The flourishing Evangelical Brethren Church in the town of Citta’ di Castello, with around 100 active members, was ready to branch out. So when TEAM missionaries George and Kim Aguirre arrived there with the goal of planting a church, they looked to the town of Umbertide, located about 20 minutes away.
“We were happy for what was happening here in Citta’ di Castello and for the opportunity to grow in the Lord here,” said Giorgio Biagini, an elder at the Citta’ di Castello church. “But for a long time, we had wanted to reach out to the city of Umbertide.”
George and Kim soon discovered that the Umbertide area was resistant to the Gospel due to its historical communist ideology. Groups of believers have come and gone from Umbertide over the years, but there was no organized church in the town.
However, a strong group of Citta’ di Castello believers had maintained relationships with people in Umbertide, and they felt confident about establishing a ministry there. So, in 2005, the Citta’ di Castello church helped pay for a meeting hall in Umbertide, and George and Kim stepped out in faith.
The Citta’ di Castello church offered their support by helping with preaching and organizing outreaches in Umbertide. The partnership between the Umbertide church and the Citta’ di Castello church was harmonious, and the close working relationship continues to this day. “We encourage and console one another,” said George. “We attend each other’s outreaches and learn from each other.”
George and Kim’s perseverance was evident as the church started to add members. Missionaries from all over the world come to study Italian in the region, and some joined the fledgling church. A couple from DMG, a German mission agency, began working with the Aguirres. Thomas and Rebecca Krockertsothen work under TEAM leaders who provide member care, fellowship, strategy, and planning. Thomas regularly plays basketball with Umbertide men and sees it as a good way to share the Gospel, while Rebecca works with the church kids’ programs.
The church is ministering to families such as Francisco and Teresa Loor and their children. Teresa attended the women’s meetings and was readily responding to God’s word. But Francisco was not happy with the family leaving their Catholic faith, and they did not attend church regularly. Kim maintained casual contact by visiting the family at home. “She felt very confused,” said Kim. “She struggled because she knew the right thing to do but didn’t want to go against her husband.” Teresa grew in her faith, even through criticism from family members and marriage struggles. Francisco’s change of heart came after a family health crisis, due in great part to Teresa’s strong Christian witness.
Francisco and Teresa are now walking with the Lord together. “God is truly leading this couple,” said George. Teresa is memorizing scripture, and Francisco asked George to do a Bible study with him. “Jesus is the light, and he takes me out of the darkness,” said Francisco. “You should try Jesus because you have no idea what it is like to walk into your home and find everybody happy!”
It’s people like Teresa and Francisco that are adding to the firm foundation of the Umbertide church, which has 15 core members. They hold weekly meetings, Bible studies, and fellowship dinners. They have moved into a larger location and feel that God is blessing their outreach events, English clubs, and other programs. They feel God’s presence as they work, thankful for the full support from the Evangelical Brethren church in Citta’ di Castello.
“We need to have a spirit of hope in all that is done in Umbertide,” said Citta’ di Castello church elder Giorgio. “We can see that people are opening the door to let their children participate and hear the Gospel, so we have hope that God will make a way even in this closed generation. The future is in the hands of the Lord!”
-Written by Lisa H. Renninger
-Photography by Robert Johnson
[Originally published in TEAMHorizons, March 2012]Download This Issue of TEAMHorizons