Val’s Field Notes ending July 9, 2013

Part I

The last two weeks have been filled with Michigan and Georgia encounters!  Every one of them is connected to God’s work in the world and to Rome in particular. 

We were invited to Peter’s home on Sunday, June 23, to enjoy an afternoon meal with him and family friend, Katrina.  He is working through the aftermath of Cinny’s recent passing and we were pleased to share this time with them over Rotisserie chicken, salad and gelato on the Terrazzo.  Certainly not lost on me was the joy of his art collection gathered over the years, mostly exchanged with artist friends.  The bronze sculptures of his babies when crawling and stone busts of his twins were among the beautiful places to rest the eye.  We joined him again on Tuesday night at a nearby restaurant where we were delighted to get to know him even more personally.  We had the honor of visiting his nearby studio and hearing the history of much of his work.  He asked me to “fill in” for him at the JNRC (Joel Nafuma Refugee Center) two mornings a week leading the clay/sculpture table, which I will do, as he leaves for a three-month period.  I hope Fimo clay play in Sunday School counts as experience.  (Of course, it is not about the clay, but about the relationships built and the love of Christ shared over the tables.) 

Note here for Dubliners:  Deano’s own Jennifer Shaffer let me know that her Grandfather was in one of Norman Rockwell’s illlustrations, The Pharmacist.  A young Peter is featured in “Soda Jerk”. He laughed and said that his father would pay others $5 for a sitting but not his own kids – they only got a buck. Check it out at the link below.

Waiting at the bus stop after leaving Peter’s that Sunday, a large group of American students gathered with rolling luggage in tow.  I noticed a Michigan State University tee shirt and gave a shout out.  Sure enough, all were from MSU, returning from a weekend in Paris with several more weeks of study in Rome.  They are Advertising/PR majors.  It doesn’t take long for them to ask what we are doing here.  Once the word missionary comes up, the conversation heads to the work and needs surrounding us.  Helen shows particular interest in the work at the JNRC and I share that an opening of an art exhibit with the stories of individual refugees will be held in a few days.  We exchange emails.  She also asks about where she might attend an English-speaking Protestant church, so we help her with several options.  She and her friend, Adele, are Asian-Americans.  I welcomed them with excitement to the exhibit that Wednesday evening.  Now, you know I love this part.  They ask if there are any specifics of the center that could benefit from advertising, just getting the message out there.  Of course.  I introduce her to Jill, the rector’s wife at St. Paul’s Anglican Episcopal Church, as well as to Kate, the summer intern from North Carolina.  They must produce a finished video for their classwork.  Adele says, “Imagine, this could be an influence of faith on our classmates and larger community, not just complete an assignment.”  Yes, what could come of this connection?  Helen Song is heading on a mission trip to South America soon.  She has promised to keep me updated and we will look into supporting her with our own tithe designation.

Stay tuned for Part II – “Georgia in the House”


Inspired by Two Dear Friends June 24, 2013


Thank you to all of our faith partners for your promise of love, prayers and support. Without you, we would not be spreading God’s word and sharing His love with the people of Italy and to those forced out of their homeland that are seeking refuge in Rome. We have felt God’s hand upon us and His blessings have been with us every step of this journey.

Our permission from Greater Europe Mission to deploy in May was based on monthly and annual pledges and faith promises made by our supporters. Unfortunately not all of the funding we were counting on has come through for May or June and it has created a deficit in our support account.

If you have given a gift that helped launch our ministry, would you now consider a monthly faith promise to keep us viable. We are also in need of one-time gifts if anyone feels they can share this way. You can give at the link provided below.

We were reminded this past week that our ministry is not only our service to God’s lost, it is also about our “Faith Partners” and their service to Him. I would like to share the inspiring message Val received this week from a loving faith partner Connie.

“We started our summer study on Galatians this week, with Dorrie leading…. so you can imagine how amazing it was. She is special and we all ‘sat at her feet’ and listened intently to His Words and her heart. She mentioned that we all have a choice to either GO, SEND, or… be disobedient. I’m so happy I get to help send through people like you and Mark. Blessings to both of you.”

That is God’s work being carried out by His children. If you feel God has called upon you to support our ministry in response to His “Great Commission” please make the sacrifice and answer His call. We need your prayers, love and financial support for May, June and every month until God’s work through us is complete.


We continue to pray for all of you daily. Mark and Val Edens

Philippians 4:17  Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account.

Val’s Field Notes 19 June, 2013

This is a safe place.

This is a place of peace.

This is a place of refuge.

Imagine reading these words when you have nothing and don’t know anyone.  I expect the closest comparison we have would be a sanctuary.  For me, when life pulls me to my knees, a church sanctuary – the Word, prayer and music – brings peace.

I could not have known what to expect the first day I walked into the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center in the basement of St. Paul’s Anglican Episcopal Church on Tuesday, the fourth of June.  Descending the stairs, the sense that triggers first is that of smell.  (I don’t notice it anymore.)  Mark traversed the room and waited patiently for Piero, the coordinator at JNRC.  I decided to sit at the end of the trio of tables covered in plastic.  The clay being pressed and molded intrigued me.  A gentleman, my senior, approached and asked if I was a volunteer.  I said that we were discussing those options.  He was reluctant and almost gruff.  Time passed and we shared more conversation as I was interested in one sculpture in particular on the table.  “I did that one,” said Peter.  He sounds American.  I appreciated his work.  Before long, I was in the back room viewing a wide variety of pieces done by the refugees (one a bust of Peter by his ‘star’ student).  I learned that Peter is a professional sculptor.  He is now in his seventies.  He volunteers each Tuesday and Friday morning, leading in clay.  I am now invited to assist him on those mornings and, hopefully, learn from him.

Peter asks where we are from.  I say Atlanta as it is recognized instantly abroad.  He tells me he is an historian, as well, and has spoken at ….. he tries to remember ….  Emory.  He goes on to say that he also lectured at the “High” (High Museum of Art for those not from Georgia), however, that was on his father’s work.  As an art lover, I say that I would enjoy seeing images of his dad’s work at some point.  He pauses and says, Norman Rockwell.  Yup.  I look at him as though this slightly sarcastic gentleman is pulling my leg.  Nope.  His last name is Rockwell.  Norman’s third-born child.  I feel rather dumb though not sure why.  I guess I don’t need anyone to “show me” his body of work.  Peter is in my prayers.  He lost his wife of 55 years just over a month ago.  

Building Relationships 

This is really where all work begins, missional or otherwise.  The list of new friends is simply long and getting longer (and it’s just been a month).  I will share more of those whom God has planted in our path over the next weeks.  

Tamim.  Javid.  Ali.  Mamadou.  Cisse.  The latter two are from Niger and my first students in English Class.  Yvette is returning to the states for two months and had been praying for a teacher.  In I walked, thanks to our partners.

Tamim has excellent English skills.  We have been friends since our first day talking at the clay table.  There is always interest in America.  From Afghanistan, he is quick to help me communicate with others from his country.  He is thirty.  I asked (after several meetings) why he was in Italy.  The answer was quiet and simple.  The drug smugglers want to kill him.  He is here under political asylum, as are all the others (around 200).

Javid did not want to work in clay, but he wanted to talk.  I asked if I could use his face as my “model” to learn.  He liked that.  We liked our end result.  It will go into a show on June 25 open to the public at St. Paul’s Within the Walls.  If it sells, the money will go to help him.  (Okay, I may have to buy it.)  He did end up making a cow out of clay before the morning was over.  I asked about his reason for being in Rome.  Again, his enemies were trying to kill him.  He has no enemies here.  I share that I am very happy he is safe.  He gets two pieces of fruit for the afternoon and wants me to have his peach.  I am grateful and eat it immediately. I brought him toothpaste this morning.

Ali stood between Tamim and Javid yesterday after English Class.  His English is limited.  He asked about my family.  Of course, my i-phone has a family snapshot as background.  His face grows expressionless.  He shares that he has lost many.  His wife.  His three children.  His sister.  His mother.  Air raids.  Three years ago.  We quietly talk through translation and I let him know I will be praying for him.  I am sad for his great loss.  When will I go back to America, he asks.  In October for my daughter’s wedding, I answer.  He has something he wants to give me.  It belonged to his sister.  He wants me to bring it to my daughter as a gift.  Generosity, compassion, the example of Christ’s love – exchanged daily.  I am blessed to serve.  


The First 35 Days June 18, 2013

The First 35 Days in Rome

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.
– Proverbs 16:3

I have written an update on our first 21 days in Rome and upon attempting to edit it I decided it would take 21 days to read it. You will not have to endure that kind of punishment. 

We arrived, we found an apartment we are very happy with, we moved in and we are doing great. Our GEM teammates in Italy has been very supportive and loving.

We have been serving at the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center, check it out at the link provided. I have been going in and helping with the serving of  breakfast daily.  Then we distribute items for hygiene, there are facilities available where they can clean up. Clothing is also distributed, this varies from day to day depending on what comes in. Most of the items come from churches in the US. After that it is just conversation and smiles. Most of the refugees are new to Rome and a friendly place with smiling faces is a blessing to them.  

Val is working with them in the Arts and language. The first day we went to the JNRC to offer our service and love we learned that just a couple of days earlier one of the two english teachers had returned to the US. And that the other was going back at the end of June. They did not have any idea where they were going to find a new teacher so in walked Val. It’s funny I can’t figure out why they didn’t ask me to teach English? God is the “Great Coordinator.”  Val will write an update in the next few days and provide more of her own insights.

We have been blessed at every turn in our ministry and God is putting us where He wants us and bringing those people into our lives that He wants us to reach. 

All of you that pray for us, know that your prayers are being answered. And those of you that support us, know that we are grateful for the opportunity you have provided for us to answer Gods call upon us. To God be the glory!!!

I want to keep this short, so thats it until the next time. I will be more diligent in my timing going forward.

Love and blessing to all. Mark

God continues to bless us! Posted May 13, 2013

Our visas have been approved, we will picked them up at 9:00 AM Tuesday, 14 May, and at 3:55 PM we will depart Miami for Roma. 

On Sunday we were commissioned and sent out from First United Methodist Dublin, GA. What a moving morning it was, surrounded by our four children and our loving church family. 

Thank you Father and all His children that have shared this journey with us. 

In His service, Mark & Val

Ciao Ciao

Tickets and Butterflies Posted May 9, 2013

It’s official!

     On Sunday 12 May, we are going to be commissioned at our sending church Dublin First United Methodist. We will have all of our family together for the weekend, what a joy!  Then we will travel to Atlanta, be dropped off at a hotel near the airport and say goodbye to our children.  Not sure what that will be like, but …..

    On Monday 13 May, at 6:30 AM we will fly to Miami, visit the Italian Consulate and get our visas.  That’s a bold statement but hey that’s what has gotten us this far, “bold faith.”

    Tuesday 14 May at 3:55 PM we fly to Dusseldorf, Germany then onto Rome arriving at 11:20 AM, 15 May.

    So continues our missionary journey, what began as a small favor for a friend in March of 2010 has developed to into a life changing call to serve God as foreign missionaries.  We consider it an honor to serve and a blessing to have some many wonderful supporters.  There will be a new pin added to Roma, Italy on the map at GEM HQ’s on Tuesday and many of you will own a piece of it. 

   This week we began to have a few butterflies.  Not so much over what we are about embark on or where, but more about what are we forgetting to do. What are we missing. What still needs to be done, etc…  This is different from any journey we have ever undertaken.  We will be thankful for your love and prayers.

   We are hoping for a last minute surge in the number of new partners and one-time donations. Both accounts are still underfunded so if you feel led to become a monthly faith partner or want to make annual donations please visit  you can find us by our name or account number 13770.  One time donations to our launch fund would be greatly appreciated as well. Same place. We need you on the team!  

   The love and support for this ministry has made us realize that the mission has been underway since the very beginning.  God has been working in all of us to bring His plan of salvation to all His people.  This is a team effort and when we say “our ministry” you are included.  We are grateful for your support and pray daily for God to make us worthy of your trust and the task before us. 


Back In the U.P. Posted April 17, 2013

I went to bed with this Bible verse on my mind and it was still there when I awoke, so I decided to share it with you. “A new command I give you:Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35                          

The love and support that has been shown to us since our surrender to His call has been a clear affirmation that our ministry is the will of our Father. We have been blessed in every way by our brothers and sisters in Christ. The pouring out of love and care is humbling and inspiring. We give thanks to God for His lovingkindness which is shared with us by His children. Praise God and may His blessings rest upon all who have supported and cared for Val and me.
                                                                                                                                                                                                        Our partnership development has been progressing daily and we are closing the gap on our 100% goal. Just 18 new partners at $50 per month or 45 new partners at $20 per month will do it. Please continue to pray for God to touch those hearts needed to reach our goal and deploy on 13 May, 2013.  We are currently in

the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. To the right is the view from my brother Don’s Camp near Channing, MI. We will travel to Lower Michigan on 28 April to visit old friends. Our plan is to return to Dublin on 2 May. Our sending church, First United Methodist Dublin, will commission us on 12 May at the 11:00 AM services. Please join us if you can.

Our Visa applications are in the hands of the Italian Consulate General in Miami. Hopefully everything we sent them is correct and acceptable, in which case our visas will be in our mailbox when we return to Dublin. Visas and 100% support are the only steps remaining in our answer to God’s call to ministry. If you feel His call to help us, please answer it. His plan, our partner.

We pray for all of you who have lifted us up to this point in time. Thank you and may God bless you and your families.


Pumped up and ready to go! March 27, 2013

We have completed all of our Greater Europe Mission training!!!!!!!!

Our time at The Center for Intercultrual Training in Union Mills, NC for GEM’s Pre-Field Training was both enlightening and rewarding.  We have been made aware of some of the struggles we may face serving in God’s mission field.  And also of the joys of being called into service by our Lord.  We lived in a community of fellow missionaries and the fellowship that developed with our “CIT” family was most rewarding.  We now have “grandchildren” in Naples, Madrid, Thailand, Sicily, Costa Rica, Ecuador, the Philippines, India, and Saipan.  And friends in Ireland, Peru, China, Tanzania, Kenya, Bangladesh, Romania, India, and Kyrgyzstan. 

There was a degree of comfort in meeting 28 like minded “home-free” adults who have answered Gods call to enter the mission field.

Having completed all of our required training we are now eligible to deploy and begin our Ministry in Italy.  We will spend the next seven weeks completing our partnership development and saying farewell to friends and family.

We are almost at 100% of our required monthly support*, we need an additional $1600  of monthly support (just 80 shares at $20 a month) and then we can deploy.  Our launch date is May 13, 2013 so we need to close that gap quickly.  

If you feel God is calling you to join our ministry as a     monthly/yearly supporter please contact us at , we ask that you be in prayer for us, it is only through the will of God that the miracle of “partnership development” can happen.  

*It is the policy of Greater Europe Mission that missionary develop a financial support team to underwrite their personal involvement in the ministry.  This allows each supporter to personalize their giving by being involved in the life and ministry of a missionary.  This also enables more believers to answer the call of the “Great Commission”.  

The Great Commission

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20

Vision Trip November 15, 2012

Our three week journey began with a weekend in Rome; this was our time to adjust from jet lag’ however we did more than rest, on Saturday we meet Joe and Mary Sirico, the GEM team leaders for Italy, along with Amy Williams, a GEM missionary serving in Montefiascone, Italy.  We met at Piazza Republica and had lunch at one of Rome’s finer eating establishments, McDonalds.  This was when Val learned that in Europe a Coke Light is 2.5 plus Euros and there is no such thing as free refills.  After several hours of conversation, and a walk to Rome’s only Christian Book Store and a Coffee stop we were back at the Piazza. We were sharing a prayer with Amy before she boarded her train for home and during our prayers Joe’s phone was ringing; he ignored the call until we were finished.  Then he checked the caller id but did not recognize the number, when he called the number to see who it was Arturo answered saying he and his family were at the Sirico’s home for a surprise visit. 

For those of you from our area, no explanation is needed.  Arturo Paulino was the Youth Pastor at First United Methodist Church of Dublin for several years before he and Tracy (and their five young daughters) answered God’s call to ministry in Italy.  They are with Young Life and their ministry is dedicated to the children of our Military families in Naples. They had no idea we were in Rome.  How lucky for us.  Mary prepared a delicious dinner and we enjoyed visiting and discussing mission life. 

We returned to our B&B at about 11:30 PM excited about the day and all that had happened and in the excitement and lack of adjustment to the time difference we stayed up until 5:30 AM talking. 

On Sunday morning, Mark was up and headed for the A-Line with a transfer to the B-Line and to Piazza Bologna for a 10:30 service at a church that Joe, Mary and their friend Pastor Corrado Primavera had planted. The service was a pleasure and afterward we walked and found discipleship opportunities.  Later that afternoon, Val and I headed for Piazza Spagna, (Spanish Steps area), with our final destination being Piazza di San Lorenzo in Lucina and the Rome Baptist Church for the 6:30 PM Italian service with Joe and Mary.

Prague, Czech Republic

On Monday, we were back at the Airport heading for Prague, Czech Republic, for a week of Discipleship Multiplication training.  The training was hosted and lead by GEM missionaries serving in Europe.  Many believers from Europe were invited and trained alongside those of us from GEM.  This cross-cultural experience was a blessing that Val and I were most grateful to have participated in.  Corrado studied along with us and we look forward to working with him soon in the field.

The training was held at IBTS, the International Baptist Theological Seminary.  The complex that makes up the IBTS has had an interesting past. 


Here is a brief history of Jenerálka Castle (described in fascinating booklet by Petra Veselá).

1939-1945 – THE NAZIS: The castle functioned as the HQ for the Gestapo’s activities in Czechoslovakia.  During this time it also housed around 50 orphans of Czech political leaders killed by the Nazis. For more details check out the following links. For more details check out the following links Panenské Břežany  and Operation Anthropoid

1953-1990 – THE COMMUNISTS: The castle was then occupied by a Research Institution which worked closely with the Czech equivalent of the KGB, developing military and espionage equipment, and the State Police had offices in the castle buildings. It was discovered in 2000 that the castle had been also base for a major operation to capture people who attempted to escape to the west across the border into Germany. Many were beaten and tortured and some were shot within these very walls.

After the fall of Communism, the castle eventually came onto the market in 1993.

1997-2012 – THE CHRISTIANS: The castle was bought in 1994 by the European Baptist Federation, who had wanted to move their seminary from Switzerland to somewhere more accessible for Eastern Europeans. And now it is a truly international community, seeking to train people to the highest level for Christian ministry of all sorts.

Rome Italy

Our time in Rome was very interesting to say the least.  Not quite what I was prepared for and, at times, confusing and a bit unsettling.  I have a story to share so please indulge me.

We embarked on our “Vision Trip”, with a calling brought forth by my initial contact with Joe and Mary Sirico in March 2010.  Since that time, God has been continually moving us closer to His heart and the needs of His Kingdom.  Our goal for this trip was simple.  Val and I would be in Rome to pray for and to visualize the ministry God was planning for us.  There were people to meet and places to see. I had it all planned.  Just one thing wrong with that — I was forgetting that this was God’s vision for us, not Mark’s. 

We had many wonderful moments in Rome and we felt a very close kinship to Joe, Mary and Corrado.  We attended Bible studies, in Italian, participated in Italian church services, and went out on the streets to disciple, both with our GEM Italy team and on our own.  We visited a Church with an immigrant support ministry, we learned more about the home for expecting unmarried young women, and we explored potential neighborhoods to live.  Sounds good for a vision trip doesn’t it?

On our first Saturday, before Prague, we were taking the A-Line Metro (subway).  As we were getting on the train, Joe and I were together talking.  We entered through a different door than Mary and Val.  A boy about 10 years old got on next to me and then put his right arm out in front of me.  At first I thought he was reaching for the hand-bar for support.  I looked down at his hand; it was not moving closer to the bar, it was just near my chest.  As I thought this odd, Joe was thinking faster and he realized that this boy was either trying to pick-pocket me or was distracting me to allow someone else to do so.  Joe grabbed his arm, pulled him away from me and, in fluent Italian, challenged his intentions.  He looked down and did not respond.  Even more suspicious was the fact that the adult male that got on with him did not come to his defense.  Their reaction was to quickly get off at the next station we were pulling into.  This event was taken in stride and as a good reminder of the threat of pick-pockets in the large cities of Europe.  Thanks Joe for being alert.

During the early part of our week in Rome, Val and I were on an escalator coming up out of the Metro when a young lady crowded up behind us.  This time it was Val that noticed that she was looking at the gap of my pocket with her purse pulled open ready to drop a wallet in.  After being given the “hairy-eyeball”, the girl backed off.  Event number two spooked Val, but I was still unfazed. 

I thought I was being alert and protecting myself.  After all, I had been in Rome before, traveled on the trains and buses and had been in crowds — none of this was new to me.  Of course, there is the problem of my own self image, six foot two and bullet proof.  Hadn’t that persona gotten me through 25 years of law enforcement?   

Heck, I worked in Detroit!  Let’s be honest here, in a street fight Detroit would kick Rome up one side of the block and down the other. I ruled on the streets, okay so that was one or two, well maybe 30 or so years ago.  Whenever that was I was not prepared for this.  And I was looking at it all wrong.

Thursday we decided to go to the Decathlon Store, this is a sporting goods chain much like Dick’s only better prices.  I wanted a couple of tee shirts and I knew they would have my size and good prices.  So off we went, go to the south end of the A-line, then take a bus for about 20 more minutes.  After the bus dropped us off we then had to cross a busy street go down a steep hill on a dirt path and walk about 15 minutes to get there.  There was probably a smarter way but that was the best I could do.  Val was not too impressed, maybe more like your nuts if you think I am ever going to do that again.

We did get there and I did find four nice shirts for 30 €.  That went well.  Then we went to a store next door that featured women’s cloths, again a nice selection and good prices.  Val was able to find three tops she liked so I went up to pay and she headed for the ladies room. 

While waiting in line to check out I noticed a women leading a younger women with sunglasses on around like the younger women was blind, however just at that moment the younger, supposedly blind or vision impaired women, came to a point where there was a stroller in her path.  Did she trip over it or stumble; no she swung her leg around it as swiftly and precisely as a young running back.  Odd! Now I get up to pay and find out that the discounted prices clearly marked on the items apply only if you are a member of their loyal shoppers club and the lady waiting on me was trying to convince me to fill out a quick application, in Italian of course, I am refusing thinking I could end up the new owner or worse.  The items were nice and Val is worth full price to me so I just wanted to pay and leave and I did. When I turned to walk away from the counter right behind me, actually too close for comfort, though I had not noticed due to my involved discussion about the quick and easy application, was the “blind” lady and her partner.  As I turned I had to excuse myself to get around them and go meet Val who was waiting for me outside the store at a table enjoying a White Chocolate Magnum Bar. 

I sat down and explained to her what the conversation was about that I had with the clerk and about the pricing, which I understood Kroger does the same thing.  All at once I realized that the bag from Decathlon that had been on my left wrist was gone.  I jump up and went back into the store and asked the clerk if I had left it on the counter, she acted like I was speaking a different language and she did not know what I was saying even though we had just had a conversation about the quick and easy application just moment earlier.  The blind team was nowhere to be seen either. When I sat back down with Val and talked about what had just happened I could clearly remember the bag on my left wrist as I handed the clerk the items on hangers that I was holding with my left hand.  But it was gone now.

Event number three, this time I was mad and disappointed. 

During the week we had several incidents that were less than what we would have liked.  Confusion about getting from one place to another, after we left the store to take the bus back to the Metro we went on a nice ride, which I classified as a learning experience and Val classified as something different.  We expected this; we were in a foreign country with different customs, a language we were just learning and places we had never been before.  There were bus strikes, subway closings, due to broken water main, whose fault is that, no ones. We had a lot to learn; we knew that and accepted it, but there was an underlying uneasiness all week.

On Friday afternoon I escorted Val to the Sirico’s where she was going to help Mary prepare for a group of mission minded ladies from Oklahoma that were coming for dinner and a presentation by Joe about what GEM is doing in Italy. I was invited but I had it my head that before I left Rome, which was Sunday morning, I was going to see and then sit and pray

at St Paul at the Three Fountains, the church in Rome dedicated to the Apostle Paul and located at the site of his martyrdom.  There was rain predicted for Saturday but not for Friday, so it was going to be Friday.  That water main break I mentioned that had shut down the B-Line Metro, that happened  just minutes before I was to get on it and head to the church I wanted to see so badly. Not to be deterred I headed for the bus stop, I will just take a bus.  Remember the bus strike, the bus line I needed was one that was being struck that day, and the rain for Saturday that I mentioned, it came just as I exited the train station and headed to the bus stop.  Now I did not know the bus line was on strike, I still don’t, but after one hour and thirty minutes (and that is in Euros) of standing in the rain the bus I was waiting for had yet to show.  Was I at the wrong place waiting for the wrong bus?  No! The bus signs, numbers and system in Rome are easy to figure out, especially after several very good instructional sessions with Mary.  I was in the right place; I just had the wrong plan.  That is not even the end of that story of absent buses, but I will spare you the rest and just tell you that from 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM I was either walking to or waiting at public transportation sites in the rain.  No I did not get to the church.

Not to be denied my visit to St Paul at the Three Fountains, Val and I headed out Saturday morning, a beautiful day I might add, no rain in sight.  I had checked the news reports and the B-Line was running from Termini south to Laurentina Station, which was where we needed to go. We jumped on the A-Line to transfer to the B-Line at Termini then south to Laurentina, good plan.  We made all our connections and walked from Laurentina station to the church, about one kilometer, a nice walk with beautiful scenery.  St Paul at the Three Fountains was not a disappointment, I was very happy to be there even though we arrived at 1:08 PM and the church was closed from 1-4.  Not a problem I was thrilled just to be sitting outside reading from my Bible and praying.  Shortly after 2:00 PM, Val graciously suggested that we go to the café that was located onsite, get some lunch, relax and wait until the church reopened.  I don’t think that was what she wanted to do, but she does love me and she didn’t want me to be disappointed, I assured her I wasn’t and that I would be back again and next time I will plan to be there while the Church was open.  The café was a wonderful place with many products made by the Trappist Monks that live at and maintain the site.  We ordered lunch picked our drinks from the cooler and I went up to pay, Val went outside to secure a table.  When I reached for my wallet, which was in the front zippered pocket of my shoulder bag (“it’s European” as Seinfeld would say), the zipper was open and my wallet was gone. 

Wallet, money, credit cards, personal documents and 61 years of pride were gone, just like that. My remaining 16 hours in Rome are a little fuzzy, but I do know that it was the most unsettling experience of my life and I have been shot at!

I quickly got to a phone, the desk-clerk at the Hotel located on the site of the church, was kind and very understanding and did everything he could to help us, including letting me call the Bank of America from their phone to cancel my debit/charge card. 

At the time each card was cancelled there had not been any attempts to use any of the cards, which are all protected in case of fraud or theft.  I have frozen my credit, which according to Clark Howard is the best and only true way to be protected from ID theft, we will see.  As I write this it sounds way below average on the scale of bad experiences, but it did not feel that way when it was happening.

Athens/Mati Greece

The next part of our “Vision Trip” was the Connecting Hearts conference in Athens, Greece, or Athens Jr. as I referred to it. This was a gathering of the women of GEM and a chance for Val to meet and become part of this wonderful group of women.

As you know I have come to the point in my life that I believe God has planned my life from the very beginning and I believe He has been directing the events that have occur along the way.  You should also know that I accept and respect His plan for my life.  I believe the week in Athens was very much a part of that plan and a most important stop on the journey. Why? 

Because when I was in Rome I forgot to ask God for direction and care, I figured I could handle it on my own, I knew all I needed to know and I let my pride run the show.  That was a Bad Plan. 

In Greece while Val studied and prayed with her fellow missionaries and was having a wonderful time, I was coming out of my fog.  In part because of the Bible lessons Val was studying and sharing with me each day during her breaks.  On Sunday evening Val had her first Connecting Hearts gathering.  This gave me an opportunity to reflect on all that had happened in Rome and to go to God in prayer. When I opened the Kindle App on my iPhone to read my daily devotionals, by the way this was the first time I opened my bible since Saturday just before discovering my wallet was missing.  How’s this for the first scripture reading to come up?  Joshua 1:9, 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. With that passage I began to regain my focus.

When things good or bad are happening to those around us it is usually easy to see the reality of what is happening and to understand why.  When it is happening to you it seems to take more time and effort to make sense of it. As the fog began to clear in my head I realized that I had been in Rome as a missionary and I was making plans to move to Rome to share the message of salvation through a personal relationship with Jesus. Would the Devil be hard at work trying to discourage me, trying to make me feel unwelcome, and trying to get me to change my mind? OH YA!

When I was a detective there would be occasions when the person I was focusing my investigation on would squawk, and promise me that if I continued down this road it would surely end in the loss of my job. The more squawking, the more certainty that I was pursuing the right suspect, so why did it take me so long to realize that the more trouble I experienced in Rome the more certain I should be that this is exactly where God wants me.

James 1:2-4  Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 

Both Val and I felt tested while on our “Vision Trip” and we both felt stronger and more committed by the time we arrived back here in Dublin.  We want all of our current partners and those God is still working on to know “we are fully committed to serving God and our mission has already begun”.  We continue to pray and be in the Word as we seek God’s Heart for our ministry and we ask you to keep us in your prayers.


If you feel God calling you to support the expansion of His Kingdom please contact Mark at (478)697-6609, Val at (478)697-0612, or  You can also become part of our ministry at Greater Europe Mission,   Account #13770

May God bless you and keep you in His care.


Missing in Action August 18, 2012

It is high time I update this journal.  I have been busy working in Athens, GA, for Garbutt Christman on the new Medical College at UGA.  The projects I supervised were completed on 7-31-12 and I am now on vacation.  Val has been busy with her work and planning our moves.  Very short-term, we are moving one block over to a different loft which is just being completed.  October 1 is the move date.

Long-term, we are moving forward with partnership development and our plan to serve in the mission field in 2013.  We are blessed to be at 40% of our goal, having just begun last December.

On August 24, we will meet with our Italian Team Leaders, Joe and Mary Sirico, in Atlanta. Discussions will focus on the mission work in Italy and how and where we can best serve.  We are looking forward to this; it will be Val’s first opportunity to meet with them.

In October, we head to Europe for three busy weeks.  First up will be a week at GEM’s Discipleship Multiplication Training Conference in Prague, Czech Republic.  This will involve training in the principles and practices that God has used to bring about multiple church planting movements in Asia and Africa.  Then we will spend a week with Joe and Mary in Rome.   This will be our vision trip—an opportunity to see firsthand what GEM is doing in Rome.  It will also give us the chance to look at housing possibilities and to secure a sponsor Church which is required for a mission visa to Italy.  We will then wrap up our stay with Val attending the Connecting Hearts Retreat in Greece.  Connecting Hearts is the group which supports and unites the women of Greater Europe Mission into Christian fellowship.

Thanks to each and every one of you for the love and support.  Being set aside to serve God’s Kingdom has been a blessing like no other.