“Grateful” is a word that is thrown around pretty frequently in church circles—and not without reason. We Christians have an immeasurable number of reasons for which to be thankful. But for me to say “I’m grateful for your prayers” hardly seems adequate.
Because of your intercession during the weeks of our European ministry, we were able to share God’s love, deepen our understanding of the Lord’s work around the world, and encourage our brothers and sisters (and be encouraged by them). Empowered by your support, we worked. And God worked even more.
Yes, I am grateful, as are all the Castaldos!
What follows is a mini-travelogue that hits some of the highlights of our journey. In short, I preached on four occasions, delivered two plenary lectures (in Rome and London), and met with numerous pastors and church leaders in various cities. I expect to be telling you more about what happened as the weeks and months unfold. Here’s a taste:
June 23: It was a privilege and joy to participate in the theology conference at my alma mater, the London School of Theology (LST), in honor of Tony Lane (my doktorvater [supervisor]). After doing a podcast interview on my new book, The Upside Down Kingdom: Wisdom for Life from the Beatitudes (Crossway), I presented a plenary lecture that explored challenges and opportunities for gospel witness among Roman Catholic friends and loved ones.
Three days in Northwood with Tony and Maggie Lane, in which we celebrated Tony’s fifty years of teaching on faculty at LST (no small feat), were a sheer delight. Twelve years ago, when I approached Tony about doctoral research under his supervision, I knew I’d be challenged and enriched academically. I did not anticipate, however, how much I would value his friendship.
June 19: After Angela and the younger children returned to the US, I was joined by my old Moody professor, mentor, and friend, Dr. Mike McDuffee, who became my travel partner through Italy (Rome, Naples, Florence, Torre Pellice, and Bologna). Over hills, on trains at 185 m.p.h., and meandering through cobblestone avenues, we enjoyed nonstop discussion over topics of history, theology, philosophy, Scripture, graffiti art, poetry, and a host of other subjects. Indeed, among the greatest gifts of life are tried and true friendships in Christ. Praise God.
June 18: It was not exactly spelunking, but I crawled through this narrow opening to access a cave where the Waldensians clandestinely gathered for worship. After hearing about these martyrs for Christ in the very place where they gathered to read the Bible by candlelight (and where they eventually surrendered their lives), we sang the doxology and stood in silence for several minutes. All the gilded ceilings of the Vatican could not hold a candle to the profound solemnity and inspiration of this place.
June 15: Examining sixteenth-century Bibles and manuscripts in Florence with Roberto Pechioli, one of Italy’s foremost experts on the Protestant Reformation in Firenze. This church, Vigna Vecchia (“old vineyard”), was the center of the Roman Catholic Inquisition, an institution that arrested Christians for owning or reading Scripture in the vernacular. During the 19th century, however, the building was transformed into this church. The pulpit sits in the precise place where the desk of the Inquisitor was located. It is one of the oldest Protestant churches in Italy.
June 14: My friends Herb and Joyce. What a joy to meet these ministry partners during my visit to Naples. Their primary ministry is to share the gospel with women who are in the bondage of sexual exploitation, offering the true liberty that is found through a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
June 12. I was delighted to catch up with old friends and make some new ones at the annual Rome Scholars and Leaders Network conference where I delivered a lecture. These are lovely people who care deeply about the gospel and its faithful proclamation.
June 8: Standing beside these portraits Martin and Katharina Luther, I was able to convey the gospel to passersby as I offered historical commentary in the Uffizi Gallery.
June 5: Markino and Giuliano (above) and Pietro (below) represent a host of pastors and church leaders with whom I had the privilege of meeting. To learn about their dynamic faith amid daunting circumstances (particularly amid the intense secularism of Europe) and their expectant hope despite various obstacles was incredibly inspiring.
June 4: Preaching on Sunday morning at Nuova Vita Church beside my fratello and interpreter, Marco Saillen. The Lord has built this amazingly vibrant church under the leadership of Gian Luca, Giuliano, and Marco, and it was an enormous privilege to serve with them.
This ministry trip has done many things in my soul, not least of which is a rekindled desire to pray for the church in post-secularized Europe. I ask you to join me in this holy calling. These men and women of the gospel may be comparatively few, but they are doing great things for the Kingdom of God—which, after all is like a mustard seed!
On behalf of the Castaldo family, heartfelt thanks and richest blessings to you and yours!
Chris Castaldo, PhD, is lead pastor of New Covenant Church in Naperville and author of the forthcoming book, The Upside Down Kingdom, from Crossway.