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Italy Action Team: a different type of mission

Mission work looks different wherever it is done, something Clare Palmer, Clem Jones and Rachel Clark have come to understand. Using games, music and more, BMS World Mission’s Italy Action Team has been busy teaching English, ministering to their community and building lasting relationships. No matter how developed a city or country may be, there is always a need for a deeper understanding of Christ.

Italy Action Team making their lesson plan
Since starting in December, Clare, Clem and Rachel have been teaching English to students of the Gianni Pascali School, the place where they study two nights a week. Armed with a few months of Italian, these three have used songs such as head, shoulders, knees and toes and adapted interactive games – ‘zip, zap, boing’ became ‘left, right, forward’ – for lesson plans to teach their students conversational English.

They were asked by an English teacher in Gianni Pascali to help the students put their amazing grammar skills into practice. Clare, Clem and Rachel plan to teach all first years at least once before their time is over and so far the lessons have gone well. Safe to say, the team and students are enjoying themselves.

Along with their teaching, these Action Teamers have been learning what it means to do mission in a developed city like Matera. This is not the first place you would think of going for mission work but, as Clare observes, different places have their own needs. “Youth at the church go every week but the excitement for church just isn’t there anymore,” says Clare. “That’s why we’ve come here, to bring that excitement back.” And through their youth work and Bible studies, they are doing just that.

Their neighbour, Maria Pecora, is Catholic but has adopted the three Action Teamers as her own. Clare has noticed tensions among the various Christian churches, so hearing Maria say, “despite [you being] Evangelicals and [us] Catholics, Jesus is the same,” was a testimony of their ministry all by itself.

“The big amazing stories are not always the important parts of mission,” says Clem. “There may be more ordinary things like encouraging people in their faith, building relationships with people and creating proper friendships. That’s been quite a challenge for us, rather than things that you think would normally happen in mission.”

Solidifying relationships with Maria and others in the community, by spending hours cooking, eating and talking about faith and life, has been a major highlight for all three Action Teamers. They have bonded with their community and youth group by taking the time to stumble, less so now, through conversations. “You go out for a meal in England and everyone’s on their phones,” says Rachel. “We go out here and spend four hours chatting, even with the language barrier.”

Clare, Clem and Rachel have gained a new understanding of mission’s many definitions. While Matera, Italy may not seem like a place that would need outreach, there is still much to be done.

Please keep all of the Action Teams in your prayers as they continue ministering to their communities and touching lives around the world. 

Interested in doing a Christian gap year overseas? Check out the Action Teams webpages and apply!

This article first appeared on the website of BMS World Mission and is used with permission

Vickey Casey, 26/02/2014
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