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


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


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.


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,

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,

It’s All About Faith March 19, 2014

For we live by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7
Faith never knows where it is being led.  But it knows and loves the One who is leading.  Oswald Chambers
Four years ago today I was in Rome, it was my first visit and it was at that time in my life that I was hearing God calling me. I wasn’t sure at the time just what He had in mind for me but over the course of 2010 as I prayed for guidance one line from John 21:17 kept resonating in my head, Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.  Why is it that we struggle so much to hear God when His message is so clear?  Faith.                                                                                                                                                                                                                        
We have within us the overwhelming need to know. We are constantly looking for answers to questions like; whats next for me, what is going to happen to my children, should I buy this or not, should I quit or stay and on and on it goes. That is why the electronic media is so enticing to us, we can know whats going on round and in the lives of other, right now.                                                                                                                                                                                           
God asks us to live by faith and to trust Him. Some of you, maybe all of you have heard me say, when asked the question what will you do in Rome, “I will Pray, study the Word and be a willing and available servant to God.” Which I would then followup with “I am sure He will keep us busy.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                          
We have been and continue to be willing servants and to follow where God leads us.                                                                                                                                                                          
Last November we changed Mission organizations, we left GEM and moved to International Teams, http://www.iteams.us. The switch to ITeams has been having many positive effects. ITeams President Scott Olson and his field leaders believe that every moment and every gift giving in service to God’s Kingdom is worthy of praise.  As you may recall from previous conversation and writings one of the pluses with ITeams was the fact that they are worldwide and Atlanta is one of their primary focuses for growth. According to the FBI, Atlanta is a hub for human trafficking.  There is also a growing refugee population. The fact that ITeams is committed to Atlanta will allow Val and I to continue serving for as long as we are able.                                                                                                                                                                          
The experience and training we have gained from GEM, ITeams and through our service has brought us to where we are today. Our faith and willingness to follow God will take us where we will be tomorrow. Life is fluid, we are staying flexible and making field adjustments as we go. At this point in time we, we being ITeams, Val and me, felt that I could carry on our service here in Rome and Val could begin working with ITeams as well as other organizations involved in service to the oppressed in Atlanta.  Atlanta will be our long term focus for the future.                                                                                                                                                                             We did however feel that I could gain some valuable experience in Rome and I just met with our ITeams leader for Italy regarding setting me up with other organizations here that work closely with trafficked women.                                                                                                                                                                               
What about Val? We joked about that when we first decided to say yes to God’s call. Now the question has come up why isn’t Val in Rome? And Is there a problem?  “The answer: there is no problem.”  Actually when I think about it I realize the opposite is more accurate. We understand each other very well and support each other even when it calls for personal sacrifice. Val understands and respects my call and the need for me to respond to that call. I understand and respect that not everyone can walk away from life as they know it and flourish as a servant. So with that said I hope all of you can appreciate and respect what we are doing.                                                                                                                                                                               
This time is also allowing Val an opportunity recoup and refresh. I think 2013 took a toll on Val emotionally and physically. And then there is the coming grandchild, I am sure you all can relate to that, Val wants to be close to Paul and Brittany and enjoy every minute of this blessing.                                                                                                                                                                  
I plan to return to Georgia sometime in June, I am sure I will be plenty lonesome by then. And I too want to enjoy the arrival of our first grandchild.                                                                                                                                                                                                             
As a side note to all this, ITeams was assembling a team to come to Rome before we joined them. That team has completed most of their training and should deployed in late spring or early summer, which would free me up to begin focusing on Atlanta. We may still come back to Rome during this summer and fall and beyond to help the Rome team, but that will be up to ITeams European and North American leaders. We will go wherever we can be best utilized.  As you heard me say many times, I am just a willing servant of God.                                                                                                                                                                                            
I hope this message finds all of you happy and secure with our Lord and enjoying His blessings daily.  Know that you have our heartfelt gratitude for your love, prayers, and support. I’d like to leave you with two verses I turn to often.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9                                                                                                                                                                                
We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.  – Romans 8:28

Finding My Way in Rome Posted March 10, 2014

I recently read a piece on Short-Term Missions that my friend Andy LeBreche had recommended is was by Ramon Lull written in his blog DesiringGod.
I have included the link http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/there-s-nothing-short-about-short-term-missions. Lull has presented a perspective that had been eluding me and I believe many others.                                                                                                                                                                                            
What Lull puts forth is the idea that short term missionaries are not and can not be properly equipped or trained to have a significant impact on the people in the cities and countries they are visiting. Significant change takes years, even decades. Through my short time in the field I have come to believe this and therefore I have been asking myself this question “how can I serve and make a difference”? In Lull’s blog he recommends that short-term, meaning less than decades, should go into the field with the motivation to support the efforts and uplift the spirits of those that have committed their lives to missions. If you find this concept interesting or if you think it is flawed please read the entire blog and then form your opinion, don’t rely solely on my feeble writings.                                                                                                                                                      
In addition to learning from Mr. Lull’s blog there is another book from which I have learned much, the Bible. And during the past month as I have sought the Holy Spirits guidance as to how I can be the most efficient servant as a missionary, He has guided me to many scriptures regarding the need to be a servant to others.                                                                                                                                                                                
Combining these lessons with prayer and actual hands on, in the field experience, and I believe I have found my calling here in Rome. I can provide support, prayers and care to those here serving God as long term missionaries. This frees them to do more of the work that they have trained years for.                                                                                                                                                                                                          
The other part of this lesson for me was learning the importance of serving God’s more needy children by simply doing the labor required to bring basic support services to those in need. In Mark’s gospel 9:35 he tells us… Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”  This message seemed to be coming at me from every direction, no doubt the work of the Holy Spirit.                                                                                                                                                                                                                        
I began to embrace the tasks before me, making large pots of tea, washing and drying dishes, sweeping, mopping, setting up and take down tables and chairs and passing out clothing and toiletries.  Since moving more in the direction God was leading me I have seen a marked increase in both verbal and facial expressions of gratitude from those I came to serve.                                                                                                                                                                          
But it doesn’t stop there, not only have the refugees reacted more positive but so have others. I have had more people ask me what am I doing in Rome than ever before. This opens the door for me to share my faith and how Gods love has blessed my life. It is so exciting to see the baffled looks and share with them the news that “God loves you the same as He loves me.” I have always read that when you submit to and truly follow the will of God things will happen around you that will confirm what your are doing is for the good of God’s kingdom. I have that feeling.                                                                                                                                              
Being one that believes God is the Great Coordinator it has been interesting how people have reacted to Val not being here with me. I have been asked by several people doesn’t your wife mind you coming to Rome to do mission work? Or people have said I could never be alone for that long. My favorite is “you and your wife are willing to be apart just to serve other people.”                                                                                                                                                                
Do you suppose God was intending for our commitment to each other and our love and understanding of what we both need to do at this time to be an example to others? It sure seems that way to me.                                                                                                                                                                                                   
I am looking forward to the next three months in Rome.  We will just have to wait and see where it goes from there.                                                                                                                              
Your friend in Christ, Mark                                                                                                                
We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.  – Romans 8:28 

Back In Rome

21 February, 2014

I have made it back to Rome. I had good flights, none were the originally scheduled flights due to the crazy weather plaguing the Southeast at the time. US Airways did a fine job of rebooking all my flights and actually got me there 40 minutes early. 

I have spent the first week reconnecting with folks, adjusting to the time difference (6 hrs) and looking for a place to stay. I am looking for a room to rent, not an apartment, a room is better suited to my needs and much more affordable. However the search is proving to be more of a challenge than I expected. 

Being here without my best friend is also difficult. “That’s all I have to say about that.”

Through the coming weeks as I get back into the swing of things and hopefully find a suitable place to stay, my morale should improve. Right now it is a little off center. 

25 February, 2014

Saturday morning was spent in prayer. Bringing my troubles to God has always proven to be the right decision. I had gone to the USO for some post banquet cleanup chores.  As I was leaving I received an email regarding an appointment to view a room, we agreed on 2:00 PM.  I met the landlord and viewed the room, results, moving in Sunday.  An answered prayer! 

This one, seemingly common place event, has brought me back to where I need to be while serving here in Rome. I was walking down the streets signing the rest of the day. Your daily prayers are crucial to this ministry, I believe it is what brings it all together. 

Those of you following the events of my sister Mary’s life have to believe in the power of prayer to our Lord and Savior.  Her recovery can only be credited to answered prayers. Please continue to pray for Mary, her faith has been an inspiration to all that know and love her. 

We continue to pray and trust what God is doing in our lives.  Our heartfelt thanks and gratitude goes out to all of you that make this ministry possible with your prayers, love and support.  If there is something special in your life that you would like us to pray for please share your needs with us.  Please keep us in your prayers as well.

In His Service, Mark

It certainly is not possible for us to be in a position where Omnipotence cannot assist us. God hath servants everywhere. There are “treasures hid in the sand,” and the Lord’s chosen shall eat thereof. When the clouds hide the mountains they are as real as in the sunshine; so the promise and the Providence of God are unchanged by the obscurity of our faith, or the difficulties of our position. There is hope, and hope at hand, therefore, let us be of good cheer. When we are at our worst let us trust with unshaken faith. Recollect that then is the time when we can most glorify God by faith. Charles Spurgeon 

The Past Twelve Months in Review Posted January 23, 2014

Looking Forward to 2014

It is hard to believe all of the events that have occurred in the past twelve months. Last January I was working in Porterdale, GA for Garbutt Construction and Val was working on gowns in the Dublin loft. We were preparing to attend pre-field training, six weeks at the Center for Intercultural Training, our last phase of training before launching our ministry in Rome, Italy.

We spent two weeks in March, all of April and the first two weeks of May traveling from Georgia to Michigan and back, raising support and visiting family and friends.

On May 12 we had our send off from First United Methodist Church, Dublin, and on Tuesday the 14th we left Miami heading for Rome. Upon arrival we began looking for a place to call home and locations to could serve. We were successful at both. On the following Tuesday, we began our service at the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center and on the 31st we moved into an apartment.

We were off and running. Through our work at the JNRC and the USO Rome we met other Christians dedicated to serving the oppressed. We learned of other refugee centers and began making many good connections.

After we arrived in the field, we began to see that there were other mission agencies working in Rome that we felt were more aligned with our vision of service, “… delivering an authentic Gospel that fully integrates mission and compassion.”

We also learned in June that GEM would be assessing a flat rate monthly administrative fee, not the 10.5% as clearly stated in their handbook. The flat rate came to 34.7% of our monthly support which was unacceptable to us. By way of explanation most missionary couples have significantly higher monthly budgets and the flat fee GEM assess is reasonable.  However, since we do not have to pay for health and life insurance or retirement and, we do not draw a salary or have a car, our support budget is much lower. After discussions with GEM, they admitted the flat rate was adversely affecting us, however, they were reluctant to change their policy and we mutually agreed it would be best if we switched to an agency with a percentage-based administrative fee.

We were already involved with ministries serving refugees and oppressed groups (trafficked women) through ITeams and ReachGlobal in Rome so we contacted International Teams in August and began the application process. We were able to have an in-person interview at ITeams Headquarters in September when we came back to the States for Jessie’s wedding. We also had several meetings with ITeams leadership in Europe. On November 22, 2013 we received our acceptance letter and notification that we scheduled to attend a week of orientation in Elgin, IL beginning January 6, 2014. Please take some time and explore the ITeams website.  I think you’ll like what you read.  www.iteams.us

We finished our orientation with ITeams and we have meetings scheduled this week with both the Italian team leader and the US team leader. We are going to be developing our ministry with oppressed people in both Italy and Georgia.  We will also be furthering our training and experience in service to those caught up in human trafficking as Atlanta is one of the primary cities with this problem.

Once we are cleared by ITeams to return to Rome, I will be going back ahead of Val to find a new apartment. That is another area where we have learned some good lessons. We will be renting month to month and with all utilities included. We keep reducing our monthly expenses so that we can provide more resources for those we serve.

As mid-term volunteers we will be able to assess our support each year and then evaluate how far it will take us. We understand how critical support is to missionaries, it goes beyond caring for the missionary. We use our support to provide for some needs of those we are walking alongside. Their needs are so basic, it is impossible to separate the spiritual and the physical.  

Our families have had some life changing events that will impact our lives in a big way. We found out that we will be grandparents in 2014.  Paul provided that blessing.

2013 was a year of learning and growing. We have been through some rough spots but, through it all, we remain committed to serving the oppressed and lost. We are learning how we can best serve God and keep ourselves focused and strong.

As disciples of Jesus Christ, He calls us to be “fishers of men.”  This was one of Jesus’ first public statements and His last was…”Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…” Matthew 28:18-29

In previous writings I have told you about Nasim and about the relationship that developed between us. Through that relationship and through others that I was lead to in Rome, I believe God was opening my eyes and exposing me to a frontline battle that is taking place in His kingdom, the battle for souls between Christianity and Islam. Through prayer and study my focus is becoming more and more clear. We will continue to trust in God’s leadership over our lives.

Many people asked us when we first began this journey “why Rome, why not Africa or Asia or South America, aren’t the people in Rome already Christians and well off?”  At that time I could only answer “that’s where God called me.”  Today I know this was part of my journey, the next of many steps to come. I would say to anyone answering the call, it is not the yellow brick road you will be following, it is not that simple, it is a journey of faith. To quote Oswald Chambers “Faith never knows where it is being led. But it knows and loves the One who is leading.”  There will be distractions and detractors along the way. At the end of Mathew 28:18-20 Jesus gives us cause for all the faith we will ever need “…and surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

I know some of you may be asking yourselves, what are the Edens doing and should I continue to support them?  Or maybe even, is this something I should begin supporting? To answer that in part I would like to remind or suggest to you that you think of it as supporting God’s work. Just as we are doing, trust God and where He is leading.

Regarding the location or people group we serve, I offer the following analogy.  During WWII America had soldiers and civilians serving in the South Pacific, Africa, Europe, the US and in almost every country around the world.  Through the efforts of which group in which part of the world would you give the credit to for our victory in WWII?  You’re right, it was the combined effort of every American and our Allies.  It is the same today in our battle for the lost souls in the world, it will be the combined effort of all of Jesus followers that leads to victory.  When you pray for those on the frontline and sacrificially give of your resources and love, you are part of the global team God is putting together to expand His Kingdom to all nations and to every corner of the world.  

We give heartfelt and grateful prayers of thanks everyday for all of you that pray of us and lovingly give of your precious resources.  Thank you for trusting in the work that God is doing in us and through us.  

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To give go to http://www.iteams.us/give/