Just months before leaving for the field, in 1999, Heather, Jacob and I visited Chuck Phipps who lived less than an hour's drive from Joplin where we were living. Chuck had served as a missionary for years in Italy. A kinder, wiser man is hard to meet. He gently and
warmly encouraged us and challenged us that day as we prepared to leave for Italy. Before leaving his home he handed me a worn and intricately decorated, leather-bound Italian Bible which I still have. Charles passed away in 2001 here in Italy while back visiting.
Another of the veterans was Jessie Lee Troyer who just passed away this week. We had the chance this last June to stop in and visit with Jessie Lee in her apartment in Bari (see picture at right) on our way home from a national gathering of Christian Church brothers and sisters. Always hospitable and sharp of mind to the very end, she was another one of the pillars that saw the current movement of Restoration churches off and running. She sent us off that day, the kids' tummies full of ice-cream, and our car crammed with a heavy box full of kid's Bible lessons.
Times, they are a-changing. Missionaries come and go and we're about to add our name to that list. But as I think about the news of Jessie Lee's death and the effect it has on the work in Italy, two things come to mind:
1. Thank you to all those who have gone before us, selflessly giving of themselves, pouring themselves into relationships, discipling, preaching, organizing, translating, publishing, editing, encouraging, disciplining, praying, leading and serving. We wouldn't be where we are today without you.
2. Lord, please strengthen those who continue on. Protect them, guide them and open up doors for Kingdom growth. Please take the seeds they have planted and watered and bring the Harvest. Please send more workers to the field. Raise up men and women to go and raise up churches to send and sustain them.