An American Pastor in Italy: From Santee to Milan for the Brown family

Brown-Ferrari-cWe want the gospel to be proclaimed to all nations, we pray for our missionaries, and we write out generous checks for mission endeavors. But how many of us would be willing to give up our comfortable homes and familiar communities to live and work in a foreign country among people who speak a different language?

The decision to serve as missionaries for Reformation Italy, beginning in June of 2018, was extremely difficult for Pastor Mike Brown and his wife, Janie. God’s will became increasingly clear through many circumstances and people over the last two years, but what finalized their conviction were unanticipated questions posed this past summer by their 11-year-old son, Iain.

In Pastor Brown’s letter to the Christ URC congregation he currently serves in Santee, CA, he related his conversation with Iain while they visited Italy’s far south.

‘Dad, who will be the pastor for the people here in Cannole?’ I carefully replied, ‘Well, we hope that God will send Vincenzo [a student at WSC] after he graduates seminary. But we need to pray about that.’ ‘Who will be the pastor in Perugia?’ ‘Well…We don’t know yet. We need to pray.’ ‘Don’t the people want Pastor Ferrari there?’ ‘Well, yes, the people are very happy with Pastor Ferrari, but…we need to pray.’ ‘If Pastor Ferrari goes to Perugia, who will be the pastor for the people in Milan?’ ‘Son, we just need to pray that God will supply a pastor, so that all the churches here can grow, OK?’ ‘Dad, I think we should pray and ask God to send you here. You could help them.’ I smiled and said something like, ‘Well, we’ll see.’ I went into the bathroom, closed the door, got down on my knees to pray, and cried.

That may have been a turning point for Pastor Brown, but Rev. Andrea Ferrari had hoped his friend would join him in the work of Reformation Italy ever since Rev. Brown had assisted him during the summer of 2015. When the Browns returned for the summer months of 2017, Rev. Brown filled the pulpit in Milan, while Rev. Ferrari pastored a small group in Perugia. This period of ministry convinced both men that Rev. Ferrari was a good fit for the work in Perugia and Rev. Brown could serve well in Milan.

Having both arrived at the same conviction, they worked up a proposal suggesting this division of labor as Reformation Italy goes forward toward its goal of establishing a Reformed federation in Italy. The Christ URC consistory discussed the proposal and then sought counsel at the September meeting of Classis Southwest US.

“The delegates were very supportive of the proposal,” Rev. Brown said. “They have been familiar with CURC’s mission to Italy since 2009.”

The elders at Christ URC also sought the advice of the URCNA Missions Committee. Missions Coordinator Rev. Richard Bout and Rev. Paul Murphy traveled to Italy and recommended the plan to Christ URC’s consistory. The Milan and Perugia groups each voted unanimously in favor of the proposed pastors serving them.

Christ URC’s elders additionally conversed at length with the elders in Milan, a new elder in Perugia, and Pastor Ivan Forte in Turin. Revs. Ferarri and Brown had worked with Pastor Forte during the summer, helping prepare him for a ministerial examination.

Because Rev. Brown has traveled to Italy several times since 2009 and has studied Italian intensely in recent years, he is proficient enough to preach without a translator.

Christ URC’s council voted unanimously for the proposal at its October meeting. Churches within Classis Southwest US have expressed support, and the plan is scheduled for implementation in June of 2018.

Rev. Ferrari explained that Rev. Brown can immediately and effectively serve people who already know him within the established and organized church in Milan, a multicultural city similar to San Diego. “When Rev. Brown arrives, he will be able to concentrate at once and without any distraction on his pastoral responsibilities and refining his knowledge of the language/culture.” He added, “On the other hand, I have been visiting Perugia regularly in the last three years, knowing the people and the place so that it is much easier for me to labor there as a church planting pastor.”

Perugia is a university city and has a population of about 175,000 people, with a culture is very different from Milan, according to Ferrari.

“Because of the load of work and need for wisdom from more people,” Rev. Ferrari said, “we think that more than one consistory in the US should be involved in the work in Italy and also that the Missions Committee itself should determine a plan to be more present on the field to assist and encourage Rev. Brown and myself, helping us to form a class of mature elders and deacons in the churches.” Ordaining office-bearers in Turin and Perugia will permit the churches to begin holding Classis meetings, the first step toward organizing Chiese Riformate in Italia (CRI, Reformed Churches in Italy).

The Browns plan to sell their house and apply for a religious visa through the Italian consulate. Iain is preparing for the move by going to a private tutor and doing daily homework in Italian. The family hopes to commit to the mission for at least five years. Rev. Brown anticipates raising financial support from URCNA churches and private donors.

“Janie and I are confident that just as the Lord supplied our family’s needs while I was in seminary, he will provide for our family again,” he said.

Pastor Brown graduated from Westminster Seminary California in 2004, but began teaching a Bible study in Santee a year earlier under the oversight of the Escondido URC consistory. The congregation became an organized church in September of 2006 and Rev. Brown was installed in January of 2007. He and Janie love their church and have rejoiced to see God’s amazing work in it.

“He has established CURC as a congregation that has remained hungry for the gospel and willing to love one another,” Pastor Brown said. “He has marked this church with peace rather than controversy, and service rather than selfishness. On top of that, God has used CURC to produce several pastors and missionaries that are now serving the church in different parts of the world. He has done far more abundantly than we ever thought or imagined.”

The church has been involved with mission work in Italy since early in its organization, when they began supporting a ministry that published Reformed literature. Christ URC member, Simonetta Carr, translated projects for the editor, Rev. Andrea Ferrari, who pastored a Reformed Baptist church.

As Rev. Ferrari became more familiar with the Reformed faith, he and his congregation sought affiliation with more confessionally Reformed churches. Rev. Ferrari sustained a colloquium doctum in Classis Southwest US, and Christ URC ordained him as a missionary pastor to establish a Reformed federation of churches in Italy. He subsequently has preached primarily in Milan’s Chiesa Evangelica Filadelfia, but Reformed believers from other areas have been in contact with him after discovering the Milan church’s website.

The group in Perugia, about four hours south of Milan, has prayed for a pastor for years. For the last two years, they have gathered in front of a computer to worship with the church in Milan via Skype. About every eight weeks, Rev. Ferrari administers the Lord’s Supper and provides pastoral care. The congregation loves Rev. Ferrari and his wife, Christina, and looks forward to their arrival in June.

Another group in Turin, about 80 miles west of Milan, is led by Rev. Forte. Pastor Ferrari travels to Turin monthly to instruct church members in the Three Forms of Unity and the URCNA Church Order.

Rev. Ferrari explained that there is contact with a handful of Reformed believers in a part of the Italian “heel” with few Protestant and evangelical churches. The hope is for God to raise up Reformed pastors to minister to these groups and eventually form a federation.

Two Italian brothers are attending seminaries in the US. Vincenzo Coluccia, a member of the Turin church, left a position as an engineer and is in his second year at Westminster Seminary California. Ottavio Palombaro, from Perugia, is a student at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids and attends Cornerstone URC in Hudsonville, MI.

As the URCNA Missions Committee sought counsel on establishing a Reformed federation in Italy, they were consistently advised to seek an experienced minister to come alongside Rev. Ferrari. Rev. Brown has 14 years of pastoral experience. He chaired the URCNA study committee on missions, helped write mission policies for the URCNA, and served as Chairman of the URCNA Missions Committee, on which he still serves.

Rev. Brown originally resisted the idea of becoming a full-time missionary and was reluctant to leave his home and church. “Janie and I were willing to go wherever God called us, but we quietly hoped that he would send someone else.”

He thought his 2017 trip to Italy might be his last. “This arrangement did not seem sustainable for CURC or for me personally. We agreed to go to Milan for three months because we believed it was necessary for the starving group in Perugia.” But then God used Iain’s words to convince him otherwise.

For more information on the work in Italy, see Reformation Italy’s updated website at www.reformationitaly.org.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 8 & 9 of the January 19, 2018, issue of Christian Renewal

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Church plant takes root in Romania

 

benediction-croppedIn 2013, Christ United Reformed Church in Santee, CA, welcomed Mihai and Lidia Corcea, a young couple who had traveled from Romania for Mihai to study at Westminster Seminary California. During 2016, Mihai graduated on May 28, sustained his candidacy exam by Classis SWUS on July 19, and was ordained on July 24. The couple returned to Bucharest on July 25, where they began a church plant.

“It has been a tremendous blessing to see how the Lord has answered our prayers for Mihai and Lidia,” Rev. Michael Brown says. “I met Mihai years ago, when he and another member of the core group in Bucharest, Claudiu Stefu, travelled to Milan for its Reformation conference. He told me about the desperate need in Romania for solid churches to be planted. He explained that, besides a few Hungarian-speaking churches, there is no Reformed presence in Romania, nothing to reach the Romanian-speaking population. I was impressed with Mihai’s passion about bringing the gospel to his native country and planting confessional churches. It was obvious that he had given much thought about how to do in Romania what Rev. Ferrari was doing in Italy. We discussed the challenges and obstacles to planting a Reformed church in Bucharest. At the time, it seemed almost impossible, little more than a dream.”

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L-R: Elder Dan Palmer, Elder Dr. Ryan Glomsrud, Rev. Mihai Corcea and his wife Lidia, Rev. Michael Brown, Elder Dan Plotner, and Elder Jonathan Taylor

He adds, “But of course, with God all things are possible. Within a couple of years, Mihai and Lidia left their jobs and home in their native country and made the long journey to California.” Mihai began his seminary studies, and the couple attended Christ URC, where they warmly bonded with their church family.

Mihai served a year-long internship at Christ URC, attending consistory and council meetings, teaching catechism classes to youth, and going on home visits with the elders. He also led worship and exhorted at least once per month.

“We were pleased with his maturity, humility, and wisdom,” Rev Brown says. “We had the joy of watching Mihai and Lidia grow in their faith as well as their love for Christ’s church.”
ordination-3-cRev. Brown says Mihai did “an exceptional job” on his candidacy exam, “which is especially remarkable when you consider that he did this in a second language.”

At Mihai’s ordination service on July 24, Rev. Brown preached from Ephesians 4:1-16 and gave the charges to the pastor and congregation. Rev. Corcea pronounced the benediction. He is now a Missionary Pastor, called to make disciples in Romania by planting a church in Bucharest and evangelizing the lost.

“I think the best way I can describe the church that we hope to establish in Bucharest is by the three parts of the Heidelberg Catechism,” Rev. Corcea says. “Our church plant should be a people gathering in a place where they understand their sin and misery, they receive the knowledge of God’s merciful salvation through the gospel, and they start living more and more according to all the commandments of God out of thankfulness for God’s grace.”

exterior-cThe Evangelical Reformed Church in Bucharest (Biserica Evanghelica Reformata din Bucuresti) began meeting in a rented building in downtown Bucharest. It is about three minutes walking distance from a subway station and two blocks from the city’s largest park.

“We chose this location because it is easily accessible to anyone by car or subway,” he says. “We are also very close to the financial district where most young professionals work.”

A few local Reformed Christians, who had became members of Chiesa Riformata Filadelfia (Rev. Ferrari’s work in Milan) four years ago, now attend services at 10 AM and 6 PM. Church members are inviting friends and family to worship, and the group utilizes social media, such as Facebook, and have a website, where they post video recordings of the sermons.

Although Milan is a two-hour flight away, the two church plants encourage each other. The consistory of Christ URC supervises both groups by maintaining regular contact with the pastors, encouraging them, and helping raise funds for support. Each church planter reports via Skype at Christ URC’s month consistory meetings and communicates weekly via email. The hope is for Rev. Brown and an elder to visit Bucharest in conjunction with their annual visit to Milan.

“We believe that an annual visit to our missionaries from a member of our consistory is an important component of effective oversight,” Rev. Brown says, “as it helps us to encourage them on the field and maintain our fellowship with them.”

interior-1-cAlthough a Reformed presence previously existed in Romania, the last Romanian Reformed church disappeared in the 19th century. Today 97% percent of Bucharest’s two million people are Eastern Orthodox.

While Mihai was growing up, his family left Eastern Orthodoxy to become Baptists. But he experienced a great deal of religious confusion as a young person. The Bible began to make sense for him when he started reading Reformed literature. His stint at Westminster and time at Christ URC have shaped the way he envisions the Reformed church in Bucharest.

“Spending three years in an URC church in California has helped me understand more that church is not an add-on to our ‘relationship with Jesus,’ but the main way through which God has promised to bless us. As I preach every Sunday and I look at the covenant children present in our church plant, I am reminded of God’s grace to them that they have the opportunity to grow up in a church where they are catechized according to the truth of the gospel. I rejoice in the fact that, Lord willing, they will not have to go through the same confusion and pain of not having a healthy church close to them.”

In addition to the work involved with planting a church, the Corceas plan to begin publishing Reformed literature that they have translated over the last three years. He says, “We hope that by this small Reformed publishing house, we will be able to raise awareness of the Reformed church and the Reformed doctrine and practice.”

The Corceas appreciate the financial support they received during Mihai’s seminary years, saying they are “greatly thankful” for the “love and generosity” of individuals and churches.

Rev. Brown explains that the Romanian mission work is funded by URCNA congregations who wish to participate in “this exciting opportunity to make disciples in Romania and establish a confessional and Reformed denomination in that country.” He adds, “We encourage all churches in the URCNA to consider supporting this mission, helping us to shoulder the burden of this worthy labor for Christ and his gospel.”

The above is a slightly edited version of an article by Glenda Mathes that appeared on pages 18 & 19 of the September 21, 2016, issues of Christian Renewal.

Yi Wang: Chinese architect for Italian Reformation

03Yi Wang (pronounced Ee Wan) was born in northeast China in 1989. He says, “I know it was a sensitive year, but I didn’t have a choice.”

As Yi grew up, he developed an atheistic and evolutionary worldview. But while attending college to become an architect, Yi’s mind often filled with important questions about life and the basis for making decisions. A growing confusion and frustration—combined with disillusionment—drove him to leave his country, his previous life, and his college to find answers.

“The turning point was a student union campaign in the second year of college,” he says. “I was asked to quit the competition because someone had already been internally nominated to that position. I was called a ‘white boy,’ which means that I had neither strong family background (my parents are just normal people, not officials or wealthy) nor did I bribe. So they erased my name from the candidate list. It was my early exposure to the reality of the sinfulness and corruption of humanity.”

Despite his parents’ objections, he decided to continue his education in Italy. The country held so special significance for him; he chose it based simply on the low tuition fees at his prospective school. It was the first step of a journey he now views as an exodus.

In God’s providence, Yi met a Chinese student (who was a Christian) on his flight to Rome, and the two shared an apartment in Turin for a year. Curious about his friend’s beliefs, Yi began to read the Bible. He discovered it far different from what he had expected.

“I thought the Bible would be full of fables and proverbs teaching some sort of universal moral principles. But when I read it, I found narratives and histories and historical figures repeated again and again.” Surprised by the repetition of events when he read the gospels, he asked his friend, “Is the Bible misprinted?”

For months, Yi sought answers to his many questions. He finally became able to defend the reliability of Scripture’s message, however, a proud and stubborn heart kept him from confessing Christ. “But God pushed me to confront the truth that I had been suppressing,” he says. “Eventually, he worked out faith in me.”

partyMeanwhile, Yi had met and married Huimin. He shared what he had studied about Christianity and his struggle to believe. The two came to faith together and were baptized in an Italian Baptist church before moving to Milan to continue their studies.

Yi’s study of Scripture led him to believe in a Supreme Being controlling everything. He gave up the concept of personal autonomy and recognized the reality of human and personal sin.

“Sometimes, we tend to put the blame on others, mostly the government. Everything would be better if we only had another government,” he says. “But the truth is it wouldn’t be. My country is a mess, and so is Europe, and if you allow me, so is America. The issue is not which system we rely on, but the sinful nature of humanity, which we have to face seriously. That is to say, it is not only the sins in others, but in myself. I am in the same category. I am a sinner. This is the reality that is so undeniably plain, yet so painful to confess. In this agony, I was reborn into Christ. The sovereignty of God was the first blood drop in my newly regenerated vessels, followed by others like total depravity, predestination, and election.”

Yi came to an understanding of the faith he terms “primitive Reformed,” which conflicted with teachings in his non-reformed evangelical church.

“Talking about humanity’s depravity and helplessness stirred so much hatred among self-called Christians who were still keen on exalting the sinner’s fallen will and autonomy,” he explains. “That is where I came from! They appealed to what I tried to get rid of.”

He continued to learn biblical truth from a Reformed perspective. Every time a teaching challenged him, he turned to Scripture for answers, determined to discover whether it was true or not. Sometimes he also searched the Internet to compare views on certain issues.

“I learned about the historical confessional faith,” he relates. “Reformed theology is not only about five points, but a complete doctrinal mansion that accommodates numerous treasures, such as covenant theology, redemptive history, law and gospel, Reformed ecclesiology, eschatology, view of sacraments and so on.”

After two years, Yi realized he could no longer remain in his church and decided to embark on another step of his exodus. With no expectations, he searched online for a Reformed church and was surprised to find the Chiesa Riformata Filadelfia and Rev. Ferrari.

“You can’t imagine how excited I was when I realized that the only confessional Reformed church in the entire country is in the Milan area,” Yi says. “For the following two years, every Sunday, we took an hour subway to go to that church.”

wallIn the summer of 2015, Yi took a huge step of faith on his exodus. He gave up his architectural dream and came to America to study at Westminster Seminary in California. He hopes to return to Italy to help plant Reformed churches and form a Reformed denomination, but he is also passionate about establishing Christian schools.

Because Italian is such a difficult language to learn, Yi believes training Italians to speak English and establish churches makes more sense than English-speaking missionaries attempting to learn Italian in order to plant churches. And due to Italy’s requirement that all children attend school, he desires to work toward offering parents a Christian school option.

“If we plant churches and establish Christian schools side by side (I hope more than one), that provide classical high-level education, combined with strong Reformed biblical teaching by faithful teachers, plus high-quality English language training to prepare the young men for further study and work, we could expect a truly sustainable Reformation in Italy.”

Yi explains the primary reason why he gave up a potentially lucrative career as an architect to prepare for ministry. “It is very simple,” he says. “Buildings cannot save, but the Word can.”

Pondering Paul’s comparison of himself to a skilled master builder in 1 Corinthians 3, Yi sees similarities between architecture and pastoral ministry. Both are fascinating arts that reach beyond time. “Just like the Art Deco in architecture, the outer ornament of ministry or personal spirituality can be very appealing to people,” he says. “On the other hand, wise ‘architects’ build a sustainable ministry where the people of God will be fed with gospel by the ministry of word and sacraments week after week, the members will be looked after with loving pastoral care and church discipline, and parents will teach their children faith at home. This sort of ministry may seem boring and rigid, even foolish in the world’s eyes, but it rests on Christ. And beauty will flow from the ordinary means of divine grace.”

He concludes, “The need for architects to design skyscrapers is nothing compared to the urgent need for skilled and faithful architects to work in the ministry of Christ’s spiritual church. His Holy Church is the greatest Architecture in the whole universe, of which Christ alone is the Architect.”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 15 & 17 of the September 16, 2005, issue of Christian Renewal.

New exhorter for Reformation Italy

Mark Patterson answering questions put to him by Rev. Andrea Ferrari
Mark Patterson answering questions put to him by Rev. Andrea Ferrari

On May 16, 2013, Chiesa Riformata Filadelfia church leaders examined Mark Patterson for his license to exhort. Having successfully sustained his exam, Patterson exhorted on May 19.

Rev. Andrea Ferrari relates that Mark and Sonia Patterson and their 12-year-old son, Daniel, began attending Chiesa Riformata Filadelfia in Milan about a year and half ago. Both Mark and Sonia graduated in 1998 from the Evangelical Theological College of Wales at Bryntirion in Bridgend, South Wales. Mark subsequently pastored a Calvinistic, Baptist church in Cambridgeshire, England, for about six years. The family moved to Italy in 2005, but Mark was discouraged by his experience with Italian evangelicalism.

“I understand that Mark began to gather information about our church in 2010/2011 and I received a letter from him in January 2012,” says Rev. Ferrari. “Our first conversations focused on the spiritual condition of Italy as well as covenantal theology and Reformed ecclesiology. We had a few meetings and then I met his family. I told Mark and Sonia that in order to be part of our church family they had to embrace our confessional documents and follow the procedure explained in our Church Order.”

Rev. Ferrari adds that Mark was raised in the Presbyterian church in Northern Ireland, where “he had as his mentor the late William Still of Aberdeen, who was used of God to encourage a number of pastors both in the UK and US.”

This background helped Mark assimilate the finer points of covenantal theology, but he also sought counsel from Reformed leaders. “As we were in the process of considering Reformed ecclesiology, Mark wrote to some prominent ministers in the UK he knew to ask for advice: Sinclair Ferguson, Edward Donnelly, Ian Hamilton and others.”

The Pattersons became members of the Milan church and fit well in the life of the congregation. The consistory began discussing ways to utilize Mark’s gifts and experience for the benefit of the church.

“In October 2012, Rev. Michael Brown visited us for Reformation Day and we asked for his advice,” says Rev. Ferrari. “We decided together that the best way to go was the licensure exam following the directives of the Church Order.”

The hope is that Patterson will exhort two times per month beginning in September, once in Italian and once in English. Rev. Ferrari explains that the English exhortation will be for the sake of English speaking visitors as well as providing an “international flavor” to the church in the multiethnic city of Milan.

“We do not know what the future has in store for Mark and for us,” he adds, “but thus far we are much encouraged by the fact that the Pattersons decided to join our church because of its faithfulness to the Reformation.”

The Milan church continues to grow, having welcomed four new members via public professions of faith on Sunday, June 9, 2013.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on page 13 of the July 10, 2013, issue of Christian Renewal.

A Romanian seminarian in need

Lidia and Mihai CorceaRev. Andrea Ferrari and his church in Milan, Italy, are working with believers in Bucharest, Romania, who long to establish a Reformed church. One young Romanian couple, Mihai and Lidia Corcea, plan to move to the United States this summer so that Mihai may study at Westminster Seminary California (WSC).

Mihai has been accepted to WSC and it is hoped that grants and donations will cover his tuition costs. In order to secure a student visa from the US government, however, he must show that he will have $32,000 of annual support for living expenses. One church has already committed to more than a third of that annual expense, but the remainder still needs to be raised.

“Christ United Reformed Church in Santee, CA, will provide Mihai with $12,000 a year during his studies as an M.Div. student,” reports Rev. Michael Brown. “This, however, is not sufficient to cover the cost of living for Mihai and his wife. They will need more than this to survive during his three years of study.”

Rev. Brown relates that he had the privilege of spending a few days last October with Mihai in Milan. “Mihai is an exceptionally bright young man deeply devoted to the Reformed faith. He leads a core group of young Romanian Reformed believers in a weekly Bible study. He is also a gifted translator, who has translated a sizable amount of Reformed material from English into the Romanian language.”

Mihai was raised in a family that left Eastern Orthodoxy to become Baptists. During his teen years and early adulthood, he was confused about church history and Christian doctrine. He began reading Calvinistic books and started to understand Reformed doctrines regarding salvation and the church.

“Six years ago I visited a Reformed congregation in the Netherlands and spent one week with a Dutch Reformed family,” he writes. “I found their theology, piety and practice to be quite different from my Arminian/Fundamentalist background. Throughout the years that followed, the memory of the Dutch Reformed I have met remained a reference point with regard to how I envisioned that a church should be.”

Although the Reformation spread in the sixteenth century to Eastern Europe, including Transylvania, which is now part of Romania, Reformed Romanians were gradually rejected by many communities that had been assimilated by Hungarians during political and ethnic conflicts.

ferrari-mihai-claudia-brown
Rev. Andrea Ferrari, Mihai Corcea and Claudiu Stefu, both Reformed believers from Romania, and Rev. Michael Brown

According to Mihai, the last Romanian Reformed church disappeared during the 19th century. Today 97% of Bucharest’s two million people identify themselves as Eastern Orthodox. After translating and publishing Reformed articles online, Mihai came into contact with other Reformed believers and their core group was formed. Mihai was encouraged to attend seminary after these believers became members of Rev. Ferrari’s Milan congregation, Chiesa Riformata Filadelfia, in July of 2012.

“We wish to establish a confessional Reformed church in Bucharest that can be a sound Protestant alternative to the Eastern Orthodox or Evangelical communities,” writes Mihai. “Our greatest dream is that our children will not have to go through the same confusion we experienced regarding the Christian faith. We believe that having our children catechized and raised in a Reformed congregation is the greatest gift we can give them. We pray that God will use His Word and His Church to the blessing of future generations of Romanian people.”

Rev. Ferrari requests Christian Renewal readers to pray for Romania, Italy, and all of Europe. He writes, “It is important for readers to understand that Europe is a mission field!”

Churches or individuals wishing to contribute to Mihai’s support should contact Rev. Michael Brown at michaelbrown@christurc.org or Christ United Reformed Church’s treasurer, deacon Bob Gordon, at bobgordon@christurc.org.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on page 11 of the April 10, 2013, issue of Christian Renewal.

Milan church: Renovation and reformation

The meeting place of Chiesa Evangelica Riformata Filadelfia (CERF) in Milan, Italy, is undergoing a major renovation. For some time, the congregation has been meeting in a 630 square-foot former computer store. The building, surrounded by apartments and factories, is located on the northern outskirts of Milan. Many people from southern Italy moved to the area during the 60s and 70s, seeking employment.

The church’s renovation consists primarily of constructing walls to separate the building’s open space into a worship sanctuary, a fellowship area, and two classrooms. The project’s initial funding was $22,000 (US funds); Christ URC in Santee, CA, contributed about half of that while other URCNA congregations gave the other half (through donations to Christ URC for the support of the Milan church). Although the renovation is off to a good start, another $30,000 is needed to finish the project.

Construction on the area that will be the front of the sanctuary.

“Christ URC is committed to supporting Rev. Andrea Ferrari (of Milan) and the long-term work of establishing the very first Reformed denomination in Italy that confesses the Three Forms of Unity,” says Rev. Michael Brown, pastor of Christ URC, Santee, CA. “We thank God for the churches in the URCNA who are supporting this vital mission and helping us shoulder the burden of making disciples in that barren country. This is still much more work to be done, both in the building and, more importantly, in planting more churches. We pray that more churches in our federation might come alongside us and help.”

“If other funds will be raised for this purpose,” says Rev. Ferrari, “it will be a great blessing and we’ll be able to speed up the completion of the work.”

Rev. Ferrari says, “Not having an Italian federation of churches, we consider ourselves part of the URCNA, even if because of geographical and historical reasons we are distant from many of our sister churches. We sense a strong relationship with the URCNA and we try to pray constantly for the churches and for their ministries. For instance, this year our Consistory decided to collect twice every year an offering for URCNA missions (in June we sent the offering to support the Spanish ministry of Rev. Ruben Sernas). We also try to invite URCNA pastors so that we can develop a relationship with our sister churches and establish a model for a future federation in Italy.”

Dan Ventura surveys the worship place where he will exhort.

Dan Ventura, a student from Westminster Seminary in California (WSC), spent a six-week internship in Milan this summer. He exhorted 12 times, which freed some of Rev. Ferrari’s time for more study and sermon preparation.

“Dan also went with me in Romania for four days, where we are continuing to help a small group of believers to plant a Reformed church in Bucharest,” relates Rev. Ferrari. “We are seeing if it will be possible to have one young man to go to WSC and become ordained by a consistory in the URCNA.”

Rev. Ferrari often has traveled to the United States and Rev. Brown will make his fourth visit to Italy this October.

“For me personally, Andrea Ferrari is much more than a missionary our church supports, or even a colleague and Reformed minister. Over the past six years, he has become one of my closest friends,” says Rev. Brown. “When I visit the mission field, I am not only blessed with spending time in mutual encouragement with a faithful and trusted friend, but I am able to renew fellowship with one of the warmest and most loving congregations I have ever had the privilege of knowing. As anyone who has spent time with that church will tell you, the people of CERF are some of the most God-fearing and self-sacrificing Christians you will ever meet. And although I am only a quarter Italian by blood, they always make me feel as if I am 100% one of their own. For our unity runs deeper than the blood of nations, it is bonded in the blood of Christ.”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on page 11 of the August 22, 2012, issue of Christian Renewal.