Closer to home the missions team from Asheville joined me in encouraging a couple of ministries here in Milan: Remar and MiHOP.
When we visited Remar last year they were in a temporary facility near Centrale train station. At that time they were hoping to stay there in that building because its proximity to the train station gave the refugees something to do: beg for money at a place where they were likely to have the most success. Of course they don’t condone or promote begging as a lifestyle, but because these men can’t legally work, they have no other means of obtaining money. Begging is better than stealing. Another difficulty with that facility was that they were not able to keep the doors open all day. In fact, the doors were only open about an hour in the morning and the men were all required to leave. The doors were opened again in the evening just before the dinner hour, then locked at nine. Anyone who didn’t get there in time had to sleep outside. Because of the brief and strict hours, there was little opportunity for language or job training.
This year we visited Remar at their new facility at the edge of Milan. The new facility is much better than the other. For one thing, it is much bigger. So instead of housing 20 men, they can now house 50. And since this new building has been provided to them by the city, they are no longer under the old restrictions. They can stay open all day, which allows them much more time for language classes and training the men for various jobs.
We were thrilled to have the opportunity this year to meet with Pastor Andres, the head of Remar in Italy. He told us about the organization, which originated in Spain. The word remar means to row a boat. The idea being “let’s row together.” Remar has many facilities throughout southern Europe, including Switzerland, Croatia, Greece, and Albania. And several others in Italy. We were very pleased to be able to pray for their new building and for Pastor Andres and his team of professionals and volunteers.
Then we toured the facility and went to meet with the men. Many of them speak English, being from various English-speaking African countries. It encouraged them so much to see outsiders come in and be willing to talk with them. Besides the staff, they have had little positive interaction with others here in Italy.
In the evening we went to MiHOP, the Milan House of Prayer, based on the Kansas City HOP model. Again, last year’s experience here was improved upon, though the facility remains the same. This year we were able to meet with the founders of MiHOP and pray for them. We spent time in prayer and worship, enjoying God’s presence together.
The ministry that we were unable to reconnect with this year was Missione REM. We had met them at their bus in Turin last year. This year they also have a new facility at the edge of town, but our tight schedule and transportation issues prevented a visit. Still, it was really good to reconnect with these ministries. And just by a simple visit, they were greatly encouraged. God is good!