Sitting down with a small circle of friends and family for Thanksgiving dinner with all of the fixings is an important American tradition. But imagine what it would be like to prepare turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie for 100 people a night, three nights in a row.
That’s just what TEAM missionaries Steve and Cindy Thompson, Andy and Linda Brucato, and Linda Ambrus do each year in the cosmopolitan city of Bologna, Italy. “People know about Thanksgiving because they’ve seen it on TV and in movies,” said Steve. “They come because they are curious about this American tradition.”
The dinners are a chance to build friendships and talk about Jesus in a non-threatening way. Around the table, people are asked to share something they are thankful to God for in their lives. This simple act seems to touch something inside people and has generated heartfelt moments. “The theme of being thankful is a beautiful introduction to the Gospel,” said Steve.
The Thanksgiving meal is just one of the outreaches organized by Joint Venture, a partnership started around ten years ago by Bologna missionaries from TEAM, Youth for Christ, and Cru (formerly know as Campus Crusade for Christ). At that time, TEAM missionaries Andy and Linda Brucato saw the potential for conflict between Bologna missionaries. There are about half-million people in the surrounding province living in about 60 cities, but almost none of these cities have churches. Realizing that the agencies shared a common desire to reach the area with the Gospel, the Brucatos proposed forming Joint Venture so the missionaries could coordinate their efforts. The agencies carry on with their own ministries while also working together on outreach events. “This partnership means we have more momentum and can do bigger events,” said Steve. “As a result, we are seeing a lot more collaboration among other Italian churches throughout the year.”
Andy and Linda Brucato also partner with other ministry groups. Linda serves on the board of Youth For Christ-Italy, where she coaches the staff and speaks at women’s conferences around Italy. Andy has started a prison outreach ministry at Dozza, a maximum-security prison. There are currently eleven prisoners doing correspondence Bible studies. “It has been awesome to see their lives being changed, and to see them already sharing the Gospel with others,” said Andy. Vite Trasformate (Lives Transformed) is another ministry where Andy and Linda are forming partnerships with local organizations to reach out to mostly Eastern European and African women involved in prostitution. Linda is coaching the ministry team, which includes the Brucatos’ son Mark and his wife Ruth plus a young Italian woman named Priscilla. Mark, Ruth, and Priscilla go out on the streets at night, talking to the women. “We want to show them the Lord’s compassion,” said Linda.
Outreaches like this are possible because TEAM missionaries join forces with other missionary agencies and local groups. By working together, God is reaching the people of Italy.
-Written by Lisa H. Renninger
-Photography by Robert Johnson
[Originally published in TEAMHorizons, March 2012]Download This Issue of TEAMHorizons