This last Saturday, I was given the privilege of speaking at a missions camp just outside of Vittoria, Italy. They gave me two 45-minute sessions, one for a Biblical teaching, and another to introduce our ministry work. There were about 50 or 60 people in attendance, mostly younger people from around Europe, including Italy, France, Germany, and Sweden. We even had the great opportunity to meet some people from Pakistan who are doing great work here in Europe.
I thought that it would be a good idea to write down the main points that I spoke about and post them for future reference.
On Thursday morning, our family drove down to Vittoria, in the southern part of Sicily, where we found Camp Bethel. It is a nice camp with great facilities, including bunk houses, bathrooms and showers, kitchen, meeting space, pools, a small soccer field, and a nice open grassy area for various activities. The camp was full, so we took three tents with us to accommodate the six people in our family and made our first camping trip in Italy. It was at the end of July, and it has been hot, so I was expecting to be sweating while sleeping, but the weather turned out to be great at night. The only rain that we had to worry about was with the camp’s sprinkler system and the heat abated in the evening, making the sleeping comfortable.
As we entered the camp on Thursday morning, the participants were starting their first time of praise and worship for the day. Walking into the session, I began to think more about what I would say to the group on Saturday morning and sensed that I should share the idea of working alongside, and partnering with, people that don’t really look like, sound like, or think like “us”. When I say “us”, I was thinking about the generally-white Europeans, along with “us”, the one American family in the room. Instead, I had a vision in my mind of a mission camp meeting like this in the future that was full of Africans, Far-Easterners, Middle-Easterners, and others sitting alongside Europeans and Americans, truly representing the populations that we were wanting to see become part of the expression of the Kingdom of God here in Italy.
As I sat down, I began to think of Romans 16 and the greetings that Paul gives to the church in Rome. As I opened it, I read the first few verses and greetings:
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. 2 I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me.
3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. 4 They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.
5 Greet also the church that meets at their house.
Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia.
6 Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you.
7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me.They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.
8 Greet Ampliatus, my dear friend in the Lord.
9 Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys.
10 Greet Apelles, whose fidelity to Christ has stood the test.
Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus.
11 Greet Herodion, my fellow Jew.
Greet those in the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord.
12 Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord.
Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord.
13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.
14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the other brothers and sisters with them.
15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the Lord’s people who are with them.
16 Greet one another with a holy kiss.
All the churches of Christ send greetings.
As I read this, I began to realize that these people that Paul was greeting were some of the same people that I had been reading about in the book of Acts. Through his missionary journeys, Paul had gone throughout the areas of Galatia, through Asia, into Corinth and Athens and had sowed seeds of the Gospel, made disciples, and left behind churches.
Now, in this last chapter of Romans, we see that several of these people that he was working with in those areas have, for some reason, moved on to Rome. They have become disciples and are now workers in the church, or possibly churches, in Rome.
Sitting there in the first session, I was thinking of how great of a legacy and testimony that this represents! These are workers in the Kingdom of God that have come from being non-believers to not only believing, but who themselves are becoming fruitful by making disciples, even going on to live and work separately from Paul. Paul discipled and trained them well enough to become workers within the Kingdom themselves.
I can’t imagine that we will ever do it as well as the Apostle Paul, but I certainly do believe that this is the fruit that we hope to see from our work. We want to start to pray now for our spiritual children who will become workers like those that Paul is greeting here. Even more, as we will see what Jesus taught us to do, we want to pray and work to see spiritual grandchildren so that the work of making disciples of Jesus will continue generation after generation. Like those that Paul is greeting here, I believe that this is a vision of the future impact of our work and the legacy that we can leave behind.