Thriving Through It: A Testimony from the Church of God in Italy
By Sarah Hunnicutt
For Pastor Marcos and Katherine Lovaglio, what was “the worst year in the world, literally, was the best year” for their church in Arco, Italy. COVID brought many challenges to their church during that year, but the gifts of that time were their greatest surprise. Not only were they blessed with a baby boy, Noah, but they also saw immense church and personal growth.
Leading up to 2020, the Lovaglios knew they needed to make a change when the only place the children of the church could meet was at a laundromat across the street or the church closet. “God put it in our hearts to find a place,” said Marcos. “At the same time, we were looking for an apartment [for our growing family].” They searched for months, but zoning laws made renting a place to a church unattractive to most building-owners. Finally, though, “The agency [representative] wanted to show us a place for the church. …The owner wanted to change the zoning! He wanted to show us another place, too. …It was an apartment! [The owner] wanted to rent that, too! [At] the same time we found a church place and our apartment.”
Beyond finding more physical space, the church grew in number. When the Lovaglios took on a leadership role a year prior to COVID, the church had been dwindling. “One family would have to move or another leave. But we had faith…that we would see something [in our new facility],” said Katherine. And they did. “Little by little, we started to see more families coming to church. The first family we saw [were like our spiritual] children, …because they were the first people we [followed] from the beginning. …They came very empty, and God started to fill them. They started to see change in their lives. They got baptized the same day. They got married. They have a new life.”
This church growth was an immense encouragement to the Lovaglios, especially since they were still so new in their leadership roles. Marcos reflected on what that transition looked like: “It’s totally different [from when we first began]. …God was using my father in this ministry. …God guided my father to make the church. …It’s now me and Katherine, too. …It’s our responsibility now. We started to feel the [weight] of the people, their problems, their situations, their happiness, too. …Everything is different. …God is helping us do his will.”
Perhaps the biggest surprise of 2020 for the Lovaglios was the fulfilment of a dream of Katherine’s she’d had nearly fifteen years earlier: to become a singer. What started out as just a fun idea after seeing a Facebook post for a national competition for aspiring Christian musical artists turned into a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Lovaglios and their friends of eleven years, Luis and Ilaria. In just one day they made a music video for the contest, not expecting much to come of it. “We had nothing to lose!” said Katherine. “There were 160 in the contest [and the top sixty would move forward]. We were in the 60, and we went to the live auditions in Verona. …We were very nervous, but the judges liked us. But we made some mistakes, so we had no hope [of continuing in the contest].” Just a few weeks later, however, they received the call—they’d made it to the final round, eventually finishing in fourth place.
One of the producers from the contest kept in touch with the Lovaglios. “We had that dream inside our pocket,” said Katherine. “We can do something more, and he said, ‘Okay.’” From that conversation, their band, iKaktus, was born. Now, in addition to leading the church, they have the opportunity to travel across Italy as iKaktus sharing music and God’s love.
“I think the most important thing for us,” said Marcos, “is to leave something in the heart of the people who hear these songs and spend time with us. …God is helping us meet new people. These people [are] hungry for God. …A lot of them [don’t] come to church. They are just looking [at] how we live. …God is helping us to meet these people and speak to them about Jesus. I think this is the most beautiful thing.”
Story produced from Episode 9 of Season 5 of A World of Good podcast. Tune in for the whole story: https://chogglobal.org/podcast/s5e9/.
Sarah Hunnicutt recently served the Church of God as a missionary for Global Strategy to Roatan, Honduras. She also serves as a freelance writer for Church of God Ministries.
Feature (top) photo: Arco (Italy) baptism shared with others in the Global Strategy Three Worlds community, 2021.