A faith journey to Italy
When Caleb Earle was 17, he went on his first mission trip to a summer camp in Torre Pellice, in Italy. He didn’t know it yet, but it would serve as a pivotal moment in his life. Caleb recalls, “I immediately felt a calling to be more involved here. I had dreams as a child of being in Italy and always had a desire to come, I even learned a few phrases when I was 7. Since 2012, I’ve been back every summer for a few months at a time to continue working with our summer camp ministry.” In 2019, Caleb joined the Global Year team and led a group of students through their gap year program. Global Year offers an opportunity for young adults to come together with their peers, particularly peers who are seekers themselves. Today, he and his wife, Eva, currently serve as field directors for the Global Year program in Italy where they share their passion for leading young adults.
Like so many, Caleb and Eva’s lives were upended by the Covid pandemic. But it served as their experience to live by faith. Caleb says, “Throughout the Covid pandemic, we felt crazy for pursuing the path we felt God was leading us on. I’d been emergency evacuated to the US from Cape Verde. We got engaged a month after. We spent the next 6 months fundraising and planning our wedding, as well as preparing to move to Italy right after the wedding. Meanwhile, Eva was finishing University and working full-time. Borders to Italy were still closed and it seemed like we were taking so many steps towards something we weren’t sure would happen.” Recognizing God’s faithfulness and believing in Him in the midst of their trials, grew their confidence that God is in control. Caleb shares, “Step by step, we saw God provide everything we needed even though we felt so overwhelmed and frazzled by all of the transition. We were able to raise all of our support. We had a generous family who allowed us to stay in their wonderful basement apartment after the wedding until we could get to Italy. Our visa application process took only 2 weeks. And to top it off, we had a fully furnished apartment upon arrival in Italy. God really does provide!”
Creating a climate for discipleship
Today’s young adults are attempting to learn faithfulness in a rapidly shifting culture. Their faith formation presents unique challenges as well as graced opportunities. Never before has a generation experienced unprecedented access to ideas and competing worldviews as well as a greater resistance to the gospel among their peers. In this consumer-driven, post-Christian culture, there is a deep hunger for the connection between their faith and their lives. “There are so many significant challenges facing this generation,” Caleb says, when asked about the challenges of young adult ministry today. “They have deep questions and many are wrestling through a faith culture that has been so turbulent in America recently. We’e so passionate about creating safe spaces for young adults to confront their doubts and questions. We love walking alongside them in this season of their lives and see more and more that intentional, personal discipleship is the key to these young adults growing in their faith”.
Providing young adults with opportunities where they can engage in dialogue, ask questions, challenge assumptions, and acquire answers is critical on their journey of faith. Caleb shares his thoughts on the influence of social media and its impact to faith formation, “There are so many voices screaming at young adults every day through social media. They are constantly being presented with pressure on how to act, dress, speak, and believe. Mental health really is a serious issue among this demographic. Many feel so disconnected from God because they have so many influences speaking into their lives and it’s hard to know which voices to listen to.”
No matter where young adults are on the journey of faith, they are called to conversion and discipleship. The challenge is how to support their conversion and continually echo Jesus’ call to young adults to come and follow him. Caleb shares his views, “Discipleship with young adults today should be about helping them develop healthy spiritual practices to deal with these problems, like rhythms of rest and silence. They need one-on-one mentors that will listen to their concerns, doubts, and questions, without becoming another screaming voice in their ear telling them what list of things they should believe. They need to be loved, heard, and welcomed into a community that is passionate about figuring out what it means to follow Jesus today.”
God had planted seeds for missions into Caleb’s heart at a young age and He has continued to confirm Caleb’s calling through the years. When asked what advice he would give to someone who is praying through God’s call to missions, he answers, “There will always be a thousand reasons not to do something. My decision to move to Italy came down to a ‘no’ being an answer I would have given out of fear of leaving my comfort zone. But, it’s so worth it. The Creator has taken us on the most exciting adventure of our lives and we have been changed so much by following Him into the unknown.”
Caleb and Eva’s work with Global Year provides a launching pad for those “seeking first the kingdom of God,” for the rest of their lives. They help recent high school graduates to serve others, dive into the Christian community, and grow in their identity and faith. They have both experienced a deeper faith and joy in serving and shared how their relationship with God has changed during their missions work, “We’ve learned that we don’t have all the answers and that’s a good thing. We are learning to walk with God wherever He leads us and trust that He’s going to take care of us. If His eye is on the sparrow, we know He’s watching us too.”