Dereham Christian shares three generations of mission
Three generations of Nesta Volle’s family have all chosen to leave their country and live in another part of the world, sharing the Christian faith. After 40 years as Christian missionaries in Italy, Nesta and her husband Paul now live in Dereham, still keen to share their love of God. Jenny Seal reports.
When Nesta Volle (pictured) was five years old, her family left Birmingham and set out for India. Her father was to work as a missionary in the administration of a Christian leprosy hospital in Andhra Pradesh.
Nesta remembers travelling into India and the border authorities demanding more money than expected, leaving the family unable to buy food for the rest of their journey.
Nesta said: "We were on this train and suddenly through the window, someone put loads of bread in for us. We never knew who it was, but we ate the bread". This simple story of God’s provision is one that Nesta has seen repeated throughout her life as a Christian missionary.
Her family returned from India five years later in time for the children to go to secondary school in the UK. When Nesta left school, she trained as a comptometer operator and then a few years later as a nurse and midwife. When she was 23 Nesta chose to go to Bible College.
“When I was at Bible School lots of people had ideas of what the Lord wanted them to do, and I kept saying, ‘you haven’t told me anything Lord.’ Then I went to Italy and each step was planned out to the next step, and then at the next. So I didn’t have a big boom of a calling but little by little the Lord led me and doors kept opening.”
In the summer of her second year at Bible College, Nesta went to Italy with the Christian organisation, Operation Mobilisation (OM). She returned the following summer and, having finished Bible College, an English missionary family living in Reggio Emilia invited her to stay on and help them with the children and around the home. Nesta did but quickly became frustrated.
“I needed to do something different,” she said. “Then out of the blue, I got a letter from an Italian nurse who asked me to go to a Christian hospital in Naples. They were looking for Christian nurses. She had got my name from a Dutch girl that had been with me at Bible College in Wales… a bit of a rigmarole!”
Nesta moved to Naples and, working in the hospital, quickly learnt the language. In her holidays she attended retreats and conferences held by Operation Mobilisation and met Paul, an American, on the OM team. She said: “After I’d been working in the hospital for three years, we got married. Paul had been working in Pisa, so I went there.”
They moved to Colle Val d’Elsa in Tuscany and raised their two children, who have also become Christian missionaries, one in America and one in the Far East. “Our children have always grown up being involved in mission,” she said. “In the summer we would have 20 or 25 young people come on a team from OM to help with evangelism. Our children grew up in that atmosphere.”
In Tuscany, with help from others in ministry, they started a church with just one Christian family living there. The church grew as they led children’s meetings, women’s meetings, tent evangelism and park evangelism in the summer, always encouraging young people to get involved in mission.
“We stayed there a good many years until the church was built up,” said Nesta. “And from that church, a young couple started a church in Siena and now there are about 80 or so in the church there.”
Although they received gifts of support from their home churches, Paul and Nesta didn’t receive a wage or a guaranteed income. She said: “All through our lives we found the Lord has been faithful in supporting us in so many ways. That is our testimony. It keeps you alive spiritually trusting the Lord that he will supply your needs.”
Nesta recalls a time when they had to move house to be where God was leading them to start a church. She said: "We found a flat in a 14th century building, but the owner wanted six months’ rent in advance. But we did not have the money. One of the Singaporeans who had been on the summer team sent us a gift not knowing our need and we were able to do the rental agreement in time for our child to start school in the town.”
In 2011 Paul and Nesta decided to leave Italy. They were getting older, their children had left the country and they didn’t want to become a burden on their friends. They heard about Eckling Grange in Dereham, originally a retirement home and complex for missionaries, and came to look round.
“We felt this was ideal for us,” said Nesta. “After a month, they said ‘we’ve got a place for you’. We couldn’t pack up 40 years of work just like that, plus our daughter was getting married in Asia and having a reception in Italy! We said, ‘oh we’re sorry we can’t come that soon.
“Eventually when we came, we received such a warm welcome, we just felt at home. Coming from the family-orientated place that Italy is to here, was a Godsend.”
Paul, who has always loved to share the story of Jesus with those who don’t know it, goes to the housing estates near Eckling Grange, knocking door to door to talk to people. “He goes back to those who show interest, giving them other Gospel literature and possibly a Gospel calendar to read every day,” said Nesta.
They are both involved in the Prison Fellowship at HMP Wayland and have recently started to help with the Sycamore Tree course, a six-week accredited course in restorative justice. Nesta plays the piano at the Eckling Grange Sunday service and loves to encourage people.
“In all my journeys I have seen God’s faithfulness and God’s provision in so many ways,” she said.
Photo: Nesta and Paul Volle at Eckling Grange in Dereham.