these items for them.
To donate go to http://iteams.us/give or email gifts@iteams.org

Project name Mark Edens, account # US2677

Or call (800) 323-0428

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Helping in the “180° Kitchen” at the City of Refuge.

P.S.

On Tuesday at 7:00 PM I was at the Atlanta Dream Center for the monthly prayer meeting. Just as we were getting ready to begin I received a phone call from the Out of Darkness hotline asking if I could go on a rescue. Our prayers were answered before we even began. WOW! And how amazing is our Lord and Savior? The young lady that I went on the rescue with has been feeling the call to missions but has been struggling with some of the aspects of raising support. We had a good conversation regarding support and the overwhelming joy and inspiration that comes from having the support of your friends. Planting seeds again…

Philippians 4:15-17 Common English Bible (CEB) 

15 You Philippians know from the time of my first mission work in Macedonia how no church shared in supporting my ministry except you. 

16 You sent contributions repeatedly to take care of my needs even while I was in Thessalonica. 

17 I’m not hoping for a gift, but I am hoping for a profit that accumulates in your account.

Moving Forward in 2015

As 2015 begins I recall the words of Francis of Assisi and I would like to make them my own.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.

During 2014 I was able to serve with ITeams in Rome and Atlanta. Both cities present opportunities in anti human trafficking and refugee ministries. Last year I committed to spending the first quarter of 2015 in Atlanta. As I have previously mentioned, Atlanta is one of ITeams targeted cities for team and network building. So I will be working in tandem with Out of Darkness, City of Refuge, and Disire Street Ministers. Out Darkness has expanded its ministry into the Macon/Warner Robbins area and I will serving with them as well.

I am already involved in street outreach, jail-visiting, bible study, prayer meetings, and meal service. I will be involved in the rescue of trafficked women and children once I complete the required training. I am willing to be lead to whatever form of ministry God leads me to. The future is bright and I am excited!

There are individual and team opportunities for service with each of these. I will be looking for participants soon. If any of you are interested and willing please let me know.

I would like to update you on a dear friend I have written about in the past. David is the young man from Spain that we were able to develop a friendship with at Il Sorrgonio. Danielle has informed me, that through conversations with David, she and Valeria were able to learn more about his background. Valeria was able to obtain his mothers telephone number and made contact with her in Spain. She told them that David is 37, he has earned three university degrees and due mental health issues has a difficult time coping with life. If he is cared for and maintains his required medications he does much better. She was very happy to know he had friends in Rome looking out for him. She advised that he had run out of medication and needed to get back home. Arrangements were made through the Spanish Embassy to purchase an airline ticket for him, but the day of the flight was not a good for him and in his confused state he did not make the flight.

The week before Christmas David showed up at Il Sorrgonio and through a family friend living in Rome his mother arranged for a flight and her friend escorted him to the airport. On December 21st he flew home and was reunited with his family for Christmas. His mother was most grateful for the friendship and care he received at Il Sorrgonio.

I want all of you to know that YOU made this happen. Without your prayers, love, and support this story would still be waiting to happen. God is the Great Coordinator. He put it on your heart to support me, and He put it on my heart to go to Rome and serve. To God be the glory!

With your continued prayers, love, and support we can see more of God’s amazing love delivered to His children. I am all in to the end, I pray that you are as well.

A heartfelt thank you to each and everyone of you and my God bless and your loved ones throughout 2015.

James 2:14-17
What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed, but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

An Update From Rome

As another page in my journey is ready to turn I am overcome with thoughts I want to share with you about this life I have been lead to.

First I want all of you to know how deeply grateful I am for your prayers, love and financial support. Day after day, month after month and year after year you are there holding me up and allowing me to serve. Genesis 12:1 …“Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” In my heart it can only be classified as a miracle (Webster: an unusual or wonderful event that is believed to be caused by the power of God) that you my friends and brothers and sisters in Christ would so faithfully hold me up.

I said when I started that my objective was to go and be a “willing available servant to God.” I have held true to that and as a result God has taught me some very humbling lessons. And He has blessed me beyond reason. I know my service may look different than some expected, but it is being directed and guided by the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 13:13 says, ” And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Unconditional love for others, that is where God has lead me. The geography and the forum for teaching me I am sure were chosen by God, I am just His humble servant.

I will limit my stories to just two, so as not to lose you.

First up my dear friend Nasim. I have written in the past about Nasim so I will get right to the point. I now realize that the bureaucratic process to get him to America is monumental. I am by no means giving up, however I believe it will only be accomplished through God. So I am asking everyone I know to join me in daily prayer for Nasim. Remember Acts 12:5 ” So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.” That is the kind of prayer I am asking for. The kind that freed Peter from prison. We can do it.

Next is a story about David. David is from Barcelona, Spain. This is a difficult story to relate through my feeble writing skills. I wish I could sit and tell this to each of you in person. It has many layers that will go unnoticed in this account. I am guessing he is in his thirties and he lives on the streets of Rome. Last spring he started coming to Il Soggiorno. At first he would just come in and sit at the closest table to the door. That’s also where I sit, next to the tea table and a good spot for welcoming quest. He would not speak, we communicated via gestures and body language. He would have tea and eat many cookies and I would give him some to take with him. Then he would simply walk out. I have to tell you at this point, David was your stereotype homeless person. He was in need of love and care. This went on for months. Fast forward to September; he was still coming to Il Soggiorno still keeping very much to himself. Giovanni and I started mentioning Jesus to him and there was a twinkle in his eyes. We began putting cash in his coat pocket with a notes that simply read Jesus.

Each week he stayed a little longer and even started using the bathroom facilities (even waving good bye, WOW). This was major. This past Saturday he showed up with a fresh haircut and shave. Giovanni had given him some clothing as well and he had on a new sweater. None of the volunteers were fluent in Spanish, but we were able to get him to open up and we learned that he was from Barcelona and his name was David. He said he know who Jesus was from his youth. It was truly a breakthrough event, the Holy Spirit was with us. I have never felt more blessed then when David opened up and trusted us. Never.

This is what your prayers, love and support allows me to do. There are no words adequate to thank you for this privilege. It was your money going in David’s pockets and your love and prayers that lifted him up.

Please know how important it is to me to be able to continue being a willing and available servant.

I know as I transition to Atlanta and my efforts focus more on human trafficking, God will be leading me and blessing me.

Thank you and may God bless you,
Your brother in Christ, Mark

Here is a picture of David in the middle. That is Steven on the left, he is from Ghana and was baptized recently at Rome Baptist Church. I do look happy don’t I.

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I Just Have To Share This With You

God is answering my prayers and providing avenues for me to reach out and share His loving kindness. I would like to relate two of these to my friends, that hold me up with prayers, love, and support.

This evening I participated in a bible study at the City of Refuge, this always leaves me emotionally charged and grateful. Having an opportunity to studying the Word with women who’s lives and families are broken beyond comprehension and to see the Holy Spirit provide hope in the midst of their despair is a true blessing. Their love and trust in God inspires me, and I am grateful to be able to be a listening ear and prayer partner with my sisters in crises.

On Friday night I will be taking part in the fight against sex trafficking by participating in a “Princess Night” with Out of Darkness. We will be out on the streets of Atlanta sharing the love of a Jesus Christ with the women who are trapped in this unspeakable industry.

I want you to know I am blessed and grateful for this time in my life and I ask that you lift me up in prayer as I serve our oppressed and lost brothers and sisters in Christ. With God’s grace and you by my side we can make a difference.

To God be the glory.

His servant, your brother,
Mark

It Has Been A Year May 14, 2014

Thanks for being at my side.

Rise up; this matter is in your hands. We will support you, so take courage and do it. Ezra 10:4

It is hard to believe but it has been one year since our first arrival here in Rome.  It has been some kind of year, WOW. I came with ideas and plans and as I sit here today I can say I have gained love and faith. God didn’t necessarily have the same ideas and plans as I did but He did have a plan and in retrospect I must say His was much better and I am glad to have learned that. 

Val and I have kept a journal where we share our thoughts each day. Val keeps telling me I should share my experiences with all of you and I keep saying it is hard to (at least for me) open my heart and share the emotions of daily life as a servant of God.  And honestly most of my journal entries are too long. So I will pick a few parts of a few entries to share with you.  

    I spent a several hours today with …. We had our deepest conversation yet about Jesus and the teachings of the Bible. Very open and honest. They are clearly desiring a closer relationship with Jesus ….  Good way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon. Love you, miss you and thank you for your understanding and love. To God be the glory. M

    Last night I went out with the Angel Squad to reach out to the Treasures (women enslaved in a life of prostitution) on Via Cristoforo Colombo and Viale Guglielmo Marconi.  I served as the “watcher.” The ladies of the Angel Squad go out in teams of two, the watcher goes with them but keeps a discreet yet safe distance and monitors the activity surrounding the visit. The driver remains with the car ready for a quick departure if one is needed. The ladies share God’s love with them as well as applicable  scripture, snacks, convenient toiletries, and information regarding local services that available to help them. It is a very simple and effect outreach. All but a few welcome the encounter and openly share their stories, none are in this situation by choice. They are glad to hear that God loves them, they feel that because of their life style God has/would reject them, so when scripture that tells the story of Jesus compassion for the lost is shared with them it gives them a glimmer of hope. You could see it very clearly in their body language. After each encounter the team records the context of the exchange and the name, country of origin and age of each Treasure. Many of the Treasures were know by the team from previous encounters, some asked for bibles in their native language so the team provides one, in cases where one was not immediately available they would get one and keep it until the Treasure is located again. Last night we had one where they had been looking for this Treasure for more than two months. She was very excited to receive her bible. None of the Treasures were Italian. To God be the glory. M

    I am going out Friday night with the ladies to reach out to trafficked women. Remember the Sunday night we had so much fun riding the buses coming home from Peters and we ran into a bunch near St. Paolo’s? Well that’s where we are going. We will be meeting at McDs at 10:15 PM. Another new road on my life journey. “Not all who wander are lost.”  M

    Good day at JNRC, the guys all know me now and know why I am there. I get a lot of friendly hand shakes, hugs and greetings, they know I care about them and their well being. Even those that were hostile in the beginning have now become friendly. M

    At bible study today we read the passion. I am thankful for this group and their faithfulness. I did not ask but during the prayer time one of the ladies said a prayed for you and our family in the US, and gave thanks for your sacrifice which has allowed for me to be able to be here and serve.  Several of the ladies were talking about volunteering at St Andrews where they pass out lunch to refugees, they mentioned the man that is always on the street selling scarves with the rolled up hat. Of course I had already shared with them about Nasim, so when I told them that was Nasim they were all excited. It’s a small world. Danielle sent me an email and said my phone should be here tomorrow (for those of you that don’t know my iPhone was stolen). Miss you, love you, and thank God everyday for you. ✌️M

    “He’ll be coming and going he had said. One day you’ll see him and another you won’t. He doesn’t like being tied down–and of course he has other countries to attend to. It’s quite all right. He’ll often drop in. Only you mustn’t press him. He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.” (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) C. S. Lewis 

    Today Nasim showed me pictures of his Mother and Father. He was so proud. He was able to have them sent to his tablet from his uncle in Atlanta. M

In a recently conversation with one of the men at Il Soggiorno the subject of why am I in Rome came up again (as it has many times before). He said, “I see you everyday in different places and you are always giving out food and cloths and things, why?” In response I told him that I was here to share with him God’s love, through my service and care for him and others.  He then asked me “well who cares for you while you are here, like when you were sick last week?”  

The answer that came to me, I am sure from the Holy Spirit, was first, God.  But, I add, there are many people in America that also care about you and me. And those people pray for us, love us, and support us with their hard earned money. Without them I could not be here to share Gods love with you.  This concept was difficult for him to comprehend, and in many respects it is hard for me to grasp as well. 

I can not express the gratitude and love I feel for those of you that have prayed for me, stood with me, trusted in me, and through your love and generosity have allowed me to serve our oppressed brothers and sisters in Christ. 

I have grown and learned so much this past year here in Rome and as Val and I go forward in our service to those whom God continues to bring to us throughout His Kingdom, we do so because of you and your partnership.  Your love and support humbles me.  Grazie Mille. 

In His Service,
Mark