My name is Caitlin Vincent. I was raised in beautiful, rural, upstate NY. Currently, I live in western KY with my large, laughing, loving family. (There are nine of us kids). By September 2012, I will be living in San Lorenzo, Italy as a full-time missionary with Saints Equipped to Evangelize (SEE).
My life-plan had never included missions before. In high school, my plan was to be a lobbyist on Capital Hill - changing the world one piece of legislation at a time. By the time I actually graduated, the Lord had instilled in me an entirely new vision and passion for home and family: for the high calling of wife and motherhood. With that paradigm switch, my plan became applying myself to whatever good was given me to do until the Lord was pleased to bring me a husband. Years kept passing and I kept not getting married. I devoted myself to my family; I wrote; I read; I discovered Gracie Jiu-Jitsu; and - when the time was right - I decided to pursue a degree in English. I planned to earn my degree, spend a semester in Italy (which was a long-held dream finally come true), and then see what happened. I figured that I would absolutely love Italy, and then come home and start writing full-time while working towards my Jiu-Jitsu black belt in the evenings. I was even seriously considering moving to Maui, Hawaii to train under a particular black belt.
I did earn my degree, recently graduating from Thomas Edison State College with a Bachelor of Arts in English. I spent the Spring of 2012 at Saints Bible Institute (SBI) in Italy as kitchen staff. And I was right - I absolutely loved Italy. But I was also wrong.
By the end of my first two weeks at SBI, I knew there was no way I could just come home and write and train until I met someone (because being a wife and mother was - and still is- my dream vocation). You see, I sat in on the class the students were taking those first couple weeks: Evangelism and Cross-Cultural Missions. I quickly became aware that Italy was in desperate spiritual straits and in need of laborers for the Kingdom. I also quickly realized that I was free, able, and willing to be one of them.
If you're like me, you never thought of Italy as a mission field. You thought of Italy as a tourist destination: home to architectural wonders like the Colosseum and Brunelleschi's Dome, and art treasures by Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci. And it is. I've been to the Colosseum and climbed all 463 steps to the top of Brunelleschi's Dome. I've seen the Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo's David. I drove through part of Tuscany and the scenery is breathtaking. It's a beautiful country filled with beautiful things.
But under all that history and all that beauty, it is a spiritual corpse. Italy is as dead spiritually as many countries we immediately associate with mission fields. Italy's need isn't as obvious as places like Haiti, Guatemala, Mexico, or India. When a country reaches the 30%-evangelical-Christian mark, it's no longer considered a mission field because the local church is numerous enough to carry on the work. Guatemala already has 24.4%. Haiti has 16% and Mexico has 8.3%. And yet these are countries we almost instantly think of as being in desperate need of missionaries. Even India, with only 2.2%, has a higher percentage than Italy (at 1.1%). Italy, like most European countries, is a forgotten mission field. No one thinks of it as a place where the Gospel needs to be preached but, in reality, over 90% of Italians have not been reached with the Gospel.
I could not come back to the US and just pick up life according to my own wishes once I knew that. I also knew that I couldn't return to Italy as a church planter under SEE. SEE's church planters not only evangelize and disciple new believers, they train and appoint elders to the churches being planted. Biblically, this task falls to men. So I was aware of Italy's spiritual need, and wanting to do something to meet it, but not sure how. I knew myself enough to know that I was not gifted as a preacher, teacher, or evangelist. I'm a helper - that's where the Lord has gifted me. And I can write.
After a few conversations with Sam Spatola, founder of SEE, my dilemma was solved. More than that, actually. I went from having a dilemma to having a two-pronged ministry. On the one hand, I will be full-time staff at SBI as Secretary/Kitchen Manager/Worship Leader/Discipler. On the other hand, I will also be a member of the church planting team as Worship Leader. The two prongs will combine in the summer, when I will be directly working with short-term mission teams in whatever capacity I'm needed most.
So that's me. Or at least as much of me as is relevant to my work in Italy. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or write me an email. I'd be happy to answer them.