1) to use our individual talents in sharing the Good News of Jesus the Christ with those who are seeking to have a more perfect relationship with Him,
2) to learn to share Christ with others more effectively, and
3) to participate in mutual encouragement and edification with the Italian churches of Christ.
Besides our private lessons, we organize a men and women's Bible study in English at the Bible School on Monday nights. On Thursday nights, we have a conversation class at the church building and attend another Bible study for discussions among Christians. In addition, we strive to serve the members of the churches of Christ throughout the entire country by hosting seminars with guest speakers. In August, we help with a yearly retreat sponsored by the Florence congregation. At this retreat we meet Christians from all over the country who often invite us to help with their projects.
Much of our work could be described as friendship evangelism. We make friends with people and share God's saving message with them. To get to know our students better and to help them get to know each other and the members of the Florence congregation, we often organize game nights, movie nights, book clubs, and USA cooking schools. Sometimes we help with summer camps for young people from the Italian churches. Whether we are having friends over, going to eat at someone's house, or taking an excursion together, we're never lacking opportunities to share the love of Christ with our friends.
Each team member is committed to finding ways of using his or her individual talents to contact more and more people for God's glory. For example, some have become members of the Scandicci band. As a result, several of our students have come from the band, and two have been baptized. Other A.I. members have coached boys' basketball, taught music and English in the public school system, helped with a local ambulance service, and volunteered at the local hospital. Each member tries to find his or her niche.
Some costs to consider:
$800----Monthly room and board contribution to the College Church of Christ, while living at the Florence Bible School
One-time expenses (approximate):
• $2,500 for language school and related expenses (books, bus pass, etc.)
• $500-$1,500 for airfare
• $500 for health insurance for two years
• $100 for the Permesso di Soggiorno
• $75 for cell phone start-up
Here's a plausible scenario based upon physical presence: You arrive in Italy in September 2002, and the first 4 months of your two-year stay fall at the end of the tax year. Using form 2350, you request an extension through the end of September (you are allowed an additional month after the 12-month period) 2003 for filing your 2002 taxes. This allows you to finish a 12-month period in Italy, thus you do not owe income tax on the 4 months spent abroad in 2002. The complete tax year in the middle of your two-year sojourn is exempt because you are physically present in Italy for 330 days of that year. (You must, of course, not spend more than 35 days in the United States during any 12-month period.) You return to the United States in July of 2004, and the income you earned while living abroad during that year is exempt from income tax since you meet the physical presence test for the 12 months leading up to your return and ending on the date of your arrival in the U.S. Your affidavit stating that you were residing abroad (accompanies your 1040) is reported on form 2555.
Most American ministers and missionaries are required to pay Social Security self-employment tax regardless of whether or not they are paying U.S. income tax. Some ministers and "ordaining" churches have a conscientious objection to paying social security tax due to religious convictions (in such cases an application for special exemption is submitted on form 4361). Thankfully, the matter has been investigated by the Avanti Italia overseeing committee in Searcy, and based upon the same exemptive regulations in the Social Security code cited by the Mormons, it has been determined that it should not be necessary for our workers to pay this hefty 15.3% tax (which would be around $110 per month for A.I. workers). Part of the reason behind this decision is that, technically speaking, it can be sustained that you do not really have an income for the next two years. You are merely volunteering your time to your sponsoring congregation who provides you with what you need. If you choose not to begin paying Social Security, you may want to use the following statement:
I include this letter to explain that I am on a two year subsistence income mission for the Church of Christ and for that reason am not obligated to pay Social Security for this period. This is based on articles Reg. 31.3121 (a-1)h and 31.3121 (a-3) that are also understood by other religious groups such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as exemption under such circumstances.
Of course, if you prefer to begin making Social Security payments, you should do as you wish. If you choose to begin making payments, check with the Avanti director about how to make the "Estimated Tax" payments.
By the way, filers living abroad have a 2-month extension on the April 15 filing deadline, but interest on anything you owe will accrue daily during the extension period. If you decide not to pay Self Employment tax, you will need to indicate that on your 1040 (long form is required) with the section of the tax code upon which you are basing your exemption. Some of your sponsoring congregations will probably issue you a W-2 or a 1099 form at the end of the year declaring how much was paid into your personal account. Make sure that this amount does not include money that was sent to the College Church.
It took a great deal of research to get this information but we advise you to check with your own tax advisor for current information regarding income taxes and Social Security taxes you might be required to pay.
Prepare an attractive folder including a cover letter which makes your request personal, a description of the program, a letter of recommendation from the A.I. committee and other letters of recommendation, an explanation of your financial need, and necessary addresses and phone numbers. Try to find a balance between presenting too much and too little information. After your originals are ready, make plenty of copies for your prospective supporters.
Next, create a list of all family members, relatives, friends, and churches who might consider supporting you, and give each one of them a copy of your folder. Make sure that you mention when you will be getting back in touch with them.
Send one to everyone on your list, for there is no way of predicting who might help you. It often happens that those you felt sure would help will not be able to, while many you thought were too committed already may respond positively. There are many good people who will be very excited to join you in this endeavor.
When contacting churches, you should request permission to make a presentation either to the congregation, to the elders, or to the missions committee. If you know someone in the congregation, it is usually more effective to have them deliver your materials to those concerned and request a meeting on your behalf. Plan to spend a lot of time on the phone. After making initial contact, don't let much time lapse before you call back, and always make appointments for personal visits when possible.
When making a presentation, whether by letter or in person, be sure to stress the positive aspects of involvement in your mission to Florence. It is helpful to point out that while all of us share the responsibility of taking the Gospel to all the world, most people feel they are unable to leave their homeland and take the Gospel to Italy or to any other country; however, we all have an obligation to "preach the Good News to every nation."
Demonstrate how God has prepared you for this mission, and how you would like to join into a PARTNERSHIP with them to take the message of grace to Italy in the same manner that the Philippians supplied for Paul's needs on his second missionary journey (Phil. 4:10-20). In this way, together, you fulfill the Great Commission.
You will also need to explain your financial need and ask for a specific amount of monthly support. We have learned that it is always correct to keep your presentations brief and to the point. When making an oral appeal, you should confine your remarks to no more than 7 minutes if possible. When answering questions, respond directly with concise answers. If they want more information, they will ask for it.
We want to emphasize again the need to follow up on your contacts with phone calls and letters. It is also wise to send out progress letters and remind them of your need. Keep looking for new contacts and pray, pray, pray. Contact David, Debbie, and the team in Florence by e-mail, phone, or letter. They, too, will pray for you and try to keep you encouraged. Talk with others who are raising support or have done so in the past to get ideas and encouragement. Keep an optimistic attitude. God's work is worth the effort.
A faithful coordinator is a lifesaver! If the elders of that congregation agree, we strongly suggest that you find a very dependable member who is willing to serve as your coordinator. This person, perhaps working with a church secretary, should be responsible for collecting, recording and transferring funds, and should communicate all necessary financial information to you regularly as well as oversee the distribution of your newsletter. We suggest that you create an outline describing your entire support system in detail (handling funds, sending out newsletters, etc.) and give copies to the main people it concerns. The better they know you, the easier it will be for them to encourage you while you are in Italy, and the greater their motivation will be to keep their commitments to you.
Some workers of the past have had to deal with negative situations due to the negligence of some members of their sponsoring congregations. For example, if a coordinator does not communicate to a worker that some of the monthly support did not come in, the worker runs the risk of a bounced check. This tends to be a bigger problem in Italy than in the U.S. and also reflects badly on the Bible School. Do your best to find a trustworthy coordinator.
1. Your monthly contributions are received by your sponsoring congregation.
2. A designated person records and deposits checks into a special "holding" account that they have set up for your funds (or in some cases the general church account).
3. The designated person is also responsible for writing a $600 check each month from your fund to the College church for your room and board. For tax purposes, be sure that the room and board money is not deposited into your personal account so that there is a clear separation between your personal income and your room and board money.
4. The remaining amount of your monthly allotment should be deposited into your personal checking account (you might want to set up a separate personal Avanti account) on the date that you have agreed upon with your sponsoring congregation. It may be convenient for you to have your personal checking account at the same bank that services the church's accounts. It is imperative that the person making the deposit informs you immediately if the amount deposited is different from the monthly amount you agreed upon.
5. The most convenient way to receive your funds is with an ATM card. They are easy to use in Italy and always give you a good exchange rate.
6. If necessary, your coordinator, a family member, or some trusted individual may also need a supply of checks from your personal account to pay any recurring State-side bills.
7. Your coordinator should inform you of any unexpected contributions so that you can send a special thank-you note.
8. Your coordinator should kindly and promptly get in touch with any of your supporters who, for whatever reason, fail to follow through with their commitment.
Some sponsoring congregations consider it wise to open the "holding" account with a generous amount of "floater" money from their own funds. If they are willing to do so, this is an excellent buffer for you in the event that some of the monthly support checks from your contributors are received late. In this manner they are still able to deposit the normal amount into your personal checking account on the established date despite the fact that some funds might arrive late. For the same reasons, other sponsoring congregations might suggest that you request 25 months of support instead of 24 and have your supporters begin sending their checks one month before you leave the U.S. This is also advantageous for when you are reestablishing yourself at home after your two-year sojourn in Italy. You may also want to investigate whether your bank will contact your representative in the event of an overdraft. The penalty for a bounced check is considerably more expensive in Italy than in the United States.
1. a completed application that can be obtained online. Download a Schengen student visa application.
2. a passport
3. four passport-sized photos
4. proof of support letter (request three notarized originals of this letter of financial security since you will need them in Italy; see example below)
5. proof of health insurance
6. copy of document in which the Italian government recognizes the Florence Bible School (obtainable through Howard Bybee)
7. copy of your official letter of acceptance from La Scuola Biblica
8. copy of your airline ticket/itinerary
9. It is a good idea to also have on hand your birth certificate, college transcript, etc.
10. driver’s license
For the CO, IL, IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD, WI, WY area: Italian Consulate General Chicago, IL 60611 500 N. Michigan Ave. Ste. 1850 Tel. (312) 467-1550
For the IN, MI, OH, KY, TN area: Italian Consulate Detroit, MI 48226 535 Griswold Tel. (313) 963-8560 1840 Buhl Bldg.
For the OK, TX, AR, LA area: Italian Consulate General Houston, TX 77056 1300 Post Oak Blvd. Ste. 660 Tel. (713) 850-7520
For the AZ, southern CA, NM, NV area: Italian Consulate General Los Angeles, CA 90025 12400 WilshireBlvd. Ste. 300 Tel. (310) 820-0622
For the FL, GA, SC, AL, MS area and various islands: Italian Consulate General Miami, FL 33131 1200 Brickell Ave., 7th Floor Tel. (305) 374-6322
For the CT, NJ, NY area: Italian Consulate General New York, NY 10021 6900 Park Ave. Tel. (212) 737-9100
Responsible for several counties in NJ: Italian Consulate Newark, NJ 07102 744 Broad St. Ste. 2800 Tel. (201) 643-1448 Italian Consulate General Philadelphia, PA 19106 1026 Public Ledger Bldg. Tel. (215) 592-7329 100 S. 6th St.
Responsible for the DE, MD, PA, NC, VA, WV area and several counties in NJ: Italian Honorary Consulate Baltimore, MD 21201 5 Light St. Ste. 600 Tel. (410) 727-6550
For the AK, northern CA, ID, MT, NV, OR UT, WA area and the American Samoan Islands: Italian Consulate General San Francisco, CA 94115 2590 Webster St. Tel. (415) 931-4924
For the District of Columbia and two adjacent counties: Italian Embassy - Consular Office Washington D.C. 20009 1601 Fuller St. NW Tel. (202) 328-5553
[Address of Consulate]
To the Italian Consul,
This letter is to advise you that [name] is an American citizen and that we are sending him/her to Florence, Italy as a student apprentice for two years. He/she will have our complete financial support including room and board for a period of two years beginning [date] and ending [date], after which he/she will return to the United States. We will provide for every eventual need, financial or otherwise, including the cost of repatriation, and we guarantee that [name] will work exclusively as our missionary and will not seek any gainful employment while under our sponsorship.
[Signed by your sponsoring church's elders]
Subscribed and sworn to or affirmed before me, a notary
public in and for the county of ______________________, in
the state of _____________________, United States of America,
on this the _______ day of ______________ , 20____.
Signed _________________________________Notary Public
My commission expires: _______________
Keep in mind that it is often cheaper to pay for an extra bag on the airplane than to ship things air mail.
If you can't bring everything with you when you come, there are several ways of mailing your things with the United States Postal Service (USPS), UPS, or Federal Express. Sending things USPS or by any private courier can be costly.
Passport, proof of support letter (at least two), and any other documents you think might be needed - originals (if at all possible)
Copies of : your birth certificate, diploma(s), marriage certificate (if applicable), passport, visa, social security card, proof of support letter (at least 5 copies), and all other documents that were needed for your visa
laptop - The school computer is a PC if you are concerned about compatibility.
books - inspirational, travel, etc.
photos - family, friends, home town, state, etc. Students enjoy seeing "America."
anti-perspirant - not easy to find in Florence, but deodorant is readily available, as are other personal hygiene items
medicines - for pain relief or stomach upset, allergies, vitamins (if you use them), and any personal prescriptions - A prescription from an Italian doctor is required to buy antihistamines in Italy.
materials for teaching - children’s materials, English grammar, comic books, Children's Beginner Bible, NRSV Bible, etc.
Below are some general guidelines for appropriate dress:
comfortable walking shoes
a few dress items
other basic necessities
rain resistant shoes
T-shirts (undershirt type)
gloves and scarf
Language learning is a never-ending process and will be very discouraging at times for most people, but we have seen that all of our members, when perseverant, have achieved a very high proficiency level. Anyinvestment in learning the language, such as Italian classes, Rosetta Stone, etc., while in the United States will be a great benefit to you and your work in Italy. The more you study before you come, the faster you will be able to communicate. The Woodroofs and the other A.I. team members will help you through the process, but expect it to be tough. As a wise man once said, learning a language is like climbing a mountain; there are many peaks and valleys before arriving at the summit. (and yes, Gary, that man is you.)
We want to emphasize that the more self-study or course work you do before you come, the better. In preparing for your evangelistic work with the A.I. Team, we recommend the following goals:
1) Pray diligently that God would use you to further His kingdom.
2) Read several books on the topics of personal and world evangelism, world religions (especially Catholicism), philosophy, Christian evidences, time management, etc.
We especially recommend:
Once A Catholic, by Tony Coffey, Harvest House Publishers
Ordering Your Private World, by George MacDonald
3) Be active in evangelism with your home or university congregation. Make contact with missionaries on the field, especially those already working with A.I. Ask about experiences, feelings, reactions, advice, etc.
Remember that you must be an active member of a church of Christ and be recommended by aneldership, by several Christian brothers and sisters, and/or by several faculty members of a Christian college.
If you attend a university or plan to enroll, you must complete your studies before leaving for Florence. If you are not in college but are at least 22 years old, you may apply as well.
We also require that you are willing to abide by all of the policies laid out in this handbook and those currently in effect at the Florence Bible School, and that you uphold the high standard of Christian living that we expect from our team members.
After completing and mailing the application, any letters of reference, and a resume (if you have one) to Howard Bybee, you will be informed of the selection procedure. Please contact Howard if you have any questions.
Howard Bybee - Avanti Italia
College Church of Christ
712 E. Race Searcy, Arkansas 72143
Tel. (501) 268-7717 office
Feel free to contact also David Woodroof in Florence:
Office Phone (dialing from the United States): (011-39) 055.257.13.89
Skype: david woodroof, Florence
Please be aware of the time difference; Italy is usually seven hours ahead of CST.
Welcome to Italy!