Open Table Open Doors: Grassroots Ministry in Rome
For many missionaries, the global pandemic brought a range of new challenges in how to serve their communities. As the coronavirus was raging and opportunities to connect with people were becoming more difficult, several missionaries in Italy called out to God for wisdom in reaching out to migrant families in their neighborhood. “As we asked God what we were to do during COVID,” said Jesse, a GEM missionary, “we found that a very practical need for the families that attend our migrant community center was groceries.”
Desiring to keep this endeavor local and community-oriented, the volunteers raised over $1,500 from missionaries and Italian Christians. They hoped to provide one or two weeks’ worth of groceries to the families they were serving. But they didn’t want to simply buy groceries from the supermarket down the road, they wanted to purchase food from local vendors to pour money back into the community. They reached out to a migrant vendor nearby to purchase the groceries and never would have guessed what happened next. Seeing their desire to help the community, the vendor sold the groceries at wholesale price. This generous gift allowed Jesse and the volunteers to double the amount of groceries they could provide the families. They were able to provide groceries not once, not twice, but four times with the money they raised.
Through the service the volunteers provided by giving groceries and visiting migrants’ homes, relationships were deepened and opportunities to share about Jesus arose. Nearly every time they delivered food, families would offer a meal. This extension of hospitality showed the deepening of trust and friendship. In one home they visited, the mother was experiencing health issues that were causing her great distress. On their fourth visit to her home, her son told Jesse that his grandmother in Bangladesh had passed away and his mother had been in tears for days, unable to eat or sleep. Jesse was able to comfort her in her loss and help provide her explanation of the doctors notes regarding her health issue. When he offered to pray for the family, the woman’s young boy said, “We pray, but Allah doesn’t hear us.” Seeing the opportunity to give this child hope, Jesse shared about his faith in God that Jesus does hear our prayers. The missionaries and volunteers at the migrant center continue to pray for and visit this family.
Throughout this story, there are many echoes of the life of Jesus. Just as Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish for a needy crowd, Jesse and his friends walked in faith that God would provide for the migrant families and the food gifts were doubled. By providing practical needs for immigrants and refugees, doors were opened into families’ homes they otherwise would never have been able to enter. In the Gospels, Jesus was constantly dining with people. Most of the stories we read of him were on his way to someone’s home, dining around a table with strangers, or on his way from someone’s home. An integral part of his ministry was being hosted in others’ homes and serving them through his presence. By meeting a practical need and offering friendship through the form of food, Jesse and his team were able to embody Christ to a community in need and multiply their impact twofold.
About the authors:
Grant and Naomi are storytellers with Greater Europe Mission and serve in Birmingham, England. Check out grantandnaomi.com to learn more.