Call of God
Having been raised in a blue-collar home, Stetson was encouraged to pursue a career in engineering. Throughout his undergraduate studies in chemical engineering as well as his graduate studies in materials engineering, he was never passionate about his future life’s work. He began working as an engineer in October of 1998 and soon realized he would never be satisfied in this career. Although raised in church, Stetson had never prayed about his career choice. He realized that following career advice from family was no substitute for the direct will of his heavenly Father. After much time in prayer Stetson surrendered to God’s call for the work of the ministry in March of 1999 at Grace Baptist Church in Middletown, Ohio under the preaching of his uncle, Dr. Roger Green. It would be nine years before God would give him a specific direction of His call – to preach the gospel in Italy. The Lord used those nine years while Stetson continued to work as an engineer as a time of spiritual growth and preparation as well as to gain experience in the ministry at his local church.
In March of 2007, at a mission conference at the Planck’s home church, Cornerstone Baptist Temple in Dayton, Ohio, a missionary preached a message on faith and dependence upon God as it relates to getting out of one’s comfort zone. The Lord used this message to open Stetson’s heart to the mission field. He went forward during the altar call, along with his wife Sandy, desiring to go wherever the Lord directed them to serve Him.
Stetson first considered Italy as a potential mission field when Sandy casually mentioned that their home church only supported one missionary to Italy at the time whereas other areas of the world were well represented by missionaries. Stetson realized that he had never heard a missionary to Italy speak in the ten years he was a member at Grace nor since his time at Cornerstone. Upon investigation later it was confirmed that there are only a handful of independent Baptist missionaries in Italy and only 5% of Italy’s 33,500 communities had an established gospel preaching witness. Within two months of the mission conference where Stetson opened himself to the mission field, a missionary to Sicily visited Cornerstone while on furlough. Stetson’s spirit was stirred as the missionary spoke of Italy and the need for the gospel there. As Stetson considered Italy’s need for the gospel, Italian culture and history, his educational background at a Catholic university, his and Sandy’s affinity for Italy, as well as various other factors, he believed his family to be well suited for a life on the mission field of Italy. Over the course of the next year, the Lord spoke to Stetson through His word, godly counsel, and various circumstances to confirm His call to ministering the gospel in Italy. On June 4, 2008 Stetson had perfect peace from the Lord that he was to preach the gospel in Italy and reach Italian souls for Christ.
The Planck family arrived in Rome on December 29, 2011 to begin studying the Italian language, glean from veteran missionaries, and gain a better understanding of the culture that they might live as Italians in order to win Italian minds and hearts for Christ. Although the entire country is in need of missionaries, Stetson sought the Lord’s will as to which specific region and city the Lord would have his family begin their ministry. Stetson prayed earnestly one night in late October 2013 as he and his family were visiting Verona to seek the Lord’s direction. Earlier in the evening the family passed one of the city walls and noted an inscription on a plaque from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The quote read, “There is no world without Verona Walls” (Non esiste mondo fuor dalle mura di Verona). The quote was replaying in Stetson’s mind as he opened his Bible to spend time alone with the Lord before bed. He began to pray for peace and direction through the Scriptures. He didn’t know how the Lord might speak to him to affirm or deny Verona specifically in the Bible but he repetitively prayed for peace. He opened the word of God to the book of Psalms and began to read. He again prayed for peace in knowing if Verona was to be the city or if the Lord would have them stay in Rome or go elsewhere. As his heart sought the peace of God he read Psalm 122:7, “Peace be within thy walls.” The context of the psalm is Jerusalem but the Lord impressed upon Stetson that He was giving him an answer through His word. Stetson had been reflecting on Shakespeare’s quote about Verona walls and now as he sought for peace in following God’s leading he felt impressed of the Lord that the peace he was searching for was to be found within the walls of Verona. After having taken several survey trips to various regions and cities, consideration of areas with the fewest concentration of gospel preaching works, counsel from various pastors and missionaries, and ultimately direction from the word of God and the Holy Spirit, Stetson felt the Lord leading him to the city of Verona in July 2014.