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Master's is right fit for Italian seminarian

Posted: January 25, 2013 9:40 p.m.
Updated: January 25, 2013 9:40 p.m.

Manuela and Raffaele Spitale are interviewed in their Newhall home on Jan. 10. Signal photo by Jonathan Pobre

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Around dinner time in their Newhall apartment, Raffaele Spitale and his two young kids palmed through a smattering of books, papers and writing utensils spread across the kitchen table.

The three chattered, bouncing between English and Italian, as Spitale pointed to pages, and his youngest stood in her chair to reach them.

“It was all new— a different language, country, culture, continent,” Spitale said, moving to sit next to his wife on their couch. “The first few months were hard.”

About 4 years ago, Raffaele and his wife Manuela left their home in Turin, Italy so Raffaele could pursue his career as a pastor at The Master’s Seminary in Sun Valley.

“We sold our beautiful home and left our comfort there,” Manuela Spitale said.
Raffaele Spitale was irrevocably determined to learn theology at The Master’s Seminary, out of any place in the world, and bring their teachings back to Italy.

“Compared to the other religions, there are very few (Evangelical Christians) in Italy,” Raffaele Spitale said.

Though multiple religions are practiced in Turin— Catholicism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism, Islam and Buddhism— Evangelical Christianity is locally marginalized as a faith, Raffaele Spitale said.

Raffaele Spitale first looked to Rome for a seminary, and just as the couple made plans to move to the country’s capital, a friend told them about Santa Clarita.

“It was a burden to have no opportunity to serve God the way we wanted to,” Manuela Spitale said.

Doctrinally, The Master’s Seminary offered exactly what the Spitales were looking for.

Raffaele Spitale completed his Master of Divinity, and he will graduate with a Master of Theology this May.
The program is rigorous, requiring Greek and Hebrew, but the teachers are humble and the community welcoming, Raffaele Spitale said.

Within a year of graduating, the Spitales plan to build an Evangelical Christian church “from scratch” in their hometown, starting by renting a room and reaching out to the people.

The first of their challenges is imminent— funding. Relying on donations from the Grace Community Church in Sun Valley,  the Spitales need to raise $3,500 to sustain their family in Italy until they find work, Raffaele Spitale said.

Since a Master of Theology will be useless and unrecognized in Turin, it will be difficult for Raffaele to find work if their plan fails. In Santa Clarita, Raffaele could teach or become a full-time pastor.

“We could stay here and be comfortable, but we need to go back,” Raffaele said. “I think it’s going to be a bigger challenge to go back than to come here.”

But their aspirations are bigger than a single church.

Once they’ve established a church, they want to start a religious elementary school.

“There is no private Christian school for kids in (Turin,) Italy,” Raffaele Spitale said.
To reach adults, the Spitales would eventually like to start a theological school, teaching the Bible and religion the way Raffaele Spitale learned it at The Master’s Seminary.

“We dream together,” Manuela Spitale said, placing her hand on his knee and smiling in her husband’s direction. “We just want to pass on what we have received.

“It’s a very brief life, and we don’t want to miss the point.”

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