We made it down to Rome for the Easter weekend. What an amazing time to be in Rome. With all the Christian history there and the many martyrs that gave their life for the faith---it was very awesome to be in that location for Easter. Italians are spontaneous, so lo and behold I learned that not only would I be speaking at the Saturday night meeting about the challenges facing Christianity in Europe, but I would also be speaking at the Easter service. Well, when in Rome...it was an unexpected honor actually.
The Church of God in Rome (not that one, but the Church of God (Anderson, IN), was started 39 years ago. In fact, this coming Spring, they will be celebrating their 40th birthday and I plan to attend this special celebration. The church was started by Franco Santonocito. His son Danielle is not the pastor. The church has recently experienced some growth after committing to a much more intensive prayer plan, which is great. As in most places in Europe, the church does not grow as fast as it does in other places for a number of reasons. Being located in the heart of Catholicism certainly doesn't help either if you are Protestant.
They have a thriving youth group and they have a wonderful worship leader named Marco who is a talented singer/songwriter. We listened to his CD as we drove across Italy. The church has a nice spectrum of ages represented and is mostly Italian, with a few Latin Americans as well. It is located in the city of Ostia which is on the Mediterranean Coast. It is called the port of Rome. Although Rome is actually located a bit inland (on the famous Tiber river), modern Rome has grown and made Ostia ( a very old town that goes back to the days of Ancient Rome) a suburb. So it's all connected now. The church is located in a tough section of Ostia. On the train, it takes about 35 minutes to central Rome.
We visited some of our favorite sights in Rome to introduce 8 year old Marco (as opposed to 2 year old Marco) to this great city. His favorite stops were the Colisseum (Ted Nugent was doing a sold out concert......that's a joke people) and the Vatican. They were setting up for the Easter Service and preparing for the sainthood of John Paul II.
The CHOG in Rome is very well-connected to the Evangelical Community throughout Italy due to its involvement in Rick Warren's programs. Twice each year, Evangelical leaders from throughout the country come to the Rome CHOG for key meetings. The CHOG in Rome is currently helping the new Church of God in Arco as best as they can, but there will probably be need for assistance in the future.
On Easter morning, we had a special sunrise service in the park in Ostia. It was very lovely as Dannielle led us through a service. It was great to be in Rome on that day and Marco enjoyed his first sunrise service. We are very much looking forward to connecting with the church there and having our 3W team support our friends throughout Italy. Already, the Simpsons (Bulgaria) will be visiting the church in the very near future. We are using our 3W missionaries to visit various locations to build up the inner-connectivity which is a core part of Three Worlds overall goals in Europe and the Middle East. Thank you Arco and Ostia. And thanks to all of you for supporting us.