McDowell spent her Spring Break on a one-week trip to Salerno, Italy with Grace Bible Church in Oxford.
“The first night was huge for our ministry because the people we met were the students we got to pour into during our whole trip,” McDowell said. “There were a few guys on the trip who I have been friends for years and they pray for each other and they study the Word together, so they were able to not only let the Lord work through themselves as individuals, but also as a body or group of guys. Our team worked smoothly and very efficiently.”
While there, McDowell and her team did what’s known as urban ministry. Meaning, they did a lot of hanging out at restaurants trying to meet locals.
“Italy is 0.5 percent evangelical Christians, so there is such a need for the gospel,” McDowell said. “Because our pastor from Grace Bible had previously lived in Salerno, he knew many connections already, so we were able to come along side other believers and strengthen their ministry. The location we were in was real Italy, meaning this was not a touristy city.”
In Oxford, McDowell attends Grace Bible Church. The pastor, Rev. Jim Davis, lived in Salerno, Italy for about five years. During that time, Davis helped plant the church the mission team worked with named Nuova Vita, which means “New Life.”
Davis said Grace Church has been involved in Italy to varying degrees all 10 years of the church’s existence.
“Most of the involvement was through a student ministry called Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ),” Davis said. “My wife and I lived in Italy for five years and when we came on staff with Grace, our commitment to that country increased.”
Davis said, currently, Grace Church has multiple families in the church who have lived in Italy — one family is currently living in Rome.
“Most people don’t realize how lost Italy (and all of Western Europe for that matter) is,” Davis said. “Many people think we are going there to convert Roman Catholics to Evangelicalism. The truth is that less than two percent of the population goes to any kind of a church on a regular basis. Protestants make up about half of one percent and most of those are not churches we would agree with theologically.”
Davis said these statistics are why the International Mission Board has declared Italy an “unreached people group with areas that are now considered unengaged.”
“When our people go there and see people who have literally never heard the gospel and have never had anyone they could get answers from, they want to stay involved,” Davis said.
Davis said living there had the deepest impact on him, in ways that are too numerous to explain.
“You can’t go someplace where maybe every single person you meet verbally denies the gospel and remain the same,” Davis said.
Davis said the Italy Spring Break Mission Trip would not have been the same without Kassie McDowell.
“She was the one person who really engaged in all parts of the trip — college students, teaching English to kids, serving the missionaries by babysitting and letting them go on a date, etc.,” Davis said. “She is the perfect type of person you want to bring on a mission trip because she has high expectations of what the Lord might do, yet is so flexible and always brings a positive attitude. If anyone had a reason to complain about all the walking and long hours, it would have been Kassie since her surgery has weakened her some. But never did she once complain.”
McDowell is a junior at The University of Mississippi and the daughter of Curt and Brandy McDowell of Steele, Mo., formerly of Eupora. She is a member of First Baptist Church of Eupora.
Davis said he is so thankful for the support FBC Eupora and the community provides for McDowell and others interested in short-term and long-term missions.
Rev. Travis Gray, pastor of FBC Eupora, said he has had the opportunity to watch McDowell grow up in the youth group.
“Her involvement in different areas of the church makes a minister’s calling more rewarding,” Gray said. “As I continue to watch her mission involvement in college, it gives me hope for future generations. Her heart is filled with love for people because of the love of Christ in her.”
See this story in the May 4, 2016 edition of The Webster Progress Times at http://websterprogresstimes.com/2016/05/04/prayer-bible-study-impact-student-during-italy-trip/