I have just returned from a New Wine ministry trip to Italy. This was my third trip to a country that I would never have imagined was a likely candidate for a New Wine network.
his week I met a man called ‘Miracle’. What a great name! He is a young man of about twenty and he lives in a refugee camp in central Italy. He came to our conference along with a number of others from the camp or who were immigrants into the country. They had left loved ones behind thousands of miles away; they in some cases had been through hugely traumatic events and yet their hunger for God and their joy in his presence is massively inspiring and challenging.
I can only imagine what is like to have left my continent for another on a boat that was probably not seaworthy. To know that hundreds if not thousands do not complete the journey safely but perish on the way. I dread to think how I would feel separated from loved ones and with no idea of what the future holds for me. And yet there was so much joy in our meetings. Each meeting seemed larger than the previous one and the message seemed to spread that God was among us.
By the Tuesday evening I was worshipping out on the street with others for there was no more room in the admittedly small church building. Shoulder to shoulder, Italians and people from Ecuador, The Netherlands, Morocco, Nigeria, UK and elsewhere worshipped the Living God. As I stood on the street and saw passers-by stop and stare and wonder what on earth was going on, I realised again that I need to judge not by what the natural eye sees but from God’s perspective. It is so easy to give up because we cannot see the fruit. To be dismissive and despise small beginnings. But God had opened the way for these trips and now I began to glimpse his plans. The enemy is wreaking havoc and people are fleeing for their lives but here I was seeing God gather them along with others that are hungry and broken and lost.
Here he was saying to the faithful workers in the harvest field, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Gal 6:9). One woman from North Africa told us of her story of sleeping rough on the streets. She had been spotted by Christians fed and given a bed to sleep in. This week was her very first in church. In response to a word of knowledge, we prayed for her impaired eyesight and she says that not only is she healed but that Jesus is now her Saviour!
When the Holy Spirit comes in power, every dividing wall breaks down; new relationships are formed across language barriers and every kind of cultural difference. When we proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom of God, signs and wonders accompany us. Surely it is the presence of God that enables a man called Miracle and others like him to overcome tragedy and trial and to triumph in Christ! Mark