Scenic view of trees at camp

A Journey Through Italy

by Anna Birch

Colosseum - Rome, Italy

What happens when you gather a group of Pine Cove people and take them through a European country full of Biblical history? An amazing journey full of digging into God’s Word, learning the culture, and who knows, maybe even a few camp cheers! (Cinque? Let’s count ’em!)

This coming spring, Pine Cove is partnering with Footstep Ministries to embark on a tour of Italy! 

David Sparks Sr., the founder of Footstep Ministries, his wife Elizabeth, and their son Dave will all be leading the trip together. The whole family is passionate about the rich history of Italy and all that it entails for believers today. They have taken our very own Reed and Julie Livesay to Europe before, and now want to open this opportunity up to other friends of Pine Cove! 

We talked with David Sr. and Dave (or “Han Solo,” a former Ranch staffer) to find out more about this trip.

What is your history with Pine Cove and why have you decided to partner with Pine Cove in this specific way?

David Sr.: I attended Pine Cove the first season it opened in the late ‘60s! Since then we have sent our children and grandchildren. We’re partnering with Pine Cove to offer a fantastic time of fellowship while experiencing Italy and exploring the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans. 

Dave: I’ve been spending my summers at Pine Cove since I was in 5th grade in the summer of ’92. I started at the Towers, then the Ranch, and was one of the first campers at the Shores back when it was where the Bluffs family camp is now. Back then, we had to hike up the hill between the Shores and Bluffs multiple times a day. I was a counselor and senior counselor at the Ranch from ’01-’03, and then the past few years, I’ve had the joy of sending my two oldest kids to Camp in the City and the Towers, with one more excited for his turn.

Tell us about your experience with the country of Italy and how you got involved in leading tours like this. How many of these trips have you led before?  

David Sr.: Elizabeth and I have been leading tours to the biblical lands of Greece, Israel, and Italy since 1984. Elizabeth is a native of Berea, Greece (see Acts 17:11), and we started our tours as a way for us to make the Scriptures come alive for others by walking where the Word was written. We don’t send people on tours. We accompany each and every group, offering cultural experiences and biblical teaching.  

Dave: My first trip to Greece was when I was two, and growing up I spent my summers either on tour or with my Greek family in a village at the seaside near Mount Olympus. These countries are part of my life, and I love showing off my favorite places to those who travel with us.

What should people know about this trip? 

Dave: Most people are putoff by being part of a tour group and following a guide around. This journey isn’t like that. It’s our family showing you around our favorite places in Italy, showing you things that aren’t in every guidebook, telling you the backstory to a painting or sculpture, and giving you the “why” that makes history come alive.

David Sr.:  We’re pacing each day so we have time to reflect and appreciate what we’re seeing. We also set aside each day for times of praise and worship.

What are some things that people can expect to experience if they sign up for this trip?  

Dave: Of course we’re going to see the things you’d expect: the Colosseum, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the Vatican. But we’ll also be taking a Tuscan cooking class, spending our evenings strolling through old walled villages, sharing meals together (so much good Italian food!), and discussing how the Holy Spirit, having spoken to the saints of old, is still speaking to us today.

David Sr.: Deeper relationships with Pine Cove leadership and fellow travelers. The richness of Renaissance art, including Michelangelo’s David and Sistine Chapel. The historical setting of the Roman world during the days of Peter and Paul. Fabulous food. The beautiful rolling hills of Tuscany. And so much more!  

Who is coming along so far?

Dave: We had the joy of traveling with Reed and Julie Livesay and Craig and Carrie Langemeier to Greece in 2018, and we’re excited to travel with them again. I can personally confirm that they’re fantastic travel companions!

What are you most excited about for this trip?  

David Sr.: We’re excited about our wonderful time of fellowship as we share delicious Italian cuisine and view spectacular architecture while learning more about our faith through magnificent works of art. It’s one thing to see works of art and architecture in a book. It’s a totally different experience to view them in person, from the Leaning Tower of Pisa, to the Colosseum of Rome, to St. Peter’s Church, to the Catacombs of the early Christians.  

Dave: I’m excited to show travelers some of the places, tastes, and saints that they may not know about having grown up in the American church. Our God has been at work for a very long time in the life of the church, and has done some truly amazing things throughout the centuries. He is the Lord of the past, present, and future, and seeing Italy definitely gives you a strong understanding of how He has been working, is working, and how He will be working in the future to bring about his kingdom. Oh, and the espresso, which is everywhere!

You won’t want to miss out on this exciting adventure! The dates for the trip are April 20 – May 1, 2020, with an optional extension May 1 – 4, 2020. Curious about the full itinerary? Go to  

Sign up for the trip here!

Posted Sep 25, 2019

Anna Birch

Former Staff

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