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Beauty for Ashes Goes to Italy

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Having been raised as a small boy in the picturesque Italian village of Corrubbio, just outside of Verona. I’ve always loved Italy, so when Simona contacted me a year and a half ago, I was immediately intrigued. Simona is a World Racer from Italy. She shared her dream of reachi…
By Seth Barnes
Having been raised as a small boy in the picturesque Italian village of Corrubbio, just outside of Verona. I’ve always loved Italy, so when Simona contacted me a year and a half ago, I was immediately intrigued.
Simona is a World Racer from Italy. She shared her dream of reaching Italy for Christ. “This is just a dream, but I had to share it with you and see what you think.”
“I would like to share with you a thought that kept resonating with me a lot in these past few days. Since my sudden return from the field, I have been thinking, among so many other things, about my connection with the WR and my country, Italy.
Here most of people say they are Catholic, but too many don’t know the Lord. They don’t even know what a personal relationship with Him looks like and have never read the Bible in their life. On top of that more and more people, especially the young ones, don’t go to church. I was like that too and most of my family still doesn’t understand why now my approach with God, Jesus and the Bible is so much different than before.
I was Catholic as well, so I don’t want to be one of those Christians who criticize them and accuse them of not being the true followers of Christ. Therefore, I was wondering if the World Race could come all the way to Italy, especially the South, to work along with God in this process of awakening, deeper awareness and community outreach.”
I thought about Simona’s dream. It seemed crazy. I wanted to help her, but didn’t know how. What could we possibly do in Italy?
We emailed and brainstormed back and forth for months. Then this past spring I got the idea, “We should check and see if Alpha is doing anything in Italy.” Alpha is ministry offering a Bible study about Jesus to unchurched people. It has been very successful and has spread to a number of countries.
Maybe if Alpha were in Italy, we could partner with them. I had the additional thought that our women’s ministry called Beauty for Ashes might work well in Italy. It’s a weekend retreat where women find healing as they share the hard parts of their lives and pray for one another.
Simona got back to me with good news, “Alpha is working in Italy – they have 300 groups meeting!”
“Great,” I responded, “who is leading it? Could we should get in touch with them?”
Simona arranged a Zoom call and there was the leader of Alpha – Alessandro Sona. I began by asking him where he was from. “Verona,” he said.
“Really? I used to live near there!”
“Yes, I live in just outside a village called Corrubbio.”
“No way! Corrubbio – that’s where I used to live!” I couldn’t believe it.
Beauty for Ashes Goes to Italy
Later Alessandro wrote me: “This is the map of my home and Villa Belvedere (which I know because I am used to run up and down the hills around Corrubbio.” His house was six minutes from where we lived!
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Alessandro & Christina
Last summer, Karen and I took a long-planned trip to Italy. We met Alessandro and his wife, Christina. They own a vineyard in the famous Valpolicella region. They invited us to join them for a special evening in their vineyard. We had such a good time with them and got to taste the wine they produced. They served a delicious meal al fresco. We didn’t want to leave!
We talked about the idea of partnering Beauty for Ashes with Alpha. Alessandro loved the idea. Later he scheduled a Zoom call with 60 of Alpha’s women leaders. They loved the idea. He contacted Father Rito in Sorrento and they prayed about doing a retreat there. Father Rito heard the Lord say, “Yes!” So, we decided to plan a couple retreats in November.
Last week they happened! One retreat was in Milan and the other was in Sorrento (half an hour from Positano and the Amalfi Coast at this retreat center). We limited attendance to 15 ladies per retreat. And the reports were awesome! One participant summarized it: “Being a part of a retreat was the treasure I was looking for.”
Another said, “I finally found the courage to share my story in total freedom and without judgement”
A third participant said, “I discovered that every woman has an important story to tell.”
What is especially exciting: These women were all already leaders in the Alpha movement. Most of them are now equipped to help lead a Beauty for Ashes retreat in their own home town!
Some of you reading this may need to consider going with us to help facilitate future retreats. If so, let me know!

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