BIMI
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Missionary Spotlight by Al & Elizabeth Hamilton We had recently transferred to Quantico, Virginia, where I was attending a nine-month school for Marine Corps Captains. Knowing we were unhappy with the church we had joined, a classmate, Brad Lapiska, asked us to try his church which we did in January 1985. Little did we know how the Lord would use Pastor Mike Edwards and Heritage Baptist Church to impact our lives for the Lord's service. In 1989 I left the Corps and began Bible college. Graduating in May 1991, we began deputation to raise support as church planting missionaries to Zaire, Africa. Our family left the States on 1 July 1993 to begin French-language training in Quebec prior to our move to Zaire. It was in language school that the Lord changed our direction to Uganda where we moved in December 1994. Church planting in the villages of southwest Uganda proved itself to be frustrating, challenging and rewarding. We began to meet on Thursday evenings at a Muslim elementary school in a village about 8 km from our house. After about four weeks, the headmaster realized what was happening and brought it to a halt. So we moved, meeting under a large tree at an empty house that a kind woman allowed us to use. This dear grandmother was our first real convert with many of her family to follow her in salvation. But as we neared the nine-year mark, the Lord used my struggle in learning other languages and my love for the military to move us into military missions. After nine years, in January 2004 we left Uganda. Three weeks later found us on a survey trip to Puerto Rico to Maranatha Baptist Church and Academy. There we found a ministry struggling under the combination of a recent base closure, heavy debt and loss of a beloved pastor/principal. We spent five and a half years there working the ministry through this transition to a debt-free, refocused church planting work. However, still no military ministry for us. About four months before we left Puerto Rico, the Lord confirmed we were to move and I began searching for an overseas military church that needed a pastor. Via the internet, I became aware that Calvary Baptist Church, a small work in Sicily, was in need of a pastor so we flew to Sicily for a meeting with them. Shortly thereafter, they called me to their pastorate and we accepted. The Lord led Brother Jim Shelton to take the pastorate at Maranatha Baptist Church, and we were able to see Jim and his family in place prior to our leaving the island. The Sheltons were an answer to our prayers for taking that church into the future. It was a long visa process for entering Italy, but almost a year later at the end of August 2010, we arrived in Sicily to minister to the men and women serving at Naval Air Station, Sigonella. NASSIG is a small base of around 2,500 military members and their dependents. Finally in a position to pastor military folks, the last three years have been rewarding ones of personal growth in the ministry as we train and are trained by the folks God has called us to shepherd. They are a great group of young believers. Usually we will have people in our church for 1–2 years with the rare family/person who joins right away and is with us for three years. Being uprooted from their stateside roots and coming here, often following the turmoil of sea tours that have been very disruptive to family life, can sometimes prepare these military folks and their families to be open to the peace that Christ offers. The high turnover, while very challenging to our church work, allows for the ongoing opportunity to see young singles and couples saved, baptized, discipled and prepared for their next church at the following duty station. Some of these people have never been part of a church or they only attended an occasional service. Here at Calvary we come alongside to train them to be Sunday school teachers, nursery workers, ushers and counters. They also receive training in cleaning the church and preparing meals for singles and visitors. Teaching them not only Bible truth but also the great hymns of our faith, which so few know in today's world of contemporary music. We are challenging them to tithe, to give to missions, to share the Gospel with others, to have Bible based relationships with spouses and children, and to continue learning how to think biblically and live biblically. I will close with a quote from an e-mail sent to me from one of our members who was away for three months attending a school in California. While there, he attended the church that we had recommended to him. After a couple of months, he wrote (note: Calvary is our church in Sicily): “There are a few people here that were members of Calvary Baptist in the past, and all of them have told me how important their time was there and how much they grew while they were there. All of them were lost/unsaved prior to going to the church. I thought that's a great testimony. That little church in Sicily has affected many people. I will always be thankful to God for bringing my family out there away from the distractions in the States, giving us the opportunity to turn to the Lord.” This brother's comment pretty much says it all about why we need to continue to support overseas military missions. Many thanks to those who are already giving and praying for military missions. Pray for more laborers in this exciting field.