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Gene and Susan Coleman

Gene's Story

I have always believed in the goodness of the sovereignty of God, even as a child. Looking back on my life, I can see God’s hand, both in sending me to Italy and then keeping us there for 30 years.

My “call” came like an echo in a canyon bouncing off many circumstances in my life. When the time came to choose to go overseas I was able to look back and hear the same voice pointing in the same direction.

First of all, God used my background. I was born in Vancouver, Canada. But in the same year I was born I went to Nigeria with my parents, who were missionaries with SIM. I saw missions first-hand growing up in Nigeria for 17 years.

God also used my family. I accepted Christ when I was 7 years old under the guidance of my mother. She led me to the Lord. And through my folks I absorbed values that have shaped my lifestyle till this day.

God used a willing attitude when I was still young. I attended a boarding school in Nigeria. One day while I was going to a hospital in the nearby city to have a minor operation, I overheard two ladies in the front seat describe the need for missionaries in America, of all places. I remember saying to the Lord in all sincerity, ” If you want me to be a missionary in America, I’m willing. God obviously did not send me there, but he used my willing attitude to send to another place.

God used his Word. After returning from Nigeria I finished high school in Canada and then went to Briercrest Bible College which was on the same campus. During a chapel service there I was struck with a verse the speaker was teaching on. “…They gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.” (2 Cor.8:5) That verse produced in me an interest in becoming involved in some kind of full-time ministry.

God used school. After finishing bible school in Canada I went to Wheaton College and then to Wheaton Graduate School. It was while I was at Wheaton that God gave me a love for the Church. As I studied the N.T. church I became fascinated and challenged by the potential God had invested in his church to make a difference in the world. This love for the church also led to an interest in church-planting cross-culturally. I wrestled at that time whether I wanted to be a missionary because my parents were, or because God was leading me in that direction. He confirmed that HE was leading me and that He was using my parent’s ministry to do this. I applied to Worldteam, and was accepted, and then spent 5 years working in Miami at it’s (at the time) international headquarters.

God used a local church. While in Miami I met Susan, my wife. She was teaching at Miami Christian School at the time, but we attended the same church. We were married in 1981 in Miami. Through my ministry in this local church God prepared me for ministry overseas. And later when our support was raised, this church sent us out.

God used the counsel of others. At first we were not sure where God wanted us overseas. We asked three leaders of the mission, who were traveling to Europe at the time, to be our eyes. And Susan and I fasted and prayed. Each one returned, and independently of the other, they told us they felt we should be in Italy. We accepted that as the Lord’s leading and left for Sicily in 1983.

So God’s call came not through one verse or experience, but as if I were in a canyon hearing the same message echoing off of many different circumstances and means that God used.

We have two children. Christopher, was married in February 2013. He and his wife now live in northern Virginia. He works in Washington, D.C. Vicki was married in April, 2014, and now lives with her husband in Orlando, FL. She is a Speech Therapist working with elementary children, and at the same time is working on her masters in Speech Pathology.

Susan's Story

I was born and raised in Orlando, Florida, the oldest of six children. I was brought up in the Episcopal Church. At the age of ten I remember fearing that I would go to hell. I feared God and believed that Jesus Christ was his Son. But I did not understand how to receive Christ personally. It wasn’t until I was 16 at a summer Bible study that I was encouraged to receive Christ. After receiving Christ I began to read my Bible, but there was a lot I did not understand.

After high school I went to the University of Florida. There, my values were challenged. I had no reasons to determine why things were right or wrong. I only knew what I had been taught at home. But why they were important, I didn’t know. However, in my second year, I began to grow interested in Campus Crusade for Christ.

In January of 1971 I went to a Josh McDowell retreat and there committed my life to Christ. Quickly I was discipled by a girl in Crusade. I began to go to Crusade meetings and training sessions. I began to share what happened to me with my family, and three of my sisters accepted the Lord. Another sister had already accepted the Lord and so I was able to encourage her spiritually.

After I graduated from University I got a job teaching Physical Education in Orlando. At the same time I became involved in ministry. Engaging in ministry, though, made me realize how little I knew. I decided I needed more Bible training. Because of the solid teaching of my pastor, who had graduated from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and other friends who had gone or were going to study at T.E.D.S., I applied. And I was accepted. My degree was a Masters in Religion.

As I sat under the teachings of men of God and saw their confidence and trust in Scripture, I was greatly influenced to trust and study Scripture more. I learned about reference materials and studying scripture. All areas of my Biblical knowledge were broadened.

After graduation from Trinity, I looked for a job in Florida teaching Physical Education, and in God’s mercy found one at Miami Christian School in Miami. I also began attending a church called South Dade Bible Chapel. It was here that I met Gene and we started to date. After approximately a year and a half, we were married. Since attending seminary I had felt an openness to going to the mission field. I didn’t feel called to a particular country. However, when Gene and I were married I knew he felt called and I wanted to go. So in 1983 we left for Sicily.

We have two children. Christopher, was married in February 2013. He and his wife now live in northern Virginia. He works in Washington, D.C. Vicki was married in April, 2014, and now lives with her husband in Orlando, FL. She is a Speech Therapist working with elementary children, and at the same time is working on her masters in Speech Pathology.


Missionary, church planter

Ministry Focus:

In October, 1983 Susan and I arrived on Sicilian shores to work in the city of Syracuse as part of a church-planting team. We had the privilege of seeing a church form that was led by an Italian pastor. In 1989 we changed missions to become part of Bible Christian Union, and we moved to Udine (located in northeastern Italy) to work with another church-planting team. In 1994, while still working in Udine, Bible Christian Union merged with TEAM. We are now TEAM missionaries.

By 2000 we were beginning to realize that the church in Udine was becoming strong enough not to have the presence of two missionary families. So in 2001 we moved to Pordenone (a city an hour?s drive west). When we left Udine in 2001 there was a strong church with three elders and several deacons.

We were asked to work with an already existing church in Pordenone in order to help bring it to autonomy. By God’s grace, in March of 2011, we left the church in Pordenone in the hands of an Italian pastor.

After a 2 year hiatus of seeking God?s will, we were asked by our TEAM colleagues to help in the church in Mestre, the mainland city of Venice. Consequently, in February 2013, we moved to Mestre and joined them and the church, named Il Faro (?Lighthouse?). We are very excited about our vision, which is to be a part of filling Mestre/Venice with the knowledge of the glory of God by starting a network of gospel communities on mission.