‘MK’ from Italy finds niche at Union University

Emma Worthy, a freshman at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, grew up in Italy, where her parents are International Mission Board missionaries.
Photo by Kristi Woody

‘MK’ from Italy finds niche at Union University

Like so many seniors, Union University freshman Emma Worthy’s last year of high school looked very different because of the COVID-19 pandemic. What makes her story different is she was separated from her family by hundreds of miles and a few countries.

Worthy’s parents are International Mission Board missionaries in Tuscany, Italy. She was born in Fort Worth, Texas, but her family moved overseas when she was 18 months old. She grew up in Italy and considers Naples her home.

Emma and her older sister, Micah, were studying at Black Forest Academy, an international Christian boarding school in Germany, when lockdowns due to COVID-19 started to take place in early March. The school shut down and tried to get all the students back to their families.

“We tried to get home, but we couldn’t because Italy had already locked down,” Worthy said. “It was really, really bad. My family didn’t leave the house for 63 days.”

Worthy’s parents and her two younger siblings were under strict lockdown policies set by the Italian government, as Italy was one of the countries hit hardest by COVID-19. Worthy’s father, Charlie, was the only person who could leave the house — about once every two weeks, and only to the grocery store or pharmacy with a government document of authorization in hand. Her mother and younger siblings couldn’t leave the house at all during that time.

“In Germany, it was different because we could still go on walks and stuff, and we could hang out with the people we lived with because I lived in a dorm, but we weren’t allowed to go over to other people’s houses or have dinner with anyone,” she said.

Emma and Micah were not able to return to Italy and say goodbye to their home. They met their family at an airport in Frankfurt and flew straight to the United States so they could begin college.

The Worthy family had always planned to come to the U.S. to help move their two eldest daughters into college, get them settled in and then return to Italy. However, the family is staying longer than anticipated because of COVID-19 travel restrictions and are not sure of their return date to Italy. Emma is in Jackson, Tennessee at Union University, Micah is studying nursing at another university and their parents and younger siblings are staying in the Tennessee Woman’s Missionary Union house in Mount Juliet, Tennessee.

Despite the challenges of the last several months, Worthy is excited to be at Union as a commercial music (songwriting) major. Her father, grandfather and great-great grandmother all attended Union, too. Worthy said she chose Union because of its music program.

For a long time, Worthy said, she did not want to study music because it was such a big passion and she didn’t want to end up hating it. However, the Lord opened up opportunities for her such as leading a women’s retreat in Switzerland and releasing her own album called “Pieces” in December. She didn’t know what she wanted to study in college, but one day her father saw a Facebook post about the Union University Department of Music’s new commercial music program that offered a songwriting track.

Worthy was able to talk on the phone with Kelly Garner, associate professor of contemporary voice and worship technology, who convinced her to submit an audition. She received a music scholarship and said she thinks the Lord wants her at Union to study music. She dreams of one day becoming a touring recording artist.

“Now being here, honestly, I’m so excited for this year,” Worthy said. “It’s really motivated me, seeing other people who are really talented and just wanting the same things. It’s just really exciting.”

In addition to studying music, she is looking forward to learning more about American culture, being around such a strong community of Christians, growing in her walk with Christ and making new friends.

EDITOR’S NOTE — This article was originally published by the Baptist and Reflector. To read more articles like this on Tennessee Baptists, visit baptistandreflector.org. This article also appears in TAB News, a digital regional Baptist publication. For more information or to subscribe to the TAB News app, visit tabonline.org/TAB-News-app.